Whereas it was not on the agenda for the meeting, the passage of New York State’s law legalizing the sale and use of marijuana became an issue at the Town of Haverstraw board meeting on April 12. After the board’s business was concluded and the meeting was opened to public participation, Elon Schulien came to the podium and spoke out against the town allowing the sale of it within the town.
Town Supervisor Howard Phillips opened the meeting. “Welcome to tonight’s meeting. I’m glad everyone was able to come out to join us. We have a few things on the agenda. We’ll try to get moving along.”
The agenda items included the retirement and reinstatement of part time clerk typist for the police department Claudia Prisco who had recently retired from her full time job with the school district. Philips explained. “What happened here was this is a part time job. She has a full time job in the school district she retired from so she had to also retire from this part time job. Now we’re reinstating her to her part time job.”
The Phillip J. Rotella Memorial Golf Course is a major recreational area in the town. It takes a lot of work to keep it pristine and competitive. One this that is needed to aid the golfers is the aeration of the greens.
Dry Jet Aerification got the job.
“:Every single year we go out and aerify the golf course greens. It’s been an extremely tool for us especially on the greens and certain holes that for some reason the oxygen doesn’t seep into the ground as well. But I have to say, Councilman Cancel, Councilman Gamboli, that over the last few years our greens have been superb. I mean they look absolutely wonderful. Would you agree?” Phillips asked.
Councilman Papo Cancel helped Phillips explanation. “It’s something we’ve been doing the last couple of years and it’s working out great. Everybody comments about how good our greens are.”
Councilman Vincent Gamboli concluded the mini – golf lesson. “We just recently purchased a roller. Years ago when we first started aerating the greens, they were so compact and dense that you were actually lifting up rocks and lifting up sod on the green that’s how bad they were. Through the years we’ve done it and you have to do it every year. Now the greens are in great shape. With the roller, the surface of the greens are tremendous. All the golfers they comment about it. The roller before was kind of antiquated. Now we have a roller that really does the job. When we first got the roller, they demonstrated how the surface would be by putting on the surface that was not rolled and then putting on the surface that was rolled. What a difference and the golfers all rave about it. It makes your putt move faster and truer towards the hole. It’s not guaranteed, but you get a lot more birdies.”
Fur agenda items dealt with the purchase of materials for the upkeep of certain town facilities. Mulch Rite of Goshen NY is going to be responsible for supplying materials such as mulch, sand and clay for the town facilities the parks department maintains at Bowline Point Park and the ballfields.
Fire suppression systems are very important items which have helped save lives and property. Based on the recommendation of George Behn, Town Building Inspector, The system at the Sonoma Grille is in need of an emergency repair and will be preformed by Campbell Fire Protection Inc of Suffern at a cost of $1,165.00.
Systems need updating when the current ones become outdated for whatever reason. The fire alert system to control 44 for fire alerts for the Town has been on the old Verizon copper lines which are no longer supported because everything is on fiber optic lines today. To update the system, the board approved the installation of radio transmitters by Reddi Alarm & Time Systems at Town hall, Police Department, Highway Garage and Sonoma Grill at a cost $600 each for a total $2400. Hey also received the contract for the monitoring of the systems at these locations for a total cost of #3072.
The board purchased two vehicles for the highway department at a cost of $231,929 from Cliffside Body Corporation of Fairfield NJ.
When a new regulation is proposed, a public hearing is needed for the residents to give their opinion on it. Town Attorney William Stein explained the reason for a public hearing on local law 2 – 2021. “This is to schedule a public hearing for two weeks from tonight April 26. The purpose of the law is that we are going to bring our provisions about our current indemnification and defense provisions in our local law up to today’s standards.”
Once the board’s agenda was completed, they briefly adjourned the meeting and reconvened as the Sanitation Commission. During this they approved the license renewal and new licenses for garbage removal. “This is a pro forma thing we do every single year. A number of years ago we formed the sanitation commission. Really what that does is gives us information. It ensures the carters have the proper general liability, auto liability, workers compensation, disability and also it tells us the routes that they have within our jurisdiction which is very important. They are also required to show the Rockland County Health Department Certificate that their trucks have been inspected. That doesn’t sound like a big thing but that is a tremendous, valuable asset for us to have. We have this information. We gather it every single year. It protects the public that we represent.” Phillips stated.
