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Town Supervisor Updates

Dear Pine Plains 12.31.21

A LAST LETTER AND A WAY FORWARD

12.31.2021

Dear Pine Plains,

This is the last letter I will write as Town Supervisor of Pine Plains. I have written recently about all the things the Town Board accomplished in the four years that I was a part of it, but now I want to emphasize the work that still needs to be done to ensure that Pine Plains is a place where your children can grow up, be safe, and prosper as adults should they choose to stay.

I see people on social media once in a while asking folks what businesses they’d like to see in Pine Plains. Every single time someone replies, “a gym” or “general store”. Often, they complain about landlords and the lack of a place to rent here. All of these things are tied to the availability of a wastewater system here. There old Deuel’s is a prime location for a lot of wonderful ideas—but there is no septic system there, and the town has no system of its own. The lots our businesses are built on are too small to allow for systems that comply with the regulations dictated by the County and State Health Departments. Old men sit at Stewart’s in the mornings stoking fears of rising taxes and strange people coming to town should we improve the infrastructure here. They’ve had their lives and fear their bills. But the rest of the town is not over. Far from it. We are on the verge of being a real center, of having a downtown that bustles and yet remains full of rural character and goals as per our Comprehensive Plan. We need the small, innovative central septic system that the engineers we hired have recommended and we need to collaborate with the Catholic Archdiocese on this project because now is the time to get the money from the government, and the archdiocese is ready and willing to work with us. It took yeoman’s effort to get to this point and to have all that wasted would be tragic for the town.

Broadband and the lack thereof is a huge issue for us. Whereas we have a dynamic school superintendent who had the wherewithal to find the money to give every kid in school a device so that they could reach the internet, that does not help the many college students who were sent home to study and who live without access to that essential—dare-I-call-it—utility. In addition, economic development is dependent on access to the internet. That is just the truth about our economy. People are working at home and their businesses can’t begin or thrive without internet. The town committee on Broadband again did heroic work on this and is the first to collaborate with the County but the work is slow and we don’t know what the County will discover about ways to help us. Amenia and Northeast and Stanford are in the same boat. We collaborated with them and our brilliant committee handed their report to the County, but this needs to be pursued with a loud voice and relentlessly.

Town Hall needs to be in the center of town. Every new enterprise—even government—that comes to our downtown helps all the other businesses stay open. A vibrant town center where people come to pay taxes, chat with the Town Clerk over marriage and fishing licenses, and attend Board meetings would re-invigorate our downtown in all the right ways.

And speaking of our downtown—there needs to be a Pre-Plan designed by the Fire Department to protect the very rare and fragile old buildings we have in town. This Plan cannot all be in one person’s head—it must exist for all the volunteers to know and understand and be shared with other departments in our mutual aid system so that they know exactly where to go should there be a fire here. The Knox Box (there’s one on the library—it contains a key so that the PPFD can get inside without breaking all the glass) can be used in buildings like The Stissing Center, where unnecessary damage to the glass and building could be avoided by the availability of a key. This can be arranged by the PPFD for all our vulnerable buildings downtown.

We need to use our American Rescue Plan money wisely and for the greatest return. We still have a water line project to build down Route 82 so that those pipes can be replaced with larger ones with better pressure. That is the kind of infrastructure we can use the money for. We could also dedicate it to the central septic system, should it be in a phase where that seems possible.

We have to protect our own Town Police Department at all costs. Depending on the County system of sheriffs and troopers who don’t necessarily know us and who are not always nearby makes everyone less safe. We have our share of problems—opioid addiction and domestic violence and DUIs are our biggest—but as long as no one steps outside the laws they are entrusted to enforce, our collaboration with these other agencies in a kind of checks-and-balances manner is what keeps the town humane with no shots fired.

There were many projects that I has in mind—and which came up in these last months as priorities—but in a way, I think there is one that stands out more than any of them: the uniting of the disparate groups in our town. The “from heres” versus the “found heres”. You could say townies versus weekenders too, but that’s not really accurate these days, as many people with second homes ended up living here and liking it. But there is a rift, and we need to fix it. To that end, I found a way to bring people together to work on the problem: it is called a Citizens Assembly. Think of it as kind of like jury duty: random representatives from all walks of life here would be asked to be a part of this think tank that meets once a month for a few hours over the course of half a year or a year perhaps to work on the issue, most probably in our case at the Community Center. 5 tables of 6 people each could convene, led by facilitators trained to this, paid for by a grant which I know I can get from someplace. It is a very advanced idea, a way to preserve and in some ways bring to the fore participatory democracy at its best. It would produce recommendations by citizens for action by the Town Board. They are using this method in France to discuss Climate Change and it is catching on around the world as a way to bring opposing factions together to work on vital issues. If they can do it in Paris, why not Pine Plains?

If there is one thing that has really frustrated me these past four years, it is the lack of participation in democracy that has taken hold in our country and most notably in our town. Complaining on Facebook is not participating in democracy: it is not facing people it is hurting people. It is harmful to others. Political signs which are code for expletives, and signs that belittle others just hurt everyone. If someone is frustrated with things they lash out, but we don’t have a mechanism for doing something better than that. A Citizens Assembly could be that mechanism. Facing each other across a table takes courage and I hope we can all summon our inner Harry Potters and Hermiones and make this happen. I have a cape and a wand. (Well, I can borrow one from my kid.) It wouldn’t take magic to do this, but if we succeed, the process could be magical.

Get out your wands, Pine Plains! Make good magic!

Over and out,

Darrah Cloud

PS: Here are photos of the desk I am leaving to the new Supervisor. Here are all our projects!

A LAST LETTER AND A WAY FORWARD

12.31.2021

Dear Pine Plains,

This is the last letter I will write as Town Supervisor of Pine Plains. I have written recently about all the things the Town Board accomplished in the four years that I was a part of it, but now I want to emphasize the work that still needs to be done to ensure that Pine Plains is a place where your children can grow up, be safe, and prosper as adults should they choose to stay.

I see people on social media once in a while asking folks what businesses they’d like to see in Pine Plains. Every single time someone replies, “a gym” or “general store”. Often, they complain about landlords and the lack of a place to rent here. All of these things are tied to the availability of a wastewater system here. There old Deuel’s is a prime location for a lot of wonderful ideas—but there is no septic system there, and the town has no system of its own. The lots our businesses are built on are too small to allow for systems that comply with the regulations dictated by the County and State Health Departments. Old men sit at Stewart’s in the mornings stoking fears of rising taxes and strange people coming to town should we improve the infrastructure here. They’ve had their lives and fear their bills. But the rest of the town is not over. Far from it. We are on the verge of being a real center, of having a downtown that bustles and yet remains full of rural character and goals as per our Comprehensive Plan. We need the small, innovative central septic system that the engineers we hired have recommended and we need to collaborate with the Catholic Archdiocese on this project because now is the time to get the money from the government, and the archdiocese is ready and willing to work with us. It took yeoman’s effort to get to this point and to have all that wasted would be tragic for the town.

