Town Supervisor Updates

Dear Pine Plains 3.1.19

Dear Pine Plains,

 

Tomorrow is the All You Can Eat Spaghetti Dinner Fundraiser for our own Bill “Homer” Hall, who is handling a serious illness. It’s at the Firehouse at 7 Lake Road from 5-8pm Adults are $15 and Kids under 10 are $5, and if you can’t be there, they will accept checks written to the Pine Plains Hose Company with FOR BILL HALL written in the memo. You can mail those in too, to PO Box 668, Pine Plains, NY 12567. Bill and his wife Rhea are terrific people and need our help.

 

This past week, I met with Dutchess Tourism, who asked me to bring together a passle of businesspeople for a meeting with them. We met at Brett and Josh’s Gallery and Goods, in the old Grange… I wanted to impress them with the beauty of that place as well as the energy and enthusiasm of Pine Plains’ businessfolk, and frankly, we succeeded handily. With lots of new ideas coming from this meeting, we at Town Hall will be adding some things to our website for visitors. Maps to our great trails and bike routes, a driving map for a Beverage Route, a Farm Store Route, etc. Ideas always welcome. One takeaway from this meeting was the fact that, if we are to attract visitors to Pine Plains, businesses have to step up their social media engagement as well as their capacity to deal with tourists. Working farms are a huge attraction in Dutchess County, but how many farmers can actually drop everything and give tours? If we can get together on this, perhaps we can come up with a solution. After all, We Are Pine Plains. That’s what we do.

 

Marti Steed has graciously offered to help us sell the Old Library building for no commission. This week, she showed the building 3 times, so interest is growing. Fingers crossed that we attract a new business and new folks who love who and what we are.

 

We also met with Hudson River Housing to begin talking about building affordable housing in Pine Plains. This is an awesome not-for-profit which also offers workshops on home maintenance, on buying homes, and on being landlords. Rental space is dear in Pine Plains, and the landlord class might inspire more people to rent to others, so look for them to come in the near future to hold these classes.

 

Central Hudson put up our LED lighting in record time! The workers were so excited by the project that they got it done in 4 days. (I think they just liked eating at our restaurants!) This will result in big savings for the town and people report liking the more focused light. The stars are still visible in Pine Plains.

 

And finally, we are hiring a planner! BFJ Planning will be helping us with our Comprehensive Plan Review in the coming months. You can look them up online at www.bfjplanning.com The Town Board is very excited.

 

The ice has been too soft to skate on, and the sidewalks too icy to walk on!

 

Stay upright, Pine Plains!

 

Darrah Cloud

Dear Pine Plains 2.15.19

Dear Pine Plains,

So many things happen in the course of a day at Town Hall. It’s tax season, so the door is constantly swinging with people coming to pay their taxes. They chat with Eileen, our Tax Collector, and have a cup of coffee, which we brew every morning now for folks who stop in, and highway department guys, and workers from the State on their breaks. Lately, people have been stopping in to enquire about vacant buildings in town, and to talk about what is possible to build in Pine Plains. Come in for a cup and a chat anytime.

 This past week, I was able to sit down for coffee with Chair of the County Legislature Gregg Pulver at Moose on the Loose. We had a great talk about all our dreams for the town, and how to make them more than that. I also always get a great history lesson on Pine Plains, which really helps in taking things forward.

 I also touched base with Carvel Development Project Manager Lisa Baker at Tower Pizza for lunch. We had a nice conversation about affordable housing among other things as they continue to re-design their project. They will be hosting designers up here next week.

 This week we welcomed the opening of a new business in town: Spud Shack! The fries are awesome. Right next to Hugs and Kisses Florist and the Pine Plains Pharmacy!

 On the Agenda for the Town Board Meeting on the 21st  is the Unified Solar Permit, a Climate Smart Action which will count as our third step towards our becoming an official Climate Smart Community. Once 50% of our LED lights are in, we can then file for our last “action”. If you see Central Hudson around town putting in new lights, that’s what that is. Once again, this will save the town approximately $5000+ a year and pay for itself in 3 years.

