BY MICHAEL RICONDA
Suffern – State capital funding for portable flood barriers in Suffern’s most vulnerable areas is not likely to go forward, owing to a single nay vote from an otherwise unanimous Village Board.
According to Suffern Trustee Edward Markunas, Suffern Mayor Patricia Abato’s signature was required on an official request for $150,000 in capital funding submitted last week to the offices of Carlucci and Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee. Though Abato was the only person on the board who voted against the request, the state reps reportedly maintained the signature of the mayor was needed for the request to proceed.
Nonetheless, Markunas stated he plans to present the trustees with another funding request, bolstered by points of state law he claims validate his case for capital funding even without mayoral approval.
“We have that authority as trustees to protect our residents,” Markunas said. “To me it’s a no-brainer to have another tool in the arsenal of the first responders.”
Specifically, Markunas aims to use New York State Village Law 4-400, which outlines the responsibilities of mayors, to make his case for the capital funds. 4-400 states that “…on all matters and questions, [the mayor] shall vote only in his capacity as mayor of the village and his vote shall be considered as one vote.” Markunas argued this means a mayoral vote does not automatically nullify board resolutions.
Though state funds have not been secured, an equivalent $150,000 in bond purchases has already been approved by the county executive and Legislature.
Though Abato was unavailable for comment, village resident Joseph Sferrazza claimed he spoke to Abato, who told him she had reasons for the nay vote but did not elaborate.
“She actually called me back and said that there are many reasons and she explained them on why it wasn’t signed,” Sferrazza said. “To me it sounded like a lot of kicking the sand around, but the bottom line, to me, and I’m sure all concerned, is that nothing is getting done.”
In addition, flood-prone Squire’s Gate resident Roy Tschudy said he had spoken to Abato during a demonstration of the flood barriers in June 2014. In spite of her refusal to sign off on the project, Tschudy said Abato referred to the demonstration as “very impressive.”
“The river barrier funds under capital funding will (would have) cost the village and its taxpayers a grand total of zero dollars,” Tschudy wrote in an email release. “Yet, Abato for reasons other than consideration to flooding of Squires Gate residents, Memorial Drive residents, along with any others who reside in flood prone areas has refused to sign off for the funding.”
The flood barriers, which would have been stored at the Fire Training Center in Pomona and deployed at flood sites countywide, would likely see use along the flood plains of the Mahwah and Ramapo Rivers, particularly in flood prone areas like Squire’s Gate and Memorial Drive. Made of a kevlar-like fabric, they inflate when wet, weighing themselves down and turning the trapped water into a retention wall.