Residents also suggest transportation network
Joined by consultants and residents, Philipstown Town Board members on Wednesday (Feb. 16) traded ideas for spending the town’s share of relief from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) approved by Congress last year to help states, counties and communities recover economically from the COVID-19 shutdown.
The town expects to receive about $730,000. High on Supervisor John Van Tassel’s list: eliminating the Garrison Landing Water District’s ongoing malfunctions; assisting the Philipstown Behavioral Health Hub, a town-supported resource center on addiction and related problems; and joining with the villages of Cold Spring and Nelsonville to address issues relevant to all three — even, perhaps, Nelsonville’s lack of a sewer system.
During the discussion, held at Town Hall, other board members suggested helping town programs, such as those run by the Recreation Center, that lost revenue during the pandemic shutdown, while audience members proposed town-wide transportation to help residents without cars meet basic needs.
Van Tassel said Philipstown received half of its ARPA payment in 2021 but hasn’t spent any of it. The remainder is due this year.
“We have some infrastructure issues that, in my mind as supervisor, we definitely need to correct because we’re bleeding money,” primarily at the faltering, 20-year-old Garrison water district system, he said. The town continues to truck in water to supply Garrison’s Landing residents and businesses, while efforts to find new sources have failed. “It’s costing us a lot of money,” he said.
Potentially, the Garrison district could link to a water tank at the Recreation Center, about a mile away, but that could cost $800,000, Van Tassel said. Yet, he noted, “over the past three years we’ve spent nearly that much buying water.”
Putnam County has asked for suggestions from municipalities for joint projects to undertake with ARPA money; Van Tassel expressed hopes that Putnam could cooperate with Philipstown on a hook up with the Rec Center system.
He also said that he had met earlier that day with Mayor Kathleen Foley of Cold Spring and Deputy Mayor Chris Winward of Nelsonville to consider projects all three municipalities could tackle with the aid. The topics included sewers for Nelsonville, he said, which relies on septic systems and underground cesspools to collect sewage and wastewater.
The Cold Spring sewage treatment plant has enough capacity to serve both villages, and Cold Spring pipes tap water to Nelsonville.
Also at the Wednesday session, a resident proposed that Philipstown find a way to provide mobility to non-drivers. “Philipstown has no public transportation,” she said, adding that “we’re particularly concerned about seniors. We have a lot of people who live on back roads. It’s difficult to get out” and county assistance is limited.
Putnam County provides some transportation, such as rides to the lunch program in the senior citizen center at the Butterfield complex in Cold Spring.
Van Tassel said the town would consider helping with transport. But he also cited a longstanding absence of county support for such ventures. “The more we provide for seniors, and for every program, the less the county does,” he said.
Liz Ballotte, from the PKF O’Connor Davies in Harrison, a town consultant, suggested local officials approach the county about ARPA-funded public transportation. Putnam runs a bus system that comes no farther west than Kent.
“There’s no reason we shouldn’t have” comparable service, Van Tassel said.