Tag: Dear Pine Plains

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

 

 

 

Dear Pine Plains 6.12.2020

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6.12.2020
Dear Pine Plains,

Phase 2 means outdoor dining can take place at area restaurants, and the barber shop is open by appointment! (hint hint) Much of the work of area businesses this past few months has been in the realm of creating safe spaces for people to return to. Here at Town Hall, we are constructing plexiglas barriers for the Town Clerk and Assessor. Town Hall is open, just knock and put on your mask!

Local citizens in collaboration with area churches are holding a Non-Partisan Gathering for Racial Justice Sunday June 14th at 4pm behind the Clock Tower and Stissing House. Coach Jim Jackson, Pastor Ryan Larkin and County Legislator Gregg Pulver will be speaking. As you know, this is now allowable because we are in Phase 2. Before this, it would not have been.

It has been a quiet week, and since there are no grants to write this year (yet, I hope) I spent the week working on a series of White Papers (papers which explain things like the history of a project) about commonly asked questions in Pine Plains. What is the Durst Project? Why are we purchasing 8 and 12 N. Main Street? Why do we maintain a Town Police Force? The idea for this came from the mighty mind of our Planning Board Chairperson, Michael Stabile. Once completed, these papers will be up on their own Page on our website at www.pineplains-ny.gov where anyone can peruse and learn from them. So I thought I would give you a few highlights, just so you know what you will soon find there:

On the Durst Project:
 Q: What is the Durst Organization Hudson Valley Development project?
A: The Durst Organization plans to develop a 2,700-acre site in the towns of Pine Plains and Milan.  The company is exploring a sustainable hotel and residential resort concept for this property. The company believes that the “beautiful landscape and rural character of the Project site provides a unique setting to create a master-planned resort community that is both respectful of the natural environment and compatible with the character of Pine Plains and Milan.”
Q: What is the Durst Organization?  
The Durst Organization is one of the oldest family-run commercial and residential real estate companies in New York. Established in 1915, the company is owned and operated by the third generation of the Durst family. Members of the Durst Family have owned homes in Pine Plains for over [30] years.  In addition, The Durst Organization is a business partner in McEnroe Organic Farm in our neighboring Town of Millerton. This project is being spearheaded by Alexander Durst, the Principal and Chief Development Officer of the company, and a member of the fourth generation of the Durst real estate family.
The rest of the paper will include a timeline of the history of the project in town and a summation of where it is now.

On our Town Police Force:
Q: Why do we maintain our own police force in a small town like Pine Plains?
A: There are many good reasons:

  1. The Town Board feels that community policing by people who live in the community is just better for a small town. A good relationship between the police and their constituents is vital to the security and well-being of the town. 3 of 5 of our police not only live here but went to school here and have children in the schools here. All have a vested interest in the community.
  2. A town force is under the oversight of the Town Board. An ethical Town Board therefore has a lot of power over how town police conduct themselves, and can influence that.
  3. Having police in town makes sense for the kinds of crimes we have. Waiting for a sheriff/trooper to arrive can be fatal.
  4. It saves the Town a great deal of money.

The rest of the paper will outline what different agencies actually do and the cost breakdown for outside policing.

On the purchase of 8 and 12 N. Main Street:
Q2: Why now?
A:  The opportunity arose.  The property at 8 North Main Street came up for sale in 2018 and the Town purchased it in August of 2019.  The property at 12 North Main Street came up for sale in October of 2019. Since number 12 North Main is right next door to Number 8 and both are immediately next to an existing parking lot and the historical Graham-Brush House, as well as a mere 50 feet from the hamlet’s main intersection, the Town Board recognized this rare opportunity and began purchase negotiations.
Q3: Is the purchase of 12 North Main a fair deal?  Isn’t it owned by a related party?
A: Yes, it is a very fair deal.  The Town negotiated the final purchase price of 12 North Main at 50% less than asking price.  Moreover, the Town negotiated an extremely low interest rate (2%) from a local bank in order to help pay for removal of the existing structure. The low interest rate means that the bank has great confidence in Pine Plains, its goals, and its strategies to achieve those goals.

Number 12 North Main is currently owned by a relative of our Town Attorney.  In order to safeguard the Town’s interest, the Town is represented in this purchase by Gary Murphy, Esq. instead of by the Town Attorney.  In addition, the fact that we are buying it at half its listed price (and for less than we paid for 8 North Main), and the fact that a reputable bank gave us such a low interest rate, indicate that this is a very good deal for the Town.

The rest of the Paper will address more questions around the purchase.

