Basile’s incentive plan for emergency workers turns into Finn’s political giveaway
BY CHERYL SLAVIN
Tuesday night’s meeting of the Stony Point Town Board opened with Kathy Kivlehan, the Town’s Zoning Board Clerk, expressing the dismay and anger she said all the town workers felt at the Board’s decision to not discuss a resolution extending a package of discounts to town employees similar to that granted emergency volunteers. Ten or so town workers showed up at the board meeting to stand with Kivlehan.
(Update – Since the publication of this article some town workers have publicly stated that Kivlehan does not speak for them).
At the meeting of March 11, Supervisor Geoff Finn withdrew his motion to extend the discounts after Councilman Jim White raised concerns about reconciling the discounts with any competing provisions in the union contracts. At the March 25 meeting, Kivlehan went on to say that the failure of the motion to even find a second, and its subsequent “quick end,” conveyed a negative message of “low value” placed upon employee contributions to the Town.
“Town workers are a crucial component of small government success,” she stated. “We deserve recognition for what we do for the community.”
Board members appeared surprised by the confrontation and hastened to assure her and all the other town employees in attendance that no slight was intended. “I would have seconded the motion at the last meeting,” White told the crowd, “except that I had concerns about the union contracts and wanted to consult with counsel first.”
Councilman Jim Monaghan noted that the item had not been placed on the agenda at the last meeting, which negated the ability to discuss the issue and open it for public input. “We all know how hard you work,” he said, “and we are open to pursuing this in the future.”
Councilman Tom Basile reiterated that no slight was meant, and pointed out that it took two meetings, and some discussion in between, to work out the volunteer discounts. “We need to consult with the department heads and legal counsel, but all of us do support you,” he said.
Councilman Karl Javanes said that he is available by phone to talk with any staff member at any time about this or other issues.
Finn concluded, “We are behind you 100 percent. We will have counsel look this over, and if there are no legal conflicts, we will place the matter on the agenda for April 8.”
Basile had conceived of the discounts for town facilities including the pool and golf course as a means to continue attracting unpaid volunteers, but Finn has taken the conversation in a different direction.
Inside observers opined to the Rockland County Times that Supervisor Finn is attempting to use the issue to rile up town workers, a powerful voting bloc in Stony Point. Finn is outnumbered by Republicans 4 – 1 on the board following the 2013 town election and appears to be grasping at the air to regain influence, one town official told the newspaper.
The incentives for volunteers passed by the board, that Finn proposed for town workers as well, are as follows:
– No fee for pool or use of the town dump
– A discount of $10 a week for the playground program
– A day camp discount of $50 for the first child, $20 for the second child, and $10 for each additional child in a single family
– Discounts of $25 for swimming lessons and $15 for tennis lessons, and a 25 percent reduction in the facilities use fee.
– Elimination of fee for golf card
Currently town employees receive a 10 percent discount on many town services.
The meeting’s other lengthy discussion concerned the plan by Roger Amar, Stony Point resident who lives on a 14 acre compound on Gate Hill Road, to build a small “helistop” on his property. According to John Perkins, the architect on the project, Amar does not own a helicopter, and has no intent to purchase one, but he would like to accommodate his friends and associates who would occasionally travel to his home by helicopter if they had that option. Amar anticipates that the landing site would be used about once a month.
Perkins also explained that Amar offered the use of the helispot to Stony Point’s emergency services providers for medical evacuations and other emergencies. Supervisor Finn and Councilman Basile, along with representatives from the police, ambulance corps, fire department, attended a meeting hosted by Amar to learn about the offer. Both Finn and Basile came away impressed with Amar’s commitment to planning everything according to legal requirement and to serving the community.
“This is a first class type of operation,” Basile told the public at Tuesday’s meeting.
As Perkins explained, the Town has no provision in its code for this type of development; therefore, according to New York State law, all that’s needed to proceed is for the Town to give its authorization for Amar to file for the appropriate permits and permissions with the state Department of Transportation and the FAA.
George Potanovic Jr., a resident of Gate Hill Road in attendance at the Board meeting, stated that this was the first time he had heard of this plan, and raised the question of whether something like this should be opened up for a public hearing with an opportunity to hear input from the neighbors. Finn replied that since the applicant could theoretically proceed even without Town approval, there really was no call for a public hearing. Apparently, there is nothing currently in place to stop residents from landing helicopters on private property.
The Board approved the request to proceed with the plan. After the meeting, Potanovic continued to express concern about possible noise and privacy issues, as well as the lack of notice and consultation with neighbors. “It seems odd there is no limitation on any of this,” he noted. “While the owner has said he would only use the helispot occasionally, there is nothing to stop him from changing that.”