Pushes for CCA, consolidation; reopens annex bidding
By Liz Schevtchuk Armstrong
Moving ahead with two inter-government initiatives, the Philipstown Town Board approved participation in a Highlands energy-acquisition program and took steps toward merging at least two if not three local building departments.
At its Feb. 16 monthly meeting, the board also announced it was reopening bidding for renovations to the Town Hall annex after discovering that, contrary to the requirements, the contractor selected did not intend to pay prevailing wages to workers. The board hopes to convert the annex, once known as Dahlia House, into space for offices now crammed into Town Hall.
A week after a public hearing generated overwhelming support for a Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) electricity program, the board voted 5-0 to establish a CCA with other Highlands municipalities. Beacon and Fishkill have passed similar measures, the Cold Spring Village Board has scheduled a public hearing for Feb. 28 and Nelsonville plans to hear a presentation in March.
CCAs allow municipalities to bargain on behalf of homeowners and small businesses for less expensive and/or more energy-efficient electricity, especially from renewable sources.
Supervisor Richard Shea said that the vote does not commit the town to any contracts but simply “moves the process forward.”
Building department consolidation
Shea outlined the latest steps toward consolidating the Cold Spring and Philipstown building departments but noted that Nelsonville appears no longer interested in a three-way merger.
Shea said he and Cold Spring officials are considering which Cold Spring assignments the town could take on; Philipstown is already handling inspections at the Butterfield redevelopment and drafting a consolidation agreement. The town, with a population of about 9,700, has a full-time building department while Cold Spring, with 2,000 residents, and Nelsonville, with about 600, do not.
After her 2015 election to the Nelsonville Village Board, Trustee Danielle Pack-McCarthy began exploring consolidation. However, a year later, Mayor Tom Corless removed her as liaison to the town and instead appointed Trustee Tom Robertson, who described Nelsonville’s separate building department and justice court as essential to village independence and identity.
Shea termed Nelsonville’s stance “ridiculous.” Merging would “not cost them anything” more than what the village currently pays and provide the services of “a full-time, certified, qualified inspector,” he said. “Go figure.”
He and Councilor Nancy Montgomery observed that New York State has directed municipalities to share services and consolidate. “You’re going to lose your state aid if you don’t do something,” Shea commented, wishing Nelsonville “good luck” if it goes its own way.
By a unanimous vote, the board increased the permit fee for filming a feature movie or TV video to $800 from $600 on private property and to $1,500 from $700 on public land. “We were way, way behind” in setting adequate charges and need to cover the costs of work by town departments in closing roads and otherwise accommodating production companies, Shea said.