Kane still in charge for now
By Michael Turton
Change may be in the air at the Cold Spring Police Department, though perhaps not as much as Mayor Dave Merandy had anticipated. At the May 3 meeting of the village board, Merandy said that he had hoped to make a change in CSPD but that a candidate in line to replace Officer-in-Charge George Kane is no longer available.
There has been no public discussion about replacing Kane, although at Tuesday’s meeting Merandy said he had discussed issues related to the CSPD with village attorney John Furst.
While there will be no immediate change in the officer-in-charge, the mayor said Kane will be required to write a detailed job description for the position. He also underscored that a lack of enforcement by CSPD has been a common complaint and that Kane will be asked to “step up” those efforts.
Lax enforcement has been brought up numerous times in recent years, especially with regard to parking violations. CSPD’s reports indicate that during the past two years officers have issued an average of fewer than two parking tickets per day. Merchants have voiced particular concern over the lack of enforcement when commuters park on Main Street for an entire day, something they say occurs on a regular basis.
Merandy also said Kane will be asked to provide better monthly reports tracking police activity.
“We understand the importance of the police department … and the pressure to find cost savings,” Merandy said. The village spends about $400,000 annually to operate the police force, which provides round-the-clock coverage. “We understand that’s a huge chunk of the budget,” he said. The department accounts for about 20 percent of village spending.
Merandy said that some of the issues involved in assessing CSPD could not be discussed in public, adding that the village contract with the police department is up for renewal this year.
Remediation behind schedule
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has told village officials that the remediation of toxic coal tar at the Cold Spring Boat Club, including removal of the large tent on the site, will not be “substantially complete” until July 1. When the project got underway last fall, the plans called for work to be complete in time for the boating season. However, there were delays, most notably when substantially more rock than expected was encountered during excavation.
Merandy said that the DEC and contractor have agreed to give boat club members access to the site on the weekends of May 14 and 21 to install docks and get their vessels in the water. “They’re trying to be accommodating,” he said, adding that a truck and steel piles will be removed from the site to help facilitate access.
Main Street project on track
Deputy Mayor Marie Early reported that the Main Street Project is progressing quickly. She said that if all goes well, new concrete would be poured and walkable from the pedestrian tunnel to Kemble Avenue by next week. “Even with the bad weather we’re on schedule,” she said. It was thought that due to rain the first concrete would not be poured until May 9. However, because the weather improved late in the week the contractor was able to begin the first pour on May 5.
Trustee Lynn Miller commented that some of the temporary ramps being put in place along Main Street seem inadequate, pointing specifically to the makeshift wooden walkway at the Foundry Cafe. “Businesses really need to look accessible” during construction, she said.
The owner of the building at 113 Main Street addressed the board to ask that the ramp in front of his building remain in place. The consultant for the Main Street Project consultant had recommended that it be replaced with a curb for safety reasons. Merandy said there would be enough time to consider the request prior to the board’s next meeting.
Before we take another step in this discussion of the village’s police, let’s be sure our math is right. When you divide Mike Turton’s stated cost of the police of $418,890 by the village’s 2016/2017 general fund budget of $1,519,854, the proportion of the general fund budget consumed by police services is 27.56 percent, not 20 percent. Folks, that’s more than one out of every four of your property tax dollars.
While the added attention to Officer Kane’s failure to provide complete and properly detailed monthly reports is welcome, it goes nowhere near far enough. Replacing Officer Kane barely begins to address the real issues. What is, in fact, needed is an organized, open, thorough and unflinching review of the village’s police services — what they are today, what are the alternatives, what works for other communities, and what is best for the village, given all its needs. With the PBA contract up for renewal this year, this is no time for timid half-steps.
