Brian Pugh: Recognizing volunteer board service

Dear Neighbors:brian-pugh-group-cropped

 

After four years of volunteer service on the Village on the Bicycle Pedestrian Committee, Eliza McCarthy has stepped down as chair.  On behalf of the Board of Trustees, I would like to thank her for her dedication to the Village of Croton.

 

As one of the Board’s liaisons to the BPC, I have had a front row seat to Eliza’s leadership.  She is a diplomatic builder of consensus and I think the BPC has benefited from her approach, especially as it has grown in recent years.

 

Under Eliza’s leadership, the BPC has (among other things):

 

  1. promoted cycling and walking at Earth Day, Summerfest tables and annual bike-education events at PVC;

  2. co-hosted and participated in Complete Streets training, learned about methods for experimenting with road enhancements, how to do walk/bike audits;

  3. supported the Village in reducing the speed limit in key areas to improve safety; and

  4. welcomed and supported many new committee members

 

The Board of Trustees is ultimately responsible for the governance of the Village.  However, we rely on the guidance and support of advisory committees like the Bicycle Pedestrian Committee.

 

Committees like the BPC are comprised of residents donating their time to the community.  In addition to advising the Board, they perform other important functions, such as orchestrating grassroots education campaigns.

 

Service on these committees is not usually glamorous and it is always unpaid.  But these consultative groups play an important role in keeping the Board appraised of the feelings of the community and helping to formulate public policy.

 

The BPC is an essential component of democracy in our Village.  Thank you again to Eliza for your work on behalf of the community.

 

Sincerely,

 

Brian Pugh

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Rick Olver: A Mystery on Hollis Lane…or Another Croton United Conspiracy Theory?

Richard OlverAh, another Croton United conspiracy theory: “The mystery of Hollis Lane”. Paul Steinberg finds it fishy Croton should sell an excess piece of property through BidNet.  Just because you are unfamiliar with something doesn’t make it a conspiracy.
After the Board decided to sell a property in Cortlandt, staff sent out requests for proposals to five local developers, but received no replies. The Village has now sought bids through BidNet – we do our competitive bid requests through BidNet, a bid site for government.  And this way we could avoid paying a realtor – saving taxpayer dollars.  We don’t have to accept bids that are not adequate.  If this doesn’t work, we would then go to a realtor. And any transaction will have to be approved by the Board in a public meeting.
Paul does have one very good point: we should announce a sale like this publicly before we seek bids.  I’ve asked that we do so in future.
Rick Olver, Trustee

Richard Masur: What’s become of the “Loyal Opposition”?

Dear Neighbors: Richard Masur Picture

Last week Mr. Paul Steinberg wrote yet another letter.  Once again, rather than approaching the Village directly for information, and/or posing his questions in this forum simply and straightforwardly, he seems to be using this forum to take another opportunity to attack, insinuate and provoke.  Why?  One can only speculate, since he never made it clear.

Mr. Steinberg’s letter involved a property on Hollis Ave. that has belonged to the Village for 24 years, and had recently been offered for sale.  When one scrubs his lengthy letter of sarcasm, mockery, innuendo and personal slurs, his questions boil down to the following: 1) Why has the Village offered this property for sale, after all these years?  2) Why have they done so by placing it on a website called BidNet that is generally used for solicitation of bids and procurement of goods and services.?  3) Why was there a specific time limit set on this process? And finally, 4) Why was the decisions to sell the property made in executive session and not made public after the decision was made?

There is absolutely nothing wrong with raising these questions. Of course, had there been a sincere effort to get the information, the obvious method to do so would be to ask the questions directly of the Village by simply sending an email which would then have been included in the Board’s agenda.  As I am sure that someone as well informed as Mr. Steinberg knows, there is a standing item on the agenda – “Responses To Questions Submitted By E-Mail”.  His four questions I’ve listed above could have been answered that way. I suspect that someone from the Village Board will soon address them directly.

