MM Notes: Village Board
October 13, 2009
Present: Andy Ciferri, Mayor, Board Members Laura Hurley, Tom Whalen and Stan Morse; attorney Rebecca Valk and Village Clerk Linda Wiltse
The meeting began at 7:00 p.m. with a Pledge of Allegiance.
Chazen Companies Report/Grants: Chazen reported that the village has been awarded the Green Innovation Grant in the amount of $144,000 to upgrade the aeration system and waste water operation plant so it is more energy efficient. Even though there is a 10% match on this grant, Chazen reported that the payback period for the village will only be two or three years. Work will not likely begin until May or June, 2010 due to the weather. Chazen will set up a meeting with the Village Board to discuss the process.
The Mayor reported on the $600,000 grant that was received a short while ago which is being used to upgrade our waste water storm sewers. This also has a 10% match; however, the village has already met some of that obligation by the work that has already been completed.
Mayor Ciferri, said the 10% match on these grants “is a drop in the bucket” compared to what the village would have had to spend if the village had to go to bond.
Police Department Report: Officer Scribner reported that over the past month there were 62 tickets issued, 1 arrest, 7 assists to other agencies, and 80 incidents resulting in 5 cases. The County is now requiring the towns to pay directly for police coverage if they want to use Sheriffs. Officer Scribner suggested meeting with the town to see if they would like to contract with the village for police coverage rather than using the Sheriffs (one officer costs $500,000/yr). Laura Hurley stated that she doesn’t think the town will contract with the Sheriff’s office due to the high costs; however, it was agreed that it would be worthwhile to have the discussion with the town.
Stan Morse reported that the random 7:00 a.m. police patrols around the schools are effective. Interestingly, it seems that more teachers than students are being stopped for violations said Morse.
Highway Department: Bob Collocola reported that his employees have been busy during the past month. Some work accomplished was: removing five dead trees, completing Ciferri Drive (rebuilt several catch basins and manholes, repairing sewer line and extending drain pipes), repairing curbs, demotion work in the Thorne Building, preparing for leaf pick up, blacktopping several catch basins, installing 120’ of sidewalk and assisting VRI with a manhole. The Mayor mentioned a few areas where the sidewalk has shifted and stated that he would like to meet with Mr. Collocola on resolving this.
Water and Sewer Plants: VRI reported that they have raised two manholes and there are seven left to be done, a fire hydrant was rebuilt and a meeting will be set up with the Health Department. It was noted that VRI offices will be moving out of the village into quarters in the Town on Route 44.
Treasurer’s Report: Linda Wiltse reported on very generous contributions received from the Tribute Gardens. This money will be used to purchase GPS units for fire and rescue, child safety seats, training and recruitment for the rescue squad, repairs to the village building and restorations and repairs to the facades in the Franklin Street area.
The September minutes were unanimously approved.
Ms. Wiltse asked for a vote on closing out the old, exonerated bail account and transferring those funds to the central data equipment fund to pay for the new server. All were in favor. Ms. Wiltse reported that the court clerk is still out on leave and she asked the board to approve the transfer of funds from the personal service line to the contractual line. All were in favor. Ms. Wiltse reported that there is over $57,000 in uncollected property taxes. A third, final notice went out two weeks ago. The new accounting software has been installed and training has been completed. The village will now have the ability to place budgets on the web site.
Elections: Ms. Wiltse read the following letter from Scott Tumblety. Mr. Tumblety is seeking to be on the ballet to fill the board seat vacated by Judy Bondus. The letter read:
“I am deeply concerned about the ongoing fits and starts of the current Village Board Special Election. As I recall, it was initially decided to give the Dutchess County Board of Elections jurisdiction over the election process and the Village attorney actively sought their advice. This decision was promoted until recently when some contrary information was circulated by NYCOM. I have now been told it is being acted upon.
My initial information on the election led me to do all due diligence to have my name appear on the ballot November 3rd. In my inquiry at the Village offices for independent nominating petitions, I was directed to the County Board of Elections and I continued to seek their advice until the Village caucuses on September 21st.
Recently I have received information from Mayor Ciferri that he is advocating for the nullification of the election due to its alleged unlawful nature. This is a complete reversal on all Village decisions concerning this election.
One role of Village Government is to promote local democracy. This will not be well served if this latest action is pursued at the Supreme Court level. My own advocacy to have the election move forward with the two candidates is hereby submitted to the Millbrook Village Board. I request that this letter be read at the October 13th meeting of the Village Board and to be submitted by the Village Board to the courts as a contrary view on this matter.”
The Mayor stated that, based upon information he has read and a discussion with an attorney from NYCOM (the NY Commission of Mayors,) he is in violation of the law because he has not made an appointment to the vacant seat; and he will be in further violation of the law if he allows a special election in 2009 to take place. A NYCOM attorney stated that the next election should be a general election to be held in 2010. Attorney Valk stated that she spoke to Paul Collins from the legal department of the State Board of Elections informing him of the village’s desire to hold a special election this November. Mr. Collins echoed what Mr. Ciferri was told by the NYCOM attorney - that it would be illegal to hold a special election and he must make an immediate appointment to the vacant seat. Ms. Valk submitted written correspondence to Mr. Collins stating the village’s position and asking for an official response. Interestingly, the Dutchess County Board of Elections has indicated that it is permissible to hold a special election this November making the two boards in disagreement with one another. Rebecca Valk stated that she is working on trying to clarify this matter by the end of the week.