Broadband and the lack thereof is a huge issue for us. Whereas we have a dynamic school superintendent who had the wherewithal to find the money to give every kid in school a device so that they could reach the internet, that does not help the many college students who were sent home to study and who live without access to that essential—dare-I-call-it—utility. In addition, economic development is dependent on access to the internet. That is just the truth about our economy. People are working at home and their businesses can’t begin or thrive without internet. The town committee on Broadband again did heroic work on this and is the first to collaborate with the County but the work is slow and we don’t know what the County will discover about ways to help us. Amenia and Northeast and Stanford are in the same boat. We collaborated with them and our brilliant committee handed their report to the County, but this needs to be pursued with a loud voice and relentlessly.

Town Hall needs to be in the center of town. Every new enterprise—even government—that comes to our downtown helps all the other businesses stay open. A vibrant town center where people come to pay taxes, chat with the Town Clerk over marriage and fishing licenses, and attend Board meetings would re-invigorate our downtown in all the right ways.

And speaking of our downtown—there needs to be a Pre-Plan designed by the Fire Department to protect the very rare and fragile old buildings we have in town. This Plan cannot all be in one person’s head—it must exist for all the volunteers to know and understand and be shared with other departments in our mutual aid system so that they know exactly where to go should there be a fire here. The Knox Box (there’s one on the library—it contains a key so that the PPFD can get inside without breaking all the glass) can be used in buildings like The Stissing Center, where unnecessary damage to the glass and building could be avoided by the availability of a key. This can be arranged by the PPFD for all our vulnerable buildings downtown.

We need to use our American Rescue Plan money wisely and for the greatest return. We still have a water line project to build down Route 82 so that those pipes can be replaced with larger ones with better pressure. That is the kind of infrastructure we can use the money for. We could also dedicate it to the central septic system, should it be in a phase where that seems possible.

We have to protect our own Town Police Department at all costs. Depending on the County system of sheriffs and troopers who don’t necessarily know us and who are not always nearby makes everyone less safe. We have our share of problems—opioid addiction and domestic violence and DUIs are our biggest—but as long as no one steps outside the laws they are entrusted to enforce, our collaboration with these other agencies in a kind of checks-and-balances manner is what keeps the town humane with no shots fired.

There were many projects that I has in mind—and which came up in these last months as priorities—but in a way, I think there is one that stands out more than any of them: the uniting of the disparate groups in our town. The “from heres” versus the “found heres”. You could say townies versus weekenders too, but that’s not really accurate these days, as many people with second homes ended up living here and liking it. But there is a rift, and we need to fix it. To that end, I found a way to bring people together to work on the problem: it is called a Citizens Assembly. Think of it as kind of like jury duty: random representatives from all walks of life here would be asked to be a part of this think tank that meets once a month for a few hours over the course of half a year or a year perhaps to work on the issue, most probably in our case at the Community Center. 5 tables of 6 people each could convene, led by facilitators trained to this, paid for by a grant which I know I can get from someplace. It is a very advanced idea, a way to preserve and in some ways bring to the fore participatory democracy at its best. It would produce recommendations by citizens for action by the Town Board. They are using this method in France to discuss Climate Change and it is catching on around the world as a way to bring opposing factions together to work on vital issues. If they can do it in Paris, why not Pine Plains?

If there is one thing that has really frustrated me these past four years, it is the lack of participation in democracy that has taken hold in our country and most notably in our town. Complaining on Facebook is not participating in democracy: it is not facing people it is hurting people. It is harmful to others. Political signs which are code for expletives, and signs that belittle others just hurt everyone. If someone is frustrated with things they lash out, but we don’t have a mechanism for doing something better than that. A Citizens Assembly could be that mechanism. Facing each other across a table takes courage and I hope we can all summon our inner Harry Potters and Hermiones and make this happen. I have a cape and a wand. (Well, I can borrow one from my kid.) It wouldn’t take magic to do this, but if we succeed, the process could be magical.

Get out your wands, Pine Plains! Make good magic!

Over and out,

Darrah Cloud

PS: Here are photos of the desk I am leaving to the new Supervisor. Here are all our projects!

 

Dear Pine Plains 12.17.21

Dear Pine Plains,

Carol Hart asked me to announce that Wreaths Across America will take place at noon on Saturday the 18th at the Evergreen Cemetery. That night at the Stissing Center the Stissing Theatre Guild is putting on The Bald Soprano, an absurdist play, with a cast of fine teenagers from Stissing Mountain School. The Presbyterian Church holds their Christmas Concert at 4pm on Saturday as well.

And Sunday please come to the Stissing Center for the 3rd New Play Reading for the series, Local Produce. Local playwrights and actors will read from Anne Undeland’s MR. FULLERTON, the story of Edith Wharton‘s one true love affair.

Last night I held my final Town Board Meeting. We have gotten a lot done the last 4 years. To wit:

We launched and maintained a new user-friendly website
Hired a fantastic planning company and launched the Comprehensive Plan Update that culminated in January of 2020 via a grant we wrote and won

Took that Update and launched the Zoning Review that led to the text and map changes in zoning to correct some problems in our zoning
Created a Broadband Committee which did incredible work mapping internet service and now serving on a committee with the County
Became a Clean Energy Community and Climate Smart Community with NYSERDA providing grants to the town for environmental projects; received a grant to install an EV charging station to bring eco-tourists to town
Convened a Solar Committee and wrote a Solar Law
Launched the feasibility study for a small innovative Central Septic System to basically create economic opportunities in PP and wrote and received grants for every phase so far
Brought a Recovery Coach to Pine Plains for help for those struggling with addiction
Bought and demolished 2 decrepit houses in order to build a new Town Hall in that location on our municipal parking lot–a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity
Countless repairs to facilities: Library, Highway Garage, current Town Hall
Maintained the Budget and created the SWEEP account for an extra revenue stream
Wrote and received a $70,000 grant to build an all-abilities playground as well as a grant to purchase two GRIT all-terrain wheelchairs so people with physical challenges can get to our beach and trails
Wrote the Mandated Police reform policy with Stakeholders Committee: Brenda Jackson, Lisa Michetti, Nelson Zayas, Sarah Jones, Keary Hanan
Spearheaded bridge repair for Willowvale Road and Speed reductions for 8 roads
Contact and negotiations begun with Catholic Archdiocese and Negotiations for acreage for central septic and possible affordable housing development or a park
Wrote Mandated Emergency Action Policy
Created standing ZRC
Liaison with Durst Organization and hosted their representatives through numerous public meetings and general meetings regarding the Hudson Valley Project
Founded Tri-Town Coalition for Affordable Housing and worked with Hudson River Housing to purchase the already-built condos at Town Centre for permanent affordable rentals for the town
Handled Town business and kept all departments going during an unprecedented and historic pandemic which included learning new technologies like ZOOM for conducting remote meetings and filming all meetings
Began and wrote Dear Pine Plains a weekly Newsletter
Wrote numerous White papers on all town projects
Requested and received re-paving of State Roads 199 east and west
CDAC Member giving grants to municipalities and agencies in DC
DC Affordable Housing Committee member
DC Supervisors and Mayors Association Secretary and Executive Board member

None of these accomplishments could have been done without the support of an extraordinary group of people employed by the town: and it has been my privilege to get to work with them. I loved every minute of that, and I will miss our camaraderie immensely.

