A Special Meeting of the Board of Trustees of the Village of Croton-on-Hudson, NY was held on Monday, April 14, 2003 at the Municipal Building, Van Wyck Street, Croton-on-Hudson, NY 10520.
The following officials were present:
Mayor Elliott Trustee Grant
Trustee McCarthy Trustee Wiegman
Trustee Schmidt Manager Herbek
Absent: Attorney Waldman
1. CALL TO ORDER:
Mayor Elliott called the meeting to order at 8:07 pm. Everyone joined in the Pledge of Allegiance.
Mayor Elliott stated that before the Public Hearing began, he would recognize Ms. Mary Fagan to make comments about the ongoing problem of sewer odor in her neighborhood. Ms. Fagan stated that the problem continued over the past weekend and she wants to know what is happening to improve this problem. Manager Herbek said the Village Engineer and DPW Superintendent had completed the specifications for the pigging process that day and the specs were complete and ready. Manager Herbek asked the Board to agree that he not go through the normal bidding process and that Engineer O’Connor fax the specs to companies that do this kind of work with a response date of next Monday (4/21). If the amount is greater than $20k, he will ask the Board to call it an emergency and award it. He
hopes it will be the solution but he is not an engineer and is acting on the recommendations of the Villages’ consultant on this matter - Stearns and Wheeler. Ms Fagan said the Village has already done something – the bioxin system. She says that it is not working. Mr. Herbek said the bioxin system is in place and is being used, but scouring of sewer main (pigging) has not taken place yet. If this next step doesn’t work, we will need to bring back Stearns and Wheeler. Ms. Fagan asked if the bioxin solution was guaranteed? Mr. Herbek was not sure but said the Village needs to wait and see if pigging works. Ms Fagan asked if pigging doesn’t work, what is the next solution? Ms. Fagan said no more houses should be allowed onto the sewer system; is she expected to go through another summer if this pigging doesn’t work? Mr. Herbek said the Village will bring in whatever expertise is needed to try to solve this problem. He
reiterated the history of the Skyview connection to the sewer line. If pigging doesn’t work, the Village can reevaluate the possibility of cutting off Skyview from the system. Trustee Grant commented that the residents have lived with this problem too long. She wants it fixed as much as Ms. Fagan does. If Skyview is the culprit here – if mistakes were made then, then Skyview should be required to pay for their share of this problem and its solution. Trustee McCarthy stated that since the Village accepted the dedication of this system, she is not sure what this means as far as legal options the Board may have at this point; so much time has passed, may not have a legal option. Ms. Fagan said the problem worsened when Arrowcrest came onto the system. Trustee Grant stated that whether we have recourse or not, the Village Board has a responsibility to put this behind you. Trustee Schmidt asked why wasn’t the pigging
recommendation implemented much sooner. Trustee Grant said there were complex specs; the Engineer and Mr. Kraft wanted to ensure all the t’s were crossed and not repeat mistakes over and over again. Trustee Schmidt said it sat on someone’s desk, but Trustee Wiegman objected to that statement; that changes have been made in the process; we didn’t even have an accurate drawing to send out for this. Trustee Schmidt said the only things changed were the cleanouts, but Trustee Wiegman said this was not the case. Mr. Herbek said Engineer O’Connor will make sure the bioxin system is working tomorrow. Pigging the force main section of the lines should clean it out; but the recommendation also calls for continuing the bioxin system. She asked why the specs took so long; she didn’t get a response but Trustee Grant apparently did. She questioned the raise for Mr. Kraft in the budget this year; he had claimed credit for solving this
problem a year ago and justified last year’s raise on that basis.
2. PUBLIC HEARING
Mayor Elliott opened the Public Hearing on the 2003-2004 proposed budget. Manager Herbek summarized his budget message. He summarized the amounts, and tax rate; a 6.7 percent tax increase. He and Mr. Reardon are pleased to keep the tax rate from going into double digits. The increase is due to increased commitments over which the Village has no control; pension increases – $571k to go to retirement system expense as opposed to $52k last year. This is under review by NYS controller and legislature and he anticipates some relief but, over 2 year period, we are looking at a close to 20 percent increase. He and Mr. Reardon are looking at how to spread it out. Health insurance was raised to over $800k, an increase over $50k. It is going up for everyone.
