Also, Cold Spring continues water battle with NYC
Cold Spring Mayor Dave Merandy and Trustee Kathleen Foley clashed at the Tuesday (Jan. 12) meeting of the Village Board over public input into a state-mandated review of the Police Department.
Last year, Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered all municipal police forces to complete a comprehensive review of their policies and procedures by April 1. In December, the village hired Lexipol, a consulting firm, to recommend updates to its police policies, which haven’t been revised since 2013.
Several times during Tuesday’s meeting, which was held via Zoom because of COVID-19 restrictions, Merandy stated emphatically that he felt it was too early in the review process for public input.
“I don’t think we should be moving ahead with getting public comment until the board agrees on a policy and we talk to Lexipol to see what they can offer us,” Merandy said. “I think you’re putting the cart before the horse.”
Foley, who took office in December, advocated the opposite.
“As a first step, we can identify where we are as a community in terms of our relationship with” police and how the public perceives officers, she said, suggesting a survey and recruiting volunteers to assist.
That didn’t sit well with Merandy.
“It seems you want to go out right now, get a committee together to put out a survey to get input from the community, before we have a policy,” he said, adding that a draft would provide something for residents to respond to.
Foley said the mayor misunderstood her point. “I’m not saying right now that we want public comment on a particular policy; I’m suggesting we follow the work plan laid out in the governor’s order,” which emphasizes public input.
During the 45-minute back-and-forth, after he was interrupted by Foley, Merandy exclaimed, “I’m talking, for [expletive] sake! You keep interrupting me!”
“I’m sorry Dave,” Foley replied. “You don’t need to use that language.”
“That’s too bad; quit interrupting me,” the mayor said.
A few minutes later, Foley chided Merandy for interrupting her.
Foley and Officer-in-Charge Larry Burke recently sat in on a meeting of the Kent Town Board. The town had received more than 200 responses to a survey of residents as part of its Police Department review.
Foley and Burke were scheduled to meet with Lexipol for the first time on Jan. 14.
Commenting on the review, Trustee Heidi Bender, who also took office in December, said: “We’re doing this for our village, to make a better relationship with our community and our Police Department,” adding that gathering feedback early is a valuable part of the process. “It’s why the governor made this directive in the first place — to improve these relationships.”
Before the meeting adjourned, Bender addressed the mayor.
“It’s important to me, Dave, that you acknowledge the way you spoke to Kathleen, to the board and to the public,” she said. “You’re the mayor and we look to you for a code of conduct. To me, that was not becoming of a mayor. “
“Duly noted,” Merandy replied. “I’m not apologizing or anything at this point.”
“Well, that’s noted, then,” Bender said.
A rare area of agreement was that, while the village does not expect to complete the review by the April 1 deadline, that should not be an issue.
“What’s critical for us to demonstrate by April 1 is that we’ve made a good faith effort to move into automated [policy] updating and [officer] training,” Foley said.
Tap still off
The seemingly never-ending saga of Cold Spring’s attempt to connect to the Catskill Aqueduct so it can repair its reservoirs has taken an odd twist.
At Tuesday’s board meeting, Superintendent of Water and Wastewater Matt Kroog reported that during a morning conference call on Jan. 7, officials with the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, which oversees the aqueduct, said the village would finally be able to make the connection.
Three hours later, he said, the agency called to say approval would not be forthcoming. The village has been negotiating with DEP for about 13 years.
“They keep moving the goal posts,” Merandy said. “It leaves us back at square one. We’re in limbo.”
The mayor said DEP wants Nelsonville and Philipstown to form their own water district before the connection can be approved. Nelsonville and fewer than a dozen Philipstown residents use Cold Spring’s water system.
But forming a water district isn’t the problem, Merandy said. “Basically, they are asking for a separate water system for Nelsonville, which is just not realistic.”
Merandy said he will seek support for the water district from Philipstown Supervisor Richard Shea and Nelsonville Mayor Michael Bowman before going back to the DEP to argue that a separate, new system for Nelsonville “would be impossible.”
Cold Spring has hired David Merzig, an attorney who represented New Paltz in a similar dispute with DEP. Merandy said Merzig will reach out to DEP in another attempt to move the project forward.
“This is criminal,” Foley commented. “Clean drinking water is a right. “
In other business …
■ Code Enforcement Officer Charlotte Mountain will soon begin fire inspections for all multi-family, commercial and mixed-use buildings in the village. The state Uniform Building Code requires the inspections every three years. Citing economic hardships caused by COVID-19, the Village Board reduced the inspection fee from $75 to $50 for 2021. The fee for re-inspections remains $50.
■ Cold Spring police officers responded to 46 calls for service in December and issued 38 traffic and 54 parking tickets. One arrest was made when a motorist was charged with driving with a suspended registration. The fire department answered 10 calls in December, for a total of 170 during the year.