I often wonder why it seems like people aren’t curious anymore. We want to declare things, and be sure of things, we can’t admit it when we’re wrong–perhaps if we are curious that would de-stabilize our security. But I think curiosity is the only way we can grow, as people and as a town.

And so my Holiday wish for you is infinite curiosity, Pine Plains!
Darrah Cloud

Dear Pine Plains,

Carol Hart asked me to announce that Wreaths Across America will take place at noon on Saturday the 18th at the Evergreen Cemetery. That night at the Stissing Center the Stissing Theatre Guild is putting on The Bald Soprano, an absurdist play, with a cast of fine teenagers from Stissing Mountain School. The Presbyterian Church holds their Christmas Concert at 4pm on Saturday as well.

And Sunday please come to the Stissing Center for the 3rd New Play Reading for the series, Local Produce. Local playwrights and actors will read from Anne Undeland’s MR. FULLERTON, the story of Edith Wharton‘s one true love affair.

Last night I held my final Town Board Meeting. We have gotten a lot done the last 4 years. To wit:

We launched and maintained a new user-friendly website
Hired a fantastic planning company and launched the Comprehensive Plan Update that culminated in January of 2020 via a grant we wrote and won

Took that Update and launched the Zoning Review that led to the text and map changes in zoning to correct some problems in our zoning
Created a Broadband Committee which did incredible work mapping internet service and now serving on a committee with the County
Became a Clean Energy Community and Climate Smart Community with NYSERDA providing grants to the town for environmental projects; received a grant to install an EV charging station to bring eco-tourists to town
Convened a Solar Committee and wrote a Solar Law
Launched the feasibility study for a small innovative Central Septic System to basically create economic opportunities in PP and wrote and received grants for every phase so far
Brought a Recovery Coach to Pine Plains for help for those struggling with addiction
Bought and demolished 2 decrepit houses in order to build a new Town Hall in that location on our municipal parking lot–a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity
Countless repairs to facilities: Library, Highway Garage, current Town Hall
Maintained the Budget and created the SWEEP account for an extra revenue stream
Wrote and received a $70,000 grant to build an all-abilities playground as well as a grant to purchase two GRIT all-terrain wheelchairs so people with physical challenges can get to our beach and trails
Wrote the Mandated Police reform policy with Stakeholders Committee: Brenda Jackson, Lisa Michetti, Nelson Zayas, Sarah Jones, Keary Hanan
Spearheaded bridge repair for Willowvale Road and Speed reductions for 8 roads
Contact and negotiations begun with Catholic Archdiocese and Negotiations for acreage for central septic and possible affordable housing development or a park
Wrote Mandated Emergency Action Policy
Created standing ZRC
Liaison with Durst Organization and hosted their representatives through numerous public meetings and general meetings regarding the Hudson Valley Project
Founded Tri-Town Coalition for Affordable Housing and worked with Hudson River Housing to purchase the already-built condos at Town Centre for permanent affordable rentals for the town
Handled Town business and kept all departments going during an unprecedented and historic pandemic which included learning new technologies like ZOOM for conducting remote meetings and filming all meetings
Began and wrote Dear Pine Plains a weekly Newsletter
Wrote numerous White papers on all town projects
Requested and received re-paving of State Roads 199 east and west
CDAC Member giving grants to municipalities and agencies in DC
DC Affordable Housing Committee member
DC Supervisors and Mayors Association Secretary and Executive Board member

None of these accomplishments could have been done without the support of an extraordinary group of people employed by the town: and it has been my privilege to get to work with them. I loved every minute of that, and I will miss our camaraderie immensely.

I often wonder why it seems like people aren’t curious anymore. We want to declare things, and be sure of things, we can’t admit it when we’re wrong–perhaps if we are curious that would de-stabilize our security. But I think curiosity is the only way we can grow, as people and as a town.

And so my Holiday wish for you is infinite curiosity, Pine Plains!
Darrah Cloud

Dear Pine Plains 12.10.21

12.10.2021

Dear Pine Plains,

A special call is out for help with vaccination clinics in Pine Plains. As you know, our town has vaccinated over 85% of its citizens! One of the best things about this is that it is our friends who gave us our shots.
Might you consider helping now? The crew is stretched thin and needs more volunteers to direct traffic and assist with check-in, as well as more nurses with NYS licenses to administer the shots. Please contact Kathy Bartles at 518-398-7568 if you are willing and able! The next clinic is December 21st and there will be more.

The thrift shops at the Episcopal Church and the Methodist Church are wonderful places to shop for the holidays. I found hand-stitched napkins there the other day with meticulously sewn ornaments on them. Real treasures.

Covid numbers have risen in Pine Plains to over where we first began back in 2020. Here is last year’s holiday newsletter–a reminder of where we were back then:

“12.18.2020

Dear Pine Plains,

Here we are in the midst of the holidays—and a pandemic. There is so much to say about the past year, and not enough time or space to say it. Perhaps this time requires celebrating what good has come out of it.

First of all, our food pantries really stepped up to the plate, serving at times more than 120 people weekly from the area. They were assisted by all of our restaurants in keeping families fed and children able to therefore pay attention in school.

Our schools and teachers. We are one of the few towns around that was able to provide internet hotspots to every student who didn’t have internet so that they could attend virtual school. I have read many complaints and the heartache of many parents watching their children struggle with this situation, but if you really step back and breathe, you will see what an astonishing thing the schools have accomplished here. More on this in a bit.

Our Police Department has been newly challenged by an increase in difficulties around town, and yet Pine Plains remains a very safe place to live because of their vigilance. Our prosecutor recently called to tell me she could only surmise that the reason there was so much less crime in our town than in the other small towns she serves was that our Police were apparent here in a way that most other towns don’t see, and that they worked so well with the State Troopers and Sheriff and each other as mentored by Officer in Charge John Hughes.

I celebrate the diversity of great minds on both the Broadband Committee and the Police Stakeholders Committee. Both committees have done deep thoughtful work on their projects, and if you missed the presentation by the broadband Committee Monday night, you can find it on youtube.com at Town of Pine Plains. The breaking news that came in after that meeting is that our school district has been invited by the Governor’s office into a program for obtaining rural broadband with the help of a not-for-profit called the Education Superhighway. www.educationsuperhighway.org

If all goes well, this organization would pay for the build-out of high-speed internet to reach those homes with students who don’t have access to it. Dr. Handler will be collecting the street addresses (no names) of those families who don’t have internet in order to help make this happen. Perhaps the whole town can piggy-back on this effort to get high-speed internet to everyone.

Last week I attended the virtual Land Use Law Conference at Pace University on the subject of Institutional Racism in Land Use Law. The history of using the law to exclude people from neighborhoods where they grew up or to which they aspire is an inescapable fact. The inability of people to buy a home historically has created the poverty we see in many of our cities but it also has affected our rural towns. Equity in a home is the best way a citizen can rise out of poverty, but if they are relegated to certain areas or neighborhoods where an increase in the value of a house can’t happen, or they can’t get a loan in order to buy a decent house in a decent place, the only result is the perpetuation of need. This was an invaluable education in land use in a small town, and how to make it work so that everyone has a chance to live well, side by side, no matter what color they are.