 We are very close to hiring a planner for our Comprehensive Plan review, which will commence very soon. Just to remind you, the Comprehensive Plan is just that—a plan. It is not a law or an ordinance, it is a vision statement, and as such exists to guide towns in their decision making and zoning. We’re looking forward to digging into that document, seeing what we’ve already accomplished, and looking to ways to bring it up to date. There are new strategies for town planning that have emerged since it was written and we hope to bring them into play using the Plan as a guide. You can read the old Plan online on our website, www.pineplains-ny.gov

 Our new tractor is due to arrive in town around March 5th. Look for it this summer, as its mowing capacity is awesome. Shall we name it? (By the way, Highway Superintendent Heather Wilson got married on Valentines Day! They celebrated at the Stissing House. We wish her and Mike many happy years!)

 BTW—we are still looking for a Recreation Director! The job description is at Town Hall. Long hours, low pay, much appreciation.

 There has been no ice for skating during the recent thaw, and although our hockey enthusiasts are disappointed, hikers abound on Stissing Mountain and the geese are thrilled. There is nothing like the sound of geese coming in for a landing in the fields south of town.

 Land safely, Pine Plains!

Darrah Cloud

Dear Pine Plains 2.8.19

Dear Pine Plains,

This week I attended the monthly meeting of the Dutchess County Supervisors and Mayors Association. It is a great resource for what other towns are doing, or not doing, and advice. As the rookie last year, I was drafted into becoming their Secretary, which suits my skill set and which I am happy to do. Hence, I am on the Board of this group. In that capacity, I get to go to meetings with the County Executive among other things. These meetings are usually rousing, opinionated, and thrilling. One of the main topics at both meetings was the fact that the proposed State budget for 2019 takes away State Aid for towns. This aid is called AIM. For Pine Plains, this is a loss of a budgeted $9,000+, which in a small town like this is a lot of money. If our AIM is cut, this will mean that the tax cap is exceeded and taxes will go up. Our group is writing a strong letter to the governor against eliminating this aid. Another topic at both meetings was ambulance service in Dutchess County. The County Executive is working on a Shared Service idea which would combine service for small towns in various areas at a rather heavy price. He warned us that this is coming in about a year. That said, there might be an opportunity for our Rescue Squad to become one of the providers of this service, which means they could be paid for their work.  I will certainly advocate for that if allowed. More on this as his plan is revealed. At issue also is the tax cap. The history of the tax cap is that it was imposed on school districts to keep them from going overboard, then imposed on towns in order to be equitable. Putting the tax cap into permanent status is on the table right now. Our feeling is that the tax cap should not include capital projects, which greatly inflate our budgets. Those are just a few of the things we discussed at both meetings. I believe that this is a very valuable association for Pine Plains to be a part of, and it’s always exciting to go down to the County Building and meet with CE Molinaro and his staff.

We had our first meeting of Group of Strangers on Thursday. From 1-2pm every Thursday, Addiction Recovery Coach CaraMia Bacchiochi will be here to just sit and talk with people about addiction. She’s a wise person and this is a safe space to talk about anything. If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, and are reticent to talk with her, remember this: the stigma of being an addict is what prevents us from getting help when we need it. And if you think that no one knows what you’re going through in a small town, consider this: everyone knows. So take the first step and go talk to CaraMia!

I sat down with advocate Sam Busselle to discuss affordable housing this week as well. Sam helped start the Northeast Community Center in Millerton, which among other things, helps transport people from Pine Plains to their doctor appointments and the VA via their Dial-a-Ride program. He is trying to put together a collaborative approach for this between 3 towns. He is sponsoring a conference April 12th in Millerton on the subject and we will be in attendance. He is looking for interested investors. There is a lot of innovative action in this area including passive solar homes being built in conjunction with Habitat for Humanity at a cost of around $140,000.

So many balls in the air, so little time!

Stay juggling, Pine Plains!

 

Dear Pine Plains 1.26.19

Dear Pine Plains,

Our Communications Committee met this morning over the idea of a unified “look” for the way Pine Plains presents itself to the world. They poured over the old Comprehensive Plan for vision and identified three things they feel we can highlight about our town: Community, Opportunity, History. Economic development is something we can all be a part of: just cleaning up your yard or painting your house makes town look better. Committing to buying local helps the town prosper. Getting to know your neighbors and attending events makes the town a better place to live. Even though you might commute somewhere else for work every day, coming home to Pine Plains should be a joy and a sigh of relief.

To that end, the Town Board will continue its efforts this year to write grants for a central septic system to enhance small business opportunities, to open up the rail trails for hiking and biking, to find a doctor for our clinic, to bring Town Hall back into town, to fix our beach and support our active Recreation Department, promote vibrant programs at our Library, including bringing back adult education, to reach out to developers about affordable housing, and to welcome new businesses to town which can thrive here.

