County OKs Purchase of Horses

Two legislators vote against expense

By Holly Crocco

The Legislature on May 7 approved the purchase of two black Percheron horses for Tilly Foster Farm, although Nancy Montgomery (D-Philipstown) and Bill Gouldman (R-Putnam Valley) voted “no.”

The county will purchase one horse for $5,000 from a private owner, who will donate the second horse.

The first-year cost of purchasing the horses, providing veterinary services, buying feed and other supplies, equipment and building materials, is estimated at $37,700. Each subsequent year, the cost of continued care for the horses is estimated at about $15,000.

“The thing that we have to keep in mind is that open space, green space, the properties that people like to see cost a lot of money,” said Legislator Carl Albano (R-Carmel).

A black Percheron (File photo)

He explained that at public meetings that were held a few years ago when capital improvements began at the farm, “many residents came up to us and said what they would like to see are horses. At that time, it was premature; we had a lot of work to do on the farm, and it wasn’t an option.”

However, now the county has an opportunity to acquire the horses at a reasonable price, with support provided by the owner, he said. “It’s a beautiful addition to the farm.”

Legislator Neal Sullivan (R-Mahopac) added that the county, which partners with Putnam/Northern Westchester BOCES to offer culinary classes at the farm, will now be able to offer even more.

“The purchase of the horses will further continue and expand the partnership with BOCES to increase educational opportunities at the farm, specifically to begin an animal science program in September,” he said.

“This is not only an investment in the farm, it’s an investment in our youth,” he said. “Hopefully one day they will come back and work at the farm for us.”

Montgomery said she simply could not support the purchase.

“I love these horses,” she said. “They are a magnificent thing to see.” But at $15,000 a year, “that’s a lot of money to spend on something to just look at, when we are lacking so many other essential services in our county.”

Tilly Foster Farm

Tilly Foster Farm in 2004, when it was managed by the Society for the Preservation of Putnam County. The county took over management in 2014. (Wikimedia)

Montgomery explained that the BOCES’ “animal care program” will begin at Tilly Foster in September regardless of whether it has horses.

“I’m interested in my constituents at this point,” she said. “I’m not interested in Tilly Foster, or investing any more money in Tilly Foster. I don’t buy something just because it’s on sale.”

Legislator Paul Jonke (R-Southeast) said the Legislature owes it to the residents to make the farm a profitable enterprise and a recreational asset.

“Putnam County owns a farm,” he said. “If I were on the Legislature at the time we acquired the farm, I probably would have voted against it. But the fact is we have a farm and we need to make it the best we can.”

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