These are just a few highlights of what is to come. Stay tuned, Pine Plains!
Darrah Cloud

 

Dear Pine Plains 5.15.2020

 

 

 

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5.15.2020

Dear Pine Plains,

This letter will start out talking about some heroic gestures townspeople have made in the midst of this pandemic, which deserve to be broadcast. The new owners of the old library organized a fundraiser for restaurant workers out of work here in town, and raised over $25,000 with the help of 80 citizens here. People gave $25 and people gave much more. The checks were cut this week and are being distributed to the full and part-time workers designated by their employers.

Our second hero is 14-year-old Paige Arent, who, all on her own, raised the money to help people on unemployment with 15 grocery cards worth $100 each. She is starting her distribution soon. Paige used her free time during the pandemic to do a great thing for people here, and she is the best of the best in Pine Plains. It is people like her who make this place what it is. She follows a great tradition of giving in this small town, and I want to publicly thank her here, as I will at the next Town Board meeting.

I would also like to extend our condolences to the Hegarty family, who lost their son Danny last week to cancer. He was 18, and we have all followed his struggle with leukemia for many years. He too was a hero, enduring many years of struggle. He was a friend to many kids here in town, and the subject of many a fundraiser here. We are so sorry to lose him.

We continue to monitor the County’s progress towards re-opening businesses. Although the PAUSE has now been extended to June 13th, the metrics for re-opening continue to build here. We have as of this writing reached 5 of the 7 metrics. We still lag behind in number of deaths and hospitalizations. This is why wearing a mask is so important—not only is it a sign of respect for others whose health might be compromised, it is a way to keep the spread of infection down and for speeding up therefore the re-opening of the County. If you see someone in a store or restaurant refusing to wear a mask, you have every right to say something, or to leave and not shop there.

Phase 1 begins Monday: the resumption of Construction (all kinds), Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing and Hunting, Curbside pickup of retail items in store, Manufacturing and Wholesale Trade. For construction, the Guidelines are these: Building Equipment and Finishing Contractors, Foundation, Structure and Building Exterior Contractors, Highway, Street and Bridge Construction, Land Subdivision, Nonresidential Building Construction, Residential Building Construction and Utility System Construction.
NOT OPEN YET: Phase 2: Professional Services, Retail, Administrative Support, Real Estate/Rentals and Leasing; Phase 3: Restaurants/Food Services dining-in; Phase 4: Arts/Entertainment/Recreation and Education.

Hopefully, every 2 weeks another phase will open, but unless we get our metrics down, we will not be allowed. Remember when that boy in the back of the class misbehaved and the whole class got punished? It’s kind of like that. Pine Plains is not immune from the virus. And any uptick will shut everything down again. Check out the whole process at: https://forward.ny.gov/industries-reopening-phase

The Durst Organization came to the Planning Board this week (LIVE on YouTube and recorded there) and presented their pre-sketch plan on the conservation easements. A lively and informative discussion took place, and I hope you will look at the meeting and learn what’s going on.  https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC0Mq6XtGozf20YyvnEzVeRA

As our ability to begin physical projects resumes, look for the Town Park to begin renovation. This project has been in the works since Edward Kinsser passed away leaving a legacy to the Town of $25,000, which the Board designated for renovating the Park as a memorial both to him and to others who’ve given much to the Town. The committee tasked with the design and implementation of this is led by Vikki Soracco, Thayer Durrell and Carl Baden. The first step was to take down a beloved pine tree that got too big for the park and was overwhelming the space and the foundation of the building beside it. We look forward to creating a space where people will want to gather to sit and talk, play chess, and admire the hamlet.

Stay masked, Pine Plains, and stay well.
Darrah Cloud

 

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Town of Pine Plains · Route 199 · Pine Plains, Ny 12567 · USA

Dear Pine Plains 5.8.2020

5.8.2020

Dear Pine Plains,

As the numbers of infected people rise in the rest of the country, New York is seeing a plateau, which does not mean that the numbers are dropping, or that the virus is going away, but rather that more people are being tested and as we go down the other side of the peak, we will probably lose just as many people, if we remain in lockdown. Yet, all the Towns are in deep discussion about re-opening businesses and services. Here is a link to explain the biology of the virus, and why this is so challenging:

https://erinbromage.wixsite.com/covid19/post/the-risks-know-them-avoid-them

On Wednesday, we discussed how to restore municipal offices to past working order to begin May 18th. All Towns have submitted their plans to the County Executive, and we await advice and new ideas as we share our own. As regards Pine Plains, what was put in place on March 16th will largely continue. The door at Town Hall will remain locked. You can call ahead and make an appointment with the Town Clerk, Tax Collector, Assessors, Town Supervisor, and we will instruct you as to how to come by. The Town Clerk will be able to help people through her “walk-up” window on the side of the building. Masks must be worn in order to come into the building—no exceptions—and strict cleaning measures are underway.

