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Mayors Corner March 8, 2012

Board of board summit comments for January 30, 2012

(The following remarks kicked off the annual Board of Boards Summit for all the members of the Village’s volunteer boards and committees on January 30, 2012).

Thank you all for coming this evening. We have quite a few Village staff members here this evening as well with whom many of your committees interact on a regular basis.
I thought it may be helpful to review some Village-wide highlights from 2011 and goals for 2012. The following is a round up from my perspective as Mayor. I am sure I speak for all the Trustees in saying that we look forward to hearing from all of you regarding your committee’s perspective on last year and the year to come.

Finance: We are weathering the recession far better than anticipated.
Our mid-year budget reviews, which we conduct in December, help us gauge whether Village expenses and income streams are at, below, or above budget. Our audit of the prior fiscal year is usually ready at about the same time.

  • The financial audit of our prior fiscal year 2010-2011 showed that the Village had managed to “top up” the fund balance by adding $600,000 additional dollars to it. This is great news and happens when you spend less than you budgeted.
  • At the midyear point of the current FY 2011-2012, our actual expenses are lower than budgeted, while our actual revenues are higher than anticipated.  Expenses are lower, chiefly through ongoing cost-containment efforts by our village staff in managing their departments and procurements wisely.  Income is higher, mainly due to a rebound in the Parking Lot at the Croton Harmon train station and a modest increase in our share of the sales tax revenue. The parking lot revenue may reach $2.7 million for the current year, of which we anticipate about $1.9 million is “profit” after parking lot expenses and will go into village coffers.
  • In addition, the Village’s borrowing costs have never been lower than today due to two factors. We have maintained the highest bond rating possible for a municipality of our size. And the bond market interest rates are at historic lows.
  • So we have been able–with the proactive guidance from our Village Treasurer–to refinance some debt to lower interest rate terms, saving tens of thousands of dollars. In addition, the most recent short-term bonds we undertook had interest rates of about 1% with the longer term bond notes at below 5%.
Infrastructure: We have big, important infrastructure projects in the works that will last for 50 years or more.

During 2011, we collectively made good progress on a number of important infrastructure projects.  It is my goal that a future team of village electeds and appointeds, such as gathered here this evening, will not face the same brown water issues in some locations or traffic entanglements on Croton Point Avenue.  

Regarding water, we have begun three parallel streams of work to secure both the future of our well fields down at the Croton River and our water delivery system that runs under most of our streets.  As many of you know, we did drill a new well, but the preliminary tests of potential water production from it were not as high as we had hoped.  So, first, our well field engineering consultant is looking at ways to incorporate that well into our system of 3 other operating wells to both meet the mandates from the state and county and be fiscally prudent with village taxpayer funds.

Second, in order to address the brown water issue we know some streets suffer, we need a good map of our existing system that will allow us to design the best solutions to old water line dead ends or bottlenecks. We hired a firm to create that computerized map and system model. They will be completing the first phase of that work in the coming months. The model will be the tool by which we will figure out exactly which changes to make at which locations to correct the ongoing brown water problems.  In short, the model will help us right-size the solution both physically and financially.

Third, in order to get ready as rapidly as possible for fixing the brown water problems, we need accurate surveys of the affected areas, including the rights-of-way and existing locations of sidewalks, curb cuts, road beds, and driveways that sit on top of the water pipes being modeled already.  So we commissioned land surveys of the Cook Lane/Wolf Road area as well as of a large swath of the Harmon area that experiences some level of brown water from Cleveland Drive to the end of Truesdale Drive and Nordica Drive. We feel this approach will help us design solutions more quickly.

Fifty years ago, NY State built the Route 9 expressway but never solved the surface street tangle that it caused for motorists, cyclists and pedestrians reaching our train station. Today we have an opportunity to fix that.  We have secured about $1.6 million in federal and county funds to help defray the costs for fixing the non-user-friendly highway interchange we have lived with for far too long.

