BY CHERYL SLAVIN
During the course of his regular monthly report to the Town Board, Stony Point Police Chief Brian Moore spoke at length about the challenges of maintaining a high standard of protection and service while operating with a limited staff. There are 30 spots available on the roster, of which 23 are currently filled, with two more budgeted for this year. He pointed out that there has been a rise in the number of felonies in the town, including a recent violent burglary in Jones Point and an incident in which a Stony Point police officer was injured while dragged by the car of a fleeing suspect.
While acknowledging the fiscal constraints the town continues to face—and the continued open communication with the board and the supervisor—he noted that money saved by operating with only two cars on patrol at any time is offset by overtime costs, as off-duty officers must cover the streets every time on duty patrolmen respond to a crime scene.
Chief Moore noted with pride the protection the force has continued to provide to Stony Point; however, he also noted with regret areas of diminished service, including full-time school patrol, participation in the drug task force, and other programs. He expressed special concern about the increase in prescription drug and heroin cases. In all, he contended, the strength of the police force affects the quality of life for the entire community.
The board listened intently during his remarks, but did not offer any response. The board did, however, approve the nomination of a new academy graduate to fill the 25th budgeted spot, and also agreed to consider hiring a Spanish speaking officer to replace Detective Zayas—currently the force’s only Spanish speaker—upon Zayas’s imminent retirement. Board members noted that the new hires will be at the recently created “sixth tier,” at a much lower salary than the retired officers they will replace, which will ultimately save the town a great deal of money.
Councilman Tom Basile introduced a resolution calling for a Beautification Program that would provide opportunities for local businesses, civic groups and individuals to adopt and improve town properties and other public locations such as highway exits, park entrances, cemeteries, and rights-of-way. Basile said he also based his idea on successful programs in other towns such as Clarkstown, and on the positive reaction to the town’s new highway sign off Exit 14 Palisades.
The resolution calls for interested participants to sign an agreement with the town to improve a chosen area; signage and overall appearance will be monitored in order to conform to zoning laws and to provide a uniform, consistent appearance in keeping with the town’s historic roots and natural beauty. In return for the service, participants will be able to erect signage that would permanently display the business or organization’s name and contribution.
Basile characterized the program as one which would provide vast improvement to the town while also offering a high visibility marketing or recruiting opportunity for the participants. The board unanimously passed the resolution. Interested participants may inquire at the Highway Department for applications. Information about the program will also be posted on the town website.
Some town beautification has already begun before any resolution was brought to the board, as the town has hung over 20 signs declaring “historic Stony Point” on lamp posts around Stony Point.
The public hearing on the unsafe waterfront buildings continued. Both Mr. Anderson, owner of a Grassy Point Road property, and Margie Adaime, whose mother owns two adjacent lots on 4th and 5th Streets, spoke about the difficulties they have encountered trying to get a response from FEMA and the state’s Rebuild program.
Supervisor Geoff Finn noted that the Board has been attempting to help both of them, and will continue to do so. He also stated that as long as they file for demolition permits and provide a paper trail that they are taking action, the town will hold off on knocking down their houses. Resident Rebecca Cassles also noted the unsafe deterioration of another condemned house, prompting Town Counsel Brian Nugent to point out that the town can authorize the building inspector to take emergency action to address any immediate danger even before the structure is razed. The board then passed a motion authorizing Inspector Bill Sheehan to return to the sites and provide fencing or additional protection, the cost of which would also be covered by a lien on the property.
A public hearing was opened on a text amendment recommended by the Planning Board, which would change the zoning law to allow a limited amount of outdoor retail space in the business district (BU) zone. This would allow for new retailers, such as Tractor Supply Co., which has expressed interest in opening a store in the Aldi shopping center, as well as established retailers, to use outdoor space for “local convenience commercial uses,” such as display and outdoor sales. Although all the councilmen expressed support for the amendment, the hearing remains open until the board’s next meeting, in order to meet the 30 day requirement for response from other governmental agencies.
U.S. Gypsum has been pursing a tax certiorari case against the Town of Stony Point since 2010, and the board approved Tax Assessor Bill Beckmann’s request to hire D&B Engineers to provide expert advice and assistance on the matter. USG claims that environmental conditions on the site severely reduce the value of the plant and consequently should lower its $650,000/year tax payment. Councilman Basile noted, as did others, the irony that the claimed conditions were caused by USG itself, and that the plant has been kept up and ready to open at any time.
The board also approved the appointment again of special counsel to represent its interests in a second, and possibly duplicative, Article 78 proceeding brought by the Town Engineer Kevin Maher regarding a disagreement Maher has about the enforcement of the town’s tree law on a property near his home on Central Highway.
The board also opened up discussion about the possibility of providing Internet broadcasts of its meetings. The members agreed to research the idea further, and continue discussions at future meetings.