Town Supervisor Updates

Dear Pine Plains 9.4.2020

9.4.2020

Dear Pine Plains,

There are numerous dinners and music around town this weekend, but the highlight of Saturday night will be the lighting of the Stissing Mountain Fire Tower from 9-9:30pm. This event is to acknowledge the role that fire towers have played in the past in protecting us from forest fires, as well as acknowledging the men and women who served as lookouts in them, many of them as volunteers. Many towers across the state will be lighted as part of this observation promoted by the Forest Fire Lookout Association. Members of FOSL—Friends of Stissing Landmarks, those heroic folks who have preserved various spots around Pine Plains forever for access by the public—will do the lighting. They ask that you view it from afar, as “up close” is neither the best way to view it nor  the safest due to the pandemic.

Look for the Survey from the Broadband Committee for internet availability in your area. It is imperative that everyone in town fill out this very simple survey. It will be coming to you here, via email, but also available on paper at the Library and various locations about town. Once again, we are looking to convince the state and federal government to fund broadband access for everyone here, and in order to do that we must show them that we do NOT have uniform access everywhere in town. This survey will be an important component of that. Check out last week’s newsletter for more on this.

We still need volunteers with pick-up trucks to help seniors with their junk for the annual Town Clean-Up Day on September 12th. Please call Alice at 518-398-8600 ex1. Items allowable for discarding are listed on our website, and the hours will be 8am to 3pm. The Town Board will be there all day too, to answer any questions you have or to take ideas, and the Census Lady will be there at a table to help those who have not yet filled out their Census. Vinnie Parliman and Sgt. John Hughes will also accept old cell phones to be donated to the Grace Smith House. It does not matter how old they are—they can be used.

After that, from 3pm to 5pm, everyone is invited to get on a Zoom call with the Town Board and members of Boards from Stanfordville, Millbrook and Millerton to discuss ideas for Police Reform. “Poughkeepsie, NY…  To encourage public participation and provide transparency, Dutchess County’s Police Reform & Modernization Collaborative has launched a new website and announced a series of community forums. There will be six community forums, organized by geographic area, where community members will have a platform and opportunity to speak to those involved with police reform issues. Participants will be able to provide input on what reforms they believe should be enacted.   Forums will be held via Zoom, will be two hours long, and American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters will be available for the hearing impaired. Registration is required to participate. To sign up for one of these forums, visit the new Police Reform & Modernization Website. The schedule of the forums for us is as follows:

  • Saturday, Sept 12, 3-5pm – Town of Washington, including Village of Millbrook; Towns of Stanford, Pine Plains, and Amenia; Town of North East, including Village of Millerton.
  • Saturday, Sept. 26, 3-5pm– Town of Rhinebeck, including Village of Rhinebeck; Town of Red Hook, including Villages of Red Hook and Tivoli; Towns of Milan and Clinton.
  • The Collaborative will also conduct additional virtual forums in Spanish. Further information about dates and sign-up information about the Spanish language forums will be posted on the Police Reform & Modernization Collaborative’s webpage at DutchessNY.gov/PoliceForums.
  • Those who would like to participate in the virtual forums, either by listening or offering commentary and feedback, must register prior to the event’s start time. Those who would like to speak will be given three minutes and priority will be given to those who live, work, volunteer, or worship in, or have a direct connection to, the municipality being discussed. Elected officials and police agency chiefs from across Dutchess County will listen to commentary being shared. Jody Miller, Chair of the Commission on Human Rights, said, “The Commission on Human Rights is committed to making sure everyone who wants to contribute ideas and feedback to this process is heard.  We’re encouraging anyone who lives, works, worships, volunteers, has family in, or is connected to a municipality listed for a particular forum to sign-up at DutchessNY.gov/PoliceForums. We want people to share their specific ideas about police reform that will assist the County and municipalities with police agencies to develop their plans.”
  • Individuals who are unable to attend their community’s forum will be able to watch  recordings after the event on the County’s Police Reform & Modernization webpage.The new website will also feature a public comment form for those who would like to submit written testimony and ideas. The Police Reform & Modernization Collaborative’s webpage also features summaries of each workgroup’s meetings, news updates and other pertinent information regarding police reform measures.  

We are fortunate in this town to have our own police force, most of whom grew up here, live here, and are raising families here. They do a fine job, supplemented by the State Troopers and Sheriffs. A uniform understanding of how we police in Pine Plains can only make all their work better. If you have ideas for reform, please attend.