This first phase of re-opening will also involve construction, as long as PPE is worn and social distancing adhered to. Projects deemed non-essential will be allowed to resume. If you own a business in Town and are confused about what restrictions will be in place when you are allowed to open, please call us. The County has a website which I have spoken about here before called the Dutchess County Business News Network or BNN which is incredibly valuable in keeping everyone informed, but know that the orders are changing almost daily. Whereas we really want to re-open we also really do not want to watch this illness flare up again. New numbers for the County will be out today after what they called a “data dump” yesterday which they had to sift through.

Whether we are able to open Camp this year or not is still in question, but Camp Director Jen Chase is planning for it should that happen, and along with Rec Director Mike Cooper is looking for alternatives in the event that we can’t. Please let us know how you feel about the possibility of Camp: would you send your kids, do you use/need camp for daycare, what are your fears and ideas about it… They would like to know. Ultimately, whatever we plan, we will all have to be prepared to shut it down in the event that numbers spike back up.

All week, we have been prepping for the Planning Board Meeting on May 13th at 7:30pm with the Durst Organization, which will be viewable on YouTube, at Town of Pine Plains. The Food Locker is open this Saturday, but Willow Roots will not distribute this week. Birthday celebration Truck Parades will continue throughout the lockdown, and you can schedule a drive-by by calling Councilman Matt Zick at 845-705-5533. Signs are up on lawns all over town as our high school seniors near graduation, asking folks to honk to let them know you’re out there cheering for them. I personally love driving by the electric sign at the high school every year which shows all the colleges the kids are off to. I hope we can all keep their spirits up in this difficult time, when they have missed so much of their last year.

So honk loudly, Pine Plains!

Darrah Cloud

 

 

 

Dear Pine Plains 5.1.2020

Dear Pine Plains,

First of all, let’s celebrate some good news. The County call I was on yesterday was all about re-opening Dutchess County businesses. The State has re-examined our location—along with Ulster and Orange Counties—as a hybrid between upstate and downstate, and as such deemed us “upstate” which will allow us to open sooner than Westchester and New York City. This opening will be a roll-out: slow but sure. It will take months. We were told to closely monitor executive orders from both the Governor and the County Executive, as changes may occur hourly, and may contradict what came before. This was the case when we shut down, so we are prepared to be vigilant here. I have been asked to be on a committee of Mayors and Supervisors to advise the County Executive on ideas for opening while keeping people safe in northeast Dutchess. We will be meeting daily to help design the roll-out. One idea has been to bring back outdoor dining as a way to help restaurants deal with the predicted 50% capacity rule that will be ordered. The extra tables under a tent/on a porch might help their sales quotient. Our own pharmacist Nasir Mahmood is serving on a County committee to bring testing to local pharmacies, with a prescription. The main problem is the availability of the actual tests. If you have ideas around opening things up in Pine Plains/Northeast safely, please call me at my office or write me there. 518-398-8600 ex 1/supervisor@pineplains-ny.gov

The rates of infection are going down, albeit slowly, and spring is beautiful. Nurses and medical personnel, as well as people with birthdays, will be celebrated by drive-bys this week, a fine procession of police, fire and highway vehicles. Councilman Matt Zick is one volunteer you can contact to set this up at 845-705-5533.

Members of the Presbyterian Church and others are still making masks, and they can be found behind the church and out at Town Hall.

New entrepreneurs in town, the Brimers, who bought the Old Library, have a company called Industry Standard and are spearheading a drive to raise money for unemployed wait staffs at all our restaurants. Their message: The team at Industry Standard — Matthew, Whitney, and Ben (the family that is renovating the Old Library at the center of town) — is organizing a community effort to raise funds to support our wonderful Pine Plains restaurants and their hardworking employees during this difficult time. The Industry Standard team is taking care of distributing funds to the restaurants — but we need your contributions to make the magic happen. Due to the generosity of Pine Plains residents, we are able to match all donations 1:1. So for every $100 you contribute, local donors will chip in another $100, bringing your impact to $200.

It is easy for anyone to contribute securely online via credit card. If you can, please donate whatever you are able to here: https://www.gofundme.com/f/pineplains

Tax Grievance Day has been set for May 26th. Don’t be shy about bringing your evidential papers to our assessors if you think your assessment is too high. (Remember: a higher assessment does not mean your taxes will go up!) If they can’t do anything for you, the Grievance Committee is the place to take your case. Make an appointment at 518-398-8600 ex216 ASAP.

And finally, to that end, if you fill out the Census2020, you will be helping the town directly with funding from both the State and Federal levels. The more citizens we have, the more funding we qualify for. So please, even if you did not receive a card in the mail, because you have a P.O. Box, you can go online to Census2020.com and fill out your census by clicking on the link that says “Don’t have a number”. The system is easy to use and helpful. You can also always call Town Hall for help. We will be back in the office 5 days a week, 7:30am-3:30pm on Monday the 4th of May ready to help. The doors will still be locked to control traffic inside, and masks will be necessary to gain entrance.

