By Keith S. Shikowitz
The March 20 meeting of the West Haverstraw Village Board opened with one of the newest members of the S.W. Johnson Firehouse Christopher Babcock leading the room in the Pledge of Allegiance. Afterwards, the board adopted the minutes of the March 6, 2019 meeting and the treasurer reported there was $6,018,502.30 in the treasury.
The village received three communications since the last meeting. They included a message from the family of Georgina Cancel thanking the board for the funeral arrangement they sent. The second was the receipt of a Certificate of Nomination from the West Haverstraw Democratic Committee regarding the caucus they held on March 12, 2019, and finally, a notice from Assembly Ken Zebrowski’s office notifying the village of an award of $125,000 for the renovation of the Calico Hill Memorial.
When people plan to do expansions to their businesses or homes, they have to put money into an escrow fund for professional fees. When those fees are not used, that money gets returned to the resident. This was the case with 15 Wayne Avenue and 23 E. Railroad Avenue. “This is very common,” said West Haverstraw Mayor Robert D’Amelio.
One thing about our governmental system, even though we elect representatives to speak for us in the legislative bodies, is that the people of the community still get to have a direct say in how things are run. This is done on the local level through public hearings on particular items. Two public hearings scheduled for April 3, 2019 are for the 2019-2020 village budget. The other is on the local law authorizing the override of the state tax levy. “We need to override it, but we are meeting the tax cap this year,” D’Amelio stated. This has to do with the amount of taxes raised by the municipality. Under this law, the property taxes levied by affected local governments and school districts generally cannot increase by more than 2 percent, or the rate of inflation, whichever is lower. However, the law does allow local governments and school districts to levy an additional amount for certain excludable expenditures.
Property taxes are levied on property based on how the property is being used. There are two classification properties, homestead (residential) and non-homestead (commercial) properties. The board had to establish the base proportions (percentages) for the 2019-2020 fiscal year. Catherine B. Kopf, Village Treasurer, reported that the distribution of tax levies on assessment was to be done by the Haverstraw Town Assessor.
Saving lives in emergencies is of paramount concern for our first responders. This includes police, ambulance and fire departments. One piece of new technology, thermal imaging cameras, help fire departments to accomplish this goal. Trustee Ralph W. Kirschkel gave the report on this item: “This is a new technology that’s been out a couple of years,” he said. “The firemen have done a lot of research it’s something that can save lives and make their jobs hopefully a little bit easier. These cameras are incredible.”
Heating in the winter and cooling in the summer are two essential things to being comfortable in a building. The board accepted a proposal for designing a new climate system for the community center. “This is long, long, long, long, LONG overdue,” said D’Amelio. D’Amelio described the current system as the worst heating system since day one. “We’re designing a new heating system, a new climate system. That means air conditioning too. It is definitely needed.”
The reason for this is not just for the events. The day camp in the summer is also a consideration here. “It won’t be this year, but there are days when it is a rainy day and their trip is canceled and the gym is packed and it’s a sauna in there,” D’Amelio said. Kopf added, “And it stinks too.” to which D’Amelio agreed.
The Village does an annual event, which goes with its Keep Rockland Beautiful Day. “Every year, we bring down the shredding truck. Residents bring down documents. This is a secure shredding company. It’s a great feature, residents like it.” Trustee Fran Nardi, who helps out at the shredding truck every year, was asked to make the motion for acceptance of the proposal.
Government equipment, especially vehicles, is often in need of replacement, and when they are of no longer any use, they need to be gotten rid of. Depending on the piece of equipment, a municipality may try to auction it off to get some money for it. One such village vehicle is a 1990 Ford Dump Truck. “This is that beautiful dump truck out in the parking lot on blocks that you see when you pull in and you look right through,” D’Amelio reported. “We’ve used every possible part that we can off of it and it’s ready to go. It doesn’t owe us a thing and it’s not making my parking lot look nice. It’s an eyesore and I’m glad we are getting rid of it.”
Along this line, the village needs to purchase two new vehicles. One is a garbage truck costing approximately $210,000 and the other is a new street sweeper costing approximately $235,000. The board authorized the preparation of bid specs for the purchase of the new vehicles.
