Tag: Supervisor’s Statement

Supervisor’s Statement 5.21.2020

Supervisor’s Statement 5.21.2020

Much of my time lately has been taken up in preparing for the Phase 1 re-opening of Dutchess County, whenever that can occur, preparing for the next phases which will involve our recreation program and local restaurants and businesses, and keeping our numerous projects going under significant difficulty.

To that end, I would like to talk here a moment about a document the Town Board received on April 26th via email purportedly being a petition to call a referendum for the purchase of 12 N. Main. As you know, we have been in a Permissive Referendum period since our last Board Meeting in which by unanimous vote, the Town Board approved the purchase of this property for the town’s use.

While we are very sympathetic at this time to the concerns implied by the document, it would have been wholly irresponsible to accept this document as a real legal petition necessitating the instigation of a referendum which is a very costly undertaking for a town. The document submitted to us did not contain a single address for any of the signees as is required by law. We determined that almost half of the names were of people who do not live in Pine Plains, and the Court ruled that the document did not even have a stated purpose. Given the fact that it contained no valid signatures—and mindful that we are in a time of stay-at-home orders due to the pandemic—we might have taken it more seriously had there been at least valid addresses given. As it was, some people only signed their first names. In order to take this document seriously, we unanimously determined to treat it as possibly valid, and hired an attorney to work with the County Court to determine that. The decision was delivered to us on Tuesday and here are the last 2 paragraphs:

“Understanding our present circumstance, it understandable that obtaining actual signatures may have been difficult for the respondent. However, the petition is deficient in more ways than lacking actual signatures. The respondent made very little effort to conform with the formalities of a petition, and specifically failed to articulate a purpose for the petition, so that the Town or anyone else would know why a referendum was wanted by the respondent or the residents.

Coupled with the lack of authentication of the signatories, demonstrating that the signatories are actual residents of the Town, who opposed the Resolution for the same reasons . . . . the respondent has made little effort to oppose this motion, [his] second chance to give a basis for the petition. It is submitted late, as a letter, and still fails to provide some statement of purpose and reasons for its failure to adhere to the protocols of filing a petition. His neglect to do so appears to have little to do with [him] not being an attorney . . . . In light of the foregoing, the respondent has failed to give this Court a basis to not invalidate its petition. There is no stated purpose behind the petition that warrants overlooking the technical defects of the petition, even during this health crisis.”

Moreover, if the Board had accepted the flawed document, and ran an expensive referendum, we would have exposed the Town to the certainty of costly lawsuits by other Town residents who do not want the expense of a referendum. Court papers would rightly argue that the Board has no right to conduct a referendum on a legally flawed petition and counsel has advised that the Town would likely lose any such lawsuit.

Accordingly, the purchases of the properties in question have been conducted by the Board in good faith, in full compliance with all applicable laws and regulations, all with an eye towards achieving the Town’s stated goals.

However, despite this ruling, I just want to say that we hear those who signed this document, and take quite seriously your concerns. To that end, we also feel that our decision to purchase the property is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the town to acquire enough land downtown to make a difference in public life here, no matter what we do with it. Our ability to purchase a property appraised at over $230,000 for a price of $100,000 at an historically low interest rate of 2% is unheard of in any times. We have received many emails in support of the purchase, and a full history of how we reached this decision will be shortly up on our website under a new page called Current Town Projects. But just to remind you, we voted, again unanimously, to make our offer at the February 20th Board Meeting, then hired a lawyer to help with the contract, discussed the purchase extensively at the April 13th Town Board Workshop Meeting and voted again unanimously to make the purchase at the regular Town Board Meeting on April 16th, all to the letter of the law.

I want to end this statement by talking about some real heroes in town during this pandemic, people who have used this time to help others: Pat Nannetti and Ted Mallozzi of the Food Bank, Nelson and Lisa Zayas of Willow Roots, the new folks at the Old Library, who launched a campaign to raise money for out-of-work local restaurant workers, garnering over $28,000 from more than 100 townspeople and distributing all the money to 73 individuals; and Paige Arent, a 14-year-old student, who launched her own campaign to help people out of work, and raised more than $1500 all on her own. All of these people have been tireless in their dedication to helping others through the pandemic, and I want to thank you all on behalf of the whole town for your amazing accomplishments.

Supervisor’s Statement 4.16.2020

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.