For myself, I think the most productive question raised dealt with notice to the public.  That is a very important issue and one that should be explored directly and dispassionately.  If the perception of the public is that our government could be more “open” in its communications with them, then it certainly should be.

Unfortunately, it does not seem to have been Mr. Steinberg’s goal to get an answer to that or any other question.  It seems that he was more interested in agitating and fomenting concern among his fellow residents by raising these question and insinuating something nefarious had gone on then he was in getting answers.  To what end?  What is his motive in doing so? He does not say. And I do not claim to know.

A few weeks ago, I wrote a letter asking folks to try to be more productive and less confrontational in lodging their complaints/concerns about the governance of the Village of Croton on Hudson.  I think it bears repeating:

“We are all entitled to our own opinions. I would not criticize anyone for that. However, if your goal is truly to be of service to your fellow Village residents by pointing out what you perceive of as misguided policies, why is it necessary to manufacture “facts”, impute malign motives to, and engage in ad hominem attacks on the sitting Trustees? One thing we all should have learned from the 2018 elections is that most people in this country are sick and tired of this kind of behavior and want those who claim to be acting in the public interest to do so in a truthful and civil manner.”

Richard Masur – Chair, Croton Democratic Committee

Brian Pugh: What makes Croton water great?

To The Editor:brian-pugh-group-cropped

I am writing to remind readers that payment for Village of Croton utilities is due by Monday, July 15th.  If you have questions about your bill, you can call 914-862-1419. These bills can be paid online by going to the village website, www.crotononhudson-ny.gov, and selecting “Online Payments” under the Citizen Action Center.

These utility payments support our vital water and sewer infrastructure.

Our Village has made important improvements in this area.  As recently as 5 years ago, testing found 5 violations for inadequate chlorine contact time and excessive copper. In their last tests, the County Healthy Department found no violations.

These improvements did not come by accident.  Keeping our water pure requires vigilance and funding.

Approximately 1/3 of our Village’s outstanding bonds are for our water system. In this year’s budget, the Board approved $500,000 for relining water mains along Cleveland Drive and Albany Post Road.  Property taxes pay for none of this.  The entire system is funded by resident’s utility payments.

As Mayor, I will continue to make the provision of vital municipal services a priority. I look forward to working with my colleagues on the Board and our Village staff to keep our community safe and healthy.

Sincerely,

Brian Pugh, Mayor

Ann Gallelli: Decoding Village Agendas No. 456

Dear neighbor, Here is the 456th installment of Decoding Village Agendas to keep Croton residents informed of the actions of the Village Board at their meetings.  I continue to add recipients to this email update on agendas so you may be receiving it for the first time. I enjoy getting your feedback and hope to continue to hear from you.  If you do not wish to receive these periodic email updates from me, please reply to this email and your name will be removed from the email list.

Ann Gallelli

 

 

Decoding Village Agendas –   July 8, 2019

Work Session of the Village Board

7: 30 p.m.

 (Open to Public and Televised

 

a.      Discussion on the future of the Croton Coalition with Laurie Dean, Chair and Coordinator.   The Croton Coalition Against Drug and Alcohol Abuse  has completed its 10th and last year with federal funding with the Village as its sponsor.  The Board will discuss its role for the future. 

b.      Discussion on the creation of a youth advisory committee.  The Board will discuss the possible role of such a committee.

c.       Discussion on proposed Oktoberfest event with Toni Senecal, owner of the Croton Tapsmith.  Ms. Senecal will present her ideas for an Oktoberfest event, possible location and dates for Fall 2019. 

d.      Recap of snow removal from sidewalks by the Village’s contractor during the 2018-19 winter.    The Board will review some facts and figures from last winter’s snow removal on the Village streets and train station parking lot.

e.       Review of residency requirements for certain Village parks.  The Board will review the current status of Village parks.  Currently parks and fields in the Village are restricted to residents with the exception of Croton Landing Park, Manes Field and Fireman’s Field.

Rick Olver: What does a modern police department look like?