With the PBA contract up for renewal, this would be a perfect opportunity for the Board to seriously look at the costs vs. benefits of the Village PD and then present that information to the residents. I didn’t realize that the police department is on duty 24/7/365. What is the phone number to call for assistance from the Village cops on a Saturday or Sunday? I have often wondered why they don’t come out and direct traffic on weekends when Main Street becomes totally congested. Since there is very little “crime” in Cold Spring, why not actually do something that will be beneficial when it is really needed? At least enforce the parking laws — not just for the commuters but also for some of the clueless merchants who park their own cars on Main Street all day long in front of their stores or nearby. Even though it is way too long, there is still a four-hour limit for parking. I have given up complaining about this to the police officers who don’t even pretend they will do anything about certain people on my block which leads me to wonder why some merchants are getting preferential treatment.
Also, I don’t know why the bikers are allowed to rumble into town with motorcycles that are so noisy you literally can’t hear yourself think when they start their engines and drive by. I always thought there were laws on the books about the permissible noise level as some merchants have claimed. If so, then why aren’t they being enforced?
It’s one thing for the taxpayers of Cold Spring to want to pay for their own PD, but isn’t it about time they knew exactly what they are paying for — especially when it’s 27 percent of the budget?
Merchants — and their employees — taking spaces on Main Street that should be left available for customers is one of those things that challenges the idea that people always act in their own self interest. The larger problem with parking enforcement in the village is that when the village has tried it, dedicating an officer to the sole function of issuing tickets, it hasn’t paid for itself. Then, the village government, acting in its self-interest, has ceased funding the officer. This should lead us, with logic tugging gently on our hand, to conclude that we should try something different from the “mark the tires” strategy tried again and again in the past. We should install multi-meters on Main Street, which will give us “time stamps” of parking and a solid way to enforce parking laws. Nationwide, enforcement is dramatically more effective when meters are in place.
Tax payers need to understand what is at stake. Not only could the village save upwards of $400,000 per year cutting redundant police costs, it could win more than $200,00 in annual revenues from metering — and potentially much more. (Estimates of meter revenue net out the cost of additional enforcement.) These are — or should be — wonderful opportunities for a village strapped for funds to pay for repairs to a decaying water and sewer system and to replace an inadequate firehouse.
Will a review of police services be unsettling to some? Perhaps. Is such a review essential to any practical plan for the future of Cold Spring? Absolutely.
My biggest concern about parking meters is that they will discourage shoppers, visitors, tourists,etc. from coming to Cold Spring. Would people have to put money in the meters on weekends or just during the week? In many municipalities where they have meters, parking is free on the weekends to encourage shoppers. Also, don’t forget that the Main St. businesses are competing with the internet and the malls where there is free parking. Brick-and-mortar retail is taking a hit from all sides and I think that if people end up having to pay to park, we are going to lose all the money that these customers bring to the town. Has there ever been a cost/ benefit analysis done that factors in a potential loss of business for Cold Spring? I would love to know more about it.
Meters actually improve access, and were, in fact, first developed to do just that. Revenue was a secondary consideration (back in Oklahoma City in 1935) when they were first tried out, and found to work very well. I chaired a parking committee in the village in 2008 that studied the issue in depth. The best thinking on the subject was done by Donald Shoup, and published in the monumental, and fascinating, “The High Cost of Free Parking,” which I highly recommend. The book runs to 600 or 700 pages, if I recall correctly — and I thought it would be a horrible read — but it was — and is — a real page-turner.
Thank you for the information. However, I can only judge from my real-life experience of having a shop in Peekskill for many years before coming to the beautiful Village of Cold Spring. Even though there was free parking on weekends, we lost many a customer during the week who was ticketed not only for the expired meter, but also for other more expensive infractions like expired registration or inspection stickers. I can’t tell you how many customers told me they were never coming back to shop again after getting a $150 ticket because the cop happened to notice an expired sticker.
On top of that, it seems you are saying that people will have to pay for parking on weekends when traditionally that is free in other small municipalities. I can’t see how this won’t be a deterrent to some shoppers. Also, you did not mention doing an economic impact study specifically for Cold Spring in terms of money that will be lost if meters are installed?
Visitors complain today about not being able to find parking in Cold Spring. Many people have told me that they no longer come to Cold Spring’s Main Street because they know they will not be able to find a place to park. How much lost business does that represent?
