Senior center and sheriff’s office likely
By Michael Turton
The Physical Services Committee of the Putnam County Legislature met with local officials and residents at the VFW Hall on Kemble Avenue on Tuesday (Sept. 23) to discuss services the county might provide at Butterfield once the site is redeveloped. By the end of the meeting the committee seemed poised to recommend a move to Butterfield, but issues remain over the senior citizens center and leasing of space. The committee includes Legislator and Chair Carl Albano and Legislators Barbara Scuccimarra and Ginny Nacerino.
At the outset of the meeting Scuccimarra said that talk of a senior center goes back 25 years. “It’s time to make a decision,” she said.
Decisions may come quickly. Albano told The Paper that his committee will discuss the results of Tuesday’s meeting then likely put the matter before the full legislature. If the legislature supports services at Butterfield, budget information will be due by the end of October.
‘Common sense’ location
In his presentation, Deputy County Executive Bruce Walker said that within five years, seniors will make up 29 percent of Philipstown’s population — the largest percentage for any town in Putnam County. As a result, he said, the “common sense” location for a senior citizen center is Butterfield. “And it is the only place west of the Taconic that has senior housing,” Walker said, referring to Chestnut Ridge.
Walker said leasing 6,000 square feet at Butterfield would cost about $128,000 per year. While he didn’t provide cost estimates, he downplayed the feasibility of the county buying its own site, saying that would include the cost of identifying and acquiring property, engineering and design, construction and maintenance. “We don’t have that much cash,” he said.
The Putnam County Sheriff will also likely have an office at Butterfield. Walker said that two deputies and one criminal investigator for western Putnam County are being added to the budget. Sheriff’s personnel currently respond to an average of 40 events per day in Putnam Valley and Philipstown.
Shea supports Butterfield for seniors
“I don’t think anybody can dispute that western Putnam is underserved” by Putnam County, Philipstown Town Supervisor Richard Shea said. “Seniors deserve a place of their own — and I don’t think anyone disputes that either.” Shea said he wanted to “decouple” the senior citizen center from the overall Butterfield project. “The Butterfield project will go forward … but the seniors’ issue needs to be advanced regardless.” Ultimately, he said, the county will determine success or failure of a senior citizen center in Philipstown.
In a phone call to The Paper Shea emphasized that he supports the center being located at Butterfield. “If the county is willing to invest money there I don’t see a down side,” repeating that the private development of the site and creating a senior center should be viewed as two separate issues. “The village Planning Board will do its due diligence in reviewing the project,” he said.
Additional offices unlikely
Cold Spring Trustee Michael Bowman said that it makes sense to locate the senior center at Butterfield, adding, “I agree whatever happens (there) we need to further the seniors’ cause.” Addressing the lack of county services in western Putnam, Bowman said he hoped the county would consider bringing other services to the new development. “Pretty much anything that the county would provide we will take.”
County Legislator Roger Gross was in the audience and commented that moving satellite offices such as the DMV, Social Services and Health Department to Butterfield would require careful study because it would cost the county “a lot of money.” However he said he is “onboard” with having a senior citizen center at Butterfield.
American Legion scenario
Not everyone in attendance supported Butterfield as the site for a senior center. VFW Commander Phil Schatzle, president of Philipstown Seniors, said, “We have no intention of leaving this club,” a reference to the American Legion Hall on Cedar Street which also currently serves as a senior center. He called the three-acre property “a great opportunity for all seniors and vets.”
Schatzle said that the American Legion should be enlarged in order to improve the seniors’ nutrition program offered there and that an expanded facility could also serve VFW members once that hall is sold by the Town of Philipstown. Fellow veteran Tom Kivel was highly critical of county officials for not seriously considering the American Legion as an expanded senior citizen center. “You are so set on Butterfield … you never even talked to the veterans,” he said. “With all that cost analysis you did for Butterfield, let’s do it for the American Legion, see the difference — and then come back and talk to us.”
Scuccimarra said that county officials had estimated the cost of adding 6,000 square feet to the American Legion at $1.3 million. “Unfortunately we don’t have a million dollars … (but) we have the funding to get into a lease. We will take care of our vets,” she said.
A very different view came from Legislator Dini LoBue, who agreed with Schatzle. “A couple of months ago the (county) administration wanted to bond $800,000 to expand the Carmel Senior Citizen Center,” she said. She pointed out that local resident Roger Ailes has pledged $500,000 toward a seniors’ center and that New York State Assemblywoman Sandy Galef has $250,000 in grant money available. “I would prefer us to buy a facility — not to rent it. We certainly have the funding available,” to acquire and expand the American Legion, LoBue said.
‘Great mischief’ versus village tax boost
Legislator Sam Oliverio spoke against using a traditional lease at Butterfield, although he said that as a site, “There’s nothing better.” He proposed “… a mechanism wherein the county can lease to buy” and own the space within five years. The building as a whole would pay property taxes but once the county owned its space it would be exempt. “I’m not a believer in leases — they can get you into great mischief.”
Oliverio said that the county could face a huge increase in the cost of a lease if its expiration coincided with an economic downturn. “What do we do then?” he asked. “Tell the seniors we can’t afford it?”
The Village of Cold Spring would be the big loser if the county purchases space rather than leasing it. Trustee Stephanie Hawkins said that trustees had voted in favor of revised zoning for Butterfield, in part because the village would receive about $120,000 a year in property taxes from the development. “We won’t see that full amount if the county purchases the property or participates in a kind of condo situation,” she said. “I would implore you to lease.”
Cold Spring Mayor Ralph Falloon didn’t address the leasing issue but did speak on the senior citizen center. “It’s very important that (the county) at least provide (an) actual center where (seniors) can meet,” he said, emphasizing that the number of seniors will only increase. He didn’t endorse Butterfield outright as the location but said that “some people don’t like to go to the American Legion” adding that younger seniors may change their mind once a new facility is available.
Albano is keeping his options open. “I would love to own something long term … but that may not be an option,” he said, noting that he would be fully behind a lease-to-own agreement. “I’d like to see something happen here,” and if lease-to-own isn’t possible he said, “plan B is that with a (traditional) lease we can do something that is relatively permanent, into the distant future.”
Nacerino said that a “very significant factor” is the potential increase in maintenance fees over the course of a possible 20-year lease. “We have to do our due diligence,” she said.
Shirley Norton, a senior citizen in attendance, spoke in favor of the county going with Butterfield for the senior citizen center. “We have someone building the building and we don’t have to pay for anything … and Roger Ailes donated $500,000 to equip the space,” she said, adding that if local boards complete their review in a timely manner construction could begin in the spring. Another seniors’ activist, Donna Anderson, said she has “over 100 signatures from seniors in Philipstown that want the Butterfield project,” as well as a list of seniors who supported the B4A zoning.
“From this point we will move forward to make something happen — in the most cost effective manner,” Albano said just before adjourning the meeting.