According to D’Amelio, what everybody needs to know is that three years ago when we passed the highway garage bond at $1.5 million, this money’s in there. This money has already allocated. It’s in the bond so we need a new garbage truck. The same was true for the street sweeper. “It’s time to get a new street sweeper,” D’Amelio stated.
Streets, as well as equipment, wear out and need repairs or replacement. The village is going to be spending a total of $343,204.94 on the milling of two streets: Jones Drive and Samsondale Avenue. The Jones Drive Capital Project is very much needed. “There was never drainage there,” D’Amelio said. “We’ve had utility companies come in. Drainage was put in there—not new drainage, it’s new as to what was there.”
“That’s why that road never lasted too long,” he added. “I’m happy to say that with what this board has established this past year, we received probably at least $40,000 from utility companies. Just recently in the past year and a half, we began charging the utility companies for digging up our roads and getting real money out of them. So, this is great.”
D’Amelio feels that for the residents of Jones Drive, this is well deserved. “I know Ralph was a little upset because when he was a kid, he remembers riding his bicycle through the puddles,” he said. “Hopefully those puddles won’t be there because of the drains—I don’t know if I’m more excited about that, or more disappointed that I won’t be seeing you riding your bike up and down Jones Drive anymore.” Kirschkel laughed and responded, “I’ll still ride, just not in puddles anymore.”
The Samsondale Avenue Bridge recently re-opened after being torn down and rebuilt. The bridge is going to be closed again beginning on April 1 anywhere from 4-6 weeks to do the finishing touches. “There will be a lot of bricks, lightbulbs and at that time, the county will pave 200 feet on each side of the bridge. So, we figured instead of waiting until June, July or August, we’ll pave it now as the county paves their section, and then reopen it back up. We all know that road is well overdue for a paving,” D’Amelio informed the gathering. “We are looking to piggyback on the same timeframe. The bridge will be closed, there will be robocalls next week.”
A portion of the money for this repaving is again coming from monies received from the utility companies for digging up that (Samsondale Avenue) road.
D’Amelio asked for the authorization to sign the application for NYS SAM Fund for the renovation of Calico Hills Memorial, which was mentioned in communications. “We received $125,000 from Assemblyman Zebrowski’s Office for refurbishing Calico Hills,” D’Amelio said. “I’ve been telling people Calico Hills is nice the way it is today. But we are going to give the veterans, our best veterans, a memorial they can really be proud of.”
Some designs will be looked at. “All of the veterans are excited,” he said. “If any park is going to be outstanding it really should be the veterans’ park. I know the board is ecstatic about it. This is just great.”
Something people enjoy in the winter, especially around the holiday time, are the decorations municipalities do around their jurisdictions. “Over the past couple of years, we started switching some decorations to snowflakes. They were great to view, everybody loved them,” D’Amelio said. He pointed out that they only get them if the village can afford them and right now it can and now’s the time to buy them. “If you wait until after March, the price goes up by at least another third. They are very expensive. Little by little each year we’ll keep adding.”
“Before I go on to projects, I want to congratulate new members always. One of our new [Fire Department] members is here tonight, Christopher Babcock,” D’Amelio said. “I don’t think anybody here can say that they haven’t been to an event, fire call and I don’t go to many fire calls, but even fire calls—and he is there handing out water. He’s worked at our day camp. He’s done a great job there. We’re very, very fortunate to get someone like Chris, especially at such a very young age. I realize where your mentoring is coming from and that’s a good thing. Christopher, congratulations and thank you so much for helping out.”
D’Amelio talked about a number of projects the village has in the works, including Calico Hill, Jones Drive and the Samsondale streetscape. There is going to be an addition on the offices at the highway garage. We’re starting breaking ground there in a week or two. Another project is 30 North Central Highway. “Not everybody’s familiar with 30 North Central Highway,” D’Amelio said. “That’s the area under the high-tension lines we started. It’s going to be a project that is going to go as we get time. There’s no timetable on it other than right now because we started cleaning it up.” A nice 3-4 foot fern and some evergreens are going to be planted to give those residents back their privacy.
“The first phase is very important to give the residents back their privacy. So that’s exciting. That’ll be the first part of that. We’ll start that now and the rest of it, clearing it and making it a beautiful park will be low cost to the village. We’re going to do it as we have time and dollars,” D’Amelio concluded.