Mayor warns of heroin-related threats
By Liz Schevtchuk Armstrong
Nelsonville anticipates spending $300,373 in fiscal 2015–16, down 19 percent from the previous year, according to a draft budget provided at a public hearing by the Nelsonville Village Board in its village annex Monday night (April 20).
The evening also brought the swearing-in of new Trustee Danielle Pack McCarthy, and the budget discussions included her suggestion that Nelsonville join a new Cold Spring village committee to explore grant possibilities and audience questions about deficiencies in snow removal this past winter.
During a regular meeting after the budget hearing, Mayor Tom Corless called for watchfulness following the discovery on Nelsonville streets of hypodermic needles from heroin use and reminded residents when summoning law enforcement to call the New York State Police or Putnam County Sheriff’s Department – not the Cold Spring Police Department, which does not serve Nelsonville. The mayor also explained the situation regarding the Sheriff’s Department’s use — rent-free — of the old Nelsonville firehouse and his temporary residency in Cold Spring.
Under the proposed budget, the village anticipates $289,598 in revenue and intends to tap $10,775 in savings to make up the difference between income and spending. The village fiscal year runs from June 1 to May 31. After the meeting, the board scheduled a follow-up session for Wednesday (April 29) at 6:30 p.m., at the Village Hall, to formally adopt the budget, which must be approved by May 1.
Nelsonville’s 2014–15 budget was $372,698. In 2013–14 and 2014–15, the village saw relatively high transportation/street costs due to such projects as Healy Road upgrades. Their completion decreases the outlay for transportation/street maintenance by 61 percent — from $105,450 in 2014–15 to $40,500 for 2015–16. The village also foresees saving 11 percent in Justice Court expenses, cut to $12,001 from $13,501, because of new access to New York State law books online, eliminating purchase of the village’s own copies.
As in the last two years, the two trustees will each earn $2,400, Mayor Tom Corless will draw $4,000 and Village Clerk Pauline Minners will receive $31,442.
For fire protection the village will pay $41,500, as in 2014–15. A year of garbage/refuse removal will cost $62,810. The budget includes $8,725 for contracted snow clearing services, the same as before.
Snow removal and streets
A resident expressed dismay at the quality of snow removal, compared to Cold Spring, which shares some streets. “You could see a line where Cold Spring began and ended, by the black [cleared] street and the white [uncleared] street,” she complained. “Secor Street was quite messy. Division Street was high with piles so people were skidding off into the bank.” She cited dangers and potential legal liabilities “if our streets are not done properly. If the other people” in Cold Spring “can do it properly, we should also,” she told the board.
Corless promised to raise the issue with the contractor who handles snow and street needs.
Pack McCarthy pointed to Cold Spring’s plans to create a committee to seek grants. She suggested that Nelsonville participate, too, so the two “maybe have some overlap there … and hopefully our village benefits as well” from the research and any funding it produces.
Neither Corless nor Trustee Will Duncan objected, although the board took no formal action on the idea.
The board also spoke of an incident in which a Nelsonville resident called the Cold Spring Police in a perceived emergency, only to learn that she should notify the state police or sheriff’s department instead.
“I find it strange that the Cold Spring Police wouldn’t say ‘here’s the number to call,’” observed Corless, a former Cold Spring Police officer, speculating that perhaps the resident had phoned the line with the Cold Spring answering machine. He urged Nelsonville residents to use 911 in urgent cases.
An investigator with the Sheriff’s Department, he also said the presence of needles in public places indicates the heroin crisis has hit Nelsonville, too. “Nobody’s immune to it. Be vigilant,” he advised residents. “With heroin comes burglaries, stealing, you name it. Call the police, whatever number you choose,” he said. “I think we all agree we’d rather see these kids in jail than dead.”
Sheriff’s Department lease
Corless said negotiations with the Sheriff’s Department continue over the latter’s occupancy of the old firehouse on Main Street. The county has used the building for about 15 years, and the Sheriff’s Department has been there on an expanded basis more recently, he said. The Sheriff’s Department handles maintenance, utility and water costs and has made improvements to the building, he added.
“No change” is expected with the tenancy, “we’re just looking to get something for it,” he affirmed. “We’ve been lacking. It kind of started off as a gentlemen’s agreement and it’s become something different. One way or the other, we’re going to get something done” to receive compensation, he said. “We’re going to get somewhere — or they’re going to get somewhere!”
The mayor acknowledged that he “does not, absolutely not” currently live in Nelsonville, having moved “down the street” into Cold Spring in December 2013 while working on an addition to his Nelsonville home. He had also been upgrading the Cold Spring house and with one development or another — including news of a baby on the way — “things have not gone as planned, on my agenda,” he said. “So that’s where I’m at. I’m in the middle of getting back up here [to Nelsonville] as quickly as possible. I don’t want to be down there anymore than anybody else wants me.”
Photos by L.S. Armstrong