Dear Pine Plains 12.25.20
Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukah (belated), and Bah Humbug,
I can think of no better topic for this short newsletter than to tell you what I am about to do as Town Supervisor: get on a phone call with Central Hudson and every single mayor and supervisor in their area of coverage to discuss the wind storm that took away power for 42,000 customers last night. In Dutchess County, Fishkill and Wappingers were the worst hit. Pine Plains lost power for about 304 households, and crews have been out since last night to restore power. Estimates are that all power will be restored by tomorrow, with most late today. Hospitals and care facilities take priority.
I want to tell you that since I got into office, Central Hudson had begun a strong community effort to stay in touch with all of us regarding power outages, availability of dry ice, and in general anything storm related. I get emails, I get calls from our Rep, Victor Narkaj, and I join the group calls. This has really created an incredible sense of unity in the Hudson Valley amongst all our towns and cities. We have gotten to know each other, respect each other, empathize with each other when an area is particularly hard hit, and help each other by loaning our Highway crews and equipment to crises. In my three years in office there have been many of these. (Restoration is under way. Central Hudson workers on all levels of the company are working on Christmas day.) It took this company and its new thinking to bring us together in this critical way, and I want everyone to know about it because it is so unusual, and so vital. It has made a huge difference to you whether you know it or not. And it has made the Hudson Valley a more unified, stronger, safer place to live.
So too, Pine Plains is experiencing a far greater unity in the work of many who have really stepped up to help and to bring people together. The Christmas dinner distribution at The Stissing House last Sunday is a fine example. The Stissing Center broadcast a group sing. The Garden Club has been out distributing food and help this past month, and our Council of Churches’ work on help for these things, so many that I think I might call it a trend towards community that has burgeoned here, though I know it was always here, at least in people’s hearts. But it is definitely re-energized. And that is my Christmas story for you this year. I hope you could at least Zoom with your relatives if not be with your “pod”.
We are in this together, Pine Plains!
Dear Pine Plains,
There are numerous dinners and music around town this weekend, but the highlight of Saturday night will be the lighting of the Stissing Mountain Fire Tower from 9-9:30pm. This event is to acknowledge the role that fire towers have played in the past in protecting us from forest fires, as well as acknowledging the men and women who served as lookouts in them, many of them as volunteers. Many towers across the state will be lighted as part of this observation promoted by the Forest Fire Lookout Association. Members of FOSL—Friends of Stissing Landmarks, those heroic folks who have preserved various spots around Pine Plains forever for access by the public—will do the lighting. They ask that you view it from afar, as “up close” is neither the best way to view it nor the safest due to the pandemic.
Look for the Survey from the Broadband Committee for internet availability in your area. It is imperative that everyone in town fill out this very simple survey. It will be coming to you here, via email, but also available on paper at the Library and various locations about town. Once again, we are looking to convince the state and federal government to fund broadband access for everyone here, and in order to do that we must show them that we do NOT have uniform access everywhere in town. This survey will be an important component of that. Check out last week’s newsletter for more on this.
We still need volunteers with pick-up trucks to help seniors with their junk for the annual Town Clean-Up Day on September 12th. Please call Alice at 518-398-8600 ex1. Items allowable for discarding are listed on our website, and the hours will be 8am to 3pm. The Town Board will be there all day too, to answer any questions you have or to take ideas, and the Census Lady will be there at a table to help those who have not yet filled out their Census. Vinnie Parliman and Sgt. John Hughes will also accept old cell phones to be donated to the Grace Smith House. It does not matter how old they are—they can be used.
After that, from 3pm to 5pm, everyone is invited to get on a Zoom call with the Town Board and members of Boards from Stanfordville, Millbrook and Millerton to discuss ideas for Police Reform. “Poughkeepsie, NY… To encourage public participation and provide transparency, Dutchess County’s Police Reform & Modernization Collaborative has launched a new website and announced a series of community forums. There will be six community forums, organized by geographic area, where community members will have a platform and opportunity to speak to those involved with police reform issues. Participants will be able to provide input on what reforms they believe should be enacted. Forums will be held via Zoom, will be two hours long, and American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters will be available for the hearing impaired. Registration is required to participate. To sign up for one of these forums, visit the new Police Reform & Modernization Website. The schedule of the forums for us is as follows:
- Saturday, Sept 12, 3-5pm – Town of Washington, including Village of Millbrook; Towns of Stanford, Pine Plains, and Amenia; Town of North East, including Village of Millerton.
- Saturday, Sept. 26, 3-5pm– Town of Rhinebeck, including Village of Rhinebeck; Town of Red Hook, including Villages of Red Hook and Tivoli; Towns of Milan and Clinton.
- The Collaborative will also conduct additional virtual forums in Spanish. Further information about dates and sign-up information about the Spanish language forums will be posted on the Police Reform & Modernization Collaborative’s webpage at DutchessNY.gov/PoliceForums.
- Those who would like to participate in the virtual forums, either by listening or offering commentary and feedback, must register prior to the event’s start time. Those who would like to speak will be given three minutes and priority will be given to those who live, work, volunteer, or worship in, or have a direct connection to, the municipality being discussed. Elected officials and police agency chiefs from across Dutchess County will listen to commentary being shared. Jody Miller, Chair of the Commission on Human Rights, said, “The Commission on Human Rights is committed to making sure everyone who wants to contribute ideas and feedback to this process is heard. We’re encouraging anyone who lives, works, worships, volunteers, has family in, or is connected to a municipality listed for a particular forum to sign-up at DutchessNY.gov/PoliceForums. We want people to share their specific ideas about police reform that will assist the County and municipalities with police agencies to develop their plans.”
- Individuals who are unable to attend their community’s forum will be able to watch recordings after the event on the County’s Police Reform & Modernization webpage.The new website will also feature a public comment form for those who would like to submit written testimony and ideas. The Police Reform & Modernization Collaborative’s webpage also features summaries of each workgroup’s meetings, news updates and other pertinent information regarding police reform measures.
We are fortunate in this town to have our own police force, most of whom grew up here, live here, and are raising families here. They do a fine job, supplemented by the State Troopers and Sheriffs. A uniform understanding of how we police in Pine Plains can only make all their work better. If you have ideas for reform, please attend.
And if you haven’t looked at the video of musical and theatrical acts at The Stissing Center, which was filmed as a fundraiser, please check it out at https://thestissingcenter.org/ I hope it makes you proud to have been a part of the building of this important venue in Pine Plains and of its future here. Just to remind you, whereas this is the hard work of a number of very committed and generous people in town, and was initiated as a dream of Jack and Irene Banning, for whom we are incredibly grateful, it only exists as a charitable organization which must raise its own funds for its completion. We are all a part of that future.
Look forward, Pine Plains!
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!