The Croton Point Avenue improvement project will rearrange the Rt 9 on/off ramps for better safety on Croton Point Avenue and install new traffic signals at three intersections on the avenue and synchronize those traffic signals with the existing signals uphill on South Riverside Avenue. When the project is done, we will have improved motorist lanes, new bike lanes and improved sidewalks and pedestrian crossings for every road intersection between the train station and the heart of the Harmon business district. The Bike-Ped Committee has worked hard on this for almost three years. The current stage of work will lead to a public presentation of the proposed plan by the engineering firm handling this project for us.

It is my belief that bonus zoning for mixed-use development in the Harmon Gateway district–coupled with the Croton Point Avenue traffic improvements I just described–will be a concrete boost for the Harmon area business owners.  Doing one without the other is not nearly as valuable as doing both together.  

Many of you who boat in the Hudson know that the bulkhead at the Croton Yacht Club has deteriorated as much in the past 25 years since it was last renewed as was supposed to happen in 50 years. This is man-made shoreline. That means the river will reclaim it if we do nothing. With 100 year storms happening much more often now than in years past, each one further eats away at the footings and tiebacks.  I needed waders to get to the Yacht Club during Tropical Storm Irene last fall for photos to document the storm’s impact on village facilities.  The Yacht Club has been a very proactive partner in working with its landlord, the Village, on researching options and identifying solutions and potential funding sources.  This work involves the federal and state government. So a number of you will be involved in developing and reviewing solutions to protect our shoreline there.

Finally, I will skip over many other worthy projects to comment on the forthcoming “feather in the cap” of our newest park. Croton Landing has been a big success since even before it was opened officially. It has become a walker’s destination that draws folks from many surrounding communities as well as our own.  A number of you have been very generous with your time to develop the plans for the 9-11 Remembrance Memorial. This project is a collaboration between the Town of Cortlandt and the Villages of Buchanan and Croton-on-Hudson. The northern terminus of the Croton Landing walking trail and park will be the permanent home for one-ton, fourteen-foot long steel beam from the World Trade Center.   The 9-11 Task Force has developed a Phase 1 plan for installing the steel on a suitable, permanent footing to allow it to become the arm of the sundial that will mark the passing hours of the day. Wouldn’t it be wonderful, if we could have that ribbon cutting this coming fall on 9-11-2012?

Planning/Service sharing:  We have a lot of behind the scenes work going on to help us organize ourselves for all this work, from improving communications tools to expanded shared services, such as the 9-11 project.  [Raise your hand, if you have used the NovusAgenda system for looking up meeting agendas or minutes.]

Many of you may be familiar with the new paperless agenda and record-keeping system NovusAgenda that we are now using.  While Novus has its quirks, it has allowed us to publish more complete agendas for village board meetings than ever before and to publish the resulting minutes and back-up documents for public access much more quickly and easily than before. The goal is providing easier access for all our committees to the documents that we need to keep track of what we are all doing.  We will keep looking for ways to have more of our content accessible by web-based platforms.  So if any of you have specific requests or feedback on Novus or other communications tools, we would love to hear from you.

We were able to make good use of our telephone and email notification services during the winter and tropical storms last year, and will continue to do so.  So encourage your friends and neighbors to sign up at the “Subscribe to News” button on our village website’s home page.

In the realm of sharing services and expertise across governmental jurisdictions, we accomplished quite a lot in 2011 and have more in mind for 2012.  Thanks to working closely with our first responders and Emergency Management Director, we now have 24/7 paid coverage for our ambulance service. The provider is Mid-Hudson, with whom Croton has long collaborated on the Advanced Life Support fly-car service that we share with Ossining and Briarcliff.  The 24/7 EMS coverage is working out very well and will be paid for out of the insurance recoveries that we are now able to bill to third party insurance.  

In another shared service, Croton has teamed up with every other municipality in northern Westchester to collaborate in reducing energy costs and air pollution impacts. This consortium is spinning off a number of programs aimed directly at helping local property owners save money and be safer and more comfortable in their homes and places of work. For a peek at the home owner program, visit

Thanks. I have taken too much of your time already. But, as you can see, we have a lot going on for 2012.  

I look forward to hearing your highlights and goals.

-Mayor Leo Wiegman