But first we want to make sure everyone has the link to the Town Hall Meeting that was held on August 21, 2012 will bring you directly to the telecast of the meeting.
The end of the month of August is upon us. This administration has been in office for nine months now, and I feel it is important to recap some of what we have accomplished thus far, with illustrative examples (case studies), as well as discuss the items on which we continue to work.
Because this Town government is elected to not only make policy, but also to accomplish goals and objectives for residents in the most cost-effective and service-oriented ways, we feel that the ability to reach your elected and appointed officials is essential. We are so proud of our effective and professional staff who are there to answer questions- remember that the Board’s e-mails are on the web page- and we are available to meet with any group that wants to discuss any issue concerning the Town at any time. Because of the amount of tasks we take on, it is important to schedule these meetings in advance; this can be done through the Supervisor’s Office by calling (914) 762-6001.
Due to illness, the Town’s long-time Assessor Josette Polzella had to retire. After advertising for the position, we interviewed some excellent candidates for approximately one month (some coming for second interviews). We involved all of the municipalities and schools with whom the Assessor’s office works, including the Village of Briarcliff Manor, the Village of Ossining, and both the Briarcliff Manor Ossining School Districts. We chose Fernando Gonzalez for the position, and he began work with us in March. He is an advocate of the “Open Door” policy, has attended and participated in the majority of our Town Hall meetings, and even brought people in from the State to talk to the residents about assessments, equalization rates, and grievances. His office door is open to anyone within the Town to come and discuss their individual properties. Fernando has saved many residents the cost of those companies that claim they will “reduce your taxes” by instead inviting them to sit with him or his staff to discuss what, if any, savings would be realized through a grievance. The result? For the 2012 grievance period, the Town saw a 25% decrease in claims.
The office will continue to schedule meetings for residents and commercial property owners who are concerned about the amount of taxes they are paying. Please feel free to contact the office. For potential changes to the 2013 assessment roll, please contact the office prior to June 1, 2013. Meetings and discussions can be held throughout the year.
After the first quarter of 2012, we evaluated the quality of service we were receiving from the engineering consultant. It was determined that due to project cost overruns, lack of timely task completion and overall dissatisfaction, we would discontinue the agreement. We advertised for companies to make presentations to the Town. We evaluated the proposals and interviewed five private firms, as well as the Village of Ossining engineering team. Due to the number of projects outstanding around Town, we determined that we would contract with the Village, who has expertise in municipal policies and procedures, and are very familiar with the geography and engineering challenges specific to Ossining. We have moved ahead with many of the projects on our “engineering list” and completed some of our FEMA projects, all while saving money not only in consultant cost, but also on each and every project. As we move into the 2013 budget cycle, we will be deciding on whether or not to continue this Intermunicipal Agreement (IMA).
The Ossining Village Fire Department and the Water Department had a request for the Town which would result in both increasing the water pressure on Cedar Lane and Stormytown Road, and increasing their ability to keep the nearby homes and nursing facility operational should there be a water main break anywhere in the vicinity. To this end, a capital project was developed in 2011 and was moving along with the help of an outside engineering firm.Immediately upon reviewing the bids for the project, the Village engineering team saw a way of saving $15,000 off the price of the work. Upon receiving the bids back from the contractors, we found we could reduce the entire project cost from $550,000 to $450,000.While the management of the project will remain with the outside engineering company, the oversight will be done by the Village engineering team.
After the Stonegate sewer project was completed (over budget), Ryder Avenue was in desperate need of repaving.A sewer connector had been run down the street allowing the homes on the road to become part of the sewer district, leaving the road surface uneven; there also existed a drainage issue at the North State Road end of the street from the water that comes down the hill, out of the park and down Ryder Avenue.After much discussion as to whether or not the road should be paved, the Town Board decided to override all obstacles and moveahead using the Village engineering team. Scheduling, planning and execution of the project were done by the engineering team.They rotated the catch basins at the corners of Morningside Drive and Ryder Avenue, added a curtain drain at the maintenance entrance to Ryder Park, and installed curbing along the road. The project was anticipated to cost $60,000 of the Town’s allotted CHIPS money; however, the final cost of the project, due in great part to the close monitoring of the engineering team, was $47,000.This huge savings has resulted in a $13,000 return to our CHIPS surplus, where it may be used to pave other roads in the Town.
