Friday, June 19, 2009

June Blog

Budget / Economics

We are wrapping up the tentative assessment rolls for the Town and the drop in property value is even worse than we expected. This along with the new fees we keep getting from the Governor’s Office (which take effect this month – instead of the beginning of next year; heck, I guess that we should be glad they aren’t retroactive!) such as the MTA Payroll Tax expected to cost us around $27, 000 per year, as is the new MVP surcharge, around $28,000 per year make for a challenging budget (update!!! The State Insurance Committee has just denied the MVP surcharge – well, they denied it for this year; it will go into effect Jan.1).

I have mentioned to the Board that I have found that there is a computer-operated system that could go on our salt trucks that would monitor / measure the salt that we put on our roads. This would replace the manual system that is used presently and is supposed to be much more efficient. The cost to fit our trucks would be about $140,000; but the manufacturer claims that the system could save up to a third on our salt (which is very expensive) in a normal winter season (we spent about $700,000 last year on salt).

In addition, I have to thank the men and women of our Police Department. They have agreed to extend their contract with no cost of living raise next year and a 3 ½% raise the following year. This is pretty unheard of – now, we did agree to a no-layoff clause and some scheduling changes; but, in a recession, crime goes up and, as our department is not overstaffed, Police layoffs were not really a consideration. This zero percent raise next year will be very helpful in making our budget.

These are just two areas that we have looked at to save money. As far as recreation, which is another big budget item, we have instituted new fees and raised others and we will be looking to see how much closer to break-even we ware getting than we have been in the past.


Philips Road

The developer had appealed to move the Philips Road case to the New York State Court of Appeals and Dutchess County has filed a brief in support of the developer in the suit against the Town of East Fishkill. Well, the New York State Court of Appeals allowed Dutchess County to file their brief in the Philips Rd. court case and then denied the application to appeal and awarded the Town $100 in costs. The only option left for an appeal to reverse the original decision made in the Town's favor (keeping Philips Road open) is to appeal to the United States Supreme Court.

Hillside Lake

We have had two contractors look at the lake and, as we have said, it appears that hydraulic dredging is the way to go. We will be bringing in a professional to help with final design plans and permit applications and we are examining the specific content of the material that will be dredged from the lake. l.

We have made a grant application to DEC for $400,000 to implement a Clean Lake Septic Program and would like to design an artificial wetland at the lake discharge. In addition we are making an application to DEC to allow us to stock Norwegian Grass-eating Carp in the Lake (thanks to Hillside Lake Board member Nancy Foti for that suggestion). I am told that the carp are very efficient at taking care of plant growth.

Presidential Way Water

We will finish installing the waterline in the next few weeks and homeowners can begin to connect shortly thereafter. Water can begin flowing to the homes, hopefully, by August.

Rec Building

Due to the fact that the schools are seriously curtailing the amount of time that their facilities are allowed for our Rec programs we will be, again, considering the building of a Rec building (the new schedules will devastate some of our programs). By chance, I was discussing a local project with an architectural firm the day after the Rec Workshop where the facility cuts were announced and I brought up the issue of a possible Rec building. The firm had experience with such projects and provided some very good ideas for us to consider. I have asked the Town Board to consider looking for a professional to help us with, not only the design / build; but, also an analysis of operating costs. Our Rec programs have been seriously impacted; but, so have our citizens (in this economy), so we are taking a very serious look at such a project to see if it is even feasible. If it turns out that it is too much of a burden, we would certainly put off any action until such time as the economy recovers; still, I think we should perform the analysis.

Brettview Water

We have signed an agreement to purchase the Rand Water Company that serves the Fishkill Plains area and Brettview and are designing the filters to solve the Iron and Manganese problem. We still have a ways to go; but, we are getting closer to resolving a very difficult problem. Actually, in addition to the filters we will be upgrading the facilities and system to be more efficient – something that needed to be done, anyhow.


Shenandoah Water

We have taken over the Shenandoah Water System as IBM and the contractor are finishing up the final stages of the project. If we can work things out with Fishkill as far as supply and storage, this system has the potential to supply water to the Wiccopee and Lake City areas. As well as the High School.

Flooding

We have resolved flooding issues in the Long Hill area and we are finalizing our plan to take care of the flooding in the area of Dogwood Road. I have put out a letter for a professional firm to analyze the Fishkill Creek / Lake City flooding and have received three Letters of Interest. I am hopeful that we can engage the services of a professional to draft a plan to address the Fishkill Creek flooding, get the required permits from DEC, and get to work.

In addition, we are waiting for approval from SEMO on our Hazard Mitigation (read flooding) Grant and hope to get to work on that, if approved. Ed Hoxey from Dutchess County Soil and Water had called to say that he is trying to get the Army Corp of Engineers moving on the Fishkill Creek project again.


Open Space

The good news is that Fishkill Farms has finally been approved to be put in a Land Trust (preserving much of the farm forever) – the bad news is a huge fire that destroyed the barn (the good news is that no one was hurt). I can’t say enough about our firefighters and the response from the firefighters from surrounding towns and cities – they were terrific (in fact, Town of Beekman Supervisor John Adams, who is very involved with their fire department, said that our firefighters and coordinators did an excellent job attending to the fire).

The Johnson Farm Community Supported Agriculture is making terrific progress thanks to the Johnson Farm CSA volunteers. We are looking to engage the services of a farmer (a paid position) familiar with growing crops naturally for the season and if anybody is interested they can contact me at 221-4303.

Our Open Space Preservation Committee has met with our Town Planner, AKRF, to discuss putting together an Open Space Preservation Plan and the Town Board is also considering legislation to maintain open space. Speaking of legislation, when we first started meeting well over a year ago, the East Fishkill Open Space Committee thought that the only way to preserve open space was to fund outright purchases with an Open Space Bond. After talking to several professionals, we have come to realize that there are many ways to preserve open space such as: outright purchase, term easements, legislation and zoning changes, and programs such as Community Supported Agriculture. Our group is terrific and we will be looking forward to holding public workshops beginning sometime in September.

In Closing

Well, that’s about it – I would like to mention that I ran into a gentleman who designs websites and we will be looking into updating our site to provide more information on as well as improving our communication aspects. He had some very good ideas and an upgrade is well overdue.

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