Our program for Seniors is called The Adventurers Club. This year, we are booking more trips, including one to The Westchester Musical Theatre for An American in Paris. The Club meets every Wednesday from 11:30am to 1pm or so, and every senior is invited to come play cards, socialize or take part in our programs. Call Lori at Town Hall for more information. 518-398-8600 ext. 1

The latest word on the Carvel Development Project is that the new design will reflect healthy lifestyles, including passive solar construction, and be delivered sometime after the first of next year. Phase 1 will feature a resort. In the meantime, project manager Lisa Baker will be here for meetings with interested citizens.

This past week, Chair of the County Legislation Gregg Pulver and Supervisor Cloud met with people from Endoverdose.com and CAPE, the Center for Addiction Prevention and Education. We are proud to announce a collaboration with these groups to present a forum for people struggling with addictions of their own or their loved ones to speak with recovery coach CaraMia Bacchiochi and each other every Thursday from 1pm to 2pm in the back classroom of the Community Center. Called Group of Strangers, this will be a no-judgment, no pressure safe place to discuss anything. We have also spoken with PAARI, the highly successful program out of Chatham, which we hope to bring to Pine Plains soon. Their training will help our town police and others help those who want it when they want it. Group of Strangers begins February 7th.

It’s hard to say that warm weather in winter is disappointing, but Town Board member Matt Zick is always sad when it’s too warm to ice skate at the new town rink at the ball fields. So hope for cold and get out there and join him there!

Chill out, Pine Plains!

 Darrah

Dear Pine Plains, 1.18.19

Dear Pine Plains,

All morning I sat in the supervisor’s office fielding phone calls from the press about the life of Shannon Smith Kent, a native of Pine Plains, a decorated Navy cryptologist stationed in Syria, who died in the attack there. I dearly hope I took some of the chaos off the shoulders of her wonderful family, her mother a friend and fellow writer and teacher, her father head of State Troopers in our region. We are so heartbroken about this loss. But what a life she led. What courage and vitality it took for her to live so far away in such a dangerous place and find the kind of important work that few ever get to do. How much a product of this particular place and her parents she was. The town of Pine Plains will miss her. Flags are flying at half mast in her honor.

This week, we held our Re-Organization meeting for the year as well as our Town Board meeting. Catch the film version. It will keep you on the edge of your seats.

The ice rink is already popular with many skaters. It’s down at the recreation fields opposite the beach. We are closing in on lighting for the area too. If you have any old skates to donate, we are gathering them to distribute to growing kids in an exchange program. We will ask people to use them until they don’t fit anymore then exchange them for the next sizes if we have them, thereby keeping a bank of skates in perpetual loan-out.

We passed the creation of our Solar Law Task Force, and held a workshop meeting with the town board to gather their feelings about solar power in and around Pine Plains.

Look for a public Workshop meeting on a possible nuisance law that would pertain only to the hamlet and off-road vehicles in back yards. The Town Board wants input from townspeople on this.

In the meantime, Lisa Baker was in town on Tuesday for breakfast at the Platter to discuss the Carvel Development. New redesigned plans are expected to arrive about a year from now.

With renewed energy, we will strive to write grants this year for economic development drivers such as a community septic system for our downtown, beach repair, and lake preservation. We dream of affordable housing and town hall re-located to our downtown every day. There is so much to do!

We are expecting 6-12 inches of wet snow this weekend, so tuck in for being unable to get out. As this will be a long weekend for the King holiday, I suggest a visit to the library for a pile of books. (And Peck’s for popcorn!) Speaking of the library, look for some exciting news on our work with the library in conjunction with the Pine Plains Memorial Hall. Think Pine Plains Pop-Up Learning!

And stay upright on those skates, Pine Plains!

Darrah Cloud

Dear Pine Plains 12.28.18

Dear Pine Plains,

At our last Town Board meeting, we spoke about numerous concerns which the town is facing. We will be putting together our Solar Law very soon, and will have a Workshop Meeting to discuss our goals on January 14th at 7pm. This is open to everybody.

We will soon be inviting the Council on Addiction Prevention & Education counselor CaraMia Bachiocchi to town to meet those who are struggling with addiction. At the moment, all we have to do is to decide on a good location where people feel safe to talk with her. If you want to try to understand better what parents and addicts are dealing with alike, try to see the movie Ben Is Back. Maybe not the greatest movie in the world, but very accurate to the experience.

