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