2015: The Year of Capital Projects

Dams, Main Street and wastewater treatment head the list for Cold Spring

By Michael Turton

To put it mildly, 2015 is going to be one very busy year for the Cold Spring Village Board. Trustees and village staff face an unprecedented number of capital projects, a list that includes repairs to dams at the village reservoirs, Main Street improvements, modernization of the wastewater treatment plant and works at the West Street and Market Street pumping stations. While senior government grants will help to a degree, local residents will foot most of the bill, mainly through user fees and in some cases property taxes.

Other significant projects will pose additional challenges. The million-dollar cleanup of toxic coal tar in the area of the Cold Spring Boat Club is being funded by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation but will inevitably disrupt village life for several weeks. It will also result in the demolition of the Boat Club building. Numerous questions remain as to how that structure will be replaced.

Toxic coal tar deposits from a 19th century manufactured gas plant are still present beneath the Cold Spring Boat Club (file photo)

Toxic coal tar deposits from a 19th century manufactured gas plant are still present beneath the Cold Spring Boat Club.

The village is also close to reaching an agreement with the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, which will see it take over management of Dockside Park. No development of the site is planned yet but simply maintaining the riverfront park will require at least some expenditure of funds. Detailed planning of the park’s future will also come with a price.

And to all of the above, add a March election. Seats on the Village Board currently held by Mayor Ralph Falloon, Deputy Mayor Bruce Campbell and Trustee Stephanie Hawkins will be up for grabs. It is not yet known if all the incumbents will seek reelection or what new candidates might emerge. Whoever seeks to represent village taxpayers will surely face questions regarding their ability to provide leadership through what is bound to be a pivotal two years.

Paying the price

Water and sewer projects such as the reservoir dam repairs and upgrading of the wastewater treatment plant are funded through user fees. The more water residents and businesses use, the more they pay. The cost of Cold Spring’s water-related projects is reduced somewhat by most Nelsonville residents and a small number of Philipstown residents just outside the villages who purchase their water from Cold Spring at a premium rate.

Sewer-related projects on the other hand are funded solely by Cold Spring residents and businesses since Nelsonville is not part of the sanitary sewer system.

Major capital improvements are generally funded through municipal bonds that usually spread project costs over a 20- to 30-year period. Prior to issuing bonds, municipalities often instead issue Bond Anticipation Notes (BAN), purchased in one-year intervals, a technique that enables them to later combine several capital projects into a single bond initiative, resulting in cost savings.

Village Accountant Ellen Mageean told The Paper that if all goes as planned, once an existing bond is paid off in 2017, a new bond will be issued to cover the cost of Cold Spring’s upcoming capital projects. The existing bond costs the village $185,000 a year in principal payments. Until that bond is paid in full, BANs, a number of which have already been budgeted for, will be used to fund the upcoming projects.

The dams

Constructed in the mid-19th century to serve the West Point Foundry and taken over by the Village of Cold Spring in the 1920s, the reservoirs located off Lake Surprise Road two miles above Cold Spring hold the village water supply. In 2011, the cost of repairs needed to the upper and lower dams there was estimated at $2.5 million.

While those repairs are being carried out, water for the villages will be drawn from the Catskill Aqueduct, which passes by Nelsonville near the intersection of Fishkill Road and Route 301. The $120,000 cost of tapping into the aqueduct, which supplies water to New York City, has already been budgeted as part of an existing BAN. Repairs will begin once the NYC Department of Environmental Protection approves the connection to the aqueduct.

Wastewater treatment

Major upgrades at the wastewater treatment plant on Fair Street could begin as early as March, according to Water and Sewer Superintendent Greg Phillips. The price tag for the project is $1.2 million and will include construction of a new building, upgrades to the electrical system and installation of new generators and aeration system.

Upgrades at the wastewater treatment plant will replace equipment that is more than 40 years old and will include installation of a new aeration system.

Upgrades at the wastewater treatment plant will replace equipment that is more than 40 years old and will include installation of a new aeration system.

The work will replace equipment that is more than 40 years old and will alleviate life and safety issues at the plant. The project will also produce long-term savings through the reduced operating costs. Initial funding for the upgrades was included in a BAN issued in 2014.