Even before taking office on January 2, 2012, this administration pushed to adjust the 2012 budget to save taxpayer money.There was a concern that, if there was not a significant recovery during the 2012 fiscal year, the Town would struggle to meet some projected revenues.At our last work session, the Town Comptroller did warn us that the projected 2012 revenues would indeed fall short of what had been budgeted.However, we are happy to report that other unexpected revenues have materialized, especially concerning the Unincorporated Area budget. We are constantly reviewing the budget and make adjustments where necessary.
In January, It was determined that the Assessor would no longer have a take-home vehicle. The Jeep leased for the previous Assessor was returned to the leasing company, for which the Town will realize a total 2012 savings of $5,335, along with a $984 reduction in our auto liability insurance. In the past year, the Town auctioned all unused vehicles, resulting in revenue of around $40,000, as well as insurance savings of approximately $10,000.
After meeting with the County Police and determining that they had no intention of purchasing and/or leasing the building at 507 North State Road,all services (except for Con Ed ) were removed from the building, including such items as fax machines, cleaning services, and telephone/ internet service.Many of these services were costly when added up for the year. The property was put on the market, and as of today, about 15 different groups, individuals and/or realtors have toured the building.We are in talks with several groups right now, and continue to actively pursue the sale of the building with the good possibility of it returning to the tax rolls.
We continue to pride ourselves in involving the residents of the unincorporated area of the Town of Ossining, as well as the entire Town (consisting of 91% of Briarcliff, the Village of Ossining and the unincorporated area), in every decision we make. To this end, we will continue to hold Town Hall Meetings at the Ossining Public Library. There are two more scheduled in 2012: Tuesday, October 2nd and Thursday, November 8th. We will continue these meetings in 2013, with dates to be determined.
We are constantly reviewing, adjusting and updating the budget. September marks the start of the 2013 budget cycle. By today, August 31st, department managers must submit their requested budget with the items that they need to operate through the coming fiscal year.The budget requests will be reviewed with each Department Manager, with edits by the Town Board, and we will all work together to craft a sound budget for 2013.
We have approved the change in the law to have the Highway Superintendent become an appointed position rather than an elected one.The 5-0 vote in favor of this vote shows how the Board views the importance of this job, and the collective sense that having a qualified person running this department is essential. Appropriate training, current technological knowledge, and management ability are all part of the criteria. The final decision is up the voters on NOVEMBER 6th when there will be a referendum on the ballot. Please watch for more information on this issue.
We will continue to work with other communities in Westchester to determine the feasibility of an assessment revaluation of the entire community. We are waiting for the communities who began the process to move forward, and hope to have new information at our next Town Hall Meeting in October.
On August 21, 2012, we announced and released our new web page. As we get accustomed to managing it ourselves, please be patient with us. It is a very user-friendly format that we feel you will appreciate as you research items concerning the Town. We appreciate any comments you may have on the page and suggestions on how to further improve it.
We are seeking bids on both our sanitation and tree warden and removal contracts. We will be having open discussions on both of these issues on Tuesday, September 4th, at our next work session. We will also discuss creating a Town of Ossining “Economic Development Committee” to work with both established and potential new, businesses in the Town. Thank you, Councilman Tripodi, for bringing a 1976 local law of an Economic Management Board to use as a starting point. We welcome any and all comments and concerns and will continue to update you as the discussion continues.
We are moving to incorporate Sparta Cemetery into the Ossining Historical Cemeteries. It currently belongs to the Ossining Historical Society, who no longer has the ability to maintain it. While the Town is required to take possession under these circumstances, we also see our obligation to preserve the historical site and gateway to the Ossining community.The creation of the “Historical Ossining Cemeteries Organization” is in the works, which will concentrate on fund raising efforts to help us preserve this important historical site.
This is just a snapshot of a few items we work on on a daily basis. We encourage you to participate as much as possible by giving us comments and ideas to make the Town of Ossining the progressive community we all know it to be.Daily, we continue to work by being the administrators for two governments; we handle the day-to-day operations of the unincorporated area, as well as handling all departments of the town wide government.
Please join me in looking forward to FALL, where we in Ossining are reminded of the many great reasons for living in one of the most beautiful areas of the country: our historic treasures, our fine schools, and the vibrant autumn colors of the Hudson Valley.