The regime of new mayor Demeza Delhomme has shook the Village of Spring Valley, with angst!
BY MICHAEL RICONDA
I new iconoclastic mayor has done for Spring Valley what even a federal indictment of the prior mayor could not do: awakened the community.
Mayor Demeza Delhomme took office over six weeks ago apparently on a mission to shake things up in Village Hall and to establish himself as the unquestioned boss in town. So far, he’s met with plenty of resistance.
The newly-elected mayor earned plenty of attention for sudden staff firings and other controversial decisions, but he only earned more at the most recent Village Board meeting on January 13, as an angry crowd picked Delhomme apart over community center closures.
At the meeting, Delhomme not only postponed a public hearing and vote on a community development block grant, but faced incensed village residents who questioned the village’s recently closure of the Louis Kurtz Civic Center and the displacement of the Spring Valley Midget Football League, when some of the Civic Center’s activities were relocated to the William “Bill” Darden Community Center.
Attendees stated the village closed the Civic Center due to a leaking roof and harmful fumes, forcing after-school programs from the building and displacing the football league. However, they argued the Darden Center could not accommodate the programs the Civic Center hosted and the football league could not operate in Memorial Park where it had been temporarily re-assigned.
Delhomme initially denied he knew about the closure of the football league’s office and called the claims “hearsay,” stating he had unilateral ability to terminate programs and had issued no decision yet. However, he was forced to address the matter after challenges from several residents, including Ramapo Midget Football League Vice President Sherry McGill.
McGill stated Parks and Recreation Director Bernhard Charles called the civic center last week and instructed its occupants to move out.
“We don’t even know if we can get in the office,” McGill said.
After public participation McGill alleged to the Times that Delhomme did not seem to understand the situation because he was allowing his staff to act of their own accord, while abusing his own power as mayor.
The league’s president Velton Blacknall argued the league had been grandfathered into the office and should not have been subject to eviction. Blacknall also argued there was no formal prior notice and a legal issue might have arose.
Though Delhomme appeared adamant, McGill presented a recording of Charles’ message during public participation, clearly linking the village employee to the eviction. “We’re gonna change the locks,” Charles stated in the recording.
In response, Delhomme allowed the village attorney to read out the village’s two-year agenda, which includes the total renovation of the Civic Center, a restoration of sports programs and other village projects.
“The plan is to use these places to have after-school programs,” Delhomme announced. “I will not remove your kids. It will never happen on my watch.”
Attendees were further incensed when Delhomme attempted to use procedure to limit commentary, demanding residents rephrase comments posed as questions, address the entire board rather than just Delhomme and even threatening to end the meeting early by saying attendees had exceeded the room’s fire capacity. Many openly condemned the mayor as unprofessional and even abusive toward residents.
“This village does not belong to you,” village resident and 2013 Preserve Rockland town council candidate Betty Carmand said to the mayor. “We expect you to respect us.”
Others such as Rudy Dent suggested the move was a covert attempt to repurpose the Civic Center for the Orthodox Jewish community, speculating it would be used as a religious school. The board appeared to agree.
Following Delhomme’s departure from the heated public meeting, the remaining trustees passed a raft of resolutions reversing the closures of the Civic Center and football league’s eviction, requiring written notification of mayoral orders and nullifying other measures passed by the mayor since his term began.