Letters submitted en masse
By Michael Turton
Three members of the Cold Spring Planning Board have resigned, leaving the all-volunteer committee with less than a quorum. Barney Molloy, Karen Dunn and James Pergamo submitted letters of resignation en masse at the Tuesday (Nov. 10) Cold Spring Village Board meeting.
The three cited recent disagreements with Mayor Dave Merandy’s administration, including the appointment of former village Trustee Matt Francisco as Planning Board chair and the handling of payment of legal fees owed by Butterfield developer Paul Guillaro. The resignations leave only Francisco and Arne Saari on the Planning Board.
“The malice, arrogance and incompetence that the majority of [Village] Board members demonstrates on an almost daily basis is breathtaking,” Molloy wrote in his resignation letter.
Dunn wrote: “The Planning Board is adrift. This disarray is making it impossible for the board to be effective.”She also said she was “disturbed by what appears to be attempts to torpedo the Butterfield project.” In a reference to the disagreement between the village and Guillaro over payment of bills she wrote that “the issues could easily have been resolved without the stop-work order.”
Pergamo’s comments were more measured. “I’m not in agreement with the way the Village Board has conducted itself and the lack of professionalism,” he wrote. The letters were submitted but not read into the record at Tuesday’s meeting.
In an email to The Paper, Merandy said that he feels the resignations are “in the best interests of the village; and I’m grateful to them for doing so.” He said he will appoint new members as quickly as possible, adding that while “decisions requiring a vote cannot take place without a quorum” the two remaining members “will continue to work with applicants.”
The mayor termed Dunn’s comments on Butterfield “an absurd characterization,” adding that “a stop-work order was never issued.” He also commented that “Butterfield will continue to move forward and if built as … designed and approved by the Planning Board there is no cause for concern.”
Village officials will meet with Guillaro next week to assess invoicing, payment of bills and the Butterfield project’s escrow account.
Six degrees of separation?
Merandy appointed Francisco after Donald MacDonald resigned as Planning Board chair. Although the mayor has the authority to make such an appointment unilaterally, the Village Board approved the move at its meeting on Oct. 27 by a vote of 3-2. Trustees Michael Bowman and Cathryn Fadde voted against it. Prior to that, a motion by Bowman to appoint Molloy as Planning Board chair, seconded by Fadde, was defeated.
This week’s spate of resignations underscores the foibles associated with running a village of about 2,000 residents, in which everyone knows everyone else while not necessarily seeing eye to eye politically or getting along personally. Merandy defeated Molloy in the mayoral election last March and then replaced him with MacDonald as Planning Board chair. Fadde is in a relationship with Molloy, a factor she admitted might raise questions when she supported Bowman’s motion to reappoint him. Merandy also raised that question.
Bowman and Fadde defeated MacDonald and Francisco in the 2014 election, after a campaign that was less than pleasant. Stephanie Hawkins, a former village trustee and now Merandy’s wife, often clashed with Molloy and Bowman. Call it zero degrees of separation rather than six.
Legal fees questioned
At Tuesday’s meeting, Bowman questioned the amount of money the village is spending on legal fees and criticized Merandy for not communicating adequately with the Village Board regarding such expenditures. He also questioned if village legal costs will exceed the $67,000 budgeted. Merandy defended his actions and the monies spent, saying that he has acted properly as the village budget officer.
He said that when he first took office there was a considerable amount of unfinished business that required legal counsel. In an email to The Paper he said that as those issues were resolved “our legal costs have decreased naturally … . We should have no problem staying within budget.”
- Merandy reported that the remediation of coal tar at the Cold Spring Boat Club site got off to “a rough start” last week when the contractor began digging rather than limiting work to sample borings as originally planned for this stage of the project. The excavation produced odors — and complaints from residents. The mayor, Greg Phillips and Trustee Fran Murphy met with officials from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to correct the situation. Merandy said that no digging will take place at the site around the Thanksgiving holiday. DEC has appointed a new contact for the project. Inquiries can be emailed to Peter Fairbanks at firstname.lastname@example.org or he can be reached by phone at 716-435-4619.
- After months of delays in finding a suitable location, the drop-box for collecting expired and unneeded prescription drugs will be established at the Philipstown Town Hall. Bob Flaherty, a member of the Town Board, said the box, a project of Philipstown’s Communities That Care Coalition, will be in place by Jan. 1 or sooner.
- Deputy Mayor Marie Early reported that based on the current schedule bids for the project to improve Main Street will be sought by year-end.
- The village received a $9,000 contribution from Groombridge Games to fund fireworks for next year’s Fourth of July celebrations. Merandy said that the Independence Day Committee will now begin planning the 2016 festivities.
- Greg Phillips, Water and Sewer superintendent, reported that village reservoirs are down to 52 percent of capacity, despite more than 3 inches of rain in October. The ban on outdoor water use remains in effect. Phillips is researching a possible upgrade of the village’s 18-year-old water meters. He also reported that construction of the new building at the wastewater treatment plant was being completed.
- From the New York State Office of Storm Recovery, the village received $7,600 — Cold Spring’s share of the cost of relocating the New Street pumping station, a move necessitated by damage caused during Hurricane Sandy. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) paid the majority of the project cost.
- Trustees approved retaining Bob Ferris as a member of the Parking Committee. Ferris recently moved out of the village into the Town of Philipstown. The committee is currently researching the installation of parking meters in the municipal lot on Fair Street.
- During the public comment period, residents Michael Robinson and Kathleen Foley urged the Village Board to independently videotape all its meetings. Robinson complained that a gap occurred in the video coverage provided by the PCNR of the Oct. 27 meeting, at which Francisco was appointed to chair the Planning Board. Rich Franco, also a village resident, said that the PCNR coverage is adequate and that there is no need for the village to also tape the meetings. PCNR Editor Doug Cunningham commented that the PCNR does not edit its video coverage of village meetings but acknowledged that technical difficulties do occur at times.