Cold Spring trustees urge action on ‘bomb trains’
By Michael Turton
The cost of Cold Spring having its own police department was discussed by candidates in last week’s village election. Now, a countywide conversation about the nature of local law enforcement may be in the offing. At its Tuesday (March 17) meeting, the Cold Spring Village Board discussed a letter from Carmel’s town board to Putnam County Executive Maryellen Odell, asking her to form a task force to examine consolidation of police services across the county.
The letter, signed by Town Supervisor Kenneth Schmitt and all four trustees, suggests that the task force be charged with “studying and researching the feasibility of merging law enforcement agencies in Putnam County, creating a countywide police model.” It also states that the request is being made because “communities such as ours have found the fiscal obligation of operating an independent police department unsustainable.”
Mayor Ralph Falloon said that he while supports consolidation generally, he thinks that having an expanded Putnam County Sheriff’s department provide law enforcement for Cold Spring would actually cost village taxpayers more than the current Cold Spring Police Department (CSPD). Currently, including pension contributions, the village spends more than $400,000 annually to operate its 14-member police force.
At the candidate’s forum hosted by The Paper prior to the recent election, Mayor-elect Dave Merandy also said he believes that having the sheriff provide police services for Cold Spring would prove more costly. Falloon pointed out that Carmel has a full-time police chief along with a number of career officers, whereas Cold Spring reduces its costs by hiring only part-time police officers. Benefits are not paid to part-time employees.
The mayor also said that the collective agreement between the village and the Cold Spring Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association produces further savings because it permits hiring additional officers at their standard hourly rate without having to pay overtime when additional coverage is needed at special events.
The mayor expressed concern that a countywide system would result in less local control over how law enforcement is conducted in the village. While he was skeptical about the outcome, Falloon said he supports studying the issues further. No action was taken.
Tentative budget passed
Trustees approved a tentative budget for 2015–16. Village Accountant Ellen Mageean outlined the financial plan, which identifies total spending of $2,761,696. Taxes would increase by 1.42 percent, keeping the change within the state-imposed tax cap. State law required the Village Board to approve a tentative budget no later than March 20, a largely academic exercise since the budget won’t formally be adopted until the new Village Board takes office in April.
Mageean said that in the unlikely event that the new board cannot agree on an adopted budget, the tentative budget automatically assumes that status. She also pointed out that the budget cap does not affect water and sewer rates because they are based on user fees.
Falloon was critical of the budget timetable required by the state. “It’s really difficult timing. It’s not fair to the incoming (board) members,” he said. Mageean agreed, saying, “It’s really not Ralph’s budget. It’s the new mayor’s budget.”
Action urged on ‘bomb trains’
The hazards posed by “bomb trains” and other modes of transporting crude oil continue to cause unease among elected officials throughout the Hudson River Valley. Trustees unanimously passed a resolution expressing concern over the transportation of crude oil by rail, barge and ship along and on the Hudson River.
The Town of Philipstown passed a similar resolution earlier this month. The village resolution urges federal and state agencies “to enact stringent rules and regulations” and encourages “the exploration of alternative means for the transportation and distribution of crude oil.” Hudson Riverkeeper President Paul Gallay was present and said that one of the most troubling aspects is that explosions are happening “with very serious frequency,” including incidents that involve newer rail cars that are considered safer and on rail lines that have been inspected.
Trustee Michael Bowman, a past president of the Cold Spring Fire Company, said the situation is made worse by the fact that no specialized training for handling such events is offered to local first responders.
Social media policy discussed
Discussion continued toward development of a policy regarding the use of social media in Village operations. Interim Village Attorney Bill Florence advised that adopting such a policy is wise and provided trustees with a template for possible language. Florence stressed that the policy is particularly important for the CSPD.
“Police business should not leak out through social media,” he said. “There could be serious implications if a police officer says anything” on social media, especially regarding ongoing cases. Trustee Bowman will revise the sample wording, tailoring it to suit Cold Spring and will present the proposed policy at the next meeting.
Florence commented that adopting such a policy would be a positive way for the current board to end its term. The newly constituted board takes office in April. Falloon, along with trustees Stephanie Hawkins and Bruce Campbell, did not seek re-election.
Tree board taking shape
Trustees filled four of five seats on the all-volunteer Tree Advisory Board, a group whose creation was authorized with the passage of Cold Spring’s Public Tree Law last December. Jennifer Zwarich, who also chaired the new board’s predecessor, the Tree Advisory Committee, was appointed along with Charles Day, Kory Riesterer and Tony Bardes. One spot remains open.