Philipstown legislator questions expense
By Holly Crocco
A pair of black Percheron horses may soon be visible from Route 312 grazing the pastures at Tilly Foster Farm in Brewster — a sight missed by many longtime residents who have been awaiting the return of horses to the historic county-owned property.
Lou Albano, one of the caretakers at the farm, said at the April 18 meeting of the Putnam County Legislature’s Physical Services Committee that while purchasing two horses would cost the county as much as $30,000, a resident has offered to sell the county one horse for $5,000 and donate the other, as well as a pioneer wagon and rigging so the horses can be exercised.
The first-year cost of purchasing the horses, providing veterinary services, buying feed (about 12 pounds daily), and purchasing other supplies, equipment and building materials is estimated at $37,700. The cost in each subsequent year will be about $15,000, he said.
The horses are 10 years old and typically live to be 25 to 30. While the animals are immense, weighing upward of 2,000 pounds each, they are known for being even-tempered and calm, he said.
A portion of the front lawn at the farm would be cordoned off to allow the horses to graze.
Legislator Amy Sayegh (R-Mahopac Falls) expressed concerns about a suggestion that the farm could offer horse or wagon rides, and the liability that comes with it. “You don’t know how they’re going to act with a 2-year-old,” she said.
Legislator Joseph Castellano (R-Brewster) called the purchase a great idea. “It would be a huge draw to the farm,” he said. However, he noted that he would like to see an “exit strategy” spelled out if the county ever decided it could no longer care for the horses.
Legislator Nancy Montgomery (D-Philipstown) criticized the administration for not having a master plan for the farm. In addition, she said she would not support the purchase of the horses because she is committed to holding off on any unnecessary purchases that would have a fiscal impact on the 2019 budget.
She noted that a week earlier, legislators had debated whether to change the title of a position in the Sheriff’s Department based on the fact that it would be “adding” a position that was not in the budget.
“I look at this the same way,” she said. “We’re going to buy some horses, and I don’t have any transportation in Philipstown.”
However, Legislator Neal Sullivan (R-Mahopac) argued the purchase would be “an investment in the farm,” he said. “People want horses.”
The Physical Services Committee approved a fund transfer to purchase the horses, and the matter was forwarded to the Audit Committee. It will need to go before the full Legislature for approval.