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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