Mr. Whalen asked if it’s the Mayor’s duty to make an appointment and Ms. Valk replied affirmatively. Laura Hurley asked who would likely challenge the village if a special election were to be held in 2009. Ms. Valk explained that anyone who is a candidate, desired to be a candidate or anyone from another party could challenge the election.
Mayor Ciferri stated, “This whole mess is brought about by me not listening to NYCOM and waiting to hear from the county. The whole mess is on my shoulders and I need to get it done the way it must be done.” Kate Farrell and Laura Hurley asked, “Who are you afraid will sue you if you have an election?” Rebecca Valk replied, “The loser could sue and it has happened. It would be a large risk to let this election happen — legally.” She added that the election could be invalidated. Mr. Ciferri stated, “I took an oath of office when I was elected and I’m going to uphold this oath and not break election laws. I want it to be done right and in accordance with the law.”
Kate Farrell asked what the motivation was to take this question to the state level in “what seems like seeking a second opinion?” The Mayor replied that statements made to him by the NYCOM attorney together with what he has read in the village law book “led me to believe that the county did not know what they are doing.”
Ms. Valk is hopeful an official response from the State Board of Elections will be forthcoming in a few days. This opinion will then be presented to the Dutchess County Board of Elections for their review. The Mayor stated that he has been told that the Dutchess County Board of Elections will defer to the State if there is a disagreement. Kate Farrell asked if the Mayor would ensure that the final decision is published in the newspaper. It was agreed that a notice will be placed in the Poughkeepsie Journal, the Village’s official newspaper. The Mayor will also personally let the candidates know the outcome.
Howard Schuman made a comment that he hopes the Mayor will limit his appointment to one of the individuals who have stepped forward and expressed an interest to run for the vacant seat.
BAN (Bond Anticipation Note) for Oil Clean Up. The Mayor explained that despite regular, recent testing, it has been discovered that the village hall oil tank has been leaking for the last ten years or more. This has caused oil to spill into the neighboring property. Costly excavation is now necessary to correct the situation. The Mayor reported that ten areas have been tested and five show contamination at some level. Two BAN’s, one for $50,000 and one for $140,000 at 1.5% interest is recommended by Hurley. She said the $50,000 BAN would run for 5 years and the $140,000 BAN would run for 10 years, all based upon life expectancy of the work being completed. All were in favor of Laura’s recommendation. Ms. Hurley said the Clerk will publish the required legal notices.
Employee Handbook: Laura Hurley announced that the first draft of an employee handbook has been prepared. The board will meet to review it.
Street Lighting : Mayor Ciferri received letter from a resident who would like to have a street light installed at Church Street & Route 343. Bob Collocola met with Central Hudson on this issue and they have agreed to install a light there.
Rotary/Thorne Building: Mayor Ciferri reported that he received a request for the use of Thorne building and the village hall for New Year’s Eve. Ciferri mentioned that last year the village received a $250 donation from the Rotary for the use of the Thorne Building and Village Hall. Ms Hurley stated that considering the work being done on the floors in the village hall, it might not be a good idea to use this building for the New Year’s Eve event. She added that, although there it is written in the lease agreement that the Downings will allow the Thorne Building to be used for a New Year’s Eve events, the Thorne building might not be usable for this purpose this year. Mayor Ciferri reported that there has been no movement on completing the Thorne Building on the part of the Downings despite the fact that they have said they are moving forward. The Mayor reported that the village staff have gutted the two basement bathrooms and have stripped the paint off the walls. He has given the go ahead for Spire Architects to prepare drawings and the village can put out bid notices. Mayor Ciferri noted that another organization has approached him about entering into a 25-year lease agreement for the entire Thorne Building with a possibility of purchasing the building at some point. The Mayor hasn’t made contact with them as yet. The Mayor stated that he attended a meeting three weeks ago with the Downings and he was assured that they are moving forward with their project; however, there is no evidence of work is being done. He will contact the Downings and ask for another update.
Vandalism: In the early morning hours of October 12, there were several acts of vandalism in the village. According to Officer Scribner this is the worst act of violence against the village to his memory. Officer Scribner reported that he is working with the State Police, they have some suspects, and hopefully there will be a resolution soon. Public outcry was strong:
One resident who lives near the Stewart’s parking lot said that high school children and others hang out in the parking lot. He described them as rude, vulgar and involved in very suspicious “transactions.” He has approached the owners of the Chinese Restaurant hoping that they will do something to keep the kids out the parking lot; but the owners finally told him to leave the restaurant and to leave them alone. He stated he is trying to resolve this himself by confronting the children but it is putting him in precarious position with the children throwing things at his car and cursing at him. “I know what’s going on, everybody on Church Street knows what’s going on and nobody is doing anything,” he said in frustration. He explained the problem starts around 2:00 p.m. when school children are released.
