The Village Board of Trustees met on Wednesday, February 18 at 7:30pm.
Trustee Shaw was absent.
Mayor Stebbins began his Mayoral Report with the following announcements:
- The Village is in receipt of a letter from the Supervisor of Chester, NY, expressing his concern with the Ravitch Commission’s recent proposal to place a new tax on all State employees in an effort to bail out the MTA. A meeting for those opposed to the proposal will take place on March 2 at the Hilton Garden Inn in Newburgh. Anyone wishing to learn more or make comments is encouraged to attend.
- The Federal Emergency Management Agency has made their flood elevation determination for the Village of Tuxedo Park. Very few properties lie in the flood plain. Should the Village decide to pursue flood insurance for those properties, they will be required to enter a federal program and abide by their requirements.
- On Thursday, February 26, the Cornell Coop Extension of Orange County will conduct an informational workshop focusing on the mile-a-minute-weed, an evasive weed that is quickly becoming a problem in Orange County.
The Mayor then gave a brief review of the Village’s financial condition.
With 73% of the fiscal year gone by, expenditures to date represent 72% of the budget. The General Fund at $1,417,000 is $108,000 less than it was at this time last year. This is due to infrastructure engineering fees of roughly $125,000 directly related to the Tuxedo Lake dam. Mayor Stebbins reported that the Infrastructure Advisory Committee has estimated that the Village will need to borrow $500,000 - $1,000,000 in the coming year in order to move forward with prioritized projects as planned. The borrowing process has begun and the Village hopes to have cash in hand by the end of May. He stressed that projects will not move forward without Board approval and announced that he will be asking the Board to hire Bonnie Franson of Tim Miller and Associates to assist the Village in identifying and applying for grants. The first priority will be the Village dams and relocation of water lines. Work on the Tuxedo Lake Dam is DEC mandated and could carry a price tag of up to $400,000. Thankfully, as a result of the Sterling Place Settlement, $350,000 has been earmarked for the necessary repairs at the Wee Wah dam. Once work at the dams is underway, the Village’s next priority will be water and sewer lines.
Finally, Mayor Stebbins commented that there is a lot happening in the Village that residents can be proud of. Specifically, he recognized the Environmental Committee and their work with Princeton Hydro in putting together a Lakes Management Plan. This long over due initiative will have a terrific impact on the preservation of Village lakes. Princeton Hydro’s interim report will be shared with the community in the near future. The Mayor also recognized the work of Chiu-Yin Hempel and the Ridgeline and Precipice Committee for their thorough and effective job in evaluating a complex subject. He also commended the work of DPW Superintendent Jeff Voss for running things smoothly in what has turned out to be a hard winter as well as Police Chief Ken Sanford for keeping the peace.
Deputy Mayor Report
Deputy Mayor Jim Hays began by reporting on the February 9 Town Board meeting at which there was a Public Hearing for the Town’s new Preliminary Comprehensive Plan. As part of their plan to link the various communities in Town, the Board is proposing creating a permanent access road to the Tuxedo Reserve development at the South Gate. Residents from both the Village and the Town spoke out against the road, which they feel will be a detriment to that area for numerous reasons including increased traffic flow, ware and tear on the roads and pedestrian safety. The Town Board, however, voiced their unanimous support for the road despite these objections, stating that they believe it will increase connectivity within the Town. Additionally, there exist legal agreements between Tuxedo Reserve and The Tuxedo Club, (to which the the Village of Tuxedo Park and the Town of Tuxedo are a party) which are memorialized within Tuxedo Reserve’s Special Permit. These agreements clearly state that the proposed road will remain an emergency access road. Thus there is a legal issue with the Town’s proposed plan.
While the Public Hearing was officially closed on February 9, the Town Board agreed to accept letters from residents until February 18. Many residents from both the Town and the Village have written letters. Deputy Mayor Hays commented that it is paramount that the Village put forward a candidate for the Town Board in the Fall of 2009. Currently there is no Village representation on that Board and as a result, the concerns of the Village and its residents are often times overlooked.
The Town and the Village have agreed to split the cost of a new sewer jet system machine. The machine will be used for high pressure cleaning of sewer mains and catch basins and will be shared by both municipalities.