Our Covid numbers are up again—6 this week, 7 in Milan, 16 in Stanfordville. I want to celebrate all the gals who have made and given away all the masks you see on a lot of people in town, and all the people who wear masks. You are the ones responsible for keeping our numbers low.

The Sewer Feasibility Study is in and we are studying it! The 2021 Budget is in and approved by the County. I celebrate that!

Finally, I want to celebrate learning something new. That has been a key asset to this pandemic. Maybe the only asset. But it is vital. I know that we have all learned from it, perhaps something about our selves or our neighbors, but also about things we thought we already knew and actually, we didn’t!”

This year in 2021, I celebrate you, Pine Plains!

Darrah

12.10.2021

Dear Pine Plains,

A special call is out for help with vaccination clinics in Pine Plains. As you know, our town has vaccinated over 85% of its citizens! One of the best things about this is that it is our friends who gave us our shots.
Might you consider helping now? The crew is stretched thin and needs more volunteers to direct traffic and assist with check-in, as well as more nurses with NYS licenses to administer the shots. Please contact Kathy Bartles at 518-398-7568 if you are willing and able! The next clinic is December 21st and there will be more.

The thrift shops at the Episcopal Church and the Methodist Church are wonderful places to shop for the holidays. I found hand-stitched napkins there the other day with meticulously sewn ornaments on them. Real treasures.

Covid numbers have risen in Pine Plains to over where we first began back in 2020. Here is last year’s holiday newsletter–a reminder of where we were back then:

“12.18.2020

Dear Pine Plains,

Here we are in the midst of the holidays—and a pandemic. There is so much to say about the past year, and not enough time or space to say it. Perhaps this time requires celebrating what good has come out of it.

First of all, our food pantries really stepped up to the plate, serving at times more than 120 people weekly from the area. They were assisted by all of our restaurants in keeping families fed and children able to therefore pay attention in school.

Our schools and teachers. We are one of the few towns around that was able to provide internet hotspots to every student who didn’t have internet so that they could attend virtual school. I have read many complaints and the heartache of many parents watching their children struggle with this situation, but if you really step back and breathe, you will see what an astonishing thing the schools have accomplished here. More on this in a bit.

Our Police Department has been newly challenged by an increase in difficulties around town, and yet Pine Plains remains a very safe place to live because of their vigilance. Our prosecutor recently called to tell me she could only surmise that the reason there was so much less crime in our town than in the other small towns she serves was that our Police were apparent here in a way that most other towns don’t see, and that they worked so well with the State Troopers and Sheriff and each other as mentored by Officer in Charge John Hughes.

I celebrate the diversity of great minds on both the Broadband Committee and the Police Stakeholders Committee. Both committees have done deep thoughtful work on their projects, and if you missed the presentation by the broadband Committee Monday night, you can find it on youtube.com at Town of Pine Plains. The breaking news that came in after that meeting is that our school district has been invited by the Governor’s office into a program for obtaining rural broadband with the help of a not-for-profit called the Education Superhighway. www.educationsuperhighway.org

If all goes well, this organization would pay for the build-out of high-speed internet to reach those homes with students who don’t have access to it. Dr. Handler will be collecting the street addresses (no names) of those families who don’t have internet in order to help make this happen. Perhaps the whole town can piggy-back on this effort to get high-speed internet to everyone.

Last week I attended the virtual Land Use Law Conference at Pace University on the subject of Institutional Racism in Land Use Law. The history of using the law to exclude people from neighborhoods where they grew up or to which they aspire is an inescapable fact. The inability of people to buy a home historically has created the poverty we see in many of our cities but it also has affected our rural towns. Equity in a home is the best way a citizen can rise out of poverty, but if they are relegated to certain areas or neighborhoods where an increase in the value of a house can’t happen, or they can’t get a loan in order to buy a decent house in a decent place, the only result is the perpetuation of need. This was an invaluable education in land use in a small town, and how to make it work so that everyone has a chance to live well, side by side, no matter what color they are.

Our Covid numbers are up again—6 this week, 7 in Milan, 16 in Stanfordville. I want to celebrate all the gals who have made and given away all the masks you see on a lot of people in town, and all the people who wear masks. You are the ones responsible for keeping our numbers low.

The Sewer Feasibility Study is in and we are studying it! The 2021 Budget is in and approved by the County. I celebrate that!

Finally, I want to celebrate learning something new. That has been a key asset to this pandemic. Maybe the only asset. But it is vital. I know that we have all learned from it, perhaps something about our selves or our neighbors, but also about things we thought we already knew and actually, we didn’t!”

This year in 2021, I celebrate you, Pine Plains!

Darrah

Dear Pine Plains 11.26.21

11.26.2021

Dear Pine Plains,

Tomorrow is Decoration Day, a tradition in Pine Plains begun as a way to hold a celebration that would include anyone. No shopping, no spending, just a lovely time for families to wander the streets, decorate a tree, watch a parade. It has always been sponsored by the Pine Plains Business Association.

Please take note of that: the PPBA is responsible for many of the best things about Pine Plains. By supporting local businesses, you support the town. This is a simple equation, but a lot of folks forget that when the Girl Scout Troop has a fundraiser, or a sports team or a Class of… needs contributions, the first places they hit are businesses, and our businesses give freely. This holiday season, please give back to them. In a small rural town with no infrastructure, staying open is about as hard as it gets.

Here is a poem about plants and thanks:

LET US GIVE THANKS

 

Let us give thanks for a bounty of people

For children who are our second planting

and though they grow like weeds

and the wind too soon blows them away,

May they forgive us our cultivation

and remember fondly where their roots are.

 

Let us give thanks:

For generous friends, with hearts as big as hubbards

and smiles as bright as their blossoms;

For feisty friends as tart as apples;

For continuous friends, who, like scallions and cucumbers,

keep reminding us we’ve had them;

For crotchety friends, as sour as rhubarb

and as indestructible;

For handsome friends, who are as gorgeous as eggplants

and as elegant as a row of corn,

and the others, as plain as potatoes and so good for you;

For funny friends, who are as silly as Brussels sprouts

and as amusing as Jerusalem artichokes,

and serious friends, as complex as cauliflowers

and as intricate as onions;

For friends as unpretentious as cabbages,

as subtle as summer squash,

as persistent as parsley,

as delightful as dill,

as endless as zucchini,

and who, like parsnips,

can be counted on to see you throughout the winter;

For old friends,

nodding like sunflowers in the evening-time

and young friends coming on as fast as radishes;

For loving friends, who wind around us like tendrils

and hold us, despite our blights, wilts, and witherings;

And finally, for those friends now gone,

like gardens past that have been harvested,

but who fed us in their times

that we might have life thereafter;

For all these we give thanks.

— Max Coots

Stay thankful, Pine Plains!
Darrah Cloud

Dear Pine Plains 11.19.21

11.19.21

Dear Pine Plains,

On Monday night we held the last public meeting regarding the Sewer Feasibility Study where our engineers presented the Final results. It was well attended and the District Map and presentation as well as a film of the meeting by Stan Hirson are all up on our website. Go look at this very innovative idea for bringing a system to Pine Plains that will be basically maintained by the businesses in the business district and allow those businesses to thrive and survive.

