Village Budget Stays Under Cap

Resident suggests consolidating police services

By Michael Turton

The public hearing on the 2014-15 Village of Cold Spring budget opened and closed with little fanfare at the Tuesday (April 15) meeting of the Village Board.

Mayor Ralph Falloon read a brief statement on the proposed budget, which he said must be formally adopted by the beginning of May. The General Fund, which includes the majority of village services such as police, garbage collection and road maintenance, will total $1,543,011, an increase of 2.89 percent over last year, the exact amount permitted under the New York Sate imposed tax cap. Major elements will include the $769,030 Main Street project as well as $40,000 for paving and $20,000 for sidewalk repair.

The Sewer Fund will include $1,615,000 needed to cover the cost of replacing aeration equipment and upgrading electrical equipment at the sewage treatment plant, improvements that Falloon characterized as “life and safety issues.” The last upgrades were carried out in the 1970s. The mayor said that examination of the costs involved made it more cost effective to do the work as one large project rather than breaking it down into a number of subcomponents completed over a longer period of time. After the budget hearing was closed, trustees approved a flat rate increase of $9 per unit per quarter to help fund the sewage treatment plant project.

Police consolidation touted

During the public comment period prior to the close of the budget-hearing, village resident Michael Armstrong had three suggestions for trustees to consider. First he called for consolidating police services, with at least part of police protection being provided by the Putnam County Sheriff’s Department. “You should at least find out what the numbers are,” he said. The village currently spends more than $400,000 a year in operating its own police force.

Armstrong also called for moving garbage collection out of the main budget and making it fee based, similar to water and sewer costs. He said that approach would be more cost effective and would provide residents with incentives to recycle and do composting. His third idea was to conduct an in-depth discussion of the goals and objectives of the Comprehensive Plan early each year. Armstrong said the village budget should be based on meeting goals identified in the plan and that the timing of such discussions would be a perfect lead-in to each election cycle. Armstrong chairs the Special Board that drafted the Comprehensive Plan.

After the discussion of the sewage treatment plant project Armstrong also questioned how the Village Board determines what is needed regarding a wide variety of capital projects such as dam repair and water meter replacement. “You don’t have a picture of capital needs,” he said. Trustee Michael Bowman said that could be addressed by establishing a capital projects committee as he had suggested during the recent election campaign.

The value of village trees

Jennifer Zwarich, chairperson of the Tree Advisory Committee, presented the preliminary draft of a proposed Tree Management Plan for Cold Spring.

She said the plan is to tap into “free volunteer energy and make it more organized,” and that if a Tree Commission is established it will make the village eligible for grant funding aimed at maintaining and improving Cold Spring’s trees. The advisory committee and the proposed management plan deal only with trees located on village owned lands.

The replacement value of trees located on village lands has been estimated at $1.8 million. (File photo by M. Turton)

The replacement value of trees located on village lands has been estimated at $1.8 million. (File photo by M. Turton)

A study conducted by Cornell’s Cooperative Extension Service in 2011 estimated the replacement cost of Cold Spring’s publicly owned trees at more than $1.8 million. Zwarich said that the Cornell inventory trees identified three main problems. A greater diversity of species is needed to make tree stock less susceptible to disease. Currently, Norway maple, Callery pear and red maple make up almost 40 percent of Cold Spring’s trees. While most trees were rated in good condition, 54 percent, or 233 trees, are in need of pruning while another 65 are in need of treatment due to disease or damage. Finally, because few plantings have been done in recent years, new trees are needed to fill numerous gaps on village streets.

The draft document outlines a five-year action plan. Zwarich said that the proposed plan would be presented to the Village Board in “a handful of weeks.”

A member of the audience asked about a recent article in the PCNR, which raised the possibility that seedlings planted in a small nursery on the former Marathon Battery property along Kemble Avenue, might pose an environmental hazard when transplanted. Trustee Stephanie Hawkins, who spearheaded establishing both the Tree Advisory Committee and the nursery, said that the Environmental Protection Agency had been contacted early in the process. She said that staff there indicated that growing trees on that site posed no environmental threat.

Porch ownership causes a stir

Jimmy Abdelhady, owner of The Silver Spoon bar and restaurant on Main Street, is undertaking a major facelift of his establishment but has run into an issue that has village-wide implications. Abdelhady purchased the building just a few weeks ago and even more recently discovered that the front porch area being renovated as part of the project actually belongs to the Village of Cold Spring. According to Mayor Falloon it is not an unusual situation. “We have no idea how many (porches) we own,” Falloon said. “But it’s a good question and we should look at it.”

In similar situations in the past, the owner has purchased their porch from the village, essentially for the cost of the legal transaction. It was estimated that it would cost Abdelhady up to $1,000 to purchase the porch. The issue raised concerns regarding the village’s liability during construction and also when that part of the restaurant is back in operation, technically speaking at least, on village property. Trustees decided that Abdelhady should be allowed to continue renovations to the porch on condition that he agrees to purchase it.

10 officers to police motorcycle event

The high cost of policing a Redrum Motorcycle Club fundraiser scheduled for this summer at Mayor’s Park is also causing concern. George Kane, Cold Spring Police Department’s Officer-in-Charge, has recommended to the Village Board that 10 CSPD officers be on duty during the one-day event, a fundraiser for the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Last year’s gathering was without incident although there was tension at the time because of a violent incident involving the Old Bones Motorcycle Club on Route 9 near Route 301 just a few months prior.

Falloon acknowledged that the cost of 10 officers would be “a big chunk of change” and he sympathized with the organizers. “They raised a lot of money (last year)…It’s a fundraiser, I’d hate to see them lose (money.)” He pointed out it is the village that is asking for extra policing, not the event organizers, hinting that perhaps they should not have to bear the cost. Trustee Hawkins commented that, “We do need to know how much it will cost the village.”

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