Dear Pine Plains,
An extraordinary week of emotional turmoil. Suffice it to say, local government went simmering on, and below is our assessment of 2020 and what we accomplished this past year.
But before I get to that, I want to thank Patricia and Michel Jean for keeping the doors open on a hallmark of our town, The Stissing House, despite many obstacles over the years, including the death of the owner and their partner, an unwieldy economy, and the pandemic. We hope to see their new business prosper and to see Helen Fuss and Tracy Hermann at their respective daises once again. It is easy to disregard all the people who work in a landmark establishment like this one, and the parts they play in many peoples’ lives. (Even those who just gossip about them!) They will be missed. We hope the new owner will reach out to the town and let us share our stories, so that they gain a keen understanding of where they are.
Hope is an action, Pine Plains!
STATE OF THE TOWN 1.7.2021
In 2020, we learned to operate a local government and keep the open democratic process going in a pandemic. There was a hiccup in all this as we all adjusted to learning and using new software in order to hold meetings, sanitizing things constantly, wearing masks and being on numerous sometimes daily conference calls with the State and the County over how to keep the town running while also paying attention to all the Executive Orders which came down again almost daily for a while, as well as a general sense of panic about it all. This began March 13th and continues to this day.
But while this panic raged all around us, we managed to get a lot done. Here is a list of what the Town Board accomplished in 2020:
- Won a State CFA grant to pay entirely for a Sewer Feasibility Study for the hamlet. Hired engineers to conduct the study from a large pool of excellent submissions. Conducted the study with the help of the Highway Department, touring numerous wastewater facilities in the mid-Hudson region, and received the results in December. We are reviewing them now.
- Created a moratorium on large-scale solar farming. Finalized committee work on a Solar Law.
- Welcomed the Durst Organization back and handled their withdrawal of the NND in favor of a new healthy life-style development. Hired a planner paid by them to represent us as they worked all year to understand our zoning and come up with a new plan. The new design is predicted to be coming soon.
- Wrote a Fund Balance Policy
- Wrote a social media policy
- Updated Health Benefits Policy, saving over $17,000 in yearly costs
- Re-instated the Ethics Board
- Developed a renovation plan with a Town Beautification committee for the Town Park and began that work
- Instituted a Hometown Heroes project which will be ongoing, hanging flags to commemorate those from Pine Plains who have served in the Armed Forces
- Bought 12 N Main to add to the property at 8 N Main so that the town would own a significant parcel of land in its hamlet for future development, perhaps into a new Town Hall.
- Held a safe and successful camp for Pine Plains children during the pandemic and kept numerous sports programs alive and safe throughout the year.
- Launched a Broadband Committee to investigate how the Town can become fully served by high-speed internet.
- Launched Police Reform and Modernization effort with the State and County, creating a Stakeholders Committee on policing in the town and began the task of creating a full and up-to-date Police Policy for Pine Plains with the help of our own officers.
- Wrote numerous Position Papers on current projects the Town has underway, explaining their genesis and where we are in the process.
- Submitted road speed reduction requests to the State for 4 roads as a start, and await their response.
- Made a deal with Central Hudson for tree removals in cemeteries in return for access to their lines through town property, again saving us a few thousand dollars.
- Partnered with the High School to give community service to teenagers in Mr. Schoonmaker’s Civics class.
- Enacted Family ID. A service for reaching those who sign up via texts for use in emergencies. It is now time to sign up!
- Held our annual Town Cleanup Day.
- Managed countless repairs to town buildings and infrastructure.
- Promoted the Census2020
- Wrote an Emergency Action Plan, still in process, to codify actions to be taken in the event of the kind of emergency this pandemic turned out to be.
- Supported the upkeep and study of Stissing Lake.
- Safely opened up the Community Center to programs for the disabled which lost their spaces during the pandemic.
- Re-opened after the initial shut-down due to Covid-19 with all-new protocols and constant vigilance to keep the virus from spreading in Pine Plains.
- Hired the same planner we worked with on our Comprehensive Plan Update to help us with our 2021 Zoning Review.
- Helped write a CDBG Grant for one of our food pantries which we won in December, so that they can expand as a result of Covid.
- Wrote 52 newsletters to the townspeople.
All November and December, those newsletters carried thank-yous to the many, many people running food pantries, donating money and food, sewing masks, and going out of their ways to help people in need, as well as serve on Boards and serve the town so well as employees. We have an elite Police Department now, and a highly competent Highway crew. One family stepped up to raise money to give to waitresses and food workers when the pandemic first hit and everything had to be shut down. And a wonderful 14-year-old launched her own campaign to help those out of work, raising more than $1500 all on her own. Maybe most importantly for this year, people took the request to wear masks seriously and we kept our numbers low throughout this very dangerous and challenging time. Thank you to all who were a part of Pine Plains at this moment in our history. Because your efforts are historic.
Delivered 1.7.2021 at the Re-Organization Meeting