A.B.) After many years on the outside you are now inside the arena. What did you expect it to be like? What have you encountered that you did not expect?
S.S.) It’s been a hectic six weeks that’s been a combination of expectations and surprises. I came into office with a full agenda of what I thought needed to be done and what I wanted to accomplish, and once I took office I just kept adding items to my “to do” list. The only things I couldn’t add were more hours in the day and more days in the week.
I knew I’d be faced with an array of unfinished business; I just didn’t know how much. Things that simply had not been taken care of over the past year, like renewing contracts with Cablevision and the Yorktown Theater, negotiating a new contract with the CSEA (they’ve been without a contract now for over a year), the Dog Park lease, the unexpected junior golf league plan for Shallow Creek, and pending legislative initiatives like the proposed tree ordinance that the previous board discussed for two years. I even found a December letter in my in-box threatening to sue the town for lack of attention to a handicapped access issue after having made promises to correct the illegal situation for two years.
There have also been some monetary surprises. Like the failure of the previous board to set aside $170,000 in the 2010 budget to pay a legal judgment that was coming due, or any money for pending tax certiorari settlements. Also, the fact that expenditures for snow removal for 2009 will hit the $1 million mark – although only $639,500 was budgeted for that line item.
On a positive note, I’ve gotten to know more of our employees, and have observed first hand their dedication to the job. It’s been a heartening experience to have individuals come up to me and ask how they can help and how we can work together.
A.B.) How will Governor Paterson’s proposed budget affect the finances of Yorktown? Can you name some unfunded mandates that if eliminated could lower the cost of town government?
S.S.) The MTA payroll tax is the first and most immediate one that comes to mind. That’s costing us approximately $58,000. Now I know that the MTA needs to be funded, and that many of our residents use MTA facilities, but I’m not convinced that the payroll tax is the best way to fund our regional transportation needs.
A change in state law that mandates us to pay prevailing wages when we do projects on town property would also be a tremendous savings for us. We’re also unsure if we’ll receive the $240,000 we usually get for road paving and whether the $250,000 we were promised a few years ago for renovations to the YCCC will ever be forthcoming.
But the state picture isn’t totally bleak. Last week I met with officials from the DOT and learned that the state is beginning design work for improvements to the Stony St/Bear Mountain Parkway/Pine Grove triangle with plans to begin construction in 2012. And before settling on a design for the project, the DOT will hold a series of three public information meetings to get local feedback on possible solutions. The first meeting is scheduled for March 11th at 7pm at the Nutrition Center in the YCCC.
A.B.) What progress has been made on the Hallocks Mills Sewer Treatment plant? What should be the end result and do you see it in sight?
S.S.) As you know, the Yorktown Heights Sewage treatment plant that currently serves about 4,000 parcels in the Hallocks Mill Sewer District was expanded and upgraded in 2008. The plant can now process up to 2.5 million gallons per day of sewage. It’s a state-of-the-art plant that has already won awards.
However, before we can hook up any of the 1,000 unsewered homeowners who want to be sewered, the town needs a variance from the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). We’re optimistic that the regulatory changes needed to set up the variance procedure will be approved and that we’ll be able to apply for the variance. But in order to save time and move the process along, the town has been gathering information on the possible cost and configuration of a new sewer district for those homeowners who want to be sewered. Our goal is to have the preliminary planning done by the time we get the variance.
As for when homeowners can expect sewers, I’ve learned that things move slowly when it comes to dealing with multiple bureaucracies. But those who know me know that I keep on top of things to make sure that our needs are being addressed. It’s the old story: the squeaky wheel gets the oil. And Yorktown will continue to push for a resolution of the Hallocks Mill issue.
A.B.) In a previous conversation we had, you said that you have been advocating for a Department of Public Works for many years. How would this be advantageous to Yorktown over the present system we now have?
S.S.) It’s true that for over 35 years I’ve believed that a properly organized DPW would save Yorktown taxpayers money. In 1995, the town spent $40,000 and asked a management consultant whether a DPW would save the town money. The answer was a resounding “YES.”
However, because Yorktown would have to have an appointed highway superintendent in order to create a DPW, it would be counterproductive, and a waste of time, for the current board to discuss creating a DPW until such time that the voters decide that they want to change the way the town’s highway superintendent is selected.
But that doesn’t mean that the current board isn’t not looking at other possible consolidation initiatives that could save money. Right now, we’re reviewing the feasibility of merging the building, planning and engineering departments. The objective of the merger is twofold: to improve the delivery of services to town residents and, at the same time, save money by maintaining one set of records and crossing training support staff with the eventual goal of reducing the number of staff through attrition.
A.B.) In a previous interview I had with Peekskill’s Mayor Foster and in two previous columns of mine there has been discussed the pros and cons of a city manager from of government vs as in Yorktown’s case a Supervisor form of government. At one time you advocated for the city manager form though you said due to lack of public support you dropped the idea. Believing that no discussion of this topic would be complete without your input, what would be the advantages to Yorktown for the city manager form of government over the present systems?
S.S.) I believe in keeping my campaign promises. While personally, I believe that Yorktown taxpayers would be better served if the town was run on a day-to-day basis by a professional administrator who took direction from, and was under the supervision of, our elected town board, I said throughout my campaign that this is an issue that’s up to the voters of Yorktown.
I have no intention of bringing up the issue. However, if there’s interest in the concept in the community, I’m certainly available to talk to any individual or group. In the meantime, my focus is doing everything I possibly can to maintain and rebuild our aging infrastructure and improve the delivery of services while at the same time cutting costs and finding savings by implementing cost effective management strategies.