And if you haven’t looked at the video of musical and theatrical acts at The Stissing Center, which was filmed as a fundraiser, please check it out at https://thestissingcenter.org/  I hope it makes you proud to have been a part of the building of this important venue in Pine Plains and of its future here. Just to remind you, whereas this is the hard work of a number of very committed and generous people in town, and was initiated as a dream of Jack and Irene Banning, for whom we are incredibly grateful, it only exists as a charitable organization which must raise its own funds for its completion. We are all a part of that future.

Look forward, Pine Plains!

Darrah Cloud

Dear Pine Plains 6.26.2020

6.26.2020

Dear Pine Plains,

The week after Town Board Meeting is always spent following up on the tasks set by the meeting. Short as that meeting was, there was a lot to do.

We are forming a committee to investigate broadband in the area, and who we might extend fast internet to all corners of Pine Plains. I spoke with Dr. Handler at the school and he told me that 10% of our students do not have the internet necessary to do their schoolwork online. That figure does not include college students sent home from their schools. During the pandemic, college students could be seen sitting in their cars near WIFI emanating from the library and other closed buildings, attending classes and writing papers on their cellphones. This is utterly wrong. I did speak with G-Tel out of Germantown, a locally owned company, who will look at Pine Plains for possible connection, but who can only lay new technology digital cable for a 2-mile radius from the light. The cost of more: $35,000 per mile. Grants are in question because of the pandemic. If you are interested in being on this committee, please call me at 518-398-8600 ex1. It will be a lot of work, but fascinating.

We found a misplaced workplace policy, written by the Town Board in 2011, and got it back up on the website and on our bulletin board.

We began an Excel spreadsheet to track escrow payments/accounts which are accounts developers must fund to pay for the town’s expenses incurred by them. (Engineers, attorneys, etc.)

We continued work on the white papers to be posted on the website which explain what projects are going on in Pine Plains and what their history is. www.pineplains-ny.gov/projects/ The Durst Project will be up there soon.

Due to an incredible increase in the use of the recycling center, we spoke with Welsh Sanitation in order to better the system here. There are 2 recycling bins, and we have now designated each one for different items. One is wholly for carboard, and the other for glass, cans, newspapers, plastics which qualify for recycling. We hope this will alleviate the need for an extra pick-up. Please be nice to Vinnie there.

Jen Chase’s Teen Beach Crew worked hard cleaning up the beach and setting out goose deterrents—only to have one of them stolen from the beach. The kids were deeply disappointed in this. If anyone has the coyote decoy they set up, please return it, no questions asked. The beach can’t open until the Board of Health deems it clean enough, and everything helps in this effort. BTW, lifeguard training will be held in Pine Plains on June 28th from 9am to 6pm. https://jellis.com/classes/local-lifeguard-training/10062251

I don’t know how many people know that the town owns its own cell tower. We are re-negotiating the contract on that now with our lessee, as new competition has arisen challenging their bottom line. The tower provides a small steady revenue for the town. We have few revenues—sales tax, mortgage tax and cell tower are our biggest.

Hence, I am looking forward to receiving 2nd Quarter news on our economy in Dutchess County. County Executive Molinaro has joined with counties from all over the nation to ask the federal government to help us recover lost revenues due to the pandemic. At the same time, he referenced that we have a healthy “rainy day fund” here in Dutchess County, 57 million dollars to be exact, to protect us against catastrophic emergencies like this, which is exactly why we put this portion of our taxes away somewhere safe. Pine Plains also has a rainy day fund, collected over the years via really sound budgeting. So far we have been on track compared to 2019. This 2nd quarter figure is all-important in determining where our revenues will be this year.

Many small DC towns (pop.50,000 and under) are joining together to ask the State to stop requiring expensive speed studies for speed limit changes on town roads. We will be a part of this, and I will let you know what happens. Changing speed limits is ridiculously expensive (they require engineers at a price of about $3500/road) and difficult, especially when dealing with State roads and the State—perfectly decent people who don’t know the area at all.

There have been some public comments/questions about things to do with Districts, so I thought I would explain what a district is. A District is a special area designated for service which not everyone gets. For instance, the Water District. People in the Water District pay a tax which the District uses to maintain pipes and equipment. The District sets its own taxes therefore, not the Town. We have a Lighting District as well. And a Fire District. The Fire District commissioners determine the budget for the year, give it to the Town Board, and spend it themselves without any interference from the Board. If something breaks at the firehouse, it is they who fix it. If you look at your tax bill, you will find your Fire District taxes outlined there as well as Water or Lighting. Only people living in those districts pay those taxes.

Municipal government is a complex, frustrating but beautiful system.

