Also discusses using pandemic relief funds for sewer study
The Nelsonville Village Board on Monday (April 18) unanimously adopted a fiscal 2022-23 budget of $358,066 — a drop in spending of 8.8 percent from the year before but with a tax increase of 2.45 percent.
The board acted at its formal monthly meeting, held in the Village Hall annex, where it also discussed the possibility of using federal American Rescue Plan money to study the feasibility of installing sewers.
The budget, which takes effect June 1, reflects a 500 percent increase in staff health insurance benefits, from $5,000 to $30,000, and an expected 67 percent reduction in state highway assistance funding, from $30,000 to $10,000. It also includes $11,475 for snow removal, a 2 percent increase.
On the revenue side, the rent paid by Putnam County Sheriff’s Department for the former village firehouse will increase to $15,900 annually from $14,400.
Mayor Chris Winward said that because Nelsonville did not increase taxes in 2020 or 2021, it could have raised them by 4.9 percent this year under state law. The average homeowner will see an increase of $27, said Winward, who won the mayor’s job in March after serving as a trustee.
She noted that health care costs increased because for about 15 years no employee needed coverage through the village government but now the situation has changed. Winward said the village is evaluating alternatives, so the cost may be less than allocated.
Putnam County has promised to share its $19 million in American Rescue Plan money with its municipalities, with about $31,000 going to Nelsonville. The mayor said the Village Board has asked a consulting firm about conducting a sewer feasibility study underwritten with ARP money.
“Normally, we wouldn’t have the funding” for such analysis, she said. “This is a good opportunity.”
Residents who attended the April 18 meeting seemed wary. Although Nelsonville taps into the Cold Spring water system, homes in the village typically rely on septic systems or cesspools — underground backyard pits that collect sewage piped from the house — for waste.
Frank Ricevuto, a lifelong Nelsonville resident who grew up in a duplex that had a cesspool in the backyard for one apartment and another in the side yard for the second, noted the village “has had this talk, on and off, for many, many years.”
He observed that the Cold Spring sewage/wastewater treatment plant “is capable of handling us without problems.” Consequently, he reasoned, the onus “should be on them to put the sewer line in” because Cold Spring would collect the fees after Nelsonville connects to the system. For Nelsonville, “it’s cheaper to have your old cesspool or whatever. It doesn’t make sense for us to put the line in.”
Ricevuto acknowledged that “change can be good. But you’ve got to think, economically, what it’s really going to do to us.”
He predicted that if Nelsonville installs sewers it would have to reconsider its zoning laws, lest high-rise apartments, condominium complexes and other development get built, bringing costly expansion to the Haldane school system and other expenses.
Mary Lou Caccetta noted that Garrison and North Highlands homes generally lack sewer lines. “I don’t understand what the worry is,” she said.
Winward responded that the village has a “dense population and small lots. “We’re lucky to have public water from Cold Spring,” because “not everybody has lots big enough to have a well and a septic.” She recommended the board “get all the numbers and bring it to the public, and the public decides.”
Trustee Maria Zhynovitch said the cost of sewer installation “is a valid concern” and questioned whether residents would be required to hook up to a sewer line, instead of “enjoying your cesspool.”
Trustee Thomas Campanile, who recently took office, said “it would be nice to get facts. In the absence of facts, it’s all speculation.”