Also Endorses Push for 9D Hike-Bike Trail
By Liz Schevtchuk Armstrong
The agenda was short, but the items involved of perhaps long-term significance Tuesday (March 20), when the Cold Spring Village Board unanimously agreed to join with the Town of Philipstown and potentially, the Village of Nelsonville, in seeking New York State funding for a study of court consolidation and related questions, including relocation of Philipstown government offices from the 1867 Town Hall to the Butterfield site. The Village Board also unanimously endorsed a letter from the environmental group Scenic Hudson and regional governments to the state Department of Transportation calling for a pedestrian-bicyclist trail along Route 9D between Cold Spring and Beacon, a stretch popular with hikers who currently must dodge speeding traffic and walk along a narrow, two-lane road with slim or non-existent shoulders.
Trustees Bruce Campbell, J. Ralph Falloon, and Airinhos Serradas joined Mayor Seth Gallagher in the two 4 to 0 votes. Trustee Charles Hustis was absent. Due to election day, the board had not scheduled a meeting for Tuesday night, its usual venue, but on Monday announced it a special session Tuesday morning to consider the two matters of urgent business.
For the consolidation study, the village signed onto a memorandum of understanding with the Town of Philipstown, which seeks funds “to study the fiscal benefits of consolidating certain services with Cold Spring and Nelsonville, including court services and building departments” and “consolidating the town municipal operations and services from three buildings to one.” Although it has a separate Highway Department office, the VFW meeting hall, and town Recreation Center, the town government currently crams most of its functions into Town Hall. Located on Main Street on the border between Cold Spring and Nelsonville, Town Hall needs renovation to provide proper accessibility to handicapped residents and update office and public meeting areas. Instead of spending money to transform a building finished two years after the Civil War into a 21st-century headquarters, the town is weighing the option of moving to a proposed new inter-governmental building on the old Butterfield Hospital property in Cold Spring.
Administered by the New York Department of State, the grant program gives priority to projects that “result in a plan for or implementation of dissolution or consolidation of local government entities; implement the complete functional consolidation of a local government service; or achieve a sustainable reduction in the growth rate of” a local property tax levy whose average annual growth rate has been 5 percent or higher for five years. Likewise, the state accords priority “to projects that implement regional development projects. Moreover, according to the state, typically “the grants support local leaders and aid their ability to efficiently address complex issues and plan regionally.”
According to Gallagher, under the memorandum of understanding, a legal document, the town would serve as the lead grant applicant, with Cold Spring and Nelsonville as supportive co-applicants. The amount of grant funding being sought is approximately $60,000, he said. Reflecting the terms of the grant program, the memorandum states that the local entities must collectively provide matching funds equivalent to 10 percent of the total grant, or $6,000. Based on proportion of local population in the two villages and town, that would bring Cold Spring’s share to about $1,200, Gallagher explained. He said the main focus of the study would be the town’s possible relocation and preparation of new offices. “Our part would be the consolidation of the courts,” and perhaps similar services, he said. The village also is exploring relocation of the police department from Village Hall to the Butterfield site, alongside Putnam County Sheriff’s Department offices.
Serradas asked about expanding the study to include moving the Cold Spring firehouse and rest of Village Hall to Butterfield as well. “It’s their project,” at the town level, Falloon answered, adding that moving all the village offices would probably add to the costs of the project.
Drafted by Scenic Hudson, the inter-governmental letter about Route 9D asks DOT Commissioner Joan MacDonald for “assistance to transform a portion of State Route 9D in the heart of the Hudson Highlands between the Village of Cold Spring and City of Beacon from a high-speed thoroughfare into a recreational, tourism-oriented parkway.” To be signed by the Putnam and Dutchess Counties executives, the supervisors of Fishkill and Philipstown, and the mayor of Beacon, as well as Gallagher and Scenic Hudson President Ned Sullivan, the letter tells MacDonald that the local leaders “welcome an opportunity to discuss our vision with you and see how we can work together to find ways that safely accommodate the diverse users along Route 9D … and achieve a stronger economic outcome for the region,” through tourism. The letter emphasizes that the road “is heavily used in all seasons by people seeking to access some of the most outstanding outdoor recreational opportunities in New York State, that Newsweek magazine cited the area “as among the top 10 best hiking destinations in the nation,” and that “the Breakneck Ridge trail currently ranks as the No. 1 day-hike in an online poll conducted by Trails.com. Yet due to the road’s design, the public — particularly bicyclists and pedestrians — cannot safely access these places,” with “vehicles traveling along the highway at or above the 55 miles per hour speed limit….”
Gallagher said that he believes the coalition members “are open to all options” for placement of the trail – something off the road if possible, something you could ride a bike along.” That would mean a path or lane not created on the margin of the road surface itself. Metro North train tracks parallel the road on its west, river side.
Falloon pointed out that DOT wants to discourage hiking and biking along the edges of state roads, including those like Route 9D. “I can’t believe no one’s gotten killed there, between the hiking and the bikes.” The danger, he said, “is unbelievable.”