Another resident spoke strongly in response to the recent vandalism on his property, “I want the board to know something has to be done. What is it going to take to get some protection? What is next thing that’s going to happen? We are paying plenty for protection. This is one of the richest communities in the country and we need more police protection. Millbrook isn’t the place it used to be. We are having problems and we are coming to you. We need solutions. You are wondering why people are not coming here. Millbrook is losing its charm.” He added that he thought a curfew would be helpful.
Another resident: “Police should be riding in unmarked cars. If he can see it, why can’t the police in undercover clothes see the same thing?”
“Has anyone ever been arrested? What about a curfew? Can the village be pro- active and approach the restaurant and Stewarts? Put cameras out there.”
One resident described a personal experience when his car was vandalized. He went to state police and they recommended he buy a surveillance camera which he installed at a cost of $3500. He caught these individuals wielding baseball bats shortly thereafter and he restrained them until police arrived; however one of the parents wanted him arrested for the way he detained their child and he had to cut a deal.
Another resident, a former police officer, said business owners can give the police power to invite them on their property. He expressed his opinion that undercover doesn’t always work and that visibility is important. He stressed that the most effective approach to solve crimes like this is to get community involvement; the community needs to step up and act promptly and cooperate with police. He gave the following example: If someone hears or sees something in the middle of the night and does nothing, it is just as bad as if they were performing the crime. “Get the community involved” he recommended.
One resident said he heard there is a blog that provides the schedule for the village police.
Officer Scribner said that he can alter the coverage to cover more weekends and nights. He also said he would entertain undercover surveillance. He explained that the police are powerless to go on to private property (the parking lot is private property) and tell people to leave unless he has permission to do so or unless the police witness a crime. If there are drug deals or other illegal activity going on, he’s not seeing it and therefore has no authority to take any action. Officer Scribner added that an officer does sit in the Stewart’s parking lot just about every day; but of course, these individuals are not doing anything wrong when a police vehicle is visible.
A major problem Officer Scribner is seeing is that the community is not calling the police as soon as an illegal activity is taking place. He said there were citizens aware of activity during the night on Monday but no one called the police. Also, residents are not providing the detailed information that a police officer needs. He encouraged residents to get involved, to call immediately when they see or hear something suspicious and to take note of important details like clothing, hair, height, weight, skin color, license plate numbers, mode of transportation, etc. He said the police are almost powerless if the community doesn’t cooperate and get involved.
Officer Scribner explained that citizens are never entirely indemnified if they choose to take matters into their own hands. He recommended that if someone witnesses a crime, try to take pictures, call the police immediately and write down as much detailed information as possible rather than physically intervening.
The Mayor assured the residents that there are things that can be done; however, the police cannot go on private property unless asked to do so or if they have witnessed a crime. He is facing calls from the community on police coverage — some want more coverage and some want no coverage at all. He said they will all put their heads together and take a plan of action.
Stan Morse stated that a neighborhood watch is a good idea. Laura Hurley volunteered to attend the next business association meeting to speak about what’s going on and what steps can be taken to help. Kate was asked to facilitate placing this on the agenda.
Revised FEMA Flood Maps : One resident asked if he could obtain a copy of the new flood maps from the village. The Mayor said he is working on getting copies. He asked Bob Collocola to try to get one from the Farm and Home Center and he will make sure it is made available. It was noted that these maps may also be available on the Dutchess County web site and possibly from one of the Town’s Comprehensive Plan committee members.
Rescue Squad: Liz Baldwin stated that she received a phone call from Mayor Ciferri stating that it is illegal for the rescue squad to take the ambulance to football games. The Mayor explained that he has learned that, although it is acceptable for volunteers to attend the games as volunteers of the rescue squad, equipment cannot be sent. The ruling from the NYS Comptroller’s office states that using equipment at events held by organizations not sponsored by the village is considered a “gift” or “loan” unless something of equal value is given in return. Liz insisted that their presence at the games is not a gift because they are available to immediately respond to another incident if one should occur during the game. She believes it is important that the ambulance be situated in areas of high risk, when possible. The Mayor said he completely understood the importance of having an ambulance at the football games; however, he cannot authorize an illegal activity. Tom Whalen stated that he wanted to go on the record that he is against forbidding the ambulance from going to the games stating that this activity has been going on for dozens of years with no consequences. Stan Morse suggested that the village let the activity continue while it is being investigated further. The Mayor disagreed and indicated that he has no intention of violating the law. He explained that he tried to obtain an agreement with the school last year; however, until very recently, they did not respond. The new proposal that was received from the school offered the use of the auditorium for the fire department in exchange for the presence of the ambulance. Liz stated that she does not want to enter into any agreements that will guarantee the presence of an ambulance. All board members were in favor of having the ambulance there; but Andy Ciferri repeated that he would not break to the law. Rebecca Valk will send an immediate email to NYCOM to try to resolve this; and the board will attempt to have an agreement with the school in place before the next game. Until this matter is resolved, the ambulance cannot attend any games, stated Ciferri.