Mayor Brian Pugh, the Croton Village Board and Police Chief Russel Harper share a rick-olver-croton-on-hudson.jpgvision of a modern police force that proactively partners with local citizens to identify and solve problems. We believe that in our small, welcoming village such a community policing strategy will build security, trust and caring.

When a police department is trusted by its community, the job works like it should. But trust can be a very hard thing for police to earn—especially since officers tend to appear in a citizen’s life when something has gone wrong. Police agencies that are diverse are simply more likely to build trust because they reflect the community and include officers of many backgrounds and experiences – and officers learn different perspectives from each other.

This week Croton took a couple of important new steps.  Congratulations to new Officer Debra Rodriguez, who graduated from training at the Rockland County Police Academy – she will be on patrol soon.  And congratulations to Nicholas Ditomasso, who we hired to fill the position of Police Officer (Spanish Speaking). We designated an existing, open position to require proficiency in Spanish and English. Mr. Ditomasso will be the first to fill that position.

Richard Olver

Trustee, Village of Croton on Hudson

Brian Pugh: What can we do to protect our air quality?

Dear Neighbors:brian-pugh-group-cropped

 

Last Friday (6/28) was the first “Air Quality Action Day” of the summer due to excessive Ozone.  Ground-level ozone is a respiratory irritant that can trigger asthma attacks and aggravate emphysema, bronchitis and other respiratory ailments. Children, people with pre-existing respiratory or heart conditions, people doing strenuous outdoor work or exercise and the elderly are particularly vulnerable to the effects of ozone.

 

Sunshine can cause some pollutants to undergo chemical reactions, creating smog.  Higher air temperatures can also speed up chemical reactions in the air. Therefore, as the summer progresses, we can expect additional air quality action days.

 

Here are several simple steps to take to prevent air pollution:

  • Combine errands into a single trip and postpone unnecessary trips.

  • When possible, use mass transit

  • Avoid letting your vehicle idle

  • Postpone operating gas-powered equipment such as lawn mowers and wait for when air quality is better.

Finally, motorists should remember that  Westchester County has enacted an Anti-Idling Law to prohibit the idling of vehicles for more than three consecutive minutes. Every minute of idling wastes fuel and affects the air quality of our area.  Local police are empowered to enforce this law.

 

I encourage residents to remain informed about local air quality by subscribing to alerts from www.dec.ny.gov, protecting themselves by taking appropriate precautions (e.g. limiting outdoor work on air quality action days) and taking steps to reduce air pollution.

 

Sincerely,

Brian Pugh

Sherry Horowitz: Croton is a Village where voices do count

sherry2017This past week, 3 important Village-wide meetings were held in Croton, and all of them were very well attended.  The first one was a continuation of the Village discussion on the future development, if any, in both the Municipal Place and North Riverside Gateway areas.  The second one was a Listening Session organized by the recently created Village Committee on Diversity and Inclusion. The third was the Care for Creation’s program featuring a film about climate change, “Paris to Pittsburgh”, which was followed by a group discussion.

I thought all 3 meetings were informative, and I was heartened by the obvious interest and enthusiasm of the participants.  I was also gratified to see that so many of my friends and neighbors came out to listen, to learn, and to add their voices to the communal conversations that will help to determine future action. The issues that are being discussed in the Village will affect all of us, and I believe it is right and good that (1) we are given the opportunity to participate and (2) that so many folks are availing themselves of the chance to be heard.

In my opinion, Croton is a Village where voices do count.  Our input as citizens is critical to the creation of the kind of community we want to live in, now and in the future. Please continue to participate, to write letters, to attend meetings, to organize and to advocate.

The future is ours!

Sincerely, Sherry Horowitz, Trustee, Village Board

Brian Pugh: What do taxes pay for?