Finally, there will be a car parade through town for graduating seniors Saturday at 9:30am to celebrate their achievements. The actual graduation is going to be sometime during Phase 4 in July so that the school can invite more people. Look for news about that as the county continues to open up.

Let’s celebrate our kids, Pine Plains!

Darrah Cloud

 

 

 

Dear Pine Plains 6.12.2020

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6.12.2020
Dear Pine Plains,

Phase 2 means outdoor dining can take place at area restaurants, and the barber shop is open by appointment! (hint hint) Much of the work of area businesses this past few months has been in the realm of creating safe spaces for people to return to. Here at Town Hall, we are constructing plexiglas barriers for the Town Clerk and Assessor. Town Hall is open, just knock and put on your mask!

Local citizens in collaboration with area churches are holding a Non-Partisan Gathering for Racial Justice Sunday June 14th at 4pm behind the Clock Tower and Stissing House. Coach Jim Jackson, Pastor Ryan Larkin and County Legislator Gregg Pulver will be speaking. As you know, this is now allowable because we are in Phase 2. Before this, it would not have been.

It has been a quiet week, and since there are no grants to write this year (yet, I hope) I spent the week working on a series of White Papers (papers which explain things like the history of a project) about commonly asked questions in Pine Plains. What is the Durst Project? Why are we purchasing 8 and 12 N. Main Street? Why do we maintain a Town Police Force? The idea for this came from the mighty mind of our Planning Board Chairperson, Michael Stabile. Once completed, these papers will be up on their own Page on our website at www.pineplains-ny.gov where anyone can peruse and learn from them. So I thought I would give you a few highlights, just so you know what you will soon find there:

On the Durst Project:
 Q: What is the Durst Organization Hudson Valley Development project?
A: The Durst Organization plans to develop a 2,700-acre site in the towns of Pine Plains and Milan.  The company is exploring a sustainable hotel and residential resort concept for this property. The company believes that the “beautiful landscape and rural character of the Project site provides a unique setting to create a master-planned resort community that is both respectful of the natural environment and compatible with the character of Pine Plains and Milan.”
Q: What is the Durst Organization?  
The Durst Organization is one of the oldest family-run commercial and residential real estate companies in New York. Established in 1915, the company is owned and operated by the third generation of the Durst family. Members of the Durst Family have owned homes in Pine Plains for over [30] years.  In addition, The Durst Organization is a business partner in McEnroe Organic Farm in our neighboring Town of Millerton. This project is being spearheaded by Alexander Durst, the Principal and Chief Development Officer of the company, and a member of the fourth generation of the Durst real estate family.
The rest of the paper will include a timeline of the history of the project in town and a summation of where it is now.

On our Town Police Force:
Q: Why do we maintain our own police force in a small town like Pine Plains?
A: There are many good reasons:

  1. The Town Board feels that community policing by people who live in the community is just better for a small town. A good relationship between the police and their constituents is vital to the security and well-being of the town. 3 of 5 of our police not only live here but went to school here and have children in the schools here. All have a vested interest in the community.
  2. A town force is under the oversight of the Town Board. An ethical Town Board therefore has a lot of power over how town police conduct themselves, and can influence that.
  3. Having police in town makes sense for the kinds of crimes we have. Waiting for a sheriff/trooper to arrive can be fatal.
  4. It saves the Town a great deal of money.

The rest of the paper will outline what different agencies actually do and the cost breakdown for outside policing.

On the purchase of 8 and 12 N. Main Street:
Q2: Why now?
A:  The opportunity arose.  The property at 8 North Main Street came up for sale in 2018 and the Town purchased it in August of 2019.  The property at 12 North Main Street came up for sale in October of 2019. Since number 12 North Main is right next door to Number 8 and both are immediately next to an existing parking lot and the historical Graham-Brush House, as well as a mere 50 feet from the hamlet’s main intersection, the Town Board recognized this rare opportunity and began purchase negotiations.
Q3: Is the purchase of 12 North Main a fair deal?  Isn’t it owned by a related party?
A: Yes, it is a very fair deal.  The Town negotiated the final purchase price of 12 North Main at 50% less than asking price.  Moreover, the Town negotiated an extremely low interest rate (2%) from a local bank in order to help pay for removal of the existing structure. The low interest rate means that the bank has great confidence in Pine Plains, its goals, and its strategies to achieve those goals.

Number 12 North Main is currently owned by a relative of our Town Attorney.  In order to safeguard the Town’s interest, the Town is represented in this purchase by Gary Murphy, Esq. instead of by the Town Attorney.  In addition, the fact that we are buying it at half its listed price (and for less than we paid for 8 North Main), and the fact that a reputable bank gave us such a low interest rate, indicate that this is a very good deal for the Town.

