Town Board Deals with Routine, Gets Plea to Tighten Building Code

Honors for Chirico from Sheriff’s Department 

By Liz Schevtchuk Armstrong 

The Philipstown Town Board Thursday (May 3) worked through routine business, heard a plea to consider tighter building codes, given the combustibility of new, lightweight construction materials, and briefly re-visited the topic of athletic playing field improvements. And if Thursday’s session, the board’s formal monthly meeting, featured no heated exchanges, things could prove different next Wednesday: The board scheduled time that night to delve further into the question of Philipstown Park field upgrades, already the subject of public debate. .

Before taking up its announced agenda Thursday, the board joined members of the Putnam County Sheriff’s Department in honoring Philipstown Highway Department Superintendent Roger Chirico for exemplary service during the challenging weather of 2011. 

Town-wide clean-up May 12
During reports from departments and committees, Board Member Betty Budney reminded residents of the town-wide clean-up, Saturday, May 12, at the Garrison Volunteer Fire Company (GVFC) on Route 9. She read the list of regulations for the clean-up, which is limited to non-contractor Philipstown residents. “Don’t break the rules or Betty will bust you up and you’ll end up in a dumpster,” Supervisor Richard Shea quipped. Budney also noted that on the following Saturday, May 19, Putnam County hosts a hazardous household waste clean-up, with drop offs at Fahnestock State Park.

More stringent building code
In presenting his monthly report, GVFC President Jamie Copeland referred to a house fire in Carmel that claimed four lives. “I’m wondering if we might not want to take another look at our building codes,” he said, citing the dangers posed by new, lighter-weight construction materials that “burn very quickly. They really don’t give you any warning. They fail catastrophically and not only does it make rescue impossible, it makes escape impossible,” he said.

Copeland also mentioned that a new GVFC fire truck, replacing a 21-year-old vehicle, makes maneuvering easier on winding dirt roads and allows use of compressed air foam to augment water in fighting fires, helpful in a place like Garrison that lacks fire hydrants. On another fire department-related matter, Board Member John Van Tassel reported that last Wednesday (May 2), representatives of Philipstown’s four fire departments began creating a new tactical rescue unit, to specialize in rope and rock climbing and other skills needed for rescues in rugged terrain.

Athletic field improvements
The board skirted the edge of the field question but agreed to take it up on Wednesday. “There’s been a huge effort regarding our fields and the possibilities for additional recreation activities here in town. I know tempers got hot at that one meeting but we’re all still speaking,” despite differences on how to proceed, Shea said. “It’s going to work out in the end. We’re going to be looking for further input,” as the town pursues finalization of an RFP, or request for proposals, for the project, he added.

Board Member Dave Merandy urged the board to address difficult questions, including whether to call a referendum on funding a field overhaul with taxes. “We have to make a few decisions going ahead which I am unclear on regarding the amounts being spent and if we are going to go out for an RFP for a turf field, which is obviously, even at the lowest estimate, $650,000 or whatever,” he said. “We don’t have that money” and thus must consider a referendum and “why we’re moving ahead with that [project]. It’s not clear.” Referring to RFPs he asked: “Why are we sending them out if we decide we don’t even want to do that?” He also mentioned “rumors out there that people are going to contribute and that’s going to keep this budget-neutral.” If such donors exist, they should step forward, “unless the board is willing to consider a referendum, which is another option, which I would entertain,” Merandy proposed.

“We’re not going to move ahead on anything that is going to cause us to raise taxes unless we go to a referendum, which also has to be discussed,” Shea responded. He expressed hope the town can issue an RFP and complete preliminary activity this year so construction can begin in 2013.

Hudson Fjord Trail
Broaching another recreation-related matter, Shea reported on continued efforts by an intergovernmental/inter-organizational group to create a Hudson “Fjord Trail” along Route 9D from the Bear Mountain Bridge to Beacon, with a complementary path on the other side of the river from Newburgh back to Bear Mountain.  Such a trail system would allow walkers to make a large looping hike – up one side of the river, across a bridge, down the other side, and across another bridge to return to the kick-off point.  “The focus of it right now is to get a section of it started. It seems like it’s going to move along,” Shea said. The group includes municipal officials from Hudson River communities, including Philipstown; the New York State park system, environmental organizations such as Scenic Hudson and Open Space Institute, and others. According to the supervisor, they intend to meet soon with the state Department of Transportation, which controls Route 9D. “It can’t be denied that corridor is used and people are constantly either walking up the tracks, which is illegal and really dangerous, or walking up the Route 9D corridor, which is legal but really dangerous,” he observed. A trail paralleling the railroad tracks and road would not only increase safety and bring other benefits but “could do great things for inter-municipal activity between Beacon and Cold Spring,” he suggested. “Everybody’s enthusiastic about it.” 

Roger Chirico

Praise for Chirico
Accompanied by three deputies and David Keith, supervisor of road maintenance and construction in the Putnam County Highways and Facilities Department, Sheriff Donald B. Smith presented Chirico with a certificate of commendation for service “above and beyond the call of duty” in dealing with Hurricane Irene and the late-October snowstorm. Smith said that Chirico’s determination to keep or get roads open and cooperation with law enforcement and other officials reflect the leadership principle of striving to “encourage the heart.” The sheriff noted that the impetus for the award came from deputies who had worked alongside Chirico or seen him on the job at all hours. “I know Roger is known as one tough guy,” Smith commented. “Some say he’s tougher than a woodpecker’s lips.” He told Chirico that “we honor you, we congratulate you,” as the audience and Town Board rose for a standing ovation.

Chirico seemed both surprised and touched. “I really appreciate this. It’s a shock. I didn’t know anything,” he said.  Shea confirmed that the Town Board had kept the award a secret but convinced Chirico to attend the meeting, a venue he typically avoids.

A few minutes later, the board also passed a resolution honoring new retiree Gary Ritchie, long-time town assessor, who likewise got a standing ovation. Last month, the board similarly saluted another recent retiree, Anne Nichter, a second long-serving assessor, who was not present for the occasion.
Photo by L.S.Armstrong


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