Board also forms Conservation Advisory Council
BY CHERYL SLAVIN
At its most recent meeting on November 26, the Stony Point Town Board read into the minutes and then responded to a letter from the New York State Comptroller’s Office regarding the revenue the town received this summer from the two 40-year cell tower leases. The OSC counseled the town to not spend the $2.227 million dollars all at once but to budget it over the next few years.
Councilmember James White affirmed that the town will be applying the funds that way, primarily to retire debt. However, at this time $1.5 million dollars had already been received and applied to the 2014 budget, which resulted in a reduced homestead tax by about 3 percent. The other $727,000 is expected by Monday, December 2, and much of that is expected to be used to keep taxes down in 2015.
As previously reported by the Rockland County Times, Supervisor Geoff Finn has stated that he hopes to recoup about half of the $1.5 million used in 2014 through an expected influx of FEMA funds, leaving those recouped dollars available for use beyond 2015. Due to taking the lump sum, the town will lose out on the $130,000 or so it had been receiving annually for leasing the towers, a move the board has justified as prudent because they say there is an unknown future for cell phone tower technology.
Following the opinion of his advisors and Councilman White, Supervisor Finn executed the sale of the long-term cell lease this fall. Without the deal, Finn would have had to dramatically dip into the town’s reserves to maintain current tax rates, or would have had to raise taxes up to six percent.
Few other municipalities have sold long term leases on their cell towers and it remains to be seen if Stony Point’s move is the beginning of a municipal trend. Critics of the move have pointed out that if decades from now cell tower leases remain valued at a similar or increased price to their current level, the deal will end up costing the town a lot of money. Proponents point to the old adage, “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush,” or as Councilman White has put it, “We need the money now.”
At last week’s meeting the board also took a step forward toward the creation of the Conservation Advisory Council. Previously referred to as the Conservation Advisory Committee in the Master Plan, the CAC was originally considered only as an adjunct to the portion of the Plan regarding the use, removal and conservation of trees.
In his report at the meeting, however, Town Attorney Brian Nugent informed the board that the State General Municipal Law provides for the implementation of a Conservation Advisory Council that has a much broader reach, covering any issues of conservation and environment that concern the town. The GML provides for towns to appoint from three to nine members serving terms of up to two years at a time. The council is to be advisory only, and can include up to two “youth positions” of members aged 16 to 20 years old.
The board then passed a resolution providing for a five member council whose duties and responsibilities include advising the board on matters affecting the preservation, development and use of the natural and manmade features of the town, develop and conduct a program of public information in the community on environmental issues and conduct studies and surveys and maintain inventories of the natural and manmade features within Stony Point.
Members can be reappointed, and the board retains the power to increase or decrease the number of appointees as it sees fit. The board also has the power to directly appoint members who it finds would be valuable, such as environmental experts. The resolution also provides that the chair of the Planning Board, the Recreation Facilities supervisor, and any other officials designated by the board will serve as ex officio members. Any Stony Point resident interested in serving on the CAC can submit an application directly to the Town Board.
In other business the board approved entering an agreement with Constant Contact, Inc., an online marketing company that provides email and social media marketing services, to establish an email notification service for all Stony Point residents. The cost to the town would come out to less than $300 a year, and would allow the town to directly and expeditiously send out notifications to the community on a regular basis. The service could also be used to send out a regular email-type newsletter.
With the approval of John Perkins Architect to handle the renovations, the Board finally made progress on the RHO handicapped bathrooms, the grant for which had been received about a year ago. Progress was also made with regard to the Cedar Pond Brook Interceptor Sewer Replacement Project. As Town Engineer Kevin Maher explained, the project had essentially come to a halt for over a year after the State DEC objected to the amount of wetlands the town had proposed to fill in order to complete the repair and replacement of the aging sewer line.
The contractor now requested official board approval to continue with the project, which the board granted. Instead 30 feet, there will be a 21 foot wide causeway constructed over the sewer line, the minimum practicable width for vehicle access, which will result in a total loss of less than one-half acre of wetlands.