This Sunday please come to The Stissing Center for a reader’s theater presentation of a play called Music Lessons. This reading is part of Local Produce, a series of plays written by people in the area. And this one of course will feature music! Our first presentation was a huge success—Donn Potter’s The War trial of Robert S. McNamara. Don’t miss this one! 3pm $5

Decoration Day is the 27th and starts at 3pm with tree decorating, Santa, and a parade. The Business Association would like to remind everyone that this is a free event meant for everyone to enjoy.

Every year at this time since I’ve been in office, I have tried to thank the key people who have made the year particularly successful in Pine Plains. 2020 was truly the Year of the Pandemic and the fact that we got through it at all is a testament to all these people. Caveat: I always forget to mention someone really important. That said, the following people made a huge difference this year in Pine Plains: First and foremost, I want to thank our pharmacist Nasir Mahmoud, and his crew of retired nurses and medical personnel, for vaccinating more than 80% of the entire town. Thank you my fellow Board members whose wisdom drove the changes in zoning that will help sustain homeowners and businesses alike; the Girls’ Town Rec Softball 10 and Under Team and Coaches whose trip to State Finals brought us all together in support of something bigger than ourselves; Bobby Lee “Sherm” Couse, who knows everything about every system the town handles and keeps it all running any hour of any day; the entire new town park committee for designing the park and implementing that design so well; Tim Jones for donating the fountain which is such an awesome tribute to the farms in our area; Madelin Chase for being a ray of sunshine in the Town Clerk’s office; Warren Replansky and the entire Zoning Review Committee—a number of whom were town employees who gave their time freely–for guiding the really life-changing zoning revisions we’ve been able to bring about this year; Ray Jurkowski for going above and beyond the call of duty in everything he does for the town; all the volunteers and leaders of both the Willow Roots Food Pantry and the Food Pantry at the Methodist Church for continuing to feed needy people in town—who could not have predicted how many people there would be! Thank you, John Hughes and all our officers, for your dedication to your work here, for writing the new police policy with me, and going to training sessions constantly without complaint, and for never missing a day during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, when they were the only employees of the town to remain face-to-face with the public. Thank you, Assessors, for working in a leaky moldy trailer and doing such an exceptional job that other towns envy us; thank you Alice Nuccio for not only keeping the town running, hosting our seniors’ events and luncheons, but also sewing the patches on police uniforms and providing a sympathetic and warm embrace to everyone who walks into Town Hall—you are truly the face of Pine Plains. Thank you, Justice Dave Humeston, for figuring out an incredible system for court hearings which kept everyone healthy and moved things along at the same time. Thank you Saffy Humeston for accompanying Dave so elegantly and giving him some class. (Ditto Leo Hughes—I can’t leave you out, although you are not so elegant.) Just seeing you both always makes me so happy. Thank you, Trish and Sean Devine, for bringing your kids in on Thursdays—they also bring joy to Town Hall and inspired the candy jar. Thank you volunteers of the Planning Board who had a record year of difficult projects to oversee and did it thoroughly and professionally. Thank you, Erin Moore and Kyle Kortright, engineers from Tighe and Bond, who came to town, met people, understood the economic challenges here, and came up with a plan for a wastewater system that is small and innovative and doable without hurting cash-strapped citizens. Thank you, Stan Hirson, for filming their important presentation and for decades of incredible footage of our town. Thank you, Highway Department, for being so safety conscious that the town was awarded two substantial refunds by our insurance carriers; Beth Coons at the Bank of Millbrook and Bianca Martin and Sarah Murphy at Salisbury Bank for helping me with all the banking issues we have to deal with. Their vigilance over our accounts did not waver during the pandemic. Neither did the dedication of all our farmers and business owners to finding ways to stay open despite everything possible that could have gone wrong.  Thank you, Vinnie Parliman, for being so dedicated to recycling. And thank you to whomever I forgot to thank—I will catch up with you in December. All of you have gone beyond to keep Pine Plains going in the midst of an historic pandemic, and it is a better place because of all of you.

Thanksgiving might be a myth—welcoming indigenous people worried about the Pilgrims had to save them from starvation and so came together and held a banquet for them—and even if all the intentions were not mythic, the fact that everyone sat down together over food for one afternoon was something of a miracle. I hope you all enjoy your own version of this miracle on Thursday.

I might be the only fan of a movie called Heaven’s Gate. In it, a wealthy Harvard grad named Jim Averill gets a job as a Sheriff in a town in the west because he wants to do good in the world and becomes unwillingly embroiled in the battle between new immigrants flooding the area and cattle ranchers who accuse them of stealing and devastating the grazing land with their sheep, a battle that did indeed take place in Wyoming in the 1800s. It is a bloody, sad story. The battles are deadly, and, in the end, the only man trying to end the war left standing is Jim. What does he do then? He leaves. He goes back east, taking his money with him. He gets out, leaving all the people who either hated him or looked to him for help still fighting with each other. That scene has always stuck with me.  I think our behavior towards each other is key to our economic survival. And I hope against hope that we can all come together in Pine Plains for a greater good.

Happy Thanksgiving, Pine Plains!
Darrah Cloud

Dear Pine Plains 11.5.21

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11.5.2021

Dear Pine Plains,

For a really good analysis of the current housing situation in Dutchess County, please check out this PDF. It is not “dumbed down” for people, it asks you to work to understand it. The work pays off. This is from the committee I was appointed to by Marcus Molinaro, our County Executive.

file:///Users/darrahcloud/Documents/DutchessCounty_Prelim%20Analysis%20for%20Committee_28Oct2021.pdf

Please attend the November 15th Sewer Feasibility Study Community Meeting at 7pm at the Community Center. The results of the study will be discussed at length with the engineers we hired via grants from the County and the State.

There is a wonderful rockabilly band at the Stissing Center on Saturday, www.thestissingcenter.org, and don’t forget the Turkey Dinner being sold for takeout on November 13th by the Presbyterian Church. Call 518-398-7117 to reserve your dinners. 4pm-5:30 pick-up.

It has been a quiet week in terms of Town Board activities, so I thought I might write about what it is like to own a business in Pine Plains. Perhaps a lot of you don’t know that I own Tower Pizza, the Cabin Bar, and the Back Bar Beer Garden. Jeff Zengen runs the places. I bought it in 2013 with the idea of saving it so that some day he could buy it from me.

2 months after I closed on it, the entire septic system failed. It was January 26th, 2014. I remember, because I was teaching out at the University of Iowa and got the call around dawn. For Jeff to lose any days of business in winter would be devastating to him and his family. I made calls. The repair/replacement of the tanks, bringing them up to code, under 3 feet of frozen ground, cost me over $75,000. Not having this kind of money, I did the next best thing—I got out my credit cards and charged it. Jeff never lost a day of business. (BTW–I don’t personally need a central septic system; mine will last the next 50 years! I support it because it is best for the Town).

Many worried that I would turn the enterprise into an expensive, out-of-reach-of-many kind of place, where they would not feel comfortable. It is a kind of club for a lot of people. But I love it the way it is. So it remains a place for everyone to meet.

