Views on Fire Department Consolidation and Senior Center Aired at Forum

DA candidates continue vehement feuding

By Liz Schevtchuk Armstrong

The Philipstown political season’s first candidate forum produced support for fire department consolidation, debate over the Butterfield senior citizen center and agreement on dirt roads and the town website, plus more sniping in the district attorney race.

The event, organized by The Putnam County News and Recorder at the Cold Spring firehouse on Monday (Oct. 5), included candidates for Philipstown Town Board, which has two councilor slots open; Philipstown highway superintendent, Philipstown town clerk, Putnam County legislator and Putnam County distract attorney, along with Philipstown Supervisor Richard Shea, who is running unopposed. They answered questions from a panel of PCNR reporters.

Much of the material covered had previously been disclosed elsewhere, including in interviews published in The Paper and on Philipstown.info. Also, frequently opposing candidates did not receive identical questions, making direct comparisons of their stances more difficult. A second candidate debate sponsored by The Paper/Philipstown.info is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 19, in the music room at Haldane School. The election will be held Tuesday, Nov. 3.

Fire department consolidation

Two Town Board candidates endorsed local fire department consolidation. A 2011 study set off a furor when it recommended combining Philipstown’s four departments into one administrative entity.

Incumbent Councilor Nancy Montgomery, a Democrat, cited as one of her accomplishments initiating the dialogue on emergency services, including the 2011 study. Ensuring the services’ viability remains a priority, “the most critical thing in our town,” she said, and “our role as a government and elected officials is the safety and welfare of our citizens.”

While the present focus is establishing a Garrison Fire District, “an important thing, personally I would like to see a town-wide district at this point,” she said.

Craig Watters, a Libertarian running on the Republican ticket, referred to fire department consolidation as a “long-term” venture. “It’s not something we’re talking about right now but as it [a Garrison Fire District] leads us in that direction, it does offer opportunities in the future” for consolidation. He said he favors government consolidation in general “because it streamlines government, brings costs down, and still provides a premium service to our taxpayers.”

The third councilor candidate, Democrat Robert Flaherty, did not specifically address consolidation but called the creation of a Garrison Fire District “the best way to go. It puts a little more ownership in the Garrison community,” with residents, in referendums, approving such decisions as making major purchases. Appointed in May to fill a board vacancy, Flaherty seeks a full, four-year term.

Senior citizens center

Incumbent District 1 Putnam County Legislator Barbara Scuccimarra, a Republican, and Lithgow Osborne, the Democrat who wants her job, discussed the planned senior citizens center at the Butterfield redevelopment, currently under construction, where a fresh potential controversy brews: Housing the senior center not in a new building but in the existing Lahey Pavilion, whose medical offices would move to one of the new structures.

A May 18 county letter of intent to Butterfield developer Paul Guillaro called for putting the senior center in a new building. However, Guillaro did not counter-sign that letter, prompting anger and concern among legislators.

Scuccimarra asserted Monday night that questions about the letter would not delay the project. “The letter of intent is all taken care of,” she stated, without explaining. “We are now working on the lease and are very close to signing that.”

Osborne responded that if the idea were to use an older facility, the seniors could have had their center by now.

“If we had known we were going to be putting seniors into a renovated space, we could have found a space a while ago and renovated that … instead of waiting for Butterfield,” he said. “I think the seniors should be a little annoyed that what they’ve been wanting and waiting for could’ve been given them years ago.”

He also questioned leasing the space. “It’s much better to own something, renovate it, have it, and then when it’s in excess of need to sell it, rather than renting,” he said.

Highway superintendent contenders

Incumbent Highway Superintendent Roger Chirico, a Republican, and Democratic challenger Carl Frisenda agreed on the need to pave some sections of the town’s dirt roads. Chirico maintained, as he has in before, that paving some steep dirt road stretches is necessary, to save money. He cited the paving this past summer, despite strenuous objections from some residents, of part of South Mountain Pass.

“That road has handled all the water, all the debris” and everything else weather dumped on it after paving, he said, adding that, in contrast, an unpaved length of South Mountain Pass has required repeated grading after recent storms.

“Some spots do need paving. There are other portions that could stay dirt,” Frisenda concurred. On South Mountain Pass, “I would have done it the same way.”

Town clerk candidates

Tina Merando, incumbent town clerk, a Republican, and Ann McGrath Gallagher, the Democratic challenger, secretary to the town Planning Board, both mentioned upgrades to the town website as goals. “I’d love to see improvements,” Merando said. “It’s never been funded” as a project. However, she said that she realizes that other town priorities take precedence; she likewise cited the amount of information the website contains already.

“I believe we have room to add other things and other applications,” McGrath Gallagher responded.

DA candidates

Adam Levy, incumbent district attorney, and challenger Robert Tendy, a lawyer and former prosecutor serving as Putnam Valley town supervisor, continued their internecine GOP slug-fest.

Tendy, the official Republican candidate, said that under Levy, who lost the Republican primary, the DA’s office “is a completely unethical office. It’s run in a completely slipshod way,” with a staff that acts inexperienced. “It’s unreal and it has to stop,” he said.

“I don’t know where he gets that from,” Levy countered. He said Tendy’s allegation of unethical and inexperienced conduct “is simply contradicted the facts” and that of 400 indictments his office brought, only three have been dismissed.


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