Special Village Board of Trustees Meeting January 10, 2008

The Village Board of Trustees met on January 10, 2008 at 7:30pm.

The purpose of this special meeting was for residents who had formerly submitted alternative proposals for the Wee Wah Beach Club to formally present their ideas to the Board and answer questions they might have. Comments from the public were not allowed.

Although the Board received a total of four alternative proposals, only two of them were presented. In addition, the Beach Club also gave a short presentation.

The first presenter was David McFadden. With the use of PowerPoint, Mr. McFadden
presented his idea for a Village Parks and Recreation Department. The Department
would have its own revenue, expenses and allocation of funds. In addition to managing
the Wee Wah Beach Club, the Recreation Department would also manage other
properties in the Village (such as the Racetrack). After giving a brief history of the Wee Wah property, the Beach Club and the recently expired lease agreement, Mr. McFadden went on to suggest that the creation of a Recreation Department would allow the Village to do away with third party management of the Beach and regain complete control over their own asset. According to the proposal, this new department can be put in place for $20,000 to be budgeted annually. In addition, the new department-run Beach Club would gather revenue from membership fees, taxes to be paid by residents in both the Village and the Town, grant money, possible recreation fees and private donations. The Board of Trustees would have complete jurisdiction over the Recreation Department and would form an advisory committee to keep them informed. The initial planning responsibilities for the new department would fall to The Village Planning Board, Board of Architectural Review, Department of Public Works, Village Planner Bonnie Franson, Environmental Attorney Grant, the Village Improvement Advisory Committee and the Environmental Committee. In addition, Mr. McFadden suggested that the Board consider possibly reinstituting a north gate, to be located on Warwick Brook Road (near the sewage treatment plant) at the north end of the Wee Wah Lake. Club members entering the Park in this way would pass through what will soon be Sterling Place and across the waste management area to a checkpoint, where a guard would check their memberships before allowing them to enter the Park. According to Mr. McFadden, creating this alternate entrance to the Park, which is in close proximity to the Beach Club, would control both the flow of traffic and the amount of litter on Village roads and make the club more accessible to its town members.

Mr. McFadden went on to suggest that this plan should be phased in over a number of years and that existing local law should be amended in order to broaden the legal uses of the Beach Club as well as the property in general. Under this proposal, both Village Residents and Town Residents residing in the Hamlet would be allowed to join the Club however, Mr. McFadden suggested that the boundaries for both the Hamlet and the Fishing Club be confirmed and clearly defined as currently, the Fishing Club accepts members from anywhere in the 10987 zip code and Mr. McFadden feels that membership for both clubs should be limited to the same areas.

Finally, Mr. McFadden made a plea to the Board to consider moving both the Village DPW as well as the Village office as they are located on what he considers to be prime property and as such could generate monies for the Village.

Following his presentation, there was a brief question and answer session with the Board. Trustee Worthy expressed her dismay at seeing only one, broad figure presented and inquired as to whether or not Mr. McFadden had explored a detailed breakdown of costs. Specifically, she inquired about the cost of reinstituting the North Gate. Mr. McFadden replied that he had not and that prior to moving forward with his proposal, the Village CPA would need to closely scrutinize it to make sure it is feasible for the Village.

In addition, Mr. McFadden admitted that the Village does not currently own the land on which he proposes the North Gate be located, however he hopes that ownership can be negotiated with Sterling Place. Trustee Worthy pointed out that a Sewage Management area was a less than desirable spot to create an entrance to the Park being that it is smelly in nature.

Trustee Shaw inquired if the new Club would be a year round facility. Mr. McFadden responded that it would be, however amendments to the local code would have to be made to allow the club to remain open year-round.

Trustee Darby asked for confirmation that the new Recreation Department would be the group responsible for running the beach Club and that the current Club Board would be phased out over time. Mr. McFadden confirmed this.

Finally, Mayor Stebbins stated that to the best of his knowledge, previous administrations have been opposed to pursuing grant money for recreational resources within the Village and wondered why this would be an appropriate funding vehicle for the Beach Club. Mr. McFadden responded that he disagreed with this opposition. In his opinion the Village should feel free to apply for grant money in all areas and he cited the Environmental Committee’s recent suggestion of utilizing grants to help pay for a lake management study.