During COVID, when Jeff and every other restaurant in town converted to all takeout, I cut the rents to the apartments upstairs in half for the “kids” living there, most of whom worked for Jeff. I knew they would not be able to make up any of their lost income. I offered the same to Jeff, but he declined. He was counting on the summer at the Beer Garden to make up for the winter and get him through the whole year. He knew that I have big bills to pay on the place, particularly for insurance, because bars are high-risk. He’s a decent guy.

The Beer Garden is where different kinds of people go to sit outside in the summer, eat with small kids, (because nobody minds if they run around), and relax. Jeff keeps many items on his menu at very affordable prices. I keep his rent affordable. Our deal is predicated on being a beating heart at the core of the town, a place where anyone can afford to eat and drink and be with their friends.

And everyone does. For instance, a man I had to evict a few years ago after 10 months of not paying rent. I lost $5,000 on him not including a lawyer’s fee. His drug addiction got the better of him. One night, when we had a good band playing at the Garden, I found myself dancing next to him, and have had that experience a few times since. He’s doing better now, it seems.

One of our frequent customers loves to get on social media and criticize me in thoughtless ways. Another is a man whose dog we took in after his divorce. A third once dated my daughter; I loaned him the money to buy a pickup truck. He never paid me back. Two couples who frequent the place are the ones who made and put up the signs that say Anyone But Cloud. There we all are in the Garden, together. Our lives entwined.

I know that many business owners in small towns experience similar things. They are people who work hard to pay their bills and contribute to the causes others ask them to help fund. The secondary work of a business in a small town is support of all the wonderful things people are trying to do for their children and the needy. I know that Jeff gives away a lot of food, as do the other restaurants and farm businesses here.

The irony of all this is that it illuminates the way we live in a small, tight-knit community. Civility is the only glue that truly holds us all together. Once we lose that, we will be lost.

If, after the absentee ballot count there is new leadership, may they go forward intent on supporting our small businesses, our library and recreation department, and on kindness and respect for others, no matter what our differences.

Here is to civility at all cost, Pine Plains!
Darrah Cloud

Dear Pine Plains 10.22.21

10.22.2021

Dear Pine Plains,

Get your tickets NOW for the Cemetery Tours that the Little Nine Partners Historical Society puts together every year to benefit the Library. This year’s lineup of long-dead Pine Plainsians and their stories promises to be the best ever. Shows are tonight and Saturday night. Buy tickets through Eventbrite on the Library website at: www.pineplainsfreelibrary.org

This month I began my tenure on the Dutchess County Housing Committee, which is looking into the entire scope of affordable housing, from the history of it here to where we all are now and what we can do about it. I have to say, of all the committees I have been asked to be a part of by the County Executive, this one is being run by a truly crackerjack bunch of planners and housing experts, and includes people from all walks of housing services, M&T Bank, and Kirchoff Builders. The expertise is amazing.
I am also on the Community Development Access Committee, which reviews all the grants submitted by towns and organizations to the County. We have spent about 6 hours in ZOOM meetings this past month and many more on our own reading grants and commenting on them, for recommendation to the County Executive. Again, this committee is comprised of some incredible people working in the County to help the homeless, the mentally ill, and numerous other aid organizations, as well as municipal leaders and philanthropists.

All of this work is teaching me how better to think about grants and grant writing and it has been invaluable to introducing me both to all the opportunities on our doorstep which are out there, but also how to write the kind of grants they want to fund.

We passed the Tentative Budget in early October and the Preliminary Budget last night. Once that is passed, the Budget can only be changed downward, meaning less money spent, but not upward. We did not exceed the tax cap again this year.

More good news: with the help of Gregg Pulver, we located a machine to bring the new fountain down to the renovated Town Park, and it is installed. Tim Jones donated the fountain to the town in honor of our long history of farming, and it’s made of old watering troughs. The pergola arrived in kit form and we await electrical work to complete the whole thing.  I have seen lots of people already sitting beside the fountain to hear the sound of the water, and watch it cascade. The ear tags that are a part of the sculpture are rather poignant, I think. Thanks to all those involved in making this happen: Tim Jones, our Town Beautification Committee, Sue Robinson and her crew at Down to Earth, Kyle Lougheed and his crew at Ginocchio Electric, Prospect Hill Farmstead, and Edward Kinzer, Jr. whose legacy to the town because he loved it here provided the funds for a really beautiful spot. When I went to see it on Wednesday, two bald eagles were circling directly overhead.

Keep flying, Pine Plains!
Darrah Cloud

10.22.2021

Dear Pine Plains,

Get your tickets NOW for the Cemetery Tours that the Little Nine Partners Historical Society puts together every year to benefit the Library. This year’s lineup of long-dead Pine Plainsians and their stories promises to be the best ever. Shows are tonight and Saturday night. Buy tickets through Eventbrite on the Library website at: www.pineplainsfreelibrary.org

This month I began my tenure on the Dutchess County Housing Committee, which is looking into the entire scope of affordable housing, from the history of it here to where we all are now and what we can do about it. I have to say, of all the committees I have been asked to be a part of by the County Executive, this one is being run by a truly crackerjack bunch of planners and housing experts, and includes people from all walks of housing services, M&T Bank, and Kirchoff Builders. The expertise is amazing.
I am also on the Community Development Access Committee, which reviews all the grants submitted by towns and organizations to the County. We have spent about 6 hours in ZOOM meetings this past month and many more on our own reading grants and commenting on them, for recommendation to the County Executive. Again, this committee is comprised of some incredible people working in the County to help the homeless, the mentally ill, and numerous other aid organizations, as well as municipal leaders and philanthropists.

All of this work is teaching me how better to think about grants and grant writing and it has been invaluable to introducing me both to all the opportunities on our doorstep which are out there, but also how to write the kind of grants they want to fund.

We passed the Tentative Budget in early October and the Preliminary Budget last night. Once that is passed, the Budget can only be changed downward, meaning less money spent, but not upward. We did not exceed the tax cap again this year.

More good news: with the help of Gregg Pulver, we located a machine to bring the new fountain down to the renovated Town Park, and it is installed. Tim Jones donated the fountain to the town in honor of our long history of farming, and it’s made of old watering troughs. The pergola arrived in kit form and we await electrical work to complete the whole thing.  I have seen lots of people already sitting beside the fountain to hear the sound of the water, and watch it cascade. The ear tags that are a part of the sculpture are rather poignant, I think. Thanks to all those involved in making this happen: Tim Jones, our Town Beautification Committee, Sue Robinson and her crew at Down to Earth, Kyle Lougheed and his crew at Ginocchio Electric, Prospect Hill Farmstead, and Edward Kinzer, Jr. whose legacy to the town because he loved it here provided the funds for a really beautiful spot. When I went to see it on Wednesday, two bald eagles were circling directly overhead.