LED lighting was approved by the Town Board on December 10th. Look for Central Hudson to be out replacing bulbs. This will save the town a significant amount of money each year in electricity costs (approx.. $6000/yr) and pay for itself in 3 years.

The Re-organization Meeting will take place right before the next Town Board Meeting on January 17th, 2019.

As the New Year approaches, we thought you’d like to know about ways you can contribute to Our Town and Beyond which don’t require anything from you but time. Here we go:

1)         Volunteer to drive the van for the Northeast Community Center out of Millerton serving our area—they take people to doctor’s appointments, shopping, anywhere they need to go when they can’t drive themselves.

2)         Get on a committee for the town—or form one! See something you’d like to have happen? How about preserving our history here, and helping to maintain the old scale, finding a place to display our 1897 LaFrance Fire Truck, keeping the Graham-Brush house up, getting involved in creating this walking museum of wonderful places? How about a marketing committee? Get the word out about Pine Plains in a way that attracts people to the things we want to preserve the most?

3)         Find out what they are doing to help people at your local church. The Food Bank runs out of the Methodist Church, for example…

4)         Volunteer to coach a team for our Recreation Department.

5)         Volunteer to help with the Community Garden, which is located down at Town Hall.

6)         Volunteer at the Library, join the historical society, help FOSL maintain their projects…

7)         Help write grants—if you’re good with engineering and creating specs, good with IT, good with writing, the only way small towns can achieve big things is with grant money!

8)         Volunteer next year for Town Clean-up Day: we will need people with trucks to pick up large items for folks who can’t bring them in themselves.

9)         Attend Town Board Meetings and voice your opinion. We film all the meetings but there’s nothing like being there in person.

Things like this are an enormous help to the community and gratefully appreciated. You don’t have to be rich in Pine Plains to be essential, welcome, and necessary to our economic development and to our hearts. And it’s a great way to meet new people.

Let’s work together, Pine Plains!

Dear Pine Plains,


Last week, Town Board member Sarah Jones and I attended the Land Use Law Conference at Pace Law School on Sustainable Development as a Market Driver. It was packed. Town Supervisors, land use lawyers, planners and planning boards were all in attendance from all over Westchester, Putnam, Orange and Dutchess Counties. This Town Supervisor was interested by the use of form-based codes for zoning, which allows for a town to make decisions for zoning based on what the town wants where, as opposed to being subjected to the whims of developers and corporations. This would create a kind of generic GEIS for use by prospective builders. The new Comprehensive Plan Review will therefore be an important factor in determining where things might be built in the hamlet, and what we as a town want built there. 

We got to hear from numerous town planners and builders on their experiences with economic development “their way”, increasing walkability for towns, sustainability for the environment in these towns, and hence economic development. “The three go hand in hand” was the theme of this conference. It turns out that when your town is walkable, your citizens are healthier, obesity is lessened, the air is cleaner, and your economy is stronger. As my kids would say, “duh”.

And make sure you look at the Library calendar for wonderful events there all winter. The Qi-Gong class on Thursdays at 11:30am is pretty fantastic. (Today we learned to move like cranes, monkeys, and tigers. I guess you had to be there…) It was awesome.

If you’d like to be on a committee in the coming year, please write or call Town Hall. supervisor@pineplains-ny.gov We are looking for people to be on the Agriculture Committee, Trails Committee, Historic Designation Committee, Grants Committee. Or just come on in and suggest something you’d like to be a part of.

And watch for the opening of the Ice Rink down at the Ball Fields. We need cold weather to freeze the last few inches at the bottom and we’ll be good to go. You will go in by the big gate, and when it’s open the rink is open. Basically, the hours will be 10am-9pm weekdays, and until 10pmFridays and Saturdays. Wait for announcements. A watched rink never freezes…

Skate on, Pine Plains!

Dear Pine Plains 12.6.18

Dear Pine Plains,

One of the privileges of the job of Town Supervisor is that I am a member of the Dutchess County Supervisors and Mayors Association and attend a dinner once a month with 21 other folks dedicated to community service. This is an incredible bunch of people, working full-time for half- or third-time pay who have devoted their lives to their towns. (This is usually in addition to other full-time jobs!) We share experiences and advice freely and we all help and learn from each other. There is nothing partisan about this group. This past Tuesday, we met in Rhinebeck and went around the table talking about our challenges and our successes this year. Some of the challenges to towns in DC are staggering: brown field cleanup (with no funds to do it), aging sewer systems that are spilling waste, broken water systems, the opioid crisis, a “green fly” lake that must be cleaned up, speed limit-lowering arguments with the state, more arguments with the Board of Health, poorly maintained highway garages that need replacement, flooding… the list seemed overwhelming. Yet at the end everyone agreed with Supervisor Linda French of Dover, who said: “I love my job. I feel so lucky to wake up in the morning and set aside my own problems in order to do something that really counts and help my town.”