Pumping station improvements

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is to fund $100,000 of the cost of moving the West Street pumping station to a new location on New Street, a move necessitated by damage caused by Hurricane Sandy in 2012. According to Phillips, approximately $10,000 from the Village Sewer Fund, financed through user fees, will also go toward the project.

He said work is expected to begin “as soon as the weather breaks” and should take about three months to complete. The station pumps wastewater from lower Main Street to the treatment plant on Fair Street.

Replacement of a small pumping station on Market Street will cost an estimated $120,000, an expenditure that was included in the BAN purchased in 2014. The project is being coordinated with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and will likely be completed this summer.

Main Street

Much-needed and long-awaited improvements to Cold Spring’s sidewalks should finally become a reality this year. Eighty percent of the $970,000 Main Street project is being funded through a federal grant administered by the New York State Department of Transportation. The remaining 20 percent, approximately $194,000, will be paid for by the Village of Cold Spring and is already included in the 2015 budget.

Much-needed repairs to village sidewalks and curbs are expected to be completed this year.

Much-needed repairs to village sidewalks and curbs are expected to be completed this year.

Campbell told The Paper that while the project will not result in new sidewalks along the entire length of Main Street, an undertaking that he said would cost “millions of dollars,” it will replace numerous sections most in need of repair between High Street and the pedestrian tunnel. A number of new curbs along with curb cuts that comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) are also planned.

In addition, Campbell said the project will complete paving, sidewalk and curb work on Mountain Avenue and Furnace Street. Campbell will update the Village Board at its Jan. 12 meeting after he receives a report from CHA, the consulting firm doing the design work for the project.

Looking ahead

Falloon said he is confident that the formidable list of village projects slated for 2015 can be completed this year or at very least started by year end, “barring red tape.” The Main Street project, which dates back to at least 2010, has at times been a glaring example of the retarding effect of that red tape. Campbell pointed out that at one point the project sat on a desk at the DOT for “six or seven months” without being acted upon.

Falloon added that while the village has responded promptly to requests for information on the project, “unfortunately we can’t control what happens between CHA and DOT” as the consulting firm and state agency grapple with moving the initiative forward.

In the near future, if not already, the need to find new sources of revenue will become acute in a village with fewer than 900 properties on the tax rolls and a growing list of funding needs. A recent proposal by the Cold Spring Fire Company calls for a new three-story, $6 million firehouse on Main Street. The proposal is unlikely to move beyond the talking stage this year, but the conversation will no doubt be intense.

Whatever the final outcome, a new firehouse will be a costly undertaking. How to generate the revenue sources to pay for it and other future projects may be a fitting topic for community-wide discussion as the March election approaches.

Photos by M. Turton


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13 thoughts on “2015: The Year of Capital Projects

  1. Thanks for a clear description of the opportunities before the Village. Paying for their successful completion without crushing the small pool of taxpayers, already burdened by extraordinarily high school taxes, should be the Trustees’ highest priority.

    One way to think of this is that the Village will need to add very roughly $600,000 to $800,000/year in new revenue within the next five to 10 years. This would support capital projects of about $12 million to $16 million. Metered parking could contribute $180,000 of the new annual revenue; Butterfield will contribute about $100,000/year net; the development of Marathon and the current Village Garage site could contribute hundreds of thousands more, and fair rental fees from the Boat Club and boat docking could be at least in the tens of thousands of dollars, to name just a few of the options.

    Where we fall short, we will have to make up the difference with higher property taxes or water fees.

    The Comprehensive Plan called for serious consideration of alternatives to property taxes, while completing the infrastructure upgrades begun with the Main Street water main re-lining. Keeping Cold Spring a place where people of all income levels can afford to live – not just the wealthy — is the key to maintaining the special character of this village.

      • The story Katy Cox calls to our attention is about Sycamore, Illinois, which charges a penny for 12 minutes of parking. They have 300 meters, which — from the footage — appear to be double meters, each serving two spaces. That means they have 600 spaces, total. They get $70,000 in gross revenue from these 600 spaces, but have very heavy maintenance expenses, because these are all the old-fashioned lollipop meters. Coins have to be collected by hand.

        It appears that the $70,000 gross income goes toward maintenance and collection and enforcement — so they are no bargain at all.