The town is in the process of getting ready to build a park at the 25 acres by Helen Hayes Hospital. As with any contract for a municipality, bids have to be submitted. For this project, some of the bidders asked for an extension of the date for submission of the bids. The board passed a resolution that extends the time for the bids on the recreation field from April 20 to April 29.
Stein told him the reason. “The way this works is that NYS allows this thing called state bid where the state goes out solicits and gets a bid and everybody can piggyback to that. They also allow counties to go out and get bids for equipment and this way you don’t have to spend all this time and you can piggyback off those low bids as well. It could be anywhere but my experience is the group in Onondaga must be very good at this because many, many times it has always been Onondaga county.
Phillips added that there is a saving in the cost of manpower hours dedicated to preparing bid specifications that have already been prepared. He asked Director of Finance Mike Gamboli to explain some of the other tools that have been given to municipalities to go out and bid.
“We can piggyback off of other town bids if the towns put in their bid specs and they allow you to piggyback off of their bid. We also have a consortium that we joined years ago. Sourcewell which is a cooperative that we joined whether it’s for equipment, or for construction or for what, a lot of companies do the bid process through Sourcewell and we are allowed to take stuff off the Sourcewell contract.”
“It’s much more efficient. You’re sharing a lot of information. It cuts down on paperwork. Cuts down on time. Saves the bid and the bid price. It has been extremely successful.” Phillips added.
Schulien continued. “The reason why I am here is to talk about the NYS law on the legalization of Cannabis, marijuana. You talked about it on the radio. I heard you. Just so you know where I am standing. I oppose very, very strongly any kind of usage of any kind of a substance that impairs people specifically when it comes to drugs. I am basically, here in front of you Mr. Supervisor and the board, asking that the town would opt out from legalizing retail Cannabis in the boundaries of the Town of Haverstraw.
Schulien went on to explain his reasons for wanting the town to opt out of allowing the retail sale of marijuana in Haverstraw. Everybody knows and it is well documented that this is a substance that alters the mind of individuals. Not only does it effect the individual itself but it effects its surroundings. There’s plenty of studies. Some call cannabis the entry into more substantial drugs. NYS, after enabling it for medical usage which I supported wholly, because I felt if it helps somebody that has a doctor that recommended it and it helps a person as far as pain. A person or a family that used it legally, medical marijuana, and it helped, at least to some extent, this, medical marijuana to distinguish from recreational marijuana, does not have this effect as far as the high, the mind altering CHT, something that is in the plant that is not in the medical marijuana.
“It is basically to help people in many cases who don’t have many options. It was a welcome thing as far as I care. This is a whole different story. I feel and it was well established that people that are cannabis, marijuana if you like to call it. It alters their behavior and puts them on a high. Now I strongly believe that in a free country, the person is responsible for their own actions. But I am concerned what it does to society. In this case the Town of Haverstraw residents. That’s why I oppose it. If somebody is high, they can cause harm to other people, for example, if the person decides to use some kind of motor vehicle, some machinery, and such. The public should not be in this kind of a position to suffer.” He pleaded.
Phillips paused his explanation. “I understand and I think we all do. We have a dilemma and we’re trying to move along. It is a gateway drug. I don’t think anyone on this board disagrees with that. So is alcohol, without question. I think all of us can state numerous people that we know have become addicted, whether it’s alcohol or drugs. We are all concerned about the effect it has on the brain, especially of teenagers or God forbid, younger. Here’s our problem, our dilemma. We’re going to be surrounded by communities that are going to adopt this. Whether or not we adopt it, it’s going to be in our community. It’s going to be legal because any of our sister towns adopt it, it would probably be faster for them to go to some of the other places in their town than there would be places in our town.”
