Veterans reportedly approach Putnam about American Legion
By Liz Schevtchuk Armstrong
Putnam County remains committed to bringing a senior citizen center and other services to Philipstown, presumably at the old Butterfield Hospital site, but wants a plan in place first, according to the town’s representative at the Putnam County Legislature.
Barbara Scuccimarra, District 1 legislator, addressed the issue at the Town Board’s formal monthly meeting March 7, a session dominated by public debate over paving the lower tip of Old Albany Post Road.
Revealing another angle to the already multi-faceted Butterfield affair, Scuccimarra informed the board that Philipstown veterans have asked the county to buy the American Legion on Cedar Street as a site for a senior center and government services — although Philipstown Supervisor Richard Shea has been quietly negotiating with the veterans over town acquisition of the legion property for the same basic purpose as a backup to the Butterfield location.
Under the proposal from developer Paul Guillaro, a new Butterfield complex would include an intergovernmental “municipal” building and space for a community-senior citizen center. However, that concept remains in limbo, with debate over how to proceed continuing in Cold Spring and Guillaro threatening in exasperation to build a housing tract on Butterfield instead.
The shadow of a county-owned golf course loomed large over town officials’ discussion. A day before the board met, the Putnam County Legislature voted to issue $528,000 in bonds for upgrades to the Putnam National County Golf Club in Mahopac. Scuccimarra joined seven of her county colleagues in approving the bonding. Only one legislator opposed the move, on the grounds that the county already has a $500,000 golf course bond due in 2017. The county acquired the nearly 350-acre Lake MacGregor golf-course property in 2003 to prevent its development as a 300-unit housing subdivision or similar venture.
At the Town Board meeting, Councilor Nancy Montgomery questioned the county’s commitment to the golf course when it has yet to open facilities in Philipstown and “our seniors still don’t have anything over here on this side of the county.” She said that in phone calls and letters, she had asked the nine county legislators to postpone the golf-course bonding approval, “but apparently it went forward.”
Scuccimarra responded that the bond money is for “maintaining a property that we have to maintain,” just as the town government must maintain its Recreation Department and community center in Garrison. “The county will support our seniors when we have a plan in place. We don’t have a plan. It’s either Butterfield, [or] it’s Cedar Street. And now the veterans are contacting the county, and they want the county to buy the building” housing the American Legion, she said. “So there’s a lot going down. Once we settle on something, I guarantee the county will come on board.”
Montgomery observed that talk about putting county services at the Butterfield site dates back to 1999. “I just think it’s time to stop waiting to settle on something.” She also expressed frustration that in one of her conversations with members of the Legislature, one legislator blamed the town government for the Butterfield impasse. “I was really surprised to hear her say, ‘Well, the town put the kibosh on Butterfield,’” Montgomery said. “I don’t know where this information is coming from.”
It is the Village of Cold Spring, not the Town of Philipstown, that has jurisdiction over the Butterfield redevelopment and whose various boards have considered aspects of the project since October 2011.
Scuccimarra sympathized with the aggravation over the years of presumed county interest in bringing services to Philipstown. “But it’s not all the county’s fault. I think you have to bear some of that responsibility for yourself,” she said of Philipstown.
Were the county to share some of the sales tax collected in Philipstown, Montgomery replied, “we would be happy to provide senior services” directly.
“I’d love to see the county sharing sales taxes,” Scuccimarra answered. “But they wouldn’t be able to balance their budget. Then our county taxes would go up. I’m all for more senior services over here,” she reiterated. “That will happen as soon as we have a plan here.”
Montgomery said that when the county chooses to create a plan, she will be happy to help with the drafting. Scuccimarra accepted the offer: “We can work together on this.”
“We will,” Shea interjected. “We’re working on it. We’re close.” He added that he and Scuccimarra had recently conferred on that and other topics.
A remedy for Manitou Station Road flooding?
On another question involving both town and county, Scuccimarra urged collaboration to deal with flood-prone Manitou Station Road, which “is in dire need of some repair.” She said that the county owns a wetland along the road, the Open Space Institute owns its counterpart on the other side, and the town owns the road. She said she wants to use county architects and resources to devise a plan “that we can initiate and move forward on, because the people there really need a solution. It’s very dangerous.”
“The swamp is not draining, by the road,” Councilor John Van Tassel noted.
Philipstown Highway Superintendent Roger Chirico said that one wetland drains properly but the other, “if it rains really hard, never drains; it never recedes. It goes up over the road and dumps into the upper one. The water was out over the road again the other day.” The flooding prompts complaints from residents, he added. “There’s no way out there,” he said. “If you can’t get there, that’s the responsibility of the town.”
Shea backed the idea of mutual efforts to find a solution.