Debt service increased by $97k. Legal expenses are significant. Budgeting $250k from the Fund Balance is keeping the rate down this year; over $600k has been spent for the Millennium Pipeline litigation as of Feb, and Metro Enviro legal expenses are now over $260k. Police association contracts provide for increases; the Teamster contract expires May 31, but negotiations have not begun and funds for this are not in the budget; will need to come from the Fund balance. He asked Department. Heads to keep expenses down. Assessed valuation is up a bit primarily due to Discovery Cove at Half Moon Bay; the water rate is remaining stable. Capital improvements program for items including equipment, recreation, police and development projects total over 6 million dollars; this would require more borrowing. As principal and interest are paid off each year, new ones are added to keep the debt service at about the same level. Last year, the
Village had a $2.2 million Fund Balance; in May 2003 we will know better what kind of ‘hit’ was taken due to legal expenses and the inclusion of $250k into this year’s budget. The proposed Budget is in the library and on the website for review. Treasurer Reardon and he worked hard, as did Department heads, to keep the budget at this level; a respectable budget. Most increases in other communities are over 10%; they are trying to keep it level over years. He recommends this budget to the board. Mayor Elliot stated that Manager Herbek and Treasurer Reardon have done an excellent job on this budget.
Sam Watkins, Lounsbury Rd. He stated he is no longer a carpetbagger after 25 years of residency. It is important not to approve this budget without doing everything possible to reduce it; many things can’t be done, are out of control of the Board. In the past we have raised level of services, increased debt service to provide new fire houses, and used the Fund Balance to keep taxes at reasonable level. This Budget will reduce the Fund balance to about 1million. It’s a rainy day account for problems we didn’t anticipate. The Village has decimated this for one thing, litigation expenses – $604k for pipeline and $260k for Metro Enviro; we don’t have money for this. On Metro Enviro we had our hats handed to us; doesn’t make sense to
appeal Metro Enviro and we should have the lion’s share of the pipeline expense. We don’t need to spend 500/hour on legal fees. Attorney Waldman is as good an attorney as there is; doesn’t charge a third of this. You pledged as candidates to keep the budget down but this is not a wise expenditure. Do not spend this litigation money; should be spent on infrastructure. You are the financial guardians of Croton; not appropriate to spend this money on this litigation item. Trustee McCarthy commended Mr. Watkins for his help on budgets during his tenure as Trustee; but said that these two legal challenges are integral to the health, safety and welfare of the community; of the $250k in this line, $100k would be in it anyway. Even if Attorney Waldman were working on it there would be additional fees. She feels there are other areas where cuts may be made. We should be concerned about $5 million in future debt. Mr. Watkins stated that while
your hands are tied in many ways, there are things you can do – litigation money is not well spent. Let’s not do the appeal of Metro Enviro because we will lose. Trustee McCarthy stated we will not lose. Trustee Grant said the amount in question is not enough as Arnold and Porter got $120k for one month alone. Trustee McCarthy said we received estimates from both law firms. Mayor Elliott said he is not aware of any estimate from either firm. Trustee McCarthy said they were verbal. Mayor Elliott said we asked for it in writing but didn’t get it. Trustee Grant said estimates are usually on the low side; the amount allocated is not enough in her opinion. Treasurer Reardon stated that NYS Comptroller Hevesi is trying to get this year’s retirement contribution reduced but next year it would go back up so he and Mr. Herbek have been discussing ways to even this out over two years; average the two years together.
Mayor Elliott closed the Public Hearing at 8:52 pm. Mr. Reardon showed a graphic representation of tax increases in various communities that were using Fund Balances. A few were not because they had insufficient fund balances. Croton was the lowest tax increase on the chart.
Ann H. Gallelli, Secretary