Keep flying, Pine Plains!
Darrah Cloud

10.22.2021

Dear Pine Plains,

Get your tickets NOW for the Cemetery Tours that the Little Nine Partners Historical Society puts together every year to benefit the Library. This year’s lineup of long-dead Pine Plainsians and their stories promises to be the best ever. Shows are tonight and Saturday night. Buy tickets through Eventbrite on the Library website at: www.pineplainsfreelibrary.org

This month I began my tenure on the Dutchess County Housing Committee, which is looking into the entire scope of affordable housing, from the history of it here to where we all are now and what we can do about it. I have to say, of all the committees I have been asked to be a part of by the County Executive, this one is being run by a truly crackerjack bunch of planners and housing experts, and includes people from all walks of housing services, M&T Bank, and Kirchoff Builders. The expertise is amazing.
I am also on the Community Development Access Committee, which reviews all the grants submitted by towns and organizations to the County. We have spent about 6 hours in ZOOM meetings this past month and many more on our own reading grants and commenting on them, for recommendation to the County Executive. Again, this committee is comprised of some incredible people working in the County to help the homeless, the mentally ill, and numerous other aid organizations, as well as municipal leaders and philanthropists.

All of this work is teaching me how better to think about grants and grant writing and it has been invaluable to introducing me both to all the opportunities on our doorstep which are out there, but also how to write the kind of grants they want to fund.

We passed the Tentative Budget in early October and the Preliminary Budget last night. Once that is passed, the Budget can only be changed downward, meaning less money spent, but not upward. We did not exceed the tax cap again this year.

More good news: with the help of Gregg Pulver, we located a machine to bring the new fountain down to the renovated Town Park, and it is installed. Tim Jones donated the fountain to the town in honor of our long history of farming, and it’s made of old watering troughs. The pergola arrived in kit form and we await electrical work to complete the whole thing.  I have seen lots of people already sitting beside the fountain to hear the sound of the water, and watch it cascade. The ear tags that are a part of the sculpture are rather poignant, I think. Thanks to all those involved in making this happen: Tim Jones, our Town Beautification Committee, Sue Robinson and her crew at Down to Earth, Kyle Lougheed and his crew at Ginocchio Electric, Prospect Hill Farmstead, and Edward Kinzer, Jr. whose legacy to the town because he loved it here provided the funds for a really beautiful spot. When I went to see it on Wednesday, two bald eagles were circling directly overhead.

Keep flying, Pine Plains!
Darrah Cloud

Dear Pine Plains 10.15.21

10.15.2021

Dear Pine Plains,

By now you have heard about the terrible fire on Hoffman Road, and the loss of Larry Pariseau. We extend our deep condolences to Kim his wife and family, and to all who knew and valued him as a citizen of Pine Plains, a volunteer firefighter and EMT, a member of the Church of the Regeneration, a first responder on 9/11, and a frequent visitor to Town Hall. Neighbor Richard Wager ran across the street to help Kim out of the wreckage and was first on the scene; the Pine Plains Fire Department reached the situation in minutes. It took all night and into the daytime to put out the fire, with the assistance of numerous departments from two counties. There was ancillary help from Rich at Stewart’s, who put food deliveries together for the firefighters; the Nuccios, who opened up the Moose and made sandwiches for everyone; neighbors Alice and Robert, who welcomed frightened people affected by the blast to their home next door; and Doug Weaver who spent all night at the site bringing invaluable equipment to help. Kim has lost her husband and everything she owned. She and Larry had just welcomed a family who needed a place to stay and they lost everything too. Now begins the work of helping them in a different way. This is what makes Pine Plains so dear.

We will have a public hearing on the Preliminary Budget next Thursday before the regular Board Meeting, as well as a packed agenda that night. Much of the work of the last few years is all coming to fruition in these last months of 2021 as we pass the text changes to our zoning, then the map changes, and hold a community meeting to reveal the results of our Sewer Feasibility Study in November. (TBA)

Friday October 15th—tonight! —is our Meet the Candidates Night. 7pm at the Community Center 2nd Floor of the Library. You will be invited to write down a question on a card and submit it to the moderator, who will then collate the questions for each category of candidate (Board Member, Supervisor, Legislator) and do the asking. They are asking everyone to formulate your questions so that all the candidates in a category can answer them. They estimate this meeting could take about 90 to 120 minutes. Everyone will have time to make opening and closing remarks.

This coming Sunday the 17th at 3pm The Stissing Center will begin its series of monthly play readings with The War trials of Robert S. McNamara by our own Donn Potter. Featured roles are being played by Andy King, Dave Owens, George Keeler, Marie Stewart, Brian Gerber, and Suzanne Ouellette. With such a stellar cast, this promises to be a wonderful afternoon of history and debate. $5 As with all other theaters, masks and vaccinations are required.

And get your tickets to the Cemetery Tour! It will be held both Friday the 22nd and Saturday the 23rd. Tickets are available on the library website. See townspeople bring the dead to life and tell their stories!

Alice and I spoke a lot about the tragedy this week, remembering past tragedies that took the lives of teenagers and other adults here, and wondering at the strength and resilience of the people who are the first to arrive to help. The toll this takes on those people is enormous, and we can only say thank you to those who do what the rest of us cannot. It also made us think about all the people employed by the Town who go beyond in their dedication to their work and to Pine Plains.

Take care of yourselves, Pine Plains!
Darrah Cloud

Our own Vinnie Parliman, an employee we could not do without.

Dear Pine Plains 10.8.2021

10.8.2021

Dear Pine Plains,

Ag Fair is upon us! The parade is Saturday morning at 9:30, followed by food booths and animal shows, a horse pull, a tractor pull, and general fun at the high school. See you there!

In addition, this year there will be a Square Dance at The Stissing Center to raise money for the FFA. The cost is $10. You can go to their website www.thestissingcenter.org for tickets or get them at the door. Masks and proof of vax are required.

THEN there will be fireworks over the ball fields courtesy of our own Recreation Department and Rich Prentice, our Dog Warden and Emergency Management person.

Farms and restaurants in the area are holding concerts and offering libations, so this will be a busy weekend.

Next week there will be a Meet the Candidates Night run by the League of Women Voters, a non-partisan voting advocacy group, at the Community Center, 2nd Floor of the Library, hosted by the Library Board of Directors. Masks are required the event will be held indoors. Friday October 15th at 7pm.

This week we held a Tentative Budget Meeting to go over all the wish lists of our departments for 2022. Much of the discussion was on the usual changes which frustrate every local small government: the rise in insurance rates, the need to replace aging equipment, the cost of keeping the programs we want going. We set our priorities as per the Comprehensive Plan, and they are: an active Recreation Department, a vibrant Library, fantastic employees, a downtown that is economically viable, and a safe place to live focused on our children, our seniors, our rural heritage and character. Having become a Clean Energy Community over the last 4 years led to significant savings in utilities, and it remains our goal as a Board to keep finding ways to cut costs and expand programs and pay people decent wages. The next step is to create a Preliminary Budget out of this discussion, which will be subject to a Public Hearing at the next Board Meeting on the 21st. The Preliminary will be posted before that date and available at Town Hall for perusal. The Water, Highway and Fire District Budgets are also included.