When we are terrified, no one can tell us not to be, no matter how hard they try, especially if we have good reasons to be terrified: like falling from the ledge we are standing on, or failing a test that would change our lives, or losing our homes. Now we are terrified of just leaving our homes, of hugging our own relatives, of shopping in our favorite stores, the result of the early stages of a global pandemic; most of us have made it, many, many of us have not. We all respond to terror differently, but in general, it can either energize us or shut us down, disabling our thinking. In reaction mode, terror is…well, terrifying in and of itself. And when we fall into reaction mode, we often say things we don’t mean, we often lash out, and we often make things worse. It is time to start taking care of ourselves and others here in town so that we don’t fall into this trap. Sometimes there is no way out.

Take care of yourselves, Pine Plains. We will get through this. As Marcus Molinaro says, we are all in this together.

Darrah Cloud

 

 

 

Dear Pine Plains 4.24.2020

Dear Pine Plains,

The past few weeks have been tough on everyone. But resilient Pine Plains has really made an effort to wear masks and gloves while out shopping, patronize our local restaurants so that they stay open, and stay home! It has been hard on the kids not to see their friends, hard on parents out of work, or working from home, hard on essential workers, many of whom come from Pine Plains. That tells you a lot about our town. I get on calls with the County Executive twice a week with all the mayors and supervisors, and this week’s call was all about how slowly the state will open again, what to prepare for, and what to handle as regards things that will not happen as usual.

Many of these things are very disappointing: we will most likely be unable to hold our annual Memorial Day Parade the way we are used to holding it. Stay tuned here for updates on this as we figure out what we can do and how to do it. Camp may not take place and the beach may not open. Jen Chase, camp and beach director, is preparing as if everything is normal, just in case, so that we can jump in and make it happen, but we are being told not to count on it. The courts have gone online, using virtual arraignments, and many cases are adjourned now until May 30.

The good news is that the numbers are holding steady for the first time as most people get tested, and active cases in town go down as people recover. Spring has arrived and it has never been more beautiful. (I say this every year, to the dog). Local farms are planting and preparing for CSA delivery, and the abundance of food in our area has never been more welcome or essential or obvious as the main business around Pine Plains, well worth all our efforts to protect it.

This week, we received the first part of a submission for a development at the old Carvel estate on the west side of town from the Durst Organization. The Planning Board is going over it with our new planners, and the next Planning Board meeting on May 13th will take a look at this. You can access this meeting most probably on YouTube at our Town of Pine Plains site, LIVE. It will also be recorded.

ZOOM has allowed us to broadcast all public town meetings to a wider audience, both a blessing and a curse. Whereas it is wonderful to reach more people, many don’t understand that we cannot address immediately comments posted in real time. There is a comment period written into every board meeting (for Town Board) and if we can capture any, we will. If not, we gather them after the meeting and address them at the next meeting.

It has been stressful trying to run town government at a time when people are quarantined and feel unable to get out and be in touch. Many projects the town board has been working on for the last 2 years are coming to the fore, and we have kept them going. But that means that our decisions of the past seem like a surprise if you haven’t followed the progression of decisions we have made all along to get to this point. Two things I want to mention here: the old pine tree coming down in the town park, and the purchase of 12 N. Main to create a lot big enough for a new Town Hall (some day!)

More than a year ago, a man named Edward Kinsser died and left the town $25,000. The board decided to use that money to renovate the town park. Many people voiced their opinions, a committee was formed to design the park, and 2 arborists came in to look at the big tree. It was determined that it had sustained damage in a storm that would someday soon bring it down, and that it had grown too big for the space it was in. We made the tough decision to take it down knowing it would be replaced by something chosen by the committee that would not grow so big. It was imperative to take it down before it fell on its own, but also in spring so that the committee could begin the work on the park this summer. This was scheduled long before COVID-19.

The purchase of 12 N. Main has also long been in the works. The Comprehensive Plan and its recently completed Update call for Town Hall to be brought back into town. When opportunities arise to fulfill directives like this, it is wise to grab them, and that is just what happened here. The owners of both 8 and 12 N. Main decided to sell, and that location would bring Town Hall to a spot where it would intersect with the Graham-Brush House, our historic society’s home, as well as our municipal parking lot. Both lots are needed to address the space concerns we’ve had ever since we moved Town Hall out of town. Our assessors are in a trailer. Our court and police are not that easy to get to. And voting without a car is impossible.

Many many people are working tirelessly in town to feed those without jobs and food right now, to assemble help for people out of work, to mow the lawns of their neighbors and keep repairs going. The Fire Department has now partnered with the Highway Department to drive by the homes of those with birthdays, so look for parades of big trucks this weekend again, and until this crisis is over.

