The Edgemont Community Council tonight unanimously endorsed the Greenville Fire District’s proposal for a $1,785,000 bond to cover the costs of up to $285,000 in renovations to the firehouse, an unprecedented $550,000 in anticipated tax certiorari refunds in 2015-16, and up to $950,000 toward the purchase of a new ladder truck to replace a 13-year old truck that has outlived its useful life.
The bond will be put to Edgemont voters in a referendum next Tuesday, December 9, at the Greenville Firehouse. Polls there will be open from 2 p.m. to 9 p.m.
In an unusual move, Town Supervisor Paul Feiner attended the portion of tonight’s ECC meeting that addressed town affairs. Although ECC meetings are held every month, are open to the public and generally do not conflict with town board meetings, town board members rarely attend. Mr. Feiner said he attended because he wanted to establish a “dialogue” with the ECC.
While Mr. Feiner managed to do a lot of talking, there appeared to be little in the way of actual “give-and-take” with ECC directors, as several took issue with what he said.
Mr. Feiner first denied that the Town had ever informed the fire district to expect higher than usual tax certiorari refunds in the next two years, claiming that town assessor Edye McCarthy had assured him this morning that no such information is ever known or had ever been communicated in advance to the Town’s school and fire districts.
However, it was pointed out to Mr. Feiner that deputy town attorney Peter Carparelli, who is in charge of the Town’s tax certiorari litigation, has actually been providing such projections to the Town’s school and fire districts since at least 2007 and was the source for informing both the Edgemont school and fire districts to expect to pay an unprecedented high level of such refunds in 2015 and 2016.
Mr. Feiner said he was unaware that Mr. Carparelli provides such information.
The unusually high level of tax certiorari refunds underscored the ECC’s concern about the Town’s decision two months ago to drain 40% of the Town’s Risk Retention Fund, which is used to fund the payment of tax certiorari refunds. The Risk Retention funds were then used to augment the nearly already drained Town Entire Fund Balance, which Mr. Feiner is using next year to keep town taxes within the state mandated tax cap.
Had he not drained the fund needed to pay the tax certs, Mr. Feiner would have had to levy a town tax hike in an election year estimated to be as much as 10%.
Mr. Feiner insisted that the Town already had “too much money” in its Risk Retention Fund and therefore didn’t need the money to pay tax cert claims and that even if it did, it was still more important to him that the Town stay within the tax cap.
The ECC also discussed a recommendation from Police Chief Chris McNerney to construct sidewalks along Seely Place, Ardsley Road and Fort Hill Road — and that too led to sharp exchanges with Mr. Feiner.
Mr. Feiner had wanted the ECC to join him in sponsoring an Edgemont-wide meeting on January 12, 2015 that would allow him to discuss the sidewalk proposal. However, the ECC deferred taking action on the request when it was discovered that, contrary to what the ECC had been led to believe two months ago, Chief McNerney had still not delivered to the Town a written report demonstrating why such sidewalks are necessary to promote public health and safety.
Although the ECC has consistently supported the construction of sidewalks in Edgemont for public safety purposes, ECC directors felt that without a written police report documenting the public safety need for such sidewalks here, it was premature to sponsor a meeting to get the community to “buy in” to any such proposal.
ECC directors also reacted negatively to Mr. Feiner’s comment tonight that even without a written police report having been submitted, he had already written to residents of Seely Place to warn them that a sidewalk on Seely was once again being considered. Mr. Feiner insisted that it was “never too early” to begin such “outreach” efforts on his part.
The last time the ECC had proposed construction of a sidewalk on Seely Place, Mr. Feiner went door-to-door to residents on Seely Place to lobby against the proposal, which effectively killed the idea.
The ECC said it would consider sponsoring a community-wide meeting on January 12 if a written police report documenting the need for such sidewalks on grounds of public safety is prepared and made available by the Town for distribution.
Mr. Feiner also announced that he and Westchester County had reached agreement to reopen WestHELP as a site for affordable housing with the Town receiving a $2.4 million upfront payment from an affordable housing developer.
However, it was pointed out to Mr. Feiner that not only had the county executive’s office rejected that idea several months ago, it was publicly reported in the Journal News that the proposal had been rejected. Mr. Feiner insisted, however, that those reports were untrue and that he really did have a deal in place to reopen WestHELP.
Finally, the ECC began considering its own draft legislation to address the proliferation of massage parlors in Edgemont. At its October meeting, Chief McNerney reported that because the Town had no legislation in place to deal with the problem, Edgemont had become the “massage parlor capital” of Westchester County.
Mr. Feiner subsequently introduced a proposal for a 120-day moratorium on the Town granting “permits” for massage parlors. That proposal was criticized on the ground that because the Town does not issue “permits” for massage parlors, any moratorium on the issuance of such permits would either accomplish nothing or worse, lead to the proliferation of even more massage parlors.
Mr. Feiner had said at a recent town board work session that it was more important to him that a massage parlor measure be introduced than what it actually said so that he could assure Edgemont residents that something was being done.
The ECC’s proposal, which is being drafted by ECC president Bob Bernstein, would require the licensing of all massage establishments in Greenburgh and take immediate effect.
Mr. Feiner also received criticism from residents affected by noise at night from the Crane Bridge construction project. Mr. Feiner said he had written to county officials about the problem, but had not yet determined why county officials were saying that they did not have to comply with Greenburgh’s noise ordinances.
Instead, Mr. Feiner said he thought that Westchester County was a “higher” form of government in New York that did not therefore have to abide by town ordinances, and claimed to have recently received a legal opinion to that effect, which he said he would forward to the ECC.
Residents said there was no way to expect the Town would be able to help them if the Town Supervisor was unwilling to exert any leverage over the county. Residents said the Town should be threatening to take legal action against the county if the county was unwilling to employ noise mitigation efforts.
Mr. Feiner said he would have done something sooner to address the problem but blamed residents for waiting until the noise actually started before complaining.