        What is proposed for Cold Spring are modern, multi-space meters, each of which can handle about 10 spaces, and more in a parking lot. The Village is almost certainly losing at least $180,000 per year in lost net income by ignoring the opportunity to install meters along Main Street west of 9D, Depot Square, and the municipal lot.

  2. Thanks to Michael Turton for a great article about what the poor taxpayers are facing. Ultimately, it is all of us, especially Putnam County residents, who will be paying for these projects with the Cold Spring residents getting hit the hardest. Don’t ever forget that Government on its own does not produce money — it takes it from the people and spends it on things we need and some we don’t. I didn’t realize till recently that there are less than 1,000 taxpayers who are carrying the burden; truly, this is hardly “sustainable” or else they have a lot more money than I thought.

    With all the urgent infrastructure repairs that must be done, I really don’t understand why the FD officials are not going after the federal grants that are out there. Maybe they know something we don’t know about the ability of the taxpayers to handle this on their own.

    I was very disappointed, however, that Michael did not mention the street lighting project which, as I understand it, has been temporarily put on hold while Central Hudson seeks a rate increase. I am hoping that the Village Board will give us an immediate update ASAP on that pressing subject at one of their next meetings.

    If this project is part of the grant money that they are using to fix the sidewalks, they should tell us. As I’ve been saying for the last three years that I’ve had my shop on Main Street, there is nothing like decent street lighting that will turn things around for the business owners who have so much invested here. Public officials have missed several chances over the years to get this done at little or no cost, and it still will end up costing less than what we have now. Let’s hope 2015 sees this taken care of so that we don’t have to go through another dark winter season with broken, inadequate lighting.

    I think that the Board should also put out a detailed report about that grant money which itemizes how much money was had originally and where it has all been spent to date. As a taxpayer who is paying a premium rate to live in this part of New York, I really want to know how where my money went.

  3. I went back and re-read this most informative article and started adding up all the millions of dollars that will potentially have to be coughed up by the 900 or so property owners of Cold Spring (in addition to the millions taken out of the pockets of other NYS taxpayers). Even with a low-ball estimate for a new firehouse, we’re looking at maybe a fast $8 million to $10 million just for what’s listed in the article, and some of the costs are still speculative depending on whose numbers you believe.

    The most surprising thing to me, shocking actually, is that there are only two people who have commented on this article, one of whom (me) doesn’t even live in the Village! How can it be that not even one percent (nine people) of the 900 taxpayers who will be affected by these massive expenditures, cares enough to post a comment about the implications of this article? Are the residents of Cold Spring so affluent that they won’t even notice when their property taxes double, triple or quadruple, before whatever increases the schools have in store?

    Maybe so, but it has been my experience that most of the time it is those among us who are most able to pay the freight who are the first ones sounding the alarm about higher taxes. I admit, I find the silence deafening and puzzling.

    • To Patty Villanova’s quick sum of $8 million to $10 million, add the upgrade of the Village’s sewers to comply with DEC directives (estimated at one Village Board meeting to be $4 million), completing the lining of the water mains (surely well over $1 million), and the costs of relocating a portion of the Village offices to Butterfield. My own estimate is that the real costs of capital projects facing the Village runs to $12 to $16 million.

      The Village has traditionally carried about $3 million in debt, rolled over every 20 years or so with bonds. The payments on that $3 million are baked into the Village’s taxes. The 1997 investment in a new water filtration plant will be paid off in 2017. In anticipation of that, the Village has been taking out short-term notes (called Bond Anticipation Notes, or BANs) in which new debt is taken on at low rates — for the Main Street water main re-lining, etc — anticipating that these small loans will be paid off and bundled once the 1997 debt is paid off.

      The problem is the total capital needs far exceed what can be accommodated by that $3 million “customary” debt, even when stretching things out.

      That is why it is vital to acquire new sources of revenue for the village, such as from parking meters and boat docking and property development (Butterfield, Marathon, the Village Garage site). The Village should also seriously consider cutting back on its police force (almost a quarter of the budget pays for police), perhaps saving $200,000/yr or so. The county just added two officers to its Nelsonville-based station, and that should prompt some review of what the Village’s real needs are. Other neglected opportunities are in garbage collection, and in consolidation of services.