And our enormous thanks to everyone in town who is an “essential” worker for going in to work in these conditions, to maintain life and to save lives. You make the Town of Pine Plains a better place to live.

Stay proud, Pine Plains!

Darrah Cloud

Situation Update

There are now 2,389 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Dutchess County, 35 fatalities, as well as 373 individuals who have recovered. There are over 257,000 cases statewide with over 15,000 hospitalizations and 15,302 fatalities. As always, we encourage you to visit our dashboard for the most up to date, verified, local data. Our dashboard has been visited over 400,000 times since it began.

Informational Flyers & Posters

Checkout our flyer which provides important tips to protect yourself and others as well as information on testing and how to get help. The flyer is available in both English and Spanish. We encourage you to share this information with your constituencies. We have also created two posters that should be hung in public locations to help keep residents informed about how to stay safe and how to get help.

Personal Protective Equipment Distributions

Dutchess County Emergency Response has been working diligently to procure and distribute critical supplies and personal protective equipment to front line healthcare professionals and first responders throughout the County. We have already distributed more than 152,000 surgical masks, over 41,000 N-95 respirators, 5,000 face shields and many more supplies such as gowns, hand sanitizer, germicidal wipes, gloves and bottled water. Individuals or organizations interested in donating N-95 respirator masks, surgical masks, fabric masks, gowns, gloves or disinfecting wipes should contact the Donations Coordinator Tijuana Vann: tvann@dutchessny.gov. Healthcare and first responder agencies unable to obtain personal protective equipment may request emergency PPE at: COVIDsupplyrequest@dutchessny.gov

Dutchess County Emergency Management will be making fabric face coverings, manufactured by Hanes, available to local towns, villages, and cities. Each interested municipality will be provided two boxes, containing (100) 5-packs of washable fabric masks, in each box. The intent is for one box to be used to distribute the 5 packs to municipal staff members for use while working and for use outside of work, when unable to social distance. The other box can be used to distribute to local businesses and organizations, within the municipality, for essential staff to use  (i.e. grocery stores, convenience stores, gas stations, food delivery, etc.). Additional boxes can be requested for additional distribution, as needed. These fabric face coverings can be used in place of surgical masks. (N-95 respirators are still recommended for use in any potential COVID environment.)  Interested municipalities should email COVIDsupplyrequest@dutchessny.gov to arrange for pick up.

NY on Pause Update

  • Governor Cuomo announced some parts of the state would be allowed to begin offering elective surgeries again. Dutchess County was listed as one of the counties that cannot begin elective surgeries at this time. We are working with local area hospitals to communicate to the state regarding the ability to take on some of these services and importance of doing so without delay.
  • The Governor has also reiterated that he would look at reopening the state on a regional basis. The areas would be reopened based on what the spread, hospitalization, and containment efforts are for the region, along with the testing capacity of the region to test and trace positive cases. Dutchess County is actively tracking these and many other important metrics that will be used to determine when and how the County can be reopened.
  • Updated guidance has been provided regarding restrictions on golf courses and marinas. See item number 13 in the State’s Guidancefor determining whether a business enterprise is subject to a workforce reduction under recent executive orders.

Funds Awarded through ‘Dutchess Responds’ Fund

In partnership with the Community foundation, we have awarded $32,400 from the Dutchess Responds Fund to aid County residents in need of critical support as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. These funds have been awarded to community organizations that support to two priorities: Front Line and Service-Challenged needs. This second round of Dutchess Responds Fund grants follows the initial round of grants, announced earlier this month, which awarded more than $50,000 in funds to shore up the feeding programs throughout Dutchess County, with a special emphasis on fresh produce and distribution.

Grant applications will be accepted from non-profit organizations on a rolling basis and are available online through the Community Foundations’ website. More information can be obtained by contacting Community Foundations at (845) 452-3077 or grants@communityfoundationshv.org.

National Volunteer Week

It’s National Volunteer Week! Huge shout out to our MRC Volunteers who have been invaluable during this Coronavirus pandemic. Thank you to all the volunteers throughout our community who are working diligently throughout this crisis to support those in need. Visit our website to learn more about the Dutchess County Medical Reserve Corps, or call the COVID-19 Hotline at 845-486-3555 and select option 7 to volunteer.

Business Community Update

Businesses are encouraged to visit DutchessBNN.com to sign up for daily emails and access important information and resources.