DPW Superintendent requested that the Board declare a 1997 dump truck as surplus so that it might be sold. Consequently, a motion was made and unanimously passed by the Board.
The DPW is almost out of salt and sand and is requesting permission to borrow money from their black top budget in order to purchases more. After some brief discussion regarding estimated amount needed and cost, Mayor Stebbins commented that because salt and sand are essential at this time of year the DPW should purchase what is necessary and worry about balancing the budget at the end of the year.
Police Chief Ken Sanford reported the following for the month of January:
Criminal Complaints - 2
Non-Criminal Complaints - 57
Burglar Alarms – 17
Fire Alarms - 5
Medical Calls – 4
Speeding Tickets Issued – 1
Property Damage Complains – 2
Assists Given to the Town Police – 3
8, 927 non-tagged vehicles passed through the front gate.
The Chief reported that the department is currently undergoing a study of the non-tagged vehicles entering the Village, which will include a breakdown of vehicle type and help to determine the frequency with which certain vehicles are entering.
The Chief is also continuing to investigate the possibility of an additional video camera at the Front Gate for security purposes. Currently, the potential cost of this new system is estimated at $5000-$7000.
Advisory Committee Reports
Village Improvement Advisory Committee – On behalf of the V.I.A.C., Michele Lindsay announced that Orange and Rockland has reportedly finished repairing the street lights in the Village. The committee will now conduct a survey to make sure that they are in agreement with O&R’s assessment. They have also been exploring the option of compact fluorescent bulbs for the Village. Committee member Alan Heywood has submitted a proposal to the Board for the One-Way signage to be posted on Club House Road. As per a recent survey, residents living on East Lake Stable Road have indicated that they are in favor of making Clubhouse Road one-way from its juncture with East Lake Stable to its juncture with Fox Hill.
Finally, Mrs. Lindsay indicated that the committee plans to revisit their project on road safety issues, with specific attention to overhanging trees and shrubs, which limit visibility in many areas. Mayor Stebbins commented that the Tuxedo Fire Department has historically been helpful with trimming some of the overhanging branches in the spring.
Infrastructure Advisory Committee - On behalf of the I.A.C., Jake Lindsay reported the following:
The soil borings on East Lake Road have been completed
A new cover for the clarifiers at the sewer plant has been purchased and will be
installed in the spring
The Committee is still discussing the situation at the Chlorine building and will
make a report on this topic at the next BOT meeting
The Committee has begun investigating the possibility of replacing the salt shed with a concrete pre-fab shed. They are interested in locating a new piece of property on which to locate this shed and possibly a small garage as well in an effort to clean up the current DPW site.
Finally, Mr. Lindsay urged the Board to move ahead with approving Westin and Sampson’s request for $7,500 to complete the model validation of the Village water system. The completion of the model is critical to moving forward with the work that needs to be done with the Village water lines. Village Engineer Rich Messer then gave a brief explanation of what the project entails, which is basically field-testing in order to calibrate and verify the data in the model. Once completed, the model will allow the village to determine the types of changes that will take place in the water system as lines are added and removed.
DPW Superintendent Jeff Voss suggested that it might make sense to coordinate the calibration effort with the annual spring flushing of the water lines.
Mayor Stebbins commented that he is in favor of moving ahead with the project and made a motion to approve Westin and Sampson’s request. The Board voted unanimously in favor.
Regarding the committee’s interest in locating property for the DPW, the Mayor suggested that I.A.C. work together with the V.I.A.C. in assembling a menu of options for the Board to review. He further commented that the Town has some property for lease on Long Meadow Road which could be a viable option and also that there might be a property within the Sterling Place development that could be leased or purchased for this purpose.
During the Public Comment period, Michele Lindsay voiced her concern with regard to the fact that not enough Village residents are aware of the potential situation on South Gate Road. She suggested that the Board formulate some ideas for informing residents and encouraging their involvement. Currently, the Mayor’s letter and the TPFYI website are the only sources of information for residents. She further commented that in her view, the interests of the Village are not represented by the Town Board and that this Board is unanimously passing resolutions with no regard for the residents in the Village, but most Village residents are completely unaware of this. She echoed Trustee Hays’ earlier remark that it is critical for the Village to elect a representative to the Town Board.