This week, Secretary Lori Patricola and I prepared and hosted a Holiday Feast for our seniors at the Community Center. Attendance was at an all-time high and much fun was had by all. Ham, twice-baked potatoes and homemade cheesecake! Join the Adventurers Club and be a part of this.

Which reminds me—Town Board member Sarah Jones hosts a Craft Day the first Tuesday of every month at the Community Center. 12-3pm Come work on knitting, rug hooking, whatever you do, with experts who will help and teach you.

The Town Board is holding a Workshop Meeting on the 10th at 7pm to discuss LED lighting and the addition of light to a section of Church Street between Poplar and Pioneer Drive.

On the 13th, the second meeting of the Solar Law Committee will be at 5:30pm at Town Hall.

The new town signs which Anthony Silvia made for the town at cost are receiving glowing accolades. We are very grateful. They are truly works of art. It is this kind of dedication to the town that exemplifies Pine Plains.

If you’d like to be a part of the future here, why not get on a committee? Please send your letters of interest to supervisor@pineplains-ny.gov Rather than list all the possible committees to be on, write to us of your talents and interest and we will discuss the best fit for you.

If you need a place to just sit a while and listen to holiday music played by your neighbors, get down to the Pine Plains Presbyterian Church Christmas Concert on Saturday, December 15 at 4pm. Featured artists include Patrons of Harmony, Strings Attached, Jim Petrie, Dorothy Whitaker, Gerard Lisella, Pine Plains’ newly elected assessor, Lynda Wisdo, Stissing Mt Junior High School Instrumentalists, Stissing Mt Senior High School Brass Quintet, and Organist Ryan Orton. Following the concert, all are invited to stay for light refreshments. 

Sing out, Pine Plains!

Thanksgiving Thoughts

I want to tell you about my road trip upstate this week, and what I learned from driving Route 30 to Saranac Lake. Because it was far more educational than I ever imagined it would be.

With Coach at the wheel, I was able to watch out the window as town after town went by like a movie. A movie about devastation and folly. Each town we went through seemed to look worse than the next. We tried to figure out the cause: no investment from anyone IN the town, just outsiders—poor planning which led to sprawl and chain stores, which weren’t doing all that well themselves. (Key clue to a dying town: the location therein of a Dollar Store). No decent downtown, the old one boarded up and falling apart. These things were pretty easy to see. And these were towns with assets, lakes and mountains and trails and… What happened?

Then we arrived at our destination, the town of Saranac Lake. Totally different. An emphasis on its assets: many lakes, skiing, hiking, the outdoors. There had to be 4 stores featuring outdoor gear, bikes and kayaks. There were just a few restaurants downtown and a beautiful renovated hotel. And signs: every once in awhile we’d pass a sign that gave the history not of a building but a significant person who had grown up there or lived there at some time. Bela Bartok, Albert Einstein, numerous Olympic medalists… History was preserved all over this small town. There was also a wonderful pole with little blue flag signs pointing to the mountains within driving distance for climbing. Yes, there was an outskirts, where larger stores lived, but they did not interfere with town commerce. They complemented it.

I came home with fresh ideas about Pine Plains, what we have here and what to emphasize for visitors, and new energy for preserving these things. Most of all, I was thankful that I live here. And very thankful to all the people past and present who have fought hard to keep Pine Plains as safe, protected and beautiful as it is. Are we lucky.

Stay thankful, Pine Plains!

Darrah Cloud

Budget Updates

The 2019 Preliminary Budget was approved and is available for perusal in the Town Clerk’s office and online. We thank our previous Town Supervisors for their vigilance over town finances. The town is in excellent shape financially. As we go into challenging times–health insurance increases upwards of 20%, vehicle insurance increases upwards of 10%–we are tightening our belts, paying strict attention to expenses, and finding new sources for revenues in interest-bearing savings accounts. If you have questions, I am happy to answer them!

https://www.pineplains-ny.gov/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/2019-Pine-Plains-Preliminary-Budget.pdf