  • A FAQ document was released by Empire State Development regarding how Code Enforcement Officers should handle all of the changes coming down from Albany, it can be found HERE.
  • The Dutchess Business Notification Network and the Dutchess County Regional Chamber of Commerceinvite you to participate in a virtual business town hall conversation on April 24th at 1pm with State Senator Sue Serino, State Assemblyman Lalor, and State Assemblyman Jacobson. The format will open with remarks and end with a Q&A session. Register HERE.
  • The State Comptroller’s office has released a “COVID-19 Financial Survival Toolkit for New Yorkers.” It can be found HERE.
  • The Dutchess County Regional Chamber of Commerce is encouraging individuals to post updates about their business, regardless if the business is a member of not, onto the Member News portion of their website. If you are a member of the Chamber and want to post, click HERE. If you are not a member and want to post, click

We Will Fly Again

We’d like to extend our eternal gratitude to first responders, healthcare workers and all those who have stopped to help someone out just because they needed a hand during these uncertain times. Their courage and selflessness are a beacon of hope for us all. And it reminds us that resilience is a part of our county’s DNA and that ours is a history full of stories that prove our ability to overcome anything together. Please watch this video to see the inspiring and beautiful message from our own Dutchess Tourism’s new #WeWillFlyAgain Campaign.

As always, we encourage you to visit dutchessny.gov for the most up to date information. Our COVID-19 Information Hotline is available 7 days a week to help answer questions and provide assistance at 845-486-3555.

 

 

 

 

 

Dear Pine Plains 3.13.2020

Dear Pine Plains,

The many events I had in the line-up to post for this weekend have dissolved before my eyes as concerns and mandates about the coronavirus have come down from County and State Government. Our Office of Emergency Management in Dutchess County is a thorough, deliberative body of people whose main focus is on your safety and well-being. The Town relies on them to give guidance in what to say to our community and how to manage events. The spread of this unknown virus is something to handle knowledgeably, with a modicum of hysteria. In particular, it is important not to politicize it; to take it very seriously, to listen to the advice of those on the front lines of the fight against this disease, and to take the measures they recommend without becoming frightened. Fear makes us say mean things to each other. This is no time for that.

I have thought about 9/11 a lot during the last 36 hours. At least during that time, we had gatherings: music, plays, church events went on and they were important to our emotional survival. We were not quarantined in our homes but out in our communities looking for solace, looking to help. I think that is basic human instinct of the best kind, yet now we are prevented from even that as we are told to stay home, go nowhere, touch no one. Many of our kids are grieving the postponement of sports events and the high school play, on which they worked long hours and had high hopes. And their parents grieve for them. What to do?

Maybe the answer is in finding ways to be in touch that are new to us. In taking advantage of the time together by playing board games, reading, watching movies, learning something new. Digging in the back yard, in this glorious weather. Getting our hands into soil. Play your own music. Call old friends on the telephone, whom you haven’t spoken to in years. Read the Town of Pine Plains website!!

I am working on a new play about the Berlin Olympics at a theatre out in New Jersey, and staying in the guest house of a senior living center called Heath Village. It is an amazing place. The housing is single-story duplexes and triplexes mainly, scattered along a hill joined by walking trails through old pines. They have a pool and tennis court, and the architecture is sort of modern farmhouse. The best part: they have a pre-school on the property which uses volunteers from the residences on their Board and in their classrooms. I confess I wish this for our area. I think it would be awesome. They have numerous financial packages for residents, so that the income level is mixed, and are now building a real nursing care facility nearby. It employs many people. And it is a beautiful place. I am taking pictures…

Town Hall is open, the Town Board is working hard to choose an engineer for our upcoming Sewer Feasibility Study, the Durst Organization is home working on their application for the new development, and the air has cleared for the first time in decades in Beijing, China because no one is driving much. There are good outcomes to this moment in history.

Maybe the best advice for the coming weeks until the virus subsides—which most scientists believe it will, at least for this year—is to call before leaving the house to attend something. Small gatherings will go on. The history lecture at the Library on March 20th is cancelled. But the corned beef dinner at the Presbyterian church is still on. Get on Facebook—you can do it!—and read the Town of Pine Plains page for updates on the virus and ways of keeping it out of your life. Don’t think it won’t touch you—it will. We are all vulnerable to it, as are the people we love. Take it seriously, listen to the science, and stay informed. That is the best way to avoid both the virus and its accompanying panic.

Stay in touch, Pine Plains!

Darrah Cloud

Dear Pine Plains 2.21.2020

Dear Pine Plains,

This month was a month of many meetings. The first occurred on February 3rd, when we met with potential engineers for the Sewer Feasibility Study. We expected 3 or 4 to show up, and we got 14 from 10 different companies. On February 10th, we launched the Sewer Feasibility Study at a Community Meeting held at the Community Center. Over 40 people attended and received a power-point presentation by Candace Balmer, of RCAP Solutions, or Rural Community Assistance Partnership, a national network of nonprofit organizations working to ensure that rural communities have safe drinking water and sanitary waste disposal infrastructure. They manage projects in this realm for the USDA, the EPA, the Equal Housing Opportunity, Department of Housing and Urban Development, CDFI Fund and the Small Business Association. I gave the intro, and it’s all on Pine Plains Views on their website.

