Legislators say operating costs will be discussed later
By Holly Toal
During a public hearing Oct. 26 on the 2017 county budget that the Legislature approved the next day, a number of residents asked for more information about an agreement by the county to lease space at the Butterfield site in Cold Spring for a senior center, and also about the costs of the renovation.
The county plans to lease 6,000 square feet at the Lahey Pavilion over a period of 15 years at a total cost of about $4.5 million, including rent, taxes, common area charges and renovations. Earlier this year, the Legislature approved an $800,000 bond referendum to retrofit the space.
Kathleen Foley of Cold Spring asked legislators, who have said the projected was “re-scoped” after Garrison residents Roger and Elizabeth Ailes withdrew a $500,000 pledge, how the project has been restructured.
“I’m not seeing much change,” she said of documents about the project, which show only a $200,000 decrease in renovation costs.
Foley said the proposed 2017 budget did not include line items for funds earmarked for the project. However, after dissecting the proposed budget for the Office for Senior Resources, she asked why some items there such as internet costs and computers and exercise equipment did not show an increase in spending if seniors would have those features at the new senior center.
“This appears to be only a construction budget,” she said. “What is going on here? Are we or are we not having computer classes at this senior center?”
Roger Gross (R-Brewster) said the operating budget for the county, which was being considered, would not have those costs. “Butterfield issues are in a capital budget, which talks about tablets and exercise equipment and refrigerators and everything else,” he said.
Ginny Nacerino (R-Patterson) added that projections in the budget may not be accurate because an opening date for the senior center has not been established.
“We have a [summer] target date for this project [but] we don’t know if it’s June, July, August, so all this is really based on guesstimates,” she said.
Lithgow Osborne of Garrison said he, too, was unable to find any references to the project in the proposed budget.
“There’s nothing we can do about the location,” he said. “You guys have sewn that up; your friend [the developer] is getting a good deal.”
However, Osborne said residents would like to know how much the county plans to spend on programs and services.
Mary Williams of Cold Spring told legislators that she and others who will use the senior center do not need a state-of-the-art facility. “Seniors need simpler things than what we’re talking about here,” she said. “They come from a generation of people who were brought up in a simpler time.”
She suggested exercise classes to keep seniors moving and computer and iPad training to keep seniors “in touch with the world… They don’t need a lot of expensive things,” she said. “It doesn’t need all this money being spent.”
During the Oct. 27 legislative meeting at which the budget was adopted, Dini LoBue (R-Mahopac Falls) questioned why there was not more funding earmarked for the new senior center. Aside from the construction costs, which will be covered by the bond, and the rental costs, there will be operating costs such as utility bills once the center is open, she said.
“What troubles me is all the other expenses that are not allocated in this budget for next year,” said LoBue.
Carl Albano (R-Carmel) responded: “This is not the [time] to get the answers to that. The committee meetings are where we get the answers. When these questions come up, we can discuss them in detail… At this point I think these things should have been addressed earlier.”