Town Board Moves Forward on Fjord Trail, Backward on Indian Brook Road

Also supports look at updating comprehensive plan

By Liz Schevtchuk Armstrong

In consecutive nights with busy agendas and a minimal quorum, the Philipstown Town Board last week moved ahead on the envisioned Hudson River Fjord Trail and stepped back from plans to soon replace Indian Brook Road culverts.

At a workshop Wednesday (July 31), the board passed two Fjord Trail resolutions. The following evening (Aug. 1), at its formal monthly meeting, it reacted to concerns from emergency responders and postponed the culvert work until next spring. Both nights, the board lacked two members – Councilors John Van Tassel, whose father died earlier in the week, and Betty Budney, who recently lost her husband and son-in-law and has been assisting an ailing daughter.

One of the Fjord Trail-related measures approved Wednesday authorized submission of a grant application for $700,000 in New York State funds and agreement to supply up to $15,000 in cash and in-kind services as Philipstown’s portion of the area jurisdictions’ collective $90,000 obligation. The other resolution allows the town to administer the grant money, if allocated.

“This is a $15,000 investment to leverage $1.2 million,” Supervisor Richard Shea said. “I think it’s a good investment.” The $90,000 would cover a shortfall between the $700,000 grant, another $450,000 or more in private matching funds channeled through the Hudson Highlands Land Trust, and the approximately $1.2 million needed for this kick-off of the trail project.

However, Shea said, the $90,000 figure might be reduced, thanks to a possible infusion of unused Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) money discovered by an elected official in another jurisdiction. The $1.2 million project would focus on upgrading parking lots at hiking trail access points along Route 9D north of Cold Spring and on related improvements. Other government entities supplying money and services to meet the $90,000 need are Putnam and Dutchess Counties, Town of Fishkill, Beacon, and Cold Spring.

The Fjord Trail, a pedestrian-bicyclist path, would parallel the Hudson River, Metro-North train tracks, and Route 9D, a state highway. To begin, it would run from Cold Spring to Beacon, but eventually could extend south to the Bear Mountain Bridge, cross the river, connect to a path on the western side of the Hudson to the Newburgh-to-Beacon bridge, and circle back into Beacon to create a continuous Hudson Highlands loop.

Indian Brook Road culvert work

On Thursday, the board voted reluctantly to reject nine bids from contractors vying for the work of replacing culverts along Indian Brook Road. The reasons did not involve the bids, but concerns about impairing responses to emergencies.

In a July 23 letter, the Garrison Volunteer Ambulance Corps advised the town government to delay the project. “Due to the safety concerns for our citizens, we recommend that any additional road closures, specifically Indian Brook Road, be delayed until one or more of the current roadwork projects have been completed and the roads fully re-opened,” the ambulance corps wrote. “Currently there is major road work being done in our responding area, Snake Hill Road (road closure) and Route 9D near the Garrison school (one lane and temporary traffic light). In addition the opposite end of Indian Brook Road is also closed. These roadwork projects have resulted in delayed access to many of the surrounding local roads by emergency agencies responding to 911 calls,” and the ongoing closings “have the potential for serious consequences if we are unable to reach the residents in a timely manner,” the corps explained.

“This is disappointing,” Shea acknowledged. “It’s not going to happen this year. It’s been an uphill battle.”

Montgomery agreed. “It’s unfortunate because it’s imperative that this road gets fixed, too.”

Comprehensive Plan tweaking

The board reacted favorably to a suggestion from resident Nat Prentice that it consider updating the town comprehensive plan, adopted in 2006. The plan itself recommends that the town review it “at least once every five years.” Prentice, who served on the comprehensive plan drafting board, said that 2006 “is a long time ago now. I don’t think it’s a mammoth project” to revisit the plan, he said.

Mary Finger, a local farmer and member of the Philipstown Planning Board, endorsed Prentice’s idea and pointed to new issues that an updated plan might address, such as policies for use of residential wind turbines for energy.

Shea said that the town continues to implement the comprehensive plan, which has been useful in Fjord Trail planning. “We’ll talk about it and set the stage for keeping it a living document,” he promised Prentice.

Montgomery cautioned against assuming the town hasn’t done anything to update the plan.  “We’ve sort of done that through the zoning changes adopted,” she said. The comprehensive plan called for a major zoning overhaul. The town adopted a new zoning code in 2011, after more than three years of public meetings and successive draft versions.

County Legislator Report

District 1 Legislator Barbara Scuccimarra, who regularly attends Town Board meetings, gave a short summary of her work and county activities in Philipstown – like repairs to county-controlled Snake Hill Road. She also promised to inquire about the possibility of a county partnership with the town to fund thrice-weekly senior citizen physical fitness courses, set to begin this fall at the Chestnut Ridge apartments under town Recreation Department auspices.

The previous evening, Montgomery had said that the classes cost $120 and “that’s a tricky thing coming out of their [Recreation Department] budget unexpectedly.” Seniors recently requested the classes.

“We’ll look into it,” Scuccimarra said of the funding options.

Likewise, she reported that Putnam County will host a fall “take back” day in Cold Spring to collect out-of-date medications from senior citizens and others. Scuccimarra then described a program, used elsewhere in the country, stationary public locked boxes into which residents can drop containers of old medications, for safe disposal. “I want to initiate it in the county,” she said.

Senior Center

Also on Thursday, Shea pledged town aid – including imaginative powers – to help the community take up the offer by Philipstown resident Roger Ailes of $500,000 for a project to benefit senior citizens, such as a new senior center. In late July, Ailes announced the donation – contingent upon progress without hindrance from procedural red tape.

“I think it really behooves us to either assist the Village [of Cold Spring] on this or come up with some scenarios we can see where it could work with the town,” Shea said.  “I have four ideas right now and will get them on paper by next week and try to move that along, because I would hate to see us miss out on an opportunity to use that kind of funding toward bettering the condition of the seniors. I think there’s ample opportunity to make sure that [center] happens.”

He proposed the board discuss the matter this week. The board subsequently scheduled a workshop for Wednesday [Aug. 7.] to talk about various matters.

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