Pro bono offer questioned

By Michael Turton

Seeking input, Cold Spring Village Board of Trustees July 2 referred to the Planning Board the choice of a planning and engineering firm to assist in state required review of the proposed Butterfield project.

The firm Barton and Loguidice had offered to do the State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) work pro bono in hopes of landing village planning projects in the future. Mayor Ralph Falloon, approached by the firm six weeks ago, initially supported that scenario. However the idea hit a snag, notably when the lone member of Tuesday’s audience objected.

The Cold Spring Planning Board will select a planning firm to assist with the SEQR review for the Butterfield project. (Photo by M. Turton)
The Cold Spring Planning Board will select a planning firm to assist with the SEQR review for the Butterfield project. (Photo by M. Turton)

Robert Cameron, senior architect with Putnam Engineering, said, “We’re surprised we are not being considered [for the work].” He explained that his firm had previously worked extensively for the village on the Butterfield project. “We’re concerned that we were not notified,” he said. When asked by Trustee Matt Francisco if Putnam Engineering would also consider doing the SEQR work pro bono, Cameron responded simply: “No. Nothing is actually ever free.”

Trustee Stephanie Hawkins expressed doubt about Barton and Loguidice “being able to recognize what fits in our community.” She also wondered if AKRF, a highly regarded firm, should be considered.

Earlier, Francisco had questioned the propriety of accepting services from Barton and Loguidice. “They said it was highly unusual for them to do this,” he said, referring to the offer of pro bono work. “Even the perception of impropriety is a problem.” He also questioned the appropriateness of an offer to work for free in expectation of receiving more work in the future.

At one point Falloon said that the pro bono work had “come with a hook” but that “free is a very good price.”

While Trustees Bruce Campbell and Charles Hustis said they were comfortable with the offer from Barton and Loguidice, in the end, selection of a planning firm was referred to the Planning Board for consideration.

Falloon, who often cites “moving projects forward” as one of his main goals as mayor, noted the delay in choosing a planning firm. “Time is frustrating to me,” he said. He also reserved some frustration for the Planning Board. “It’s easier for me if they pick [the planning firm] … but I can’t get a chair out of them,” he said.

The Planning Board is operating without a chairperson. It was scheduled to meet July 3 and expected to declare itself lead agency for the Butterfield project and SEQR review. The Village Board rescinded its intent to act as lead after the Planning Board expressed a strong desire to play that role.

Tours of The Grove

With the village moving toward issuing a Request for Proposals (RFP) for development of The Grove, trustees discussed showing developers, village officials, employees and others through the empty building, while avoiding liability in the event of an accident. “People will want to see it. It would be great to have an engineer say it is safe — or (recommend) laying plywood down over the joists,” Francisco said, referring to possible weak areas in the aging building’s flooring.

Falloon agreed, saying that a letter from an engineer was in fact the only way “to cover your butt.” Francisco added that in the event of an accident, “They’re not going to sue for $700.” Those taking part in tours will also be asked to sign a waiver.

A number of other issues must also be resolved before an RFP can be issued. At a previous meeting, the possibility of an easement or right-of-way over the property was discussed, which could, in theory, allow pedestrian or vehicular access from neighboring M&T Bank. The disposition of an old oil storage tank on the site must also be resolved. In 2003, the village government  acquired The Grove, an abandoned house atop an embankment behind The Nest Day Care, above Chestnut Street-Route 9D. Built in the mid-1800s, the house was designed by noted architect Richard Upjohn.  Under current zoning, it could be used as a residence or for some government or educational uses.

Water and sewer line policy

The board also discussed the need to develop a policy to guide services provided by the village to residents regarding sewer and water line locations. Falloon explained that while the village owns the main lines, property owners own the extensions that run from the mains to their property, making owners responsible for the upkeep. In the past, residents have requested that the village delineate location of either their sewer or water line and the village has done so.

While the technology used to locate water lines is simple to use — and very accurate — the same is not true when it comes to delineating sewer lines. If the village errs in advising a property owner regarding the location of a line, it could be held liable for the repair costs. Falloon said he will work with village Water and Sewer Superintendent Greg Phillips to develop an appropriate policy.

He also explained details of a recent incident in which, he said, Central Hudson dug a post hole without first getting clearance from the village regarding the location of water and sewer lines. According to the mayor, the digging subsequently damaged a line and the property owner had to pay a private contractor to make the necessary repairs. He said that the village is working with the property owner to have Central Hudson assume the cost.

Boat docking

The Pride of the Hudson tour boat will dock at Cold Spring on July 12 and, if all goes well, again on July 25. At its meeting, the Village Board was asked to approve the docking application.

Behind The Story

Type: News

News: Based on facts, either observed and verified directly by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Turton, who has been a reporter for The Current since its founding in 2010, moved to Philipstown from his native Ontario in 1998. Location: Cold Spring. Languages: English. Area of expertise: Cold Spring government, features

3 replies on “Village Board Refers Engineering Firm Selection to Planning Board”

  1. It is wise of the Village Board not to accept pro bono engineering services. In these scenarios there are often unforeseen events and circumstances. Without the leverage that a fee-based service provides, there is no way to secure the Village’s desires. As the maxim goes, “You get what you pay for,” and it’s inverse, ” You don’t get what you don’t pay for.

  2. I made the motion to support B&L for their services to the Village Board and Planning Board. I have no shame in supporting that decision. I am not impressed with the services of Putnam Engineering and what transpired at this meeting was a member of the public (Rob Cameron) trying to save his job as the village planner. I did not see the Planning Board jump up and down and endorse the services of Putnam Engineering, which sent a red flag to me as a voting member of the Village Board. We all see that the Village Board and Planning Board need the services of a qualified firm to handle this particular application (Butterfield), as well as future developments (i.e. Marathon.)

    Mayor Falloon took the initiative and got a firm that was prepared to help the village, but that was not good enough for some people. It’s a shame when someone tries to do something good and gets hit with roadblocks that are unnecessary.

  3. Same crap, different day. Mayor Falloon is a a good leader and I wish some on the board would respect that and stop grandstanding and throwing wrenches into the pot. Get this project going (Butterfield). I’m so glad the planning board is taking over and taking it away from town board because of a few on the board (and their friends) who really in their heart don’t want this project. Let’s call a spade a spade. Maybe the Senior Majority should start appearing again.

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