Mayor Stebbins responded that perhaps a special meeting should be scheduled to inform residents of the situation in tandem with some sort of telephone campaign. He then commented that he would leave these decisions up to Trustee Hays as he is the official liaison to the Town.
Trustee Hays once again reiterated the need for the Village to put forward a strong, viable candidate for the next Town Board Election.
Trustee Hansen inquired as to whether or not there are residents in the Town who are also opposed to the idea of the permanent road.
Mrs. Lindsay responded that there are several Eagle Valley residents who have already expressed opposition to the road and that Andy Rogers of Maple Brook is attempting to schedule an informational meeting for residents.
Trustee Hansen then inquired as to the main purpose of the proposed road.
Jake Lindsay responded that the Town Board is suggesting that the road will provide a quicker route for residents in that area of Tuxedo to reach town center. However, there is already another road planned as part of the Tuxedo Reserve development, which will run from County Road 72 through to the downtown area. While the proposed access on South Gate Road would provide a quicker route for those residents currently living in Maple Brook, it would also increase the flow of traffic through that area significantly.
Trustee Hays suggested that because this situation directly involves legal agreements to which the Village is a party, perhaps the Village should write a letter to the Town Board expressing their opposition.
Sally Sonne addressed the Board, urging them to tighten the Village’s fiscal belt. She commented that the dramatic increase in the Village budget over the past decade in combination with high property taxes and water rates make things exceedingly costly and difficult for Village residents during these tough financial times. She implored the Board to make an effort to cut expenses and questioned their decision to hire two fulltime police officers this past fall. She suggested that combining certain services with the Town of Tuxedo would result in significant savings for the Village. She went on to comment that one way for the Village to lessen the financial burden on its residents would be to increase the number of tax payers. She stated that in her opinion during the past 20 years the Village Boards have made it increasingly difficult and expensive for anyone to build in the Village and as a result prospective buyers are discouraged. She suggested that the Boards should make more of an effort to be flexible with and trusting of property owners and to encourage them in their projects. The final result of this, in her view, would be an increase in taxpayers, which would help to assure the financial viability of Tuxedo Park for the long-term future.
Mayor Stebbins responded that the Board of Trustees has made every effort to create a balanced legislative process for creating new legislation and recognizing property owner’s rights. He suggested that one way of cutting costs might be to recombine the Planning Board and the Board of Architectural Review, however since this particular issue is loaded with local history, it is an idea he has not pursued. He continued on to comment that for a long time the Village was run by the philosophy of “if it aint broke, don’t fix it” and that as a result there is a lot of catching up that must be done with infrastructure. The Village is facing serious expenditures in the form of dam repairs and other costly infrastructure projects that can no longer be put off.
Trustee Hansen commented that the number of houses for sale in the Park has risen dramatically in the last year and that there are a limited number of people to pay for the infrastructure repairs.
Mayor Stebbins stated that water rates in the Village were increased several years back in order to create financial independence for the Water Department. The Sterling Place development will bring 62 new customers who will be charged a premium rate by the Village.
Trustee Hays thanked Mrs. Sonne for her remarks and assured her that the Board will make every effort to cut costs.
Lucy Edwards asked the Board for an update on the status of the Village website. She inquired as to whether or not all the Village Boards are represented on the site. She also inquired as to how quickly meeting minutes are made available online and if meeting agendas were posted regularly.
Mayor Stebbins responded that meeting agendas are posted regularly, however the agenda for that evening’s meeting had been posted late. He commented that once approved, meeting minutes are available in the Village Office and thanks to the help of Mary Grimmig, they are almost completely up-to-date.
Mrs. Edwards asked if anyone has done a study to see how many people use the Village website and suggested that it could be used as a way of getting important information to residents.
In response to Sally Sonne’s comments regarding the increase in budget over the past decade, Alan Heywood pointed out that school and town budgets have also risen. However, while Village taxes have increased in tandem with inflation rates, the school taxes that he has paid since moving here have risen by 100% and the Town taxes by 50% in the same period of time.
He pointed out that Village residents contribute 60% of the Town taxes, which is another important reason that they MUST have representation on the Town Board.
Mr. Heywood then inquired about the $400,000 price tag for the Tuxedo Lake Dam project and specifically whether or not the Village can look to the State or the County for assistance.