In a case like this I think it is important to look at the real-life experience captured by dozens of statistical studies worldwide that show that metering works to greatly improve access to parking. The central idea is to introduce pricing to govern distribution of a scarce resource — and parking on the weekend on Main Street in Cold Spring is certainly that! Nothing else has worked, and I think it is futile — and foolish — to try again and again and again what has been tried before and failed. What that amounts to is pretending to solve the problem, spinning your tires faster and faster on the ice to make you feel that at least you’re doing something.
I concede that if you had made your arguments against metered parking to me 10 years ago I would have agreed with you. It would have seemed logical that metering parking would just keep customers away. I would have agreed that it discriminated against people who could ill afford to pay, that it was just another tax, and a regressive one at that. I would have agreed that the only solution was to pave more land so people could park there. But then, a thousand years ago I might have agreed with those who claimed the world was flat. Isn’t that what our senses tell us, what we all experience?
I’m asking you to become informed about the statistical evidence on metered parking, to challenge your assumptions, and to keep an open mind. I found the history of the issue to be fascinating and even startling, not that it exposes some diabolical conspiracy, or proves that people are behaving like idiots (they aren’t), but for the way our society has responded to the advent of the automobile. In a village that was built before the car was invented, this turns out to be very important…
Michael, thanks again for your thoughtful response. You are one of the few people out there who cares enough about local civics and events to take so much time to investigate, comment and advocate.
That being said, I still disagree with the idea of having parking meters on Main Street, mostly based on my own real-world experience. Also, there is one very important point that I don’t think has been addressed and that is the actual number of days in the year that parking is a problem. The tourist “season” when traffic is super busy is roughly the six months from May through October. Parking is tough on Saturdays and Sundays which amounts to roughly 60 days out of 365 per year when there’s a potential problem. Don’t forget that if the weather’s bad parking is not an issue, so in reality there are even fewer days to consider.
As a business owner and someone who is very familiar with parking issues as they have affected my shops, I don’t think meters are needed in Cold Spring and I truly believe that they will do more harm than good for our businesses. (Sadly, with few exceptions, that doesn’t seem to be a concern for many people in the Village, but that’s another story.)
On another note, I think that one thing that is urgently needed is for the board to have a business and tourism liaison or ombudsman who will represent the business owners in the local government. That person could be an advocate on behalf of the businesses that are the lifeblood of the economy of Cold Spring. Because most of us don’t live here, we don’t get to vote or have a say in the matters that deeply affect us, even though we are stakeholders. Taxation without representation is simply unfair.
Perhaps this position existed in the past? If so, let me know what happened. Thanks again.
We will have to agree to disagree on the issue of parking meters on Main Street. You are absolutely right that access to parking is a serious problem only on weekends, and not year round. This showed up very clearly in the 2008 parking study, when we counted parking spaces and then counted the number of cars that occupied those spaces at different times of day and on weekends and weekdays. We had heard so much opinion we felt we needed to actually count vehicles and spaces and get a factual picture (we studied a half dozen parking reports on smaller communities prepared by expert consultants to be sure we were using the appropriate methodology). I was astonished that all the hard work we put in has been almost completely ignored.
Because the problem is limited (not entirely, but mostly) to weekends, though, does not mean it is not a serious issue. Although we like to say that Cold Spring’s economy is dependent on tourism, it really isn’t. Most of the village’s aggregate income comes from people — residents — who commute, most of them to New York City. That is, we are most accurately described as a bedroom community, but one that is — and is becoming more and more — a tourist destination.
I regard metered parking as an important way to mediate the needs of residents and the needs of businesses serving tourists. With the fjord trail, and the likely growth in tourist traffic, the village must find a balanced and flexible solution. I believe in the power of markets to allocate resources efficiently. That, in a nutshell, is what well-executed metered parking would provide.
Michael, responding to your first comment in this thread, I am providing a link to the current contract between the Village of Cold Spring and the PBA. Thought you might be interested if you don’t already have it in your files.