Proposed Cold Spring-Garrison path questioned
The Philipstown Town Board last week voted 4-0 to join litigation filed by several municipalities to prevent a green-energy company from breaking its deal to supply power from non-polluting sources.
The action occurred July 7 in Town Hall at the board’s formal monthly meeting, where the full agenda included discussion of a proposed footpath from Cold Spring to Garrison; the possible transfer of $10,000 in grant money to Cold Spring; a flag-flying protocol; and honoring military personnel with posters hanging from utility poles, such as those displayed in Beacon and eastern Putnam County.
By signing onto the lawsuit, Philipstown adds its voice to that of other communities who purchase energy from a Brooklyn-based firm that wants to terminate the contract early.
Through Hudson Valley Community Power, a community choice aggregation (CCA), or coalition, customers purchase electricity from renewable energy sources at prices that don’t change over the length of the contract.
Administered by Joule Assets, the CCA contract with Columbia Utilities calls for those enrolled to get electricity at rates of 6.6 cents per kilowatt-hour for residences and 7.1 cents for small businesses through June 30, 2024. The CCA pays Columbia for the electricity and Central Hudson for delivery, with both charges appearing on a single Central Hudson bill.
A year into the deal, Columbia Utilities wants out. According to Joule, in April Columbia Utilities secretly notified state regulators it intended to offload about 25,000 customers onto other suppliers.
Several CCA municipalities and Joule sued the utility on June 3 in state court. Shortly before the case was filed, the Town Board considered participating, but held off until its attorney, who was traveling overseas, could review the matter.
Councilor Jason Angell said July 7 that Joule is bearing the costs of the litigation. The legal agreement accompanying the resolution states that any money awarded the plaintiffs would go toward Joule’s expenses and then to CCA members.
On June 7, a state judge issued a temporary restraining order, effective until late August, to give the parties time to negotiate a settlement.
“I don’t think Columbia can provide enough power cheap enough to continue” the deal, said Philipstown Supervisor John Van Tassel. Moreover, he said, “Central Hudson rates are high because they’re [based on] oil-fired plants or fossil-fuel plants. Green power is so much cheaper.”
Angell noted that Philipstown “helped push the CCA forward.” Not only is the green-energy program “the biggest environmental impact we’ve had,” he said, “but it saved people about $200 a month. So it’s a big deal. Getting kicked off is going to hurt people.”
Cold Spring-Garrison footpath
Cold Spring Trustee Laura Bozzi, in her capacity as co-chair of the Philipstown Trails Committee, told the Town Board that it hopes in late summer to unveil a potential course for a footpath connecting Cold Spring and Garrison’s Landing. In February 2021, the committee proposed a path that would connect the village with Boscobel in Garrison.
The planning was funded by a $37,100 state grant to the town. Efforts to create a townwide trail system began in 2018 following a survey in which respondents listed hiking and biking trails as a priority.
Angell described it as a way for people of all ages to walk or bicycle and “move more freely” without a car. “This is really a local trail for local residents,” he said.
Councilor Megan Cotter questioned the endeavor. “Who’s footing this bill?” she asked. “You’re all about the community, which I am too, and opening these trails, like biking, walking, because this is a highly populated tourist attraction — where are all those tourists going? Where are they parking?”
She acknowledged her interest in recreation in Philipstown, but “not for nothing. We have to control what we have right now.” Given the pending Fjord Trail to connect Cold Spring and Beacon, she said that “adding more trails might just break us. And now your trail. Why not put my trail in there?”
Bozzi said questions such as those from Cotter must be answered. A feasibility study will address some, she said. “We’re at a beginning stage.”
“There’s going to be a lot of public conversations,” Angell said.
Village charging station
Van Tassel proposed that the town give Cold Spring $10,000 of its unspent Climate Smart grant funds to install an electric-vehicle charging station in the village.
“It doesn’t fit any of our needs currently and we don’t want to see it go to waste, obviously,” the supervisor said. Another charging station “is only going to benefit Philipstown if it’s in the village of Cold Spring or in Nelsonville, either way. I’m in favor of seeing the money stay local, rather than returning it.”
Cotter said she, too, favors using the funds locally but expressed reservations. “Is there something else under the Climate Smart umbrella that we can put it toward, instead of another charger?” she asked. “Because it goes back to that congestion that Philipstown kind of would have with another charger.”
Angell said the money can only pay for such projects as e-car charging facilities or solar installations, and that the town must determine by July 22 how to spend it.
Councilor Robert Flaherty, the town’s representative to Cold Spring, said he would bring the idea to the Village Board.
The board resumed its discussion of a policy for flying flags at town government sites, after allowing the LGBTQ+ Progress Pride flag to fly, separately from the U.S. flag, at Town Hall in June; placing the Ukrainian flag in a Town Hall window this spring; and adopting a moratorium, which began July 1, on flying flags other than Old Glory and the Prisoners-of-War/Missing-in-Action flag.
“As far as I’m concerned, it’s the American flag,” plus the POW-MIA flag that count, Van Tassel said. He added that he might also be OK with the state flag, a county flag and a Philipstown flag.
“My fear is that if we entertain any other flags, we will have an endless flow of questioning and an endless flow of work,” he said. “I don’t think we need to get in the mud and start making those decisions month after month.”
Cotter concurred that “there’s a lot more pressing issues” and Flaherty, too, said he would not want debates over flags at every meeting. But, he said, he would also “like to try to open it up a little bit, to see what we can do to get public input. I don’t want to just open and close this right away.”
Van Tassel welcomed a plea from resident Cindy Trimble and Gail Silke of Carmel to attach posters with photographs of military personnel to town utility poles.
Silke and Trimble said that, typically, families buy the banners for $200 to $250.
“It’s wonderful program,” said Van Tassel, saying he would like to honor his father with a banner. “I don’t see any reason we can’t start” displaying them along Philipstown roads while Cold Spring and Nelsonville consider their responses, although he said he first wanted to hear from the town attorney.