Mayor Stebbins responded that with the help of Bonnie Franson, the Village plans to be diligent about seeking funding for the project.
Report from the Ridgeline and Precipice Advisory Committee
Ridgeline and Precipice Advisory Committee Chair Chiu-Yin Hempel presented the Board with the committee’s Third Interim Report, in which they answered all of the Board’s questions from the previous meeting and summarized their findings to date. The Committee will submit their final report to the Village Office by March 4 and recommends that the Village attorney put together draft legislation for the Board’s consideration at their March 25 meeting. Additionally, they will prepare a Power Point presentation detailing their objectives, methodology, findings and recommendations for the community to be presented at a date to be determined by the Board of Trustees.
Following the presentation, each of the Board members expressed their gratitude to Chiu-Yin for all of her hard work, commenting that the process has been “exceptional” and “top notch”.
Trustee Hansen inquired as to how quickly the final report will be available on the web and Mayor Stebbins responded that it would be posted at least 10 days prior to a Public Hearing on the draft legislation.
The Board discussed Local Law Introductory #1 of 2009, which is a proposed amendment to the law regulating noise in the Village. As per earlier discussions, the Board has decided to amend the law in order to prohibit the use of leaf blowers for snow removal. Following a review of the language, the Board decided to make some minor changes and consequently tabled a vote until the Village Attorney Rick Golden is able to review them. Once this process has taken place and the Board has agreed on the revised language, a public hearing will be set.
The hearing for the proposed new fence law was opened and subsequently adjourned to February 25, 2009.
Resolution to accept Park Land on Eagle Mountain Road
The Board discussed a proposal to accept a parcel of land on Eagle Mountain Road as Village parkland. Following a brief discussion during which they all voiced their support for the proposal, the Board decided that they needed to clarify the term “parkland” with their attorney before voting.
New Local Law for Cold War Veterans Exemption from Real Property Taxation
Following another brief discussion, the Board decided to table a vote on this proposed legislation until they can review an analysis of what the actual deductions will be.
Calendar for Board of Trustees Meetings
The Board voted unanimously in favor of moving their monthly meeting from the 3rd Wednesday of each month to the 2nd Wednesday in order to accommodate the schedule of their attorney, Rick Golden. The new schedule will commence in April 2009.
Additionally, the Mayor announced that the Board will meet on a weekly basis for the next several weeks as they prepare the annual budget.
Settlement Proposals for Professional Fee Reimbursement Obligations
There was a lengthy discussion regarding a proposed settlement with Tuxedo Park School. Due to engineering errors during the construction of their new wing several years back, work needed to be redone and as a result the school sued their engineer. Because the Village did not bill the school in a timely fashion, they were unable to recoup the several thousand dollars they owe as a part of their suit. As a result of this, they have contested their bill and the Mayor proposed a 50% discount on the engineering fees owed.
Trustee Hansen argued that settling with the school was setting a dangerous precedent and that moving forward, residents might seek similar settlements. Trustee Worthy commented that this situation has extenuating circumstances due to the fact that the Village was late with their billing and that settling under these circumstances was a precedent she felt comfortable setting. After some further discussion, the Board voted unanimously in favor of the settlement.
Attorney for the BAR
Mayor Stebbins proposed that the Board consider hiring an architect adviser to assist the BAR in reviewing applications. Additionally, he suggested that this person could help the BAR to finish drafting the "design guidelines".
Trustee Worthy commented that she has already discussed this possibility with Paola Tocci and is in receipt of 5 resumes. She inquired as to what the procedure should be for interviewing and selecting potential candidates and wondered whether this would be a process for the BAR alone or if the BOT would take part. After further discussion, the Board decided that Trustee Worthy and BAR Chair Paola Tocci should interview the candidates and make their recommendations to the BOT. Trustee Hansen requested that the Trustees be provided with resumes for each of the potential candidates.
Prior to the end of the meeting, Trustee Hansen suggested that the Board discuss the issue of potentially hiring a new full-time employee in the Village Office during the regular meeting as opposed to Executive Session as originally planned. He argued that adding a full-time employee is a matter of budget and therefore it is also a public matter. The Mayor, however, reiterated that this was a matter for Executive Session and the meeting was adjourned.