Shea: Cold Spring Exit From Joint Building Department Risks State Support

Also, Philipstown adopts energy-tracking policy

The demise of the joint Philipstown-Cold Spring building department could complicate efforts to obtain state funding linked to shared services, Supervisor Richard Shea said last week, after the Town Board voted unanimously to end the 3-year-old arrangement.

The board acted on Sept. 3 during its formal monthly meeting, held at the town Recreation Center under social-distancing protocols, after Cold Spring Mayor Dave Merandy declared on Aug. 5 that Cold Spring was re-establishing its own building department, with a part-time building inspector/code enforcement officer, instead of relying on the town’s fulltime department. 

The intermunicipal agreement set a 60-day notification for severing the relationship, but Merandy, in an Aug. 18 letter to Shea, sought an immediate out, saying that Cold Spring officials believe their “residents and property owners will benefit by having a person dedicated solely to the needs of the village.”  

The letter cited what the mayor portrayed as unhelpful attitudes on the part of Greg Wunner, the town code enforcement officer, including an alleged refusal by Wunner to meet with the new village building inspector, Charlotte Mountain. Merandy asserted that Wunner’s perceived unresponsiveness provided “clear indications of his unwillingness to work with the village for one more day, let alone 60.”

But Shea said at the monthly meeting that Wunner “is completely willing to meet with the new [village] inspector. That may not have happened yet, but it will happen.” The supervisor also said that Wunner had organized and promptly returned all Cold Spring building department files to Village Hall, a statement Village Clerk Jeff Vidakovich confirmed on Tuesday (Sept. 8).

Councilor Robert Flaherty concurred that Wunner “just didn’t walk away from this” and “is more than happy to help out” the village during the transition, and Councilor John Van Tassel pointed out that the village will now have a building inspector available only two days a week, instead of five. 

“I really don’t understand how it’s going to benefit the residents of the village,” he said.   

For several years, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been promoting municipal consolidation or at least sharing of services, functions and departments, with financial bonuses for jurisdictions that team up. 

Ending the Philipstown-Cold Spring cooperation “certainly won’t help us” in that regard, Shea said. He described the joint department as “one thing that we thought was working well.” 

But Shea also promised that the town would find other ways, including highway department projects, to work with Cold Spring, as well as the Village of Nelsonville, and keep local sharing of services alive. “Any way we can continue to help the village we will continue to do so,” he said.

Town to measure energy usage

In another unanimous vote, the Town Board adopted an “energy benchmarking policy,” reflecting its determination, under the Climate Smart Communities program, to reduce air pollution and the effects of climate change exacerbated by fuel emissions. The move commits the town to measuring the energy usage of each town government building, tracking it over time, comparing it to data from similar structures and reporting the findings yearly, starting with May 1, 2021. 

Compiled by the town’s Climate Smart program coordinator, the information is to be submitted to the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s online database and made available to the public.

Buildings “account for 45 percent of total emissions from government operations,” according to a Town Board resolution launching the benchmarking policy. 

In related business, Roberto Muller, the town’s Climate Smart program coordinator, said the task force he heads recommends that the town government strive to reduce its gross consumption-based emissions by 60 percent by 2030 and by 100 percent by 2040, and that it increase its local carbon removal by 10 percent by 2030 and 15 percent by 2040.  

Muller also announced that he plans to marry and move away, so that town officials should appoint a successor to begin Jan. 1, if possible. 


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