The second presenter was Greg Beard, presenting on behalf of Rob Silvay who was unable to attend. Directing his comments specifically at Beach Club members from the Hamlet, Mr. Beard outlined his proposal for outsourcing management of the Beach Club to a third party management company in an effort to create a safer club for all members and a more welcoming environment for club members who reside in the Village. Mr. Beard began by stating that the Beach Club should be run primarily for benefit of the taxpayers of the Village of Tuxedo Park. According to Mr. Beard a growing number of Village residents feel unwelcome at the Beach Club. Because they do not affirmatively control the club, some residents feel as though they are effectively guests when they are there, according to Mr. Beard. These residents strongly believe that because the property is owned by Village taxpayers, it should be used primarily for their benefit as well as fort hose who work and volunteer in the community. He proposed that the Village take control of the property and create a new club, with a Board comprised of members entirely from the Village and appointed by the BOT. Club members residing in the Hamlet would be allowed to retain their memberships and their children would be grandfathered into the arrangement as well. Moving forward, however, new memberships from the Hamlet would not be accepted unless those residents volunteer their service to the Village in some capacity or if they are the children of current members. Should these changes be implemented, Mr. Beard suggested that Village memberships at the club would be invigorated and generous private donations would be made towards improvement of the club’s infrastructure. Mr. Beard went on to propose major improvements including: a complete redesign of the beach area, removal of the concrete pier, replacement of the raft, redesigned parking area, new ball court and field, new picnic tables and grills and renovated bathrooms. In addition, he proposed that the Club pay a $10,000 usage fee to Village annually, which can be used to make capital improvements to the property. Needless to say, in order for this proposal to work, membership and guest fees will need to be increased and he calls for $5000 annually in private donations. Mr. Beard proposed that fees for both Hamlet and Village members be equalized (currently Hamlet members pay more than members from the Village) and raised. Hamlet members would see an increase of $45 per membership while those in the Village would pay $90 more. Guest passes would cost $10 each and each member would be limited to 10 passes per season. As for day-to-day management of the Club, Mr. Beard proposed that the job be outsourced to a third party management company. Bids from two companies with club management experience (American Pool Management and USA Pool) were submitted as a part of the proposal. This management company would be responsible for all administrative duties at the club as well as safety and staffing. Mr. Beard believes that third party management would create a more neutral and comfortable environment for Village residents at the Club while creating a safe environment for everyone to enjoy. In addition to these changes, Mr. Beard proposed stepped security measures for the club, including photo I.D.s for all club members who do not reside in the Village. According to the proposal, all of these changes can be implemented for $52, 835 and fee increases coupled with private donations will completely cover the cost.

Following this presentation, there was a brief question and answer session with the Board.

Mayor Stebbins commented that while there were several good ideas included in the proposal, the Village should use careful consideration when adopting major changes such as these. The current Wee Wah Beach club has an excellent performance record and therefore a high level of credibility, while nothing is known about the credibility of the proposed third party management companies. He went on to suggest that there may not be enough time to iron out the details and implement all of the proposed upgrades and changes before the 2008 swimming season. He corrected Mr. Beard by informing him that the Village DOES control the Beach Club with a 6 to 5 voting majority on the Club Board. He suggested that moving forward, the Board should conduct more open elections so that Village Residents feel they have an equal opportunity to both run and vote, and that perhaps absentee ballots should be introduced into the process. Finally, he expressed his concerns that over time, the fee increase would out-price club members residing in the Hamlet, which would lead to a decrease in town memberships. He went on to say that historically the Village has not budgeted enough money for capital improvements to the property and that moving forward, resources should be made available for improvements.

Trustee Darby asked for information and clarification regarding safety at the beach specifically the concrete wall/pier, which is currently not in compliance with existing state safety regulations. It was explained that the main safety issue with the pier concerns the positioning of the diving board and that while this positioning may not meet current safety regulations, the layout has been grandfathered and is approved annually by the Board of Health as safe for operation. As part of his proposal, Mr. Beard suggests removing the concrete wall and pier altogether and changing the gradation of the beach so that it slopes down to the water.

Trustee Worthy stated that she would like to see one plan that incorporated ideas from all of the proposals without shutting members from the Hamlet out of the club. She inquired as to how many Village Club members actually feel disenfranchised from the Club, stating that she, herself, is a member and does not feel this way. She continued on to express concern over safety issues raised in Greg’s proposal stating that if there are in fact safety issues that the Club should start pricing options to correct them and not wait until there is an accident before moving forward in that regard. While removing the grandfathering on the site may be quite expensive, there should be no price tag put on safety. Finally, she commented that the issue of security and Village access goes beyond the Beach Club and should be addressed as an entirely separate issue.