  4. It would be nice if you could mention the names of the Facebook pages and whether they are open, closed, public or secret. Also, it would be nice to know if political discussions are allowed on those pages. Thank you!

  5. Responding to Michael Armstrong: your figures are a lot more realistic; I didn’t want to get too carried away. In my opinion, it is going to take some drastic measures to implement the projects that are outlined in the article and you are spot on with your suggestion that possibly the Village doesn’t need to spend so much on police protection.

    I have written about this issue several times based on our experiences in Put Valley since we abolished our former PD. In addition to saving many millions of dollars (the PD was more than half the budget and growing by leaps and bounds) our protective services have never been better. We have a Sheriff’s substation (just like what you guys have up the block on Route 301 in Nelsonville) and also a small station for the State Police.

    Just like the Cold Spring taxpayers, we were paying for three different police services and our own department was the least valuable — it was actually an expensive liability. It was not easy to disband the PD — many refer to that period as our Civil War — but in the end, it was simply not affordable, even for 2,000 taxpayers.

    It will be very interesting to see how all this plays out in 2015, that’s for sure.

  6. Anybody can read comments on Philipstown Locals and Philipstown Locals Uncensored without having to join. I think what Cheryl is referring to is the fact that in order to comment on Philipstown Locals one must be approved to join the group (and it seems that permission is granted freely).

    The purpose of ‘Locals’ is the exchange of info, not the debate of issues, political or otherwise. Because the posts are not moderated on an individual basis comments often turn into a debate and become … animated, or worse.

    There was a lengthy exchange of ideas late last month on both pages regarding the construction of a new Fire House. As expected, it turned into a debate and was constructively concluded with the following request:

    Steve Smith: The Cold Spring Fire Company would like to address all comments and questions that anyone might have pertaining to the new building, and possibly relocating the fire company to a piece of property outside of the Village of Cold Spring. If you have anything that you would like addressed please send questions or comments to our email account, Coldspringfd@gmail.com. We are in the process of setting up an informational meeting where all these questions and concerns will be answered to the best of our ability. Please include your name and address in your email, no anonymous inquiries will be answered. We also are not in the habit of answering questions on Facebook, where some people are blocked or prevented from seeing other comments.

  7. I do believe that a closed group means that you must join in order to read the comments. An open group means that you can read the comments without joining. I am not sure on a public group, but I think you can read and post without joining. Now “secret” means it is secret and you cannot read the comments or post anything. Actually, you don’t know that it exists unless someone tells you there is a “secret” group. I also commend Steve Smith for his statement.

  8. Thank you, Patty and Michael — Patty for reminding us to speak up and out and to both of you for the scrutiny of our budgets and revenue sources. I’m a big fan of shopping locally and have more and more opportunities to do so. I wish we had more revenue-sharing with the county to help our coffers and incentivize even more support for our merchants. In the meantime, this article and the comments helped me see what’s going on.

  9. Dar – thanks for your comments and your own activism in the Village. No matter what one’s political views are on any subject, the most important thing is to speak up and be heard. Too many people are not aware of the fact that our elected officials are not aristocrats – they are OUR public SERVANTS, something they all seem to forget the minute they get elected!

    As far as sharing revenue – do you know that the Putnam County budget is somewhere up around $150 million this year? Do you know how much of that money is supposed to be used to directly benefit Cold Spring and Philipstown?

    Example: we have a Tourism Agency which is run by Mrs. Pataki how last year, thanks to the efforts of myself and some of the other business owners, thousands of dollars were given to help with marketing and promotion efforts in Cold Spring.

    That’s just a drop in the bucket however, and what I find astonishing is that most people I speak to have no idea that they are entitled to get something for their tax money! We should not have to go down on our knees and BEG our legislator, Ms. Scuccimarra, to direct some of that County money to where it’s needed in Put Valley and Philipstown. (I live in the part of PV that’s in her district). Nor should your Village Board and my Town Board keep raising our taxes to provide services that we are already paying for in our County taxes.

    I don’t know what it’s going to take for the taxpayers to wake up and smell the coffee, but I think that there are many of us who are rapidly finding Putnam County to be unaffordable if things keep going the way that they are.