Following nuisance Article 78 filed by Town Engineer Kevin Maher, Stony Point abolishes his position and opts for contract with private firm all the while denying the obvious;
Fate of Letchworth property also discussed at board meeting
BY CHERYL SLAVIN
In a surprise move that elicited gasps from the audience, the Stony Point Town Board resolved at its Tuesday night meeting to “abolish” the position of Town Engineer effective immediately, and to hire on a consultant basis the private engineering firm of Lanc & Tully. The board did not discuss either resolution prior to voting on it, and since the matter had not been placed on the agenda, the public did not have a chance to comment on the move either. The decision results in the ouster of Kevin Maher, who has held the job of town engineer since 2009.
Maher has been embroiled with the board in an Article 78 proceeding he commenced more than a year ago after the Stony Point Planning Board backed Building Inspector Bill Sheehan’s decision not to violate Maher’s neighbors for having a line of evergreen bordering their street. This has led to rampant speculation that the board would find a way to rid itself of Maher, however, Supervisor Geoff Finn and Councilmen Jim Monaghan and James White all vehemently denied after the meeting that the resolution was based in any way on the legal proceedings, which are still technically on-going.
“Kevin Maher is a wonderful engineer,” Finn stated, “but we needed to make a decision that would result in a savings for the town.”
Maher said the town would regret the decision. Said Maher, “I don’t see how they’re going to save any money with all of the regular work that I did. The new firm’s costs for reviewing the NPE submittal will be paid for by NPE as Lanc & Tully are not officers of the town. They are consultants and as such have no enforcement authority.”
White confirmed that the position of town engineer was one of those the board considered when, during the budget process, it discussed the possibility of saving money by contacting out certain jobs. He as well as Finn pointed out that hiring a firm on an as-needed basis would be far more cost effective for the town as well as provide a greater array of expertise and flexibility. Finn stated that the board notified Maher of its decision Tuesday afternoon, and that there would not be any official severance package. Monaghan also noted that with several large projects looming on Stony Point’s horizon, such as the proposed gasification plant, it was in the town’s best interests to be able to hire consultant firms with expertise in those areas.
The public hearing on the fate of the Letchworth property was also continued at the meeting. Town Planner Max Stach addressed several of the comments and recommendations of the Stony Point Planning Board as well as the Rockland County Planning Department. Several members of the public also spoke, including Frank Simione, who lives on Willow Grove Road. He urged the board not to rush to any decision, and to partner with the Town of Haverstraw in planning for the site. He spoke against having an “overlay zone” for the property, and preferred that the board wait instead to see what development opportunities come available and zone accordingly.
Resident Susan Filgueras strongly advocated that the board approve only uses for tax paying entities, both for the benefit of the town and school district coffers as well as to cover the additional services undoubtedly incurred as a result of commercial development. George Potanovic noted favorably the town’s decision to include in the zoning amendments language that requires the retention of the historic look of the site, but urged the board to set its priorities as to what would best fit with the town’s long term plans for economic improvement. The public hearing will be continued at least until the next board meeting; the amended draft proposal will be available on the town’s website by Tuesday, January 20, in order to give the public a chance to review it before the next meeting.
The public hearing on the proposed amendment to the sign law was also continued. Town counsel Brian Nugent explained that the draft amendment has been changed to reduce the potential locations for the electronic gateway sign to a single site, a 150 foot radius at the intersection of Route 9W and Filors Lane. The board also continued this hearing to its next meeting; the amended draft, as well as pictures depicting examples of the possible size and look of the proposed sign, would also be available on the website by January 20.
Filgueras also announced that the first meeting of the Stony Point Sesquicentennial Committee would be held on Thursday, January 29 at 6 p.m. at the RHO building. Anyone interested in getting involved is invited to attend. She further announced that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission will be holding a hearing about the proposed 42 inch diameter Spectra Energy gas pipeline which, if built, would transect Stony Point as well as the proposed CHPE line before crossing the river into Westchester. That meeting is on Thursday, January 22 at 7:00 at the RHO building.