Residents Challenge Town Board on Many Issues at Clarkstown Meeting

BY MARIA MIRAKAJ BROWNSELL

Tuesday’s town board meeting in Clarkstown was dominated by questions from town residents.

Tom Nimick spoke out once again about resolution 38-2012 which concerned the retention of Jay Savino.

“Your response in public response have not resolved the questions that I have raised, rather they have resulted in contradictions that would puzzle any resident in Clarkstown. These contradictions need to be resolved if you wish to put this matter to rest,” said Nimick.

“When I asked about when this decision was made, Mr. Gromack and Ms. Mele in a telephone conversation with me replied that the decision was made in executive session. When I asked where the minutes reflecting the decision were, as required by the open meetings law, I was informed there were no minutes. Mr. Borelli and Ms. Hausner both explained this lack of minutes by saying no decisions have been made in executive session,” continued Nimick.

Nimick was unable to finish speaking as his three minutes was up. Michael Hull finished reading the speech during his own three minutes.

“Perhaps Mr. Gromack, you would be willing to take back your statement that the decisions were made in executive session,” read Hull. “I want to make sure that you understand that Mr. Nimick is not talking about the retention of Mr. Savino. Here is how Mr. Nimick sees it based on your comments thus far, if the decision was made during executive session than it was in direct violation of the open meetings law. If it was not done in executive session and not open meetings, then the resolution is based upon decisions made in violation of the open meetings law. There’s one other possibility, that no actual decision was made and Ms. Mele presented the matter falsely when drafting the resolution. Finally Mr. Nimick has been making every effort to bring this matter to the board directly so that you can address it yourselves because he thinks it is fair to give you a chance to do that. This is the third time he is addressing you on this topic,” continued Hull.

“I do want to clarify and I apologize if you think or heard that I said that a decision was made, it was a discussion. I just want to clarify that. We had a discussion in executive session,” said Gromack.

“The decision to eliminate Ms. Coopersmith’s position and the decision to hire Mr. Savino were both done at regularly scheduled public meetings and voted on by this board. I understand Mr. Nimick’s argument and I emphatically disagree with it,” said Mele. “The Town of Clarkstown is not just good at complying with the open meetings law, we are very good.”

Nimick’s warned that if the town doesn’t do something about this decision he will have to go in another direction he’d rather avoid, meaning take legal action or contact authorities within the state that regulate government transparency.

“I am very confident and comfortable with the matter in which Ms. Coopersmith’s position was eliminated and Mr. Savino was retained and that’s my answer on that,” said Mele.

Steven Levin of Congers asked about the uniformity of fees when it comes to building permits. He said that some building permit fees seem to be charged different amounts with different people. Town Attorney Amy Mele mentioned that they have been revising the town code and updating the consolidated fee schedule.

Another resident asked about the feasibility study concerning solar panels at the town landfill and why the town is so far behind in the process than he was led to believe. Mele responded that the board has been weighing different options with the new net-metering law that was enacted a year ago. Councilman George Hoehmann explained that several meetings have taken place and they are trying to “lay it out from the business perspective.” They are either going to have a private company take on the work and obtain power at a low cost through them, or they will undertake the project themselves completely.

Questions were asked about the tentative resolution involving the authorization of the supervisor to remove officers from the county narcotics and intel units. Supervisor Gromack explained that the county hasn’t paid the officers that have volunteered to be part of this unit, so they are proposing to remove the officers if they aren’t paid by a set date.

During general public comments Levine brought up the issue of Mr. Goldberg’s properties on 139 and 141 Massachusetts Avenue where there are 23-35 feet of hazardous material. He included photographs which he distributed to the town board. He has brought this issue up numerous times, yet the property remains the same. Attorney Amy Mele explained that it is not in his, or their best interest to discuss this in a public meeting and that he can call her privately for more information. She assured him that the property has been discussed “feverishly” and they are attempting to resolve the issue.

“When I asked about when this decision was made, Mr. Gromack and Ms. Mele in a telephone conversation with me replied that the decision was made in executive session. When I asked where the minutes reflecting the decision were, as required by the open meetings law, I was informed there were no minutes. Mr. Borelli and Ms. Hausner both explained this lack of minutes by saying no decisions have been made in executive session,” continued Nimick.

Benson Blake of Nyack spoke about the Clarkstown Dam and Tension Basin matter. He said that the town purchased land to preserve wildlife, but it is being stripped as a construction zone. He said that the Town of Orangetown was never made aware that any of this was going to happen, that there was no site plan publishing, no legal closing, and no fencing around the site.

Gromack explained that residents of the town asked them to do this project tot alleviate flooding. “We’ve had 12-14 public meetings when we discussed the drainage and revitalization process. Other options would be invasion of personal property, so we decided to use open space. Residents of Clarkstown and Central Nyack have been very supportive. Trees will be planted and walking paths will me created,” said Gromack.

“The Town of Orangetown was notified but we didn’t receive any comments from them. It has been talked about for seven years and discussed during at least 12 open meetings. There have been many environmental impact studies,” said Amy Mele.

Blake waved papers in the air and argued while Gromack and Mele were speaking. Eventually he grabbed his belongings and walked out.

Councilman Hoehmann explained that Blake and his family sold their land to the town for $600,000 and that he isn’t a resident anymore. He said that Blake is the only one complaining about this project and that the residents are very happy with it.

All proposed agenda resolutions were approved by the town board and can be seen online at http://town.clarkstown.ny.us/cgi-bin/public_notices_new.pl?action=show_cat&id=13