Nelsonville Voters to Decide on 5-Person Board

Plus, Philipstown scraps Fair Street sidewalk

By Liz Schevtchuk Armstrong

Nelsonville decided Jan. 17 to let voters decide whether to add two trustees to its three-person board.

Mayor Tom Corless and Trustees Danielle Pack McCarthy and Thomas Robertson unanimously agreed to hold a public hearing on Feb. 21 on the proposal, and barring unexpected opposition, add the measure to the March 21 village ballot.

Robertson said a five-person board would provide both more personnel to handle village business and avoid open-meeting-law questions if two board members talk informally. “We’re very limited by what we can do with a three-member board,” he said.

If a majority of voters concurs, two additional trustees would be selected in the 2018 election, with one serving a one-year term and the other for two years. Starting in 2019, all trustee terms would be two years. Two of the three positions, now held by Corless and McCarthy, will be on the March 21 ballot.

Ian MacDonald, an attorney for the village, noted that Nelsonville once had a five-person board. “It’s not clear exactly what happened,” he said, but “it went to two trustees and a mayor without any explanation.”

According to The Sesquicentennial Anniversary of Nelsonville, published in 2005, the village government consisted of a president (not mayor) and four trustees after Nelsonville was incorporated in 1855.

Robertson told The Current on Jan. 18 that the minutes of a board meeting on March 2, 1898, named four trustees. But when the board convened again less than three weeks later, it had only two trustees and a president. The minutes of that later meeting referred to a “new village law,” although no record of it has been found.


The Philipstown Town Board at its Jan. 5 meeting rejected all bids from contractors for an extension of the sidewalk on Fair Street to run near the Hudson River from the edge of Cold Spring to Little Stony Point, dovetailing with the pending Hudson Highlands Fjord Trail.

Supervisor Richard Shea said the $100,000 the town received in state funding for the project fell far short of the lowest bid, which was $211,000. “At this point, it’s not going to happen unless we come up with some other money,” he said. “It’s definitely a good idea, but it just got really complicated.”

Also on Jan. 5, the board heard from residents on the need for a fire sprinkler system in the county senior center planned for the Lahey Pavilion at the Butterfield redevelopment complex.

Lynda Ann Ewen, recently elected president of the Philipstown Senior Club, urged the board to encourage county legislators to equip the center with a sprinkler system and termed the lack of one “absolutely unacceptable.” Plans for the senior center specify a fire-suppression system in the kitchen but no overhead sprinklers in other areas frequented by up to 100 seniors, including the frail and wheelchair-bound, she said.

Ewen said she fears the county feels sprinklers are too expensive and intends to only meet minimum code requirements. “Our seniors are very upset,” she said.

However, Frank Keenan, retired founder and owner of Pidala Electric, disagreed on the need for sprinklers. He recommended a smoke-detector system as a better choice because sprinklers can be erratic, spraying water, making floors slippery and causing panic. Insurers often “think there’s more liability from the sprinkler system than from a fire,” Keenan argued. He advised the community to defer to experts “and not throw inexperienced people’s opinions out there and slow the project down.”

Board members John Van Tassel and Robert Flaherty, both volunteer firefighters, favored sprinklers, although Flaherty echoed the concerns about slippery floors and, like Keenan, saw merit in consulting experts. Van Tassel said that, at least for residential use, sprinkler systems “are so inexpensive to install.”

Shea said “it runs counter to common sense” to not provide sprinklers. But board member Nancy Montgomery said the fact that the code does not mandate a sprinkler system “indicates there is a reason it’s not needed.” She, too, preferred  smoke detectors. “It’s more efficient and probably keeps people safer,” she said.

Cheaper electricity

At a workshop on Jan. 18, the board scheduled a public hearing for 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 8 at Town Hall (238 Main St., Cold Spring) for discussion of a draft law permitting the town to participate in a community choice aggregation (CCA) program to help municipalities obtain lower electrical rates and renewable energy sources for residents.

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