Stan Hirson filmed that meeting, as well as the two meetings this week with the Durst organization. They came to tell us that they are withdrawing the new Neighborhood Development plans to pursue a new concept focused on a healthy lifestyle and recreation resort with hiking and biking trails, an equestrian complex, substantial environmental conservation and connectivity to the Town. They want to promote Pine Plains as an outdoor destination and foster tourism and economic support for the town. The new project will need a Planning Board special permit, a new development plan will be submitted, and all new environment impact statements will be created. Thanks to Stan, you can all watch the meetings on www.pineplainsviews.com

At the Dutchess County Supervisors and Mayors Meeting this month I was elected as their rep to the Dutchess County Transportation Council as a voting member. I look forward to serving them and the Town of Pine Plains in this capacity. This is in addition to my appointment to the Community Development Council for Dutchess County by County Executive Molinaro. Due to our Town Board Meeting last night, I was unable to attend the State of the County address. We shared it on our Facebook page Pine Plains Town Hall as well as our website.

Scammers are at it again with calls to vulnerable people about their Social Security being suspended. If you know anyone who might be vulnerable to this, please let them know they can just hang up!

March 1st, John Ryan Larkin will be ordained at the First United Presbyterian Church, 3pm. All are invited, but an RSVP is appreciated to: dyan.wapnick@gmail.com A reception follows. We look forward to getting to know John who is following in the footsteps of Carol Miller, and is now a resident of Pine Plains.

Buy your tickets to Peter Pan from the Stissing Theatre Guild soon—the play runs March 13-15, with 2 matinees at 1:30 Saturday and Sunday, and starting at 7:30pm Friday and Saturday nights.

It’s a leap year this year! Take a leap, Pine Plains!

Darrah Cloud

 

 

 

Dear Pine Plains 1.24.2020

Dear Pine Plains,
Today I got a very nice letter from County Executive Marcus Molinaro, appointing me to the Dutchess County Community Development Advisory Committee. This committee works directly with Dutchess County Planning and helps towns in the County build and improve. I am honored and thrilled to be a part of this committee. Little do they know that I can rarely even find my cell phone…
The surveys for the Sewer Feasibility Study are going out this Monday in bulk. About 100 residents and businesses will receive a survey based on where they live. Along with the Survey, there is a cover letter explaining the need for wastewater treatment in small towns. I thought I would include it here in case you’d like to read it early on. When we revised the Comprehensive Plan this past year, we also sent out a survey, and many of the answers were delightfully delighted as to what people loved about the Town and where they want to see it go. In a nutshell, the majority said this: We like Pine Plains just the way it is—except we’d like it to be just a little better. That will take a lot of hard work on the part of our boards and citizens, but the groundwork for economic development anywhere in New York State is sound wastewater management. Without it, new business can’t come to town, old business can’t expand, and groundwater, and therefore wells, are at risk. People of modest means cannot open new businesses here because they can’t afford the expanded septic requirements over which the Department of Health rules. Read the letter at the end of this one for more information. There will be an informal information meeting at 7pm at the Community Center February 10th for anyone who has questions.
The Study is just that—a study. It is a gathering of information to discern how much a system might cost to build here, what kind of system might be best for our particular soil and land, and whether it truly is a feasible project for us to undertake. No referendum can take place on a project for which there is no information. Research is the mission of the Study. There are many new innovative ways to deal with wastewater, and the State and the County are strongly encouraging and supporting this, and making it a priority.
Tonight at 6:30 at the Library, the Little Nine Partners are holding a lecture on Pine Plains History and the Civil War. Come listen to our fascinating Town Historians as they talk about the people from Pine Plains who went to fight.
And finally, now is the time to begin saying good-bye to the pine tree in our town park. It has alas grown too big for where it is, and withstood too many storms that took down essential branches. Nelson Zayas will bless it before it comes down, and we will replace it with a new, smaller tree and a new Town Park as soon as the Beautification Committee gets going again in the spring. This tree has been a delight for many years, and offers to make furniture and other items from its wood have come in from local artisans. We will remember it.
Hug a tree in its honor, Pine Plains!
Darrah Cloud
Dear Residents and Business Owners,
Over the years, the people of Pine Plains have expressed interest in the Town building a wastewater
management system to replace aging septics and under-sized septic systems to allow for more
business and residential possibilities in our downtown area while at the same time maintaining the
rural character of the town. Currently, most businesses are operating with systems that are too small
for any kind of expanded use, or varied use. The Department of Health has changed its rules about
the size of systems and now requires 100% expansion room for any new system, or renovated
system. This means you must have 2 times the available property space to build/rebuild a system.
Many of our properties in the downtown have no room for systems big enough to serve things like
new or expanded restaurants, a dog groomer, or any business that requires water usage or serves
more than 12 people. (Example: El Guacamole was told to take out seating which had been in their
building for years—their system was deemed too small for more than 12 people. They had to tear
out seating, and were not allowed to put tables on their porch.) The town has recently missed out on
some wonderful new businesses coming in because of this limitation. Lack of space for septic
systems has also prevented the locating of multi-unit residential buildings in the hamlet.
Perhaps most importantly, old systems that do not treat wastewater adequately shed water with the
medicines people take as well as poisons they send into their sinks into our groundwater, which
affects the safety of well water. Many people in Pine Plains are still using wells for drinking water.
We are now in the research phase of enquiry into a project like this. This system might be a
conventional sewer system or it might be a community septic system; it might be large or small. It
might be located in one area or comprised of 2 or 3 small sites. In order to determine what
innovative ideas are out there for building something of this type here, and where it might be best to
locate such a system, what that would cost, and what grants and low-interest loan opportunities
there are for us to build it, we are conducting a Sewer Feasibility Study. This study is being funded
with grant money received from Dutchess County and the NYS DEC.
Your participation in this survey is greatly appreciated. Results will be published upon its conclusion.
You are invited to an informal town-wide meeting on February 10th at 7pm at the Community
Center to discuss the possible project as well as to a later town-wide meeting to discuss
survey results. Look for that date on Facebook/newsletter/posters/Millbrook News.
The Pine Plains Town Board

