Coal tar inquiries sent to DEC
By Michael Turton
At the Tuesday (Jan. 20) meeting of the Cold Spring Village Board, Trustee Cathryn Fadde again quizzed fellow trustee Bruce Campbell as she has at other recent meetings regarding the financial status of an ongoing project to improve Main Street sidewalks and curbs along with additional upgrades on Furnace Street and Mountain Avenue. The project dates back several years and Campbell has been tracking it on behalf of the village.
At the board’s last two meetings Fadde has referred to a letter dated Dec. 22, 2014, from the New York State Department of Transportation (DOT) that indicated that because the village had submitted no bills since September, funding for the project could be in jeopardy unless new invoices were submitted by Jan. 15.
Campbell and Mayor Ralph Falloon downplayed the letter, indicating that communications between CHA, the consulting firm on the project, and DOT, have often been slow. Village Clerk Mary Saari also said that similar letters have been received in the past.
The project was initiated in 2006, when Anthony Phillips was mayor, as a $1,000,070 undertaking. The Federal Highway Administration agreed to pay 80 percent of the cost with the Village of Cold Spring paying the rest. The DOT administers the federal grant. Village Accountant Ellen Mageean told The Paper that as of Jan 22, a total of $189,375 has been spent on the project. She corrected the DOT letter, stating a bill was last submitted to the DOT on Oct. 30, and that no invoices from CHA have been received since.
At Tuesday’s meeting, Falloon said that all expenditures thus far have been for project engineering. He told The Paper that he doesn’t doubt that some money has been wasted but put the blame on a flawed process. Falloon said that whenever the DOT revises design work for the project, alterations that he said are often slow to be completed, CHA then has to do the work a second time, increasing the amount the firm bills. Falloon said the village has always responded promptly to billing, but “unfortunately we cannot control what DOT does.”
Coal tar questions
Toward the end of 2014 Falloon asked trustees, residents and leadership of the Cold Spring Boat Club to submit any outstanding questions regarding the New York State Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEC) planned removal of toxic coal tar from the area around and beneath the boat club. At the Tuesday meeting of the Village Board, the mayor reported that a number of questions had been submitted and forwarded to the DEC.
Questions covered topics that include the extent of the proposed cleanup, cost of the remediation, possible shifting of coal tar deposits due to the rise in river levels, whether the DEC can commit to paying for the boat club’s storage requirements during the project, the possibility of removing the remediated material by barge and whether coal tar had been found beneath the boat club bulkhead.
The removal of the coal tar, the byproduct of a manufactured gas plant (MLG) that operated in Cold Spring until the early 1900s, had been scheduled to begin last fall, but in June the DEC postponed the project for one year. The boat club building is scheduled to be razed as part of the project. There are more than 200 MLG sites across New York state.
Audit firms to be interviewed
Trustees will soon begin interviews with representatives from the three firms that responded to a recent request for proposals for auditing services. Poughkeepsie-based Sedore and Company has served as village auditor for several years and is one of the three firms to be interviewed.
Interim Village Attorney William Florence commented that in his view it is a good practice to change audit firms periodically in order to have “a different set of eyes” review village finances. He said such a move ensures that “different questions are asked of different people regarding the true financial condition” of an organization.
Comments on power grid update
The board received correspondence from the New York Department of Public Service asking for public input into “Reforming the Energy Vision,” an energy modernization initiative that the department says will “fundamentally transform the way electricity is distributed and used in New York State.” The letter also stated that the initiative “will create the power grid of the future and enable consumers to reduce their energy bills.”
A series of information sessions, including time for public comment, will be held across the state. The two sessions closest to Philipstown are Feb. 3 at Manhattan Community College, 199 Chambers St., New York City, at 2 p.m. and 6 p.m.; and Feb. 4 in the City of Kingston Council Chambers, 420 Broadway, Kingston, at 6 p.m. Detailed information is available at dps.ny.gov.
Before the start of the public meeting, trustees began interviewing candidates who have expressed interest in serving on a village ethics committee. The committee would examine any complaints of alleged unethical conduct by village boards and committees. The authority to create an ethics panel is included in the Village Code.
The committee must include a minimum of three members, including one who is an elected or appointed village official or a village employee. Applicants include Frances Murphy, Susan Peehl, Tom Campanile, Carol Herring, Coreen Palmero and Denise Murphy.