The final presentation was made by David du Pont on behalf of the existing Beach Club. David began by suggesting that management continuity is an asset to the Club, which has been run well for the past 70 years. A brief management history was given as well as a breakdown of current club expenses. A budget estimate for expenditures in the coming year lies between $45,000 and $49,000 in total. These expenditures include the cost of life guards with all Federal and State statutory taxes, the cost of checkers (also with all Federal and State statutory taxes), the cost of having full time paid Beach Managers in place for five weeks, the cost of the Certificate of Insurance naming the Village as an additional insured party as well as a copy of the actual policy, the cost of the facility’s ongoing maintenance (lawn, play area, beach, etc), the cost of both equipment repairs and equipment replacement [a new lawn mower may be needed], supplies for the bathhouse and cleaning materials and the cost of off duty police officer coverage for the days of July 4th and 5th, a Friday and Saturday. In addition, the club proposes paying the Village a $2,000 usage fee commencing with the 2008 season. Along with this financial analysis, Mr. du Pont laid out several issues which will be addressed by the Club before the 2008 season including a review of how to best improve the existing small children’s wading pool area (to include possibly relocating it), parking areas will be examined and more clearly defined utilizing some form of boundary markers [rocks and/or railroad ties are possibilities], to be installed prior to Memorial Day. In addition, the Club will continue use of a bear proof garbage container for refuse which is collected and placed in daily. As part of the agreement, the Beach Club hopes the Board of Trustees, together with the Village Improvement Committee, will jointly create a prioritized three year plan for improving the facilities to include estimated costs and funding for each item. This updated plan will be presented annually to the Trustees by December 15 of each year starting with 2008. The Club also asked the Village to consider the reinvestment of the funds received from the Tuxedo Recreation Department back to the Beach Club in order to help fund its operating costs in accordance with historical practice. In addition to these requests the Club would like the Village to consider retaining on a year round basis a professional lakes management organization for all three bodies of water, to monitor water quality on a regular basis and make suggestions for improving the water quality in each lake. Also, exact boundaries of the Hamlet should be reconfirmed to reflect the recently expired lease agreement. Finally, the Club asked the Village to provide approximately three tons of “clean” sand to spread out along the beachfront and designated children’s play area prior to Memorial Day.

Following David’s presentation, there was a brief question and answer session with the Board. Trustee Shaw inquired as to whether or not the Club had conducted any studies on the cost of the repairs needed to bring the waterfront area into compliance with safety regulations. She was informed that the club has not conducted any such studies. She also inquired as to whether or not any water quality testing had been performed by the club during the 2007 swimming season and was informed that it had not.

Mayor Stebbins then outlined his suggested amendments to the Beach Club lease. These included more objective standards in setting club fees, which he feels should be raised and equalized. Safety regulations must be a priority. The Mayor also proposed increasing insurance coverage to $2,000,000, increasing the usage fee collected by the Village to $4000 over a two year period, expanding club membership to include all persons who volunteer in the Village and expanding the Village’s suspension of rights to include water conditions, dam repairs and public safety issues. In addition, he proposed more publicized annual meetings and the inclusion of absentee ballots in the election process. Moving forward, the Mayor would like the club to submit detailed financial information to the Board in a timely manor (before January 15th of each year) The Board should work together with the Village Improvement Committee on an annual basis to establish a list of capital improvements needed to be submitted for consideration no later than January 15 of each year. The Mayor went on to propose that the property be opened as a year round park, which will require setting a clear line of demarcation between the beach/swimming area and the picnic/recreation area. Finally, the Mayor suggested that the Beach Club lease be renegotiated every two years as opposed to three years as is the current practice.

Following these remarks, the Board had a short public discussion.

Trustee Shaw stated that she believes the lease should be reviewed on an annual basis.

Trustee Hansen asked the Mayor why he proposed a gradual increase in usage fees. He also inquired about the Mayor’s proposed two year renegotiation period. The Mayor responded that phasing in the fee increases would make the burden of the increase more manageable for the Club and its members. Because significant changes take time, the Mayor feels a two year lease is appropriate as it will allow time for some of these changes to occur before re-evaluation.

Trustee Hanson stated that he feels the Club should be entirely self-funded.

Trustee Darby stated that the Village should take responsibility for maintaining the property and if it has been neglected, the Village should be the one to make improvements. He continued on to say that the Wee Wah Beach Club has a special history with the Village that should be respected and that Village funds should be allocated for improvements to the property. He also stated that performance standards need to be evaluated to make sure that the Club is run safely and that there are no exclusionary practices taking place there. He proposed reducing the number of club board members from 10 to 6, 3 of whom should be appointed by the Village Board of Trustees. Finally, Trustee Darby commented that the Club must cover all of their own expenses and that he feels the Village needs to take more direct control over and responsibility for the property.

Trustee Worthy stated that she believes the property should be turned into a year round facility and that the Village should allocate funds for capital improvements.

Trustee Shaw commented that she feels the Village should consider discussing options with a third party management company as the club should be run by professionals.

Following this discussion a resolution was made and unanimously adopted to hold a Public Hearing on Local Law #1 of 2008 (amended Planning Board and Board of Architectural Review powers and duties) at the next regularly scheduled Board of Trustees meeting on January 16, 2008.

The Board is also expected to vote on the Beach Club Lease at this time.

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