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Town Supervisor Updates

Dear Pine Plains 1.15.21

Dear Pine Plains 1.15.21

1.15.2021

Dear Pine Plains,

Since December we have had available the finalized Dutchess County Police Reform and Modernization Plan which was written by a consortium of agencies and experts in Dutchess County with the aid of Town Supervisors with police departments, members of the Human Rights Commission, police chiefs and officers, sheriffs, mayors, and mental health workers, to name a few. All this past fall, we got on weekly calls with the County Executive to work on this, and held public meetings all over the County, and all in the midst of the pandemic. The task was then turned over to individual police departments to adopt the Plan or large parts of it and reform their own policies.

The idea for this came from the State: a mandate to bring police policies up to date and frankly for law enforcement to take a careful look at how they do things and push their departments into awareness of the diverse communities in which they serve. But the hard work of this fell on the department themselves. To that end, Dutchess County made the decision to create a “shared service” among all the villages and towns which would create this Plan which we could all then adopt. It was enormously helpful.

We have three main agencies here: State Troopers, the Sheriffs Department, and Town Police, if a town has a department. Not all do. If they don’t, they pay the Sheriffs Department for policing, even though that agency has a very specific realm of civil service in handling the courts and serving papers. They have also had a different hiring practice, with different requirements, than the Troopers. Most of us aren’t aware that these three agencies are very present in Pine Plains: the white cars are Sheriffs, the blue cars are State Troopers, and the black cars are Town Police. The Troopers wear grey but the Sheriffs and Town Police have black uniforms. People are often confused about who answered their call, so I hope this helps. All are tied into the 911 call center, and if you have a problem that is the number you should call.

Bringing all three of these agencies together under one main policy has been the main mission of the Reform, as well as changing the culture of policing from “force” into “guardianship.” Because with three agencies policing a town, with three different ways of handling problems, and three different criteria for training, you can imagine that it can get a little confusing. It can also get a little competitive. Who controls a situation can be a problem, as can situations where all three agencies have to work together. Our town police live here as well as work here. Troopers and Sheriffs live here too. Their children attend our schools. They are your neighbors. They have a big stake in this town because of that. If someone is speeding through town—or passing a school bus when it’s stopped—or driving while intoxicated—they get stopped. Because one of their kids might be crossing a street; one of their kids might be getting off that bus; one of their family members might be driving the same road.

We convened a Stakeholders Committee, representative of the Town of Pine Plains, to read the Reform Plan and recommend adopting all or parts of it for use in Pine Plains. We met every Wednesday for most of November and December, and each ,member took a section of the Plan, studied it, and brought it back to the committee for discussion and approval. Some of the Plan just didn’t pertain to us as a part-time, small-town department. But much of it does.

Now has come the time to get our version of the Plan out into the public. In the next few weeks, you will see parts of it published here, and it will be available at Town Hall and on our website very soon. Editing is being completed this next week. Comments will be welcome and encouraged. The Town Board needs to pass this Plan in February.

Once again, we need to thank our committee, Brenda Jackson, Lisa Michetti, Keary Hanan, Sarah Jones, and Nelson Zayas for not only thoughtful and diligent work, but for upholding an atmosphere of care and concern for everyone who lives in Pine Plains.

If you want to know how things work in Pine Plains, and what projects are underway here, check out our website and The White Papers which we wrote last year to help people understand how town government works and what’s going on. www.pineplains-ny.gov

Stay informed about the vaccine rollout through the County website. It’s been arduous and jammed, and availability has been an issue. Keep trying. https://content.govdelivery.com/accounts/NYDUTCHESS/bulletins/2b5629d

And keep an eye out for your tax bills—Eileen is mailing them tomorrow! I like to joke that people enjoy paying their taxes in Pine Plains because they get to go see Eileen and chat. This year, it would be best to mail your tax checks in, due to the pandemic. But you can always call her.

Stay safe, Pine Plains!

Darrah Cloud

Dear Pine Plains 1.08.21

https://www.pineplains-ny.gov/dear-pine-plains-1-08-21/

1.8.21

Dear Pine Plains,

An extraordinary week of emotional turmoil. Suffice it to say, local government went simmering on, and below is our assessment of 2020 and what we accomplished this past year.

But before I get to that, I want to thank Patricia and Michel Jean for keeping the doors open on a hallmark of our town, The Stissing House, despite many obstacles over the years, including the death of the owner and their partner, an unwieldy economy, and the pandemic. We hope to see their new business prosper and to see Helen Fuss and Tracy Hermann at their respective daises once again. It is easy to disregard all the people who work in a landmark establishment like this one, and the parts they play in many peoples’ lives. (Even those who just gossip about them!) They will be missed. We hope the new owner will reach out to the town and let us share our stories, so that they gain a keen understanding of where they are.

Hope is an action, Pine Plains!
Darrah Cloud

STATE OF THE TOWN 1.7.2021

In 2020, we learned to operate a local government and keep the open democratic process going in a pandemic. There was a hiccup in all this as we all adjusted to learning and using new software in order to hold meetings, sanitizing things constantly, wearing masks and being on numerous sometimes daily conference calls with the State and the County over how to keep the town running while also paying attention to all the Executive Orders which came down again almost daily for a while, as well as a general sense of panic about it all. This began March 13th and continues to this day.

