Rec Commission appointments spark protest
By Liz Schevtchuk Armstrong
Philipstown’s Town Board wrapped up its 2011 business Thursday night (Dec. 29), authorizing contracts with the Cold Spring and Garrison fire departments and addressing road-related questions. In the evening’s only source of contention, the board also made two appointments to the town Recreation Commission, passing over a third candidate, Katie Giachinta DeMarco, who protested that the Recreation Commission had recommended she be selected.
The agreement for Cold Spring Fire Company No. 1 (CSFC) to serve parts of the town calls for payments of $45,900, made directly to the fire company and $20,652 made directly to the Village of Cold Spring, for a total payment of $66,552. The contract with the Garrison Volunteer Fire Company (GVFC) calls for a payment of $535,227 for coverage within the Garrison fire protection district. Both contracts run from Jan. 1 through Dec. 31.
On Dec. 1, the Town Board similarly ratified a contract with the Continental Village Fire Department for its portion of the town, and with both the Garrison and Philipstown Volunteer Ambulance Corps. Both the Cold Spring and Garrison fire protection contracts had been held up until ongoing questions with each were resolved. For Cold Spring, the issue involved whether the CSFC is independent of village control and can thus negotiate contracts on its own. The New York State Comptroller’s Office resolved the uncertainty when it declared that the fire company lacks such autonomy. In a measure approved Dec. 20, the Cold Spring Village Board then stipulated that the town payment be divided, with part going directly to the CSFC and the balance to the village government. “Apparently, the village got their issue worked out. We met with the Cold Spring Fire Company” and everything is in order, Supervisor Richard Shea observed Thursday night.
With the GVFC, “we worked out a lot more details and I think got a better agreement out of it and a better sense of where we’ll be going this year,” he said. Along with defining the town’s role in ensuring the payment for fire protection and the fire company’s role in providing fire protection, the agreement directs the Garrison fire company to take certain steps in regard to spending and finances. For example, it demands that the fire company talk to the Town Board about “any change in an expenditure over $5,000 that was specifically … itemized in the fire company budget”; the GVFC also must present quarterly financial reports tracking its budget. “Thank you to both fire companies,” Shea said after the board votes.
The board approved a $69,800 contract with Lisikatos Construction for the bank stabilization project on Philipse Brook Road. The only other bid came in at $74,500. Correcting a long-standing lapse, the board also voted to officially identify as town roads Old Cat Rock Road and part of Indian Brook Road running from Route 9 to the Putnam Valley line. A recent review found that although the town government took responsibility for them, its inventory of town roads included neither. Formal designation “will help us out with CHIPS money; we’re maintaining them anyway,” Shea explained, referring to funds from the New York State Consolidated Highway Improvement Program.
Before adjourning, the board named John Maasik and Stephanie Hawkins to the Recreation Commission, citing their experience and ongoing interest in recreation matters. DeMarco, a Republican who in November unsuccessfully ran for a Town Board councilor slot, quickly objected. “I would like to know why the Town Board is going against the recommendation of the Recreation Commission,” she said. DeMarco noted that she had reviewed the records of the commission, which had proposed assigning Maasik to the Friends of Philipstown Recreation, a separate citizens group supporting recreation programs.
With Hawkins and Maasik, “we’ve had two people who’ve been really involved” in the community, Shea responded. “It’s tough. There’s two positions and there’s three people. I encourage people to stay in the pool of applicants even when they can’t get on because the next time it’s more than likely they will get on. I would encourage you to keep your name in there.”
DeMarco countered that the Town Board appointed the Recreation Commission. “Do you feel they’re not competent or they don’t have good judgment in their recommendation?” she asked. Board members answered that they sometimes differ with the Recreation Commission. “It’s our job to do what we feel is in the best interest of the town,” Councilor Nancy Montgomery said.
“I think it’s wonderful we have three very qualified people,” Councilor John Van Tassel told DeMarco. “I hope you don’t lose interest. I hope you do stay involved.” Shea acknowledged the potential controversy in a Democratic-controlled Town Board rejecting a Republican commission applicant. “I know people who’ll say, ‘this is about politics.’ It’s not,” he said. “It’s about whom we feel stronger about.”
After the meeting, Shea and Montgomery added that DeMarco had applied for the Recreation Commission the day after her electoral defeat, whereas Maasik has been a coach and helped draft the recreation master plan, Hawkins has a record of taking a lead in organizing recreation projects, and both had expressed ongoing desires to serve.