Timelines 1/23/14

Medicare costs on tax bill cause a commotion
Property tax owners have been responding to county tax authorities with confusion when a breakdown of their local share of the state’s Medicare cost appeared on their tax bill, adding no new charges but presenting a fresh perspective on a longstanding issue. Previously, property tax figures were broken down on bills by listing Medicaid and other state-mandated costs under the state/county line, but two new laws permitted detailed explanations on where tax money was spent and how mandates affect taxes. In response, residents have been calling to ask about the line, not realizing the figure was just a more detailed presentation of the same payment. A flier and statement were meant to be sent out with this year’s tax bills, but was never distributed. The county owes $68.3 million for state Medicare payments, which is over half of the almost $106 million in property taxes to be collected in 2014.

Bipartisan spending bill could mean $600 million for child care, head start providers
A federal spending bill which heads to the House of Representatives on Wednesday could mean $1.1 billion more in funds for child care and early education, including a combined total of $600 million for New York programs alone. The spending bill allocates $100 million to state child care initiatives and $500 million to Head Start providers. The funds are meant to restore Head Start programs defunded by the sequestration’s automatic spending cuts in 2013. The bill goes even further with its child care incentives by bumping the financial support for the federal Child Care Development Block Grant up to its highest level ever.

Orangetown to receive $1.8 million for road safety improvements
Orangetown Supervisor Andy Stewart announced on Friday that the town would receive a $1.8 million state grant for traffic safety additions for a section of Middletown Road between Crooked Hill and East Central. The project will include 3,000 feet of sidewalks and curbing, new traffic and pedestrian crossing signals, additional signage and street lights, landscaping work and other amenities. Also included is a “pedestrian safety zone” at the intersection of North Middletown and Central Avenue. According to Stewart, the project is meant to improve the safety of a critical area of the town near Tappan Zee High School and nearby commercial areas. Since 2001, 233 accidents have occurred at the intersection between Middletown and East Central, including two fatal incidents involving pedestrians.

Entergy and Utility Workers Union of America reach agreement on contract
A potential strike at the Indian Point nuclear power plant was averted early Saturday morning when plant owner Entergy hit a deal with the Utility Workers of America Local 1-2. The agreement, which is binding for Local 1-2’s 395 workers at the plant, was reached shortly after the previous contract expired on Friday, January 17. Negotiations at the plant regularly go past deadline and though a strike has not occurred at Indian Point since 1983, Local 1-2 voted to authorize one if a deal was not reached. Union members must still vote to approve the contract, but according to union spokesman John Melia, the agreement was good for both Local 1-2 and Entergy. Indian Point Vice President John Ventosa similarly stated the agreement was mutually beneficial to both parties. A vote by union officials is expected within the next few weeks.

CDC: Total child flu deaths have doubled, situation is now an epidemic
A new report released by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday has revealed a significant increase in flu deaths among children which might signal a particularly bad season. The total number of child deaths caused by the flu now stands at 20, which is double the 10 deaths already recorded during the 2013-2014 flu season. 169 children died during the 2012-2013 flu season. While adult deaths are not tallied, 7.5 percent of deaths this year were due to flu, meaning the rate has surpassed the CDC’s 7.2 percent epidemic threshold. This is up from the 6.9 percent which was reported two weeks prior. Though flu deaths have increased, the number of states affected seems to have decreased. The number of states with high disease activity was reported to be at 14, which is down from 20. As of January 11, New York has been listed as “minimally affected.”

Retired MLB Player Darryl Strawberry announces plan to open rehab center
Daryl Strawberry, who played outfield for both the New York Yankees and the New York Mets, has announced he will be opening a substance abuse treatment center in Florida. Strawberry, will be present to celebrate the grand opening of the Darryl Strawberry and Oglethorpe Recovery Center (DSRC). The facility features both indoor common areas and outdoor recreational spaces along with large rooms and a sizable staff. Strawberry is known almost as much for his troubles with chemical dependency and brushes with the law as he is for tremendous batting ability at the plate. From 1995 onward into the mid-2000s, Strawberry has struggled with prescription drug abuse and had numerous stints in rehab.

Broncos off to Super Bowl after beating Patriots 26-16
Fresh from a recent victory against the New England Patriots, the Denver Broncos will be facing off against the Seahawks at MetLife Stadium on February 2. The team was carried to victory by Peyton Manning, who helped his team in a stunning 26-16 victory over New England and its star player Tom Brady last Sunday in the AFC Title Game. Manning, a Super Bowl veteran, took the lead for his team early by setting up four field goals and two touchdown drives. Manning, a 37 year old football giant, was brought back into action in 2011 by John Elway following a series of debilitating injuries and surgical corrections. If the Broncos win, Manning will be the first player to win two rings for two different franchises.

Processing plant explosion kills two in Nebraska
An explosion at an animal feed processing plant in Omaha, Nebraska killed at least two people and injured at least 10 more on Monday morning, though 21 people are unaccounted for and a higher death toll is possible. 38 employees were inside the International Nutrition plant when the explosion ripped through the building, causing a partial collapse when support structures were damaged. Of the injured, one was treated for hypothermia after being submerged in cold water after an object fell on him. Though no hazardous chemicals were present at the site, Omaha Fire Chief Bernie Kanger explained the area was still dangerous. Fire personnel are still working to clear the structure and the blast is currently under investigation, but there is no suspected cause at this time. The plant has been cited for OSHA violations in the past and has paid $13,600 to settle seven of those complaints.

Nanuet woman falls victim to prepaid debit scam
A 71-year-old Nanuet woman was swindled out of money on Monday when a man calling to collect debts tricked her into giving him money loaded onto prepaid debit cards. The man told the woman he was from the IRS and she would be arrested by local police if she did not send money immediately. The woman followed the man’s instructions by loading up nine Green Dot MoneyPak cards and giving the man information on how to access them. However, she grew suspicious when he demanded more money shortly after the first call. The scam is similar to another one Orange & Rockland reported recently where an individual would call customers threatening to shut off service unless loaded MoneyPak cards were provided for the caller’s access. According to O&R, the money is then transferred to other prepaid cards and withdrawn at an automated teller.

Girl Scouts will be allowed to sell cookies at Shops at Nanuet
Thanks to intervention by the County Executive and negotiations between a local troop and the Simon Group, the Girl Scouts will be allowed to hold their annual fundraising cookie drive at the Shops at Nanuet this year. County Executive Ed Day explained he was able to reach out to both Carol Ackerman, who heads the New City Girl Scout Troop 40826, and Shops general manager Ryan Hidalgo, who contacted Simon management. The mall’s management initially asked the scouts pay $175 for a spot, but following talks with Simon management, an agreement was reached which satisfied both parties. Simon has also offered to help the Girl Scouts in their sale by advertising the appearance on Facebook.

Sentencing postponed for embezzling lunch lady
A lunch lady who pled guilty to embezzling thousands of dollars from student meal accounts will be sentenced at a later date than expected, Ann Millaressis of Tomkins Cove has already agreed to pay the district back $2,000 as part of a plea deal, but it was reported County Court Judge Charles Apotheker required more time to survey the damages and agree on a suitable restitution. Millaressis was in charge of student meal accounts at the Ramapo School District when she short-changed the system between August 2009 and May 2011. By doing this, she was able to steal $16,000, though School District officials assured the public that no children were deprived of food or services as a result. Millaressis’ scheme was discovered when parents noticed double-billing or billing for services which had not been received, prompting the Ramapo School District to contact the Ramapo Police Department.