Dear Pine Plains 10.26.2019

Dear Pine Plains,

The word of the week this week is “networking”. In building affordable housing, to be exact. I have been attending the Land Use Law Center’s Affordable Housing Training, and last Friday we separated into tables of 6 and worked on developing a plot of open land in a particular community. I got to be at the rural table. We had a lot of fun mandating that the developer build sidewalks and improve a road, put in extra parking and use an existent old building to create new affordable housing at an old school grounds. It gave me entry into planner thinking, but also into how to create affordable housing someone might actually want to live in.

This Friday, I attended an Affordable Housing Summit led by Didi Barrett which involved a possible network of 4 towns, Pine Plains, Ancram, Copake and Northeast, in a discussion with the State Finance Department and 4 builders. The Durst Organization was there. We talked about the zoning required, and in-fill housing, which would put to use small open tracts of land in the hamlet. I know I have spoken about this before, but this forum put us all in a room for the first time in a way that made it clear that we might form a coalition to build more cheaply. The design for the homes is flexible, but the idea is to build passive energy homes which cost $125/month in utilities—that’s right, $125/month. This makes home ownership possible for people with good incomes, but who don’t have enough left over for the utilities after the mortgage payment. These are 2-family homes, and 2 of them would bring 4 families into Pine Plains to help lower taxes. In addition, it would help the surrounding farmland from being cut-up and be better for the environment, because Pine Plains is walkable and people wouldn’t have to get into their cars to come shop.

Our assignment: for this to work, each town needs to update their zoning and find 2 lots. If you have land you could donate (in town) please let me know; if you have a lot that might go for relatively little, let me know. If you like/hate this idea, let me know. These homes are called “zero-lot-line” homes, meaning they have a shared wall, but the homeowner would own his/her own land around it. You can go see a prototype in Ancramdale across from the Post Office, and ask for a tour. Theirs is being built by Habitat for Humanity. (Numerous restrictions for income level.) Ours would not have to be if we can make this coalition work.

I am working on new rental housing as well, and will update you on that when more information is at hand.

Tonight, the Library is hosting its Silent Auction at the Stissing House. If you have never been to one of these, here’s the scoop: you get a glass of wine and walk around tables and look at what’s being offered, then bid on something. You bid ridiculous amounts of money for simple things. You meet new people and you help the Library enormously because all the money you pay for things goes right to them, mainly for new programming and a new helper. Our library has become the center of culture here in town for all things educational, and it is constantly hopping with activities for children and adults alike. In this age when lots of people love to say that libraries are dead because everyone is on the internet, our library keeps community alive by inviting everyone to gather and pursue new interests. It will also be a center for the 2020 Census, with computers available for people who don’t have them to fill out their Census forms.

BRAVO to all who created and participated and attended the Cemetery Tours. They were even better than last year! When Mark Jackson came out of Potter’s Field with his guitar, I cried. And for those who wanted to know what that hymn was sung in the show, it is How Can I Keep from Singing

Pine Plains has such a beautiful history. Even if you did not grow up here, it connects us all in the legacy of our land, our businesses, and our homes.

Stay connected, Pine Plains!

Darrah Cloud