I am sitting at Town Hall surrounded by 48 inch square canvasses and paint kits donated to 8 local teen artists who submitted plans for paintings to the new owners of the Old Library. These will be distributed by appointment to the artists. The project was launched by Matt Brimer, Ben and Whitney Falk as a way to fill the windows in the Old Library while it is under construction. Each teen whose work was chosen will receive a stipend of $500. Grateful appreciation to Matt et al for this project, as well as this: he has secured access for the entire Pine Plains community to free and heavily discounted online classes and workshops from his company, General Assembly. GA https://ga.co is a mission-driven adult vocational school he helped to found which offers a variety of career-focused training programs in technology, design, marketing, entrepreneurship, data analytics, and more. It has long been a dream of mine in particular to see adult education brought back to Pine Plains. This is one great step.
Here is where Pine Plains residents can find General Assembly’s catalog of upcoming online classes:
https://generalassemb.ly/education?where=online#catalog-results. They can use the special discount code lovepineplains at checkout to get 30% off the list price. (Some are already free of charge.)
And here is a set of completely free online classes from General Assembly that happen every Friday during the pandemic: https://generalassemb.ly/blog/free-fridays/
Today the Governor extended the emergency order another 2 weeks to the middle of May. Once again, I want to thank County Executive Molinaro for great leadership during this pandemic crisis. I have said this pretty much every week in my newsletter since the virus came to Dutchess County. The mandates he and the governor have set down have been extremely helpful in determining what steps to take here in Pine Plains. As of this morning, the count is 7 active cases of the virus in Pine Plains.
We shut down Town Hall on March 16th and began a system of staggered hours for employees here, so that few are in the building at the same time, yet the work continues. I come in when others are gone, and am as always available to talk on the phone or by email. I find personal interaction far more valuable and helpful than social media. You can address concerns in-depth, and if questions come up that I can’t personally answer, I can find out and get back to people, and I do. I am in the office every day of the week on average. As much as I am here, I am not in charge. The Town Board is made up of 5 people, all of us very different, with different skills and experience, and the eclectic nature of this Board is I think what makes us effective. No one person can make any decision affecting the Town, and over the past 2 years, almost all of our votes have been unanimous. When the pandemic spread to Dutchess County, we as a Board decided not to postpone meetings—which was suggested to us, in light of what is required to hold a meeting legally, and the enormous effort it would take to set up and learn the correct technology to do so—but to learn how to work this technology ourselves and meet. They can be seen LIVE on Facebook.
Hence, many of the projects the Town Board has been working on diligently for the past 2 years continue to move forward. This month, the Durst Organization has begun submitting the necessary information for their re-vamped development of a family healthy-lifestyle resort at the Carvel estate to the Planning Board. The Board decided to hire Erin Moore and her associates as the engineers who will conduct the sewer feasibility study for the Town, fully funded and encouraged by both the State and the County as core infrastructure for economic development. Given our excellent gravel bed here in the hamlet, we hope they will find an economical and innovative way for businesses to thrive here. We do not foresee any kind of typical sewer system at all, and have made that clear to our new engineers. They will look for alternative ways to accomplish what we need.
2020 taxes have been paid and the check is in. Bravo Eileen! I think people pay their taxes on time in Pine Plains because they love coming in to talk to her. I opened a SWEEP account this year, so that I can keep our taxes in an account which makes interest while it sits there waiting to be spent. Our revenues will be down due to the pandemic, but due to the Board’s management of a healthy fund balance, we have a safety net for unprecedented historic emergencies, and we will get through the year fine.
We have received over 150 hand-made masks from some pretty incredible volunteers—Carole Godin, Hollie Bart, Joan Taylor and Sarah Miller—and distributed them to Town Police and all employees as well as our seniors and anyone else who came to Town Hall needing one. I personally drove masks to a number of people’s homes. They are all gone. I have to say that they are extremely stylish, so if you see someone sporting a really beautiful mask in town, one of these women probably made it. Now I know that a lot of you feel silly wearing a mask around, but it is really important as the virus peaks this week and next in Dutchess County that you protect not only yourself but the people you go near. The Governor has now mandated that everyone in a situation in which social distancing is impossible wear a mask, as well as all essential employees who serve the public. Employers have been charged with getting their workers the correct protective gear. In the words of County Executive Molinaro at his weekly Wednesday County-wide Facebook Meeting, “don’t be a jerk”. Wear a mask in public. As you probably know, Marc lost his own father this past week to the disease. You would be devastated if you gave the virus to someone you love, and they ended up in a hospital all alone to contend with some very extreme and frightening symptoms.
Thompson Pond and Stissing Mountain have remained open for people to hike. Sheriff’s Deputies, State Troopers and our own Town Police are patrolling the parking area and reminding people to social distance. They have told us that the majority of people there on weekends are family groups. We have not closed this area because our own townspeople have taken the virus seriously, and many are anxious and need to get outside. Enforcement is a problem, as the courts are shut down, but congregations of people for the purpose of parties or social gathering is currently against the law and punishable by a fine of up to $1000. New orders like this come down on an almost daily basis as the virus evolves and shows its ugly face in new ways and places, which makes dealing with these situations very difficult and stressful, but now easier with this legal backup.
And people in town are feeling that stress. This has been hard and it’s been frightening. Some are taking to Facebook to work out their anger and anxiety, others are staying home and sewing masks, and others are getting out to deliver groceries and food to those who can’t afford food or leave their homes. Numerous landscapers are mowing lawns for free. Many of us are home with children who can’t bear not seeing their friends, or who don’t understand what is happening, and have to do schoolwork we can’t comprehend ourselves. The Writers Group I run for the Library is writing about this moment, and the State Historical Society is compiling the stories of this rare and historic moment in time, so if you have one, no matter what your age, you can send it to our Little Nine Partners Historical Society, and they will see that it is archived along with their own accounts.
At the Town Board Workshop Meeting on Monday the 13th we discussed our decision to move forward with the purchase of 12 North Main as a way to acquire the land necessary for the building of a new Town Hall in the middle of town. Gregg Pulver told me that when the Town Board moved Town Hall out here 20 years ago or so, they planned to only be here for 2 years. They had always meant to be back in town where government would be accessible to more people, and that has been a focus of the original 2004 Comprehensive Plan as well as the Update completed in 2019. We have been talking about this as a Board for more than a year and a half. By buying both 8 and 12 North Main we will have the land to make this happen. The Town retained Gary Murphy in Millerton as the lawyer to represent us in this purchase. We plan to bond the purchase, which essentially spreads out the burden of the cost over many years, and right now, since rates are at historic lows, the cost of bonding would be essentially paid for by the interest revenue from our fund balance.
Finally, the Fire Department will come to your house to help you celebrate a child’s birthday. Call Matt Zick at 845-705-5533 to set it up. This will continue through around 5.15.2020 and takes place on weekends.
By now, all of us probably know someone who has the virus and is struggling to survive it. We all need to take a deep breath and be grateful that we can breathe. We will get through this. It will be over. What is important right now is that we keep it together for the sake of our parents and our children and the future here in Pine Plains.