Dear Neighbors:brian-pugh-group-cropped

As June draws to a close, the June 30 deadline for the payment of Village taxes approaches.  Few people enjoy paying taxes, which is why Croton’s Board of Trustees worked with the staff to keep the tax increase in the 2019 budget to 0.46% (for the median homeowner that’s an increase of approximately $26 for the year) and $343,062 below the property tax levy limit.

At the same time, I believe it’s important for the public to understand how their tax dollars are used.  That’s why at my recommendation, the Village Departments now issue quarterly reports that are posted to each Department’s page on www.crotononhudson-ny.gov.

Below is a brief sample of the work that the Village’s departments are doing on your behalf, from their most recent quarterly reports, which were issued last week:

From March 1 to May 31, the Department of Public Works cleared 14 inches of snow, 277 miles of roadway, 485 catch basins, 880 tons of refuse. In the same period, our Village engineer issued 41 new buildings permits. Our Police Department responded to 84 motor vehicle accidents, 169 fire and ambulance calls and responded to 1,176 calls overall, from January 1 to April 30.

Overseeing all of these operations is our Village Manager, Janine King–with the support of her confidential secretary, Bryan Healy.

Manager King, a Village resident since 1989, earned an MBA from the University of Chicago and a BA from Columbia and has worked for the Village for almost 30 years.  Mr. Healy, previously worked for the Town of Bedford, has been with us since 2018 and has proven to be a valuable addition to the team.

Every day, our Village benefits from their experience and expertise.

Over the last two budgets, the Board of Trustees and I have worked with the staff to keep tax levy growth to a total of less than 1%.  We have been able to reduce village indebtedness. We have continued to run budget surpluses. We have have maintained a robust Aa2 credit rating.  In their last statement credit analysis of the Village of Croton, Moody’s observed the Village’s “[s]trong and stable financial position supported by conservative fiscal policies.”

We have been able to grow our fiscal health in the face of economic headwinds: inflation that has been running at approximately 2% per year from 2016 to present, state aid that has remained flat since 2011 (in contrast to the billion dollar increase in state aid to local school districts in the 2019-20 state budget) and unfunded mandates from Albany (e.g. the Village, unlike school districts, must pay the MTA payroll tax–even though almost by definition the Village’s workforce does not really use the MTA).

Our Village Board of Trustees, with the guidance and support of our professional staff, is committed to controlling property taxes to keep the Village of Croton a community where middle class families can afford to live.  At the same time, we will continue to work to give our Village’s workforce the tools they need to keep delivering the level of services residents expect and preserve our community’s quality of life.

Sincerely,

Brian Pugh, Mayor

Rick Olver: Sizing up policing in Croton

rick-olver-croton-on-hudson.jpgOur Croton police headquarters is cramped and woefully inadequate. It is also potentially dangerous. We’ve known this for a long time, but the cost of a modern, stand-alone facility is just too high. So, earlier this year the Croton Village Board approved a Village staff concept for a renovation that would consolidate and rationalize police operations in a segregated, secure space on the entire first floor of the Municipal Building.

Last week the Board agreed to hire a specialist firm to design and cost the schematics for this possible renovation of the police department. Their work will show us what our needs would cost. And we can then decide whether or not to go ahead.

The police do much work in the service of the community, although for privacy reasons details are often not released to the public via the Blotter. They respond to every fire and auto accident. This is a safe community: Croton had a violent crime rate of just 48 per 100,000 residents in 2017, way lower than the national rate of 383 per 100,000. But these days that is not something that can be taken for granted. We need to be prepared. Ever more professional crime prevention and response capacities are essential in this age of random violence.

Our department is cost-effective and has police numbers comparable to similar communities in Westchester. For example, Hastings has a population of 7,500 and a force of 21 officers while Pleasantville, pop. 7,000, has a force of 22 officers. Our Village of 8,200 has a budget for 21 officers.

Having a local police force with officers who are truly knowledgeable and sensitive to the community requires extra emphasis on training and discipline. The Croton police are now operating on modern professional standards. They have adopted community policing approaches and have increased their training. Now we want to give them the professional facilities that would support these improvements.