“I don’t know if we can stop it. I really don’t. I think we are all concerned about what the health issues are, long term. Now have there been proven to be some real cognizant benefits for people who are ill? It’s been proven. It’s not questioned. But in those cases, it was being administered by prescription, not being able to just go someplace and pick it up. We have a real dilemma on our hands. It’s going to be a tough decision. We’ve all been talking about it Elon. We will make up our minds. It’s going to be a very difficult decision to wrestle with.” Phillips said.
Schulien went on to compare alcohol use to the smoking of marijuana. “It’s an easy excuse of people excusing themselves using subject. But much more than this. You can not even equate it. This is not a reason to do it. If you talk to people who are in the know, medical people, that alcohol, you consume alcohol, it is relatively or fairly fast the body gets rid of it by itself. In the case of drugs, including cannabis, marijuana, it can be in your blood and urine sometimes for days.”
“My point here is that you can not use something that is wrong to start with. This new law states, while people can use for recreational reasons, cannabis, marijuana when it comes legalizing retails, each municipality, in this case the Town of Haverstraw has the right to opt out because a neighboring town may or may not. The smart thing would be to go against it then see the ramifications then we still have the option. If you decide to go despite what I feel is wrong, and then you decide you want to change your mind, you won’t be able to.”
Schulien’s next point dealt with litigation. “I feel as a town, you have a fiduciary responsibility towards the residents. If you let legal establishment open here, somebody goes inside there. Somebody uses it let’s say lunch because that’s one of the things that it’s up to the local municipality to decide to establish. A person goes on his lunch time or whoever. It could be a teacher, a policeman, could be highway department, could be some contractor, could be anybody. After he’s impaired and leaves the place and cause harm to somebody, the victims or the injured can come and sue the town because you enabled.”
Phillips countered that point. “They would not be able to do that because then they would be able to do that with alcohol too. Let me get down to the heart of it. Say this does bring in revenue. Say this revenue to the Town of Haverstraw in any one year is $300,000 to $400,000. We now have to raise property taxes because we don’t have that money. Are you going to tell me that you are going to support the board in not getting any revenue? Meanwhile all the other towns are getting it. But we have to raise taxes and they don’t
He said he would support that. “Let me respond. It’s not really an argument. NYS is talking about revenue about $350,000,000 a year. It’s not a lot of money because if you take loss of productivity, safety issue, health issue, it could be well over $1,000,000,000 a year in expenditures that would be put on the public to cover this. It’s nothing. If you come and tell me, we’re going to make 3% of this. It would cost you in extra police overtime. In extra health and safety issues for town residents. You told me how hard it was for you when people passed away because of COVID. Letting it be more entrenched, it would be so many more people.”
“You’re making all valid points. You can parallel the argument about cigarettes, alcohol and other things as well. We’re going to pursue discussions on this and we’re going to come back with an answer. Right now we haven’t made any decision. Give us some time and let’s see where we go from there.
Schulien asked that if the board decided to go for it, he wants to make it official, that the decision be brought up to a vote by all town residents. “I want everyone in the Town of Haverstraw has an opportunity. I want a day to be set up and I want to be put to a vote this way if something happens it will be good for you too.”
Another resident pointed out that Colorado, Washington and states out west had a study done and it showed there was a bad effect from the THC in teenagers. There are studies that back that up.
Phillips agreed and said, “We’re not questioning that. I think Elon heard me say on the radio that the younger you are and the earlier you begin smoking marijuana, the more detrimental effects it has on your brain and on your body.”
“Like you said about the town, if we don’t do it, and the other towns are doing it, they will get the money and they’ll bring it back into here and use it. How do you stop that from happening? You put police at every square inch of the border between us and the other towns?” the resident asked.
Phillips acknowledged that you can’t stop anybody from buying it somewhere else and coming back in now that the state has passed this they can and that all they can do is opt out from allowing anybody to sell it in our jurisdiction.
The resident pointed out, as such, if we’re not going to be able to stop people from going to other towns and other counties, we should get that piece of the pie.
After the public participation ended, Phillips explained about all of the activities the town has upcoming for the residents including Zumba, line dancing, tai chi and the summer concert series. He ended the meeting in the usual way remembering all of the residents who had passed since the last meeting.
The next meeting will be on April 26 at 7:00 pm at town hall.