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!
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:
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!
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 email@example.com
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.