Potential savings — but concerns raised
By Michael Turton
Village of Cold Spring elections may soon be run by the Putnam County Board of Elections (PCBE). Village trustees discussed that possibility with PCBE Commissioners Catherine Croft and Anthony Scannapieco at their Tuesday (Sept. 2) meeting. Historically, the village has run its own municipal elections in March, at a cost of approximately $5,000 per election, with Clerk Mary Saari acting as Chief Election Officer. The largest expense is payment to 10 poll workers.
Croft, a Democrat and Scannapieco, a Republican, said that if PCBE runs Cold Spring’s elections there would be no cost to the village since expenses would be covered by county taxes. The catch is that for that savings to be realized, Cold Spring elections would have to shift from March to November, a possibility that raised concerns.
Cold Spring can opt to keep its elections in March and have PCBE run them, but it would lose the potential savings. “If you switch to November it just becomes one of our elections … you pay zero,” Scannapieco said. “If you do it in March you have to pay.” Scannapieco pointed out that there are only three villages in Putnam County — Cold Spring, Brewster and Nelsonville.
PCBE has run Brewster’s elections for more than 20 years with the vote held in November along with the county’s five towns. That makes Cold Spring’s March election a one-off, and would require the village to pay the county close to $5,000 — the amount it currently spends to run its own election. Nelsonville oversees its own elections, which are also held in March.
The discussion didn’t center entirely on money. In PCBE-run elections absentee ballots are accepted up to seven days after the election, a factor that Croft said can be a plus for voters. In Cold Spring currently, absentee ballots are counted as soon as the polls close and the final results are announced by morning.
Trustee Michael Bowman expressed concern that residents probably have not been aware that November elections were being contemplated. He also worried that a November vote would align the election with national politics. Sample ballots from Brewster, distributed at the meeting, contained voting lines that included major national parties. Cold Spring’s elections have traditionally been non-partisan, at least to the extent that major parties have not chosen to offer a line of candidates on the ballot.
Mayor Ralph Falloon agreed with Bowman that having national political parties listed on the ballot would not sit well with many residents. However he said that having an outside agency such as PCBE run the elections would be beneficial if questions were to arise over such issues as voters’ signatures or claims of favoritism at the polls. He said PCBE might provide “not a better service but a safer service.” He also emphasized that the current election system creates considerable stress for village staff — a factor that would be eliminated by a county-run vote.
Falloon asked the two commissioners to submit an estimate of the cost of having PCBE run the March 2015 election and raised the possibility of having the county run that election with an evaluation to follow. After that, he said, there could be further discussion of a possible shift to November elections. The PCBE requires at least six months notice if the village chooses to hold its election in the fall. If that change were made, some trustees would serve out a longer term until the time of the next election.
Zoning interviews complete
Trustees have now completed interviews with all candidates vying to fill two remaining seats on the seven-member Zoning Update Committee. The six residents interviewed include: Francis (Terry) Lahey, Tom Monroe, Jack Goldstein, Charles Hustis III, Richard Franco and Sue Peehl. Previous appointments to the committee include Barney Molloy, chair of the Planning Board; Marie Early, chair of the Zoning Board of Appeals; Carolyn Bachan, member of the Historic District Review Board; Michael Armstrong, former chair of the Special Board for the Comprehensive Plan and Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan, and Donald MacDonald, past chair of the Zoning Board of Appeals. One trustee will serve as liaison between the new committee and the Village Board.
The Zoning Update Committee will draft revised zoning for the village, bringing it into conformity with the Comprehensive Plan adopted in 2012. A consultant will also be chosen to work with the committee, funded by a $75,000 grant from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA). Three firms have bid on the project.
Water bills remain unpaid
Twelve Philipstown residents who live outside the Village of Cold Spring are being asked to pay up on their water bills — or face having the tap turned off. Trustees authorized Village Clerk Saari to issue water shut-off notices to the delinquent water users. Cold Spring provides water to Nelsonville as well as a few homes outside of but close to the villages. If Cold Spring residents fall behind on water payments, the delinquent fees can be added to their tax bill, however that measure can’t be applied to non-Cold Spring residents. The unpaid bills range from approximately $360 to $1,770 and date as far back as 2011.