I met for the first time with the Dutchess County Housing Committee, to which I was appointed by County Executive Molinaro. This committee is made up of an amalgam of significant voices in the County: M&T Bank, Kirchoff Builders, Hudson River Housing, Dutchess County Planning, The Dyson Foundation, and numerous citizens and municipal officials. Here is the definition of “affordable housing”: it costs 30% of your income. For renters, this means rent plus utilities; for home owners it means mortgage, insurance, taxes. Since incomes have not kept pace with housing prices, a gap has occurred and many people have fallen through it. As regards building costs, it turns out that labor costs around the country have remained similar in all states. However, each state and municipality has their own zoning codes which create a time problem for builders in which their estimates can go moot by the time a project is approved. In New York State it can take years for a project to get approved due to all the variants in our zoning codes. (The average in Florida is about 10 months; in Tennessee it is four months. Of course, the lack of oversight on building has now become controversial with the recent collapse of an apartment building in FL, which led to numerous fatalities). The only people who can survive in this culture are the ones who have the money to put down and wait. Eastdale Village in Poughkeepsie on Route 44 has taken over 11 years to get started. Now it has a waiting list.  For a small rural town like ours, infrastructure is the key element for attracting developers. New homes add to the tax rolls and reduce taxes for everyone. Developers look for wastewater systems in place. The word “affordable” does not mean strangers coming here for Section 8—today it means our kids and our parents could find a place to live in Pine Plains if they choose to stay. I am looking forward to working on this quite brilliant committee and to what we might put into action.

We continue to film around town for a grant application on downtown revitalization and have already interviewed a wonderful group of people who are so key to our town. You will see us out again next week. Stan Hirson has kindly offered a treasure trove of his videos for our use as well.

Some people don’t understand why the Board continues to dream about bringing Town Hall back into town. And the short answer is: because it belongs there. The long answer involves the trailers our assessors work in, the cramped quarters and shared office space and lack of storage and aging heating and cooling systems and the very bad floor bending currently downwards and bouncing in the Town Clerk’s office. For people to be able to drop in on meetings and personnel, the tax collector and Town Clerk and police department would really be meaningful to the preservation of democracy here—especially around elections, when voting ought to be easy and walkable. This was supposed to be temporary—20 years ago!

And speaking of TSC, they are starting a play reading series called Local Produce, featuring local playwrights and performers. The first play up on the 17th at 3pm is The War Trial of Robert S. MacNamara written by our own Donn Potter. It features Dave Owens, Andy King, George Keeler, Marie Stewart, Brian Gerber, and Suzanne Ouellette, all long-time residents of Pine Plains. It promises to be an amazing event. Tickets for that are $10 also on the website or at the door. That IS downtown!

And please don’t forget The Cemetery Tours which benefit the Library. Tickets are going fast! Townspeople tell the stories of the folks long buried at Evergreen Cemetery and it is a wonderful event. It takes place Friday October 22 and Saturday October 23. Walking tours for the mobility impaired are at 5pm and for others at 6, 6:30 and 7pm Friday with an additional 7:30 show on Saturday. Tickets are available at the Library and on their website.

Phew! Celebrate local, Pine Plains!
Darrah Cloud

Dear Pine Plains 10.01.2021

10.1.2021
Dear Pine Plains,Much news this week as to changes all around us. Perhaps the one that is of most interest is the fact that Sharon Hospital will be phasing out their Labor and Delivery department. So many people in Pine Plains were born at Sharon that I know this will bring up a lot of feelings. Here are the changes they are implementing:

  • Expanding Primary & Ambulatory Care: Sharon Hospital will pursue opportunities to expand its primary care footprint and ambulatory service offerings to best meet the current and future needs of the Sharon community. Investing in these services will allow Sharon Hospital to prevent, detect, monitor, and treat health issues earlier, improving patient outcomes and reducing the need for more complex care that requires a hospital stay.
  • Investing in Behavioral Health: Sharon Hospital will expand their adult behavioral health offerings to fill a gap in care in the surrounding region. By expanding adult behavioral health offerings, Sharon Hospital can better meet the needs of our growing 65+ population and expand our services to adolescents and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities in the future.
  • Consolidating Inpatient Care Services to Capture Efficiencies in Staffing and Care: Sharon Hospital will convene clinical and administrative work groups, including physicians and nurses, to develop a plan to effectively consolidate inpatient care services. These workgroups will ultimately allow for more effectively assigned staff and resources to better serve the needs of our patients, while keeping patients at Sharon Hospital whenever possible.
  • Phasing Out Labor & Delivery: Sharon Hospital has seen fewer than 200 annual deliveries for the past four years, an average rate of fewer than one delivery per day, some days passing with no births at all in a fully staffed unit. An underused Labor & Delivery unit cannot be maintained while also ensuring Sharon Hospital can continue serving its patients and community in the long-term.

Northern Dutchess’ Birthing Center will remain open as will Vassar.

The Tri-Town Coalition on Affordable Housing is offering training for advocates to learn how to help solve the region’s housing crisis. If you would like to be a part of this, please write Nathan at nathan@neccmillerton.org or call him at 518-789-4259 ext. 129. They write:

  • Priority will be given to participants who live or work in Millerton, Amenia, or Pine Plains. Sessions will he held once/month for two hours in the evening beginning in October. All trainings will be held virtually over zoom.
  • Stipends of $30/session are available upon request.
  • Stipends will be prioritized for those who do not otherwise receive compensation for their time from an employer or haven’t made or a previous commitment to volunteer service for their community. If you are interested in a stipend, please indicate that at registration for follow up. A request for a stipend does not guarantee approval.
  • Training provided by the Regional Plan Association with support from the Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation Northeast Dutchess Fund.

The Tri-Town Coalition (TTC) unites a geographic area including the towns and villages in Pine Plains, North East, and Amenia as a single voice to attract investment to our region and to address common challenges by combining our resources. The TTC does this in part by providing both information on housing ideas, innovations, and decision-making in our region and a platform for residents to engage with the process. We are seeking those who share our belief that everyone should be able to access housing that is within their means and who want to make that possible.

As everyone knows by now, Pine Plains is no different than any other town here and lacks affordable housing for young families and seniors. We have been working on this as a Board for many years. (Don says over 20!) The more people who volunteer to help the more likely we are to figure out a solution. In addition, I just received my appointment letter to the Dutchess County Housing Needs Assessment Steering Committee from County Executive Molinaro. As a co-founder of the Tri-Town Coalition on Affordable Housing, I look forward to bringing what I have learned from that experience to the County as a whole.  I will keep you informed about what we’re doing and how it applies to Pine Plains.

This summer I wrote a grant called the Downtown Revitalization Initiative for help with downtown revitalization, as per our Comprehensive Plan, and all our work/dreams regarding improvements to wastewater management and sidewalks/bikeways and bringing the Town Hall into town. The State got back to us asking us to make a video about the town. We are doing this in the next week with the help of Stan Hirson and Patrick Trettenero and lots of volunteers willing to be interviewed on the subject. Many thanks to everyone who said YES! You may see us filming around town this next week.

The DEC is asking us to monitor sightings of dead deer due to the wasting disease, which is transmitted via gnats. Unfortunately, we are finding a fair amount of them. If you spot any, please call the Town Hall and report the whereabouts to Alice in the supervisor’s office, ext. 1. We will then report to the DEC. They are also asking for people to watch for the spotted lantern fly cocoons. They look like white fluff stuck on a tree branch. Don’t remove them—but do report back to us or to the DEC directly. You can Google this for more information.

Ag Day is fast approaching! I can’t wait! And don’t forget the fundraiser for the FFA at The Stissing Center–a square dance! Saturday night the 9th, $10.

It’s Crazy Creature Time, Pine Plains!
Darrah Cloud