But while this panic raged all around us, we managed to get a lot done. Here is a list of what the Town Board accomplished in 2020:

  1. Won a State CFA grant to pay entirely for a Sewer Feasibility Study for the hamlet. Hired engineers to conduct the study from a large pool of excellent submissions. Conducted the study with the help of the Highway Department, touring numerous wastewater facilities in the mid-Hudson region, and received the results in December. We are reviewing them now.
  2. Created a moratorium on large-scale solar farming. Finalized committee work on a Solar Law.
  3. Welcomed the Durst Organization back and handled their withdrawal of the NND in favor of a new healthy life-style development. Hired a planner paid by them to represent us as they worked all year to understand our zoning and come up with a new plan. The new design is predicted to be coming soon.
  4. Wrote a Fund Balance Policy
  5. Wrote a social media policy
  6. Updated Health Benefits Policy, saving over $17,000 in yearly costs
  7. Re-instated the Ethics Board
  8. Developed a renovation plan with a Town Beautification committee for the Town Park and began that work
  9. Instituted a Hometown Heroes project which will be ongoing, hanging flags to commemorate those from Pine Plains who have served in the Armed Forces
  10. Bought 12 N Main to add to the property at 8 N Main so that the town would own a significant parcel of land in its hamlet for future development, perhaps into a new Town Hall.
  11. Held a safe and successful camp for Pine Plains children during the pandemic and kept numerous sports programs alive and safe throughout the year.
  12. Launched a Broadband Committee to investigate how the Town can become fully served by high-speed internet.
  13. Launched Police Reform and Modernization effort with the State and County, creating a Stakeholders Committee on policing in the town and began the task of creating a full and up-to-date Police Policy for Pine Plains with the help of our own officers.
  14. Wrote numerous Position Papers on current projects the Town has underway, explaining their genesis and where we are in the process.
  15. Submitted road speed reduction requests to the State for 4 roads as a start, and await their response.
  16. Made a deal with Central Hudson for tree removals in cemeteries in return for access to their lines through town property, again saving us a few thousand dollars.
  17. Partnered with the High School to give community service to teenagers in Mr. Schoonmaker’s Civics class.
  18. Enacted Family ID. A service for reaching those who sign up via texts for use in emergencies. It is now time to sign up!
  19. Held our annual Town Cleanup Day.
  20. Managed countless repairs to town buildings and infrastructure.
  21. Promoted the Census2020
  22. Wrote an Emergency Action Plan, still in process, to codify actions to be taken in the event of the kind of emergency this pandemic turned out to be.
  23. Supported the upkeep and study of Stissing Lake.
  24. Safely opened up the Community Center to programs for the disabled which lost their spaces during the pandemic.
  25. Re-opened after the initial shut-down due to Covid-19 with all-new protocols and constant vigilance to keep the virus from spreading in Pine Plains.
  26. Hired the same planner we worked with on our Comprehensive Plan Update to help us with our 2021 Zoning Review.
  27. Helped write a CDBG Grant for one of our food pantries which we won in December, so that they can expand as a result of Covid.
  28. Wrote 52 newsletters to the townspeople.

All November and December, those newsletters carried thank-yous to the many, many people running food pantries, donating money and food, sewing masks, and going out of their ways to help people in need, as well as serve on Boards and serve the town so well as employees. We have an elite Police Department now, and a highly competent Highway crew. One family stepped up to raise money to give to waitresses and food workers when the pandemic first hit and everything had to be shut down. And a wonderful 14-year-old launched her own campaign to help those out of work, raising more than $1500 all on her own.  Maybe most importantly for this year, people took the request to wear masks seriously and we kept our numbers low throughout this very dangerous and challenging time. Thank you to all who were a part of Pine Plains at this moment in our history. Because your efforts are historic.

Delivered 1.7.2021 at the Re-Organization Meeting

Dear Pine Plains 12.25.20

Dear Pine Plains 12.25.20

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukah (belated), and Bah Humbug,

I can think of no better topic for this short newsletter than to tell you what I am about to do as Town Supervisor: get on a phone call with Central Hudson and every single mayor and supervisor in their area of coverage to discuss the wind storm that took away power for 42,000 customers last night. In Dutchess County, Fishkill and Wappingers were the worst hit. Pine Plains lost power for about 304 households, and crews have been out since last night to restore power. Estimates are that all power will be restored by tomorrow, with most late today. Hospitals and care facilities take priority.

I want to tell you that since I got into office, Central Hudson had begun a strong community effort to stay in touch with all of us regarding power outages, availability of dry ice, and in general anything storm related. I get emails, I get calls from our Rep, Victor Narkaj, and I join the group calls. This has really created an incredible sense of unity in the Hudson Valley amongst all our towns and cities. We have gotten to know each other, respect each other, empathize with each other when an area is particularly hard hit, and help each other by loaning our Highway crews and equipment to crises. In my three years in office there have been many of these. (Restoration is under way. Central Hudson workers on all levels of the company are working on Christmas day.) It took this company and its new thinking to bring us together in this critical way, and I want everyone to know about it because it is so unusual, and so vital. It has made a huge difference to you whether you know it or not. And it has made the Hudson Valley a more unified, stronger, safer place to live.

So too, Pine Plains is experiencing a far greater unity in the work of many who have really stepped up to help and to bring people together. The Christmas dinner distribution at The Stissing House last Sunday is a fine example. The Stissing Center broadcast a group sing. The Garden Club has been out distributing food and help this past month, and our Council of Churches’ work on help for these things, so many that I think I might call it a trend towards community that has burgeoned here, though I know it was always here, at least in people’s hearts. But it is definitely re-energized. And that is my Christmas story for you this year. I hope you could at least Zoom with your relatives if not be with your “pod”.

We are in this together, Pine Plains!

Darrah Cloud