The rest of the Paper will address more questions around the purchase.

These are just a few highlights of what is to come. Stay tuned, Pine Plains!
Darrah Cloud

 

Supervisor’s Statement 5.21.2020

Supervisor’s Statement 5.21.2020

Much of my time lately has been taken up in preparing for the Phase 1 re-opening of Dutchess County, whenever that can occur, preparing for the next phases which will involve our recreation program and local restaurants and businesses, and keeping our numerous projects going under significant difficulty.

To that end, I would like to talk here a moment about a document the Town Board received on April 26th via email purportedly being a petition to call a referendum for the purchase of 12 N. Main. As you know, we have been in a Permissive Referendum period since our last Board Meeting in which by unanimous vote, the Town Board approved the purchase of this property for the town’s use.

While we are very sympathetic at this time to the concerns implied by the document, it would have been wholly irresponsible to accept this document as a real legal petition necessitating the instigation of a referendum which is a very costly undertaking for a town. The document submitted to us did not contain a single address for any of the signees as is required by law. We determined that almost half of the names were of people who do not live in Pine Plains, and the Court ruled that the document did not even have a stated purpose. Given the fact that it contained no valid signatures—and mindful that we are in a time of stay-at-home orders due to the pandemic—we might have taken it more seriously had there been at least valid addresses given. As it was, some people only signed their first names. In order to take this document seriously, we unanimously determined to treat it as possibly valid, and hired an attorney to work with the County Court to determine that. The decision was delivered to us on Tuesday and here are the last 2 paragraphs:

“Understanding our present circumstance, it understandable that obtaining actual signatures may have been difficult for the respondent. However, the petition is deficient in more ways than lacking actual signatures. The respondent made very little effort to conform with the formalities of a petition, and specifically failed to articulate a purpose for the petition, so that the Town or anyone else would know why a referendum was wanted by the respondent or the residents.

Coupled with the lack of authentication of the signatories, demonstrating that the signatories are actual residents of the Town, who opposed the Resolution for the same reasons . . . . the respondent has made little effort to oppose this motion, [his] second chance to give a basis for the petition. It is submitted late, as a letter, and still fails to provide some statement of purpose and reasons for its failure to adhere to the protocols of filing a petition. His neglect to do so appears to have little to do with [him] not being an attorney . . . . In light of the foregoing, the respondent has failed to give this Court a basis to not invalidate its petition. There is no stated purpose behind the petition that warrants overlooking the technical defects of the petition, even during this health crisis.”

Moreover, if the Board had accepted the flawed document, and ran an expensive referendum, we would have exposed the Town to the certainty of costly lawsuits by other Town residents who do not want the expense of a referendum. Court papers would rightly argue that the Board has no right to conduct a referendum on a legally flawed petition and counsel has advised that the Town would likely lose any such lawsuit.

Accordingly, the purchases of the properties in question have been conducted by the Board in good faith, in full compliance with all applicable laws and regulations, all with an eye towards achieving the Town’s stated goals.

However, despite this ruling, I just want to say that we hear those who signed this document, and take quite seriously your concerns. To that end, we also feel that our decision to purchase the property is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the town to acquire enough land downtown to make a difference in public life here, no matter what we do with it. Our ability to purchase a property appraised at over $230,000 for a price of $100,000 at an historically low interest rate of 2% is unheard of in any times. We have received many emails in support of the purchase, and a full history of how we reached this decision will be shortly up on our website under a new page called Current Town Projects. But just to remind you, we voted, again unanimously, to make our offer at the February 20th Board Meeting, then hired a lawyer to help with the contract, discussed the purchase extensively at the April 13th Town Board Workshop Meeting and voted again unanimously to make the purchase at the regular Town Board Meeting on April 16th, all to the letter of the law.

I want to end this statement by talking about some real heroes in town during this pandemic, people who have used this time to help others: Pat Nannetti and Ted Mallozzi of the Food Bank, Nelson and Lisa Zayas of Willow Roots, the new folks at the Old Library, who launched a campaign to raise money for out-of-work local restaurant workers, garnering over $28,000 from more than 100 townspeople and distributing all the money to 73 individuals; and Paige Arent, a 14-year-old student, who launched her own campaign to help people out of work, and raised more than $1500 all on her own. All of these people have been tireless in their dedication to helping others through the pandemic, and I want to thank you all on behalf of the whole town for your amazing accomplishments.