BY ROBERT KNIGHT
ROCKLAND COUNTY TIMES
A united Town Board in Orangetown voted to spend more money on teen counseling services last week, expanding programs already under way at Tappan Zee High School and Nyack High School and potentially returning them to Pearl River High School for the first time in years.
In recent years, Orangetown, like most towns in Rockland, has contracted with CANDLE (Community Awareness Network for a Drug-free Life and Environment), a private, non-profit agency which provides drug abuse counseling to local youths.
The agency, CANDLE, provided counseling services at Pearl River, Tappan Zee and Nyack High Schools, usually at nearby off-campus locations where the teens felt more comfortable confiding in the counselors than in their own actual school buildings.
With the reduction from three schools to two in Orangetown, town funding to CANDLE was reduced accordingly, and was cut further 3-4 years ago in order to stay below the NYS 2 percent tax cap but has remained constant at that level ever since.
This year, CANDLE was scheduled to get $30,482 to continue the counseling services at Tappan Zee, Nyack, and Pearl River, the same amount they have received in recent years, but less than they received a decade ago prior to the tax cap legislation.
At the urging of Councilman Denis Troy last Tuesday evening, and with the news that the Pearl River School District was ready to participate in the program again, the board unanimously added another $4,000 to the contract, to provide both additional hours at each location, and to bring Pearl River back “on line” after a multi-year absence.
Urging the restoration of services to his community, Pearl River School Board Vice President Thom DePrisco spoke heartedly in favor of the resolution at Tuesday’s meeting, and thanked the board for the return of the counseling programs.
BTX Debate Continues
In a rehash of a debate that had been raging for over a year in Orangetown, the Town Board again postponed taking a vote on banning manufacture of controversial BTX chemicals within the township, despite howls of protest from audience members who demanded the board take immediate action.
Pearl River area residents have been protesting loudly since 2014, when a chemical firm called Anellotech announced it was intending to build a new research facility next to one of the former Lederle Laboratories buildings on North Middletown Road, at the hamlet’s border with adjacent Nanuet, in neighboring Clarkstown.
As part of its chemical manufacturing business, the firm said it would test ways to produce small quantities of BTX within its physical plant at the sprawling campus, a part of which was recently sold by the Pfizer Corporation.
The residents claim BTX is extremely hazardous and would endanger the health and lives of thousands of residents living near the Lederle-Pfizer plant, and that the noxious gases could leak into the water, soil and air throughout the region. The residents have been demanding that Orangetown ban the manufacture and use of BTX for any reason, primarily by amending its zoning ordinance to outlaw the production, of the chemicals anywhere within the township.
While generally sympathetic to the residents’ fears, some members of the board have been reluctant to enact a total outright ban, for fear it might chase industry out of Orangetown, both companies already located there and others who might fear moving to the township because of the hostile atmosphere.
During its investigation of BTX, the town learned that Lamont Doherty Geophysical Laboratories in Palisades, a branch of Columbia University, also uses small quantities of BTX for experimental and testing purposes, and that the requested ban might force the prestigious non-profit institute to re-locate elsewhere. Similar studies into other uses of BTX throughout Orangetown are still underway.
Several speakers in the audience last Tuesday continued pressing the board for a final vote on banning BTX, but the five members of the board seemed divided as to whether the ban should be total or partial, should allow for continued use by existing firms or permit exemptions, and similar nuances that seem to have angered residents to the point of infuriation at recent council meetings.
The board voted unanimously to continue the public hearing until March 15 at 8:10 p.m.