First of all, a big congratulations goes out to our Town/Village Engineer Paul Fraioli, P.E. who was honored last night by the Westchester/Putnam Chapter of the New York State Society of Professional Engineers as Outstanding Engineer in Government at their annual National Engineers Week dinner. So many people came out from our Town and Village to recognize all of Paul’s many years of committed work to our municipalities. Town Clerk Susanne Donnelly presented Paul a proclamation from the Town naming this Monday, February 24, as Paul Fraioli Day in the Town of Ossining. We hope you will take some time to reach out to Paul to congratulate him and thank him for so much of the infrastructure work that is in place, sturdily, for many years, because of him. If you have a chance this weekend to enjoy the weather, take a stroll on the beautiful Sing Sing Kill Greenway, a signature project dreamed up by Paul as part of an additional public benefit created out of a sewer main infrastructure improvement (funded in large part by NY State, I believe).
Last Saturday, I was so excited to participate in the 3rd Annual Escape from Sing Sing Plunge! Yes, I did take the plunge and believe me, it was bitter cold, but also a tremendous amount of fun!!! It was great to see so many community members, local organizations and businesses, our first responders, and community leaders join together to support the Gullotta House and the specific fundraising causes of this event, including scholarships for local students and financial support for families in need, among others. I sure hope you'll take the plunge with me next year!
Several Town staff and board members started off the week at the annual Association of Towns Conference in New York City. As always, it was a very informative two days of training and we are looking forward to bringing what we've learned back to our work here in the Town. Some of the workshops I attended included one with the heads of both Association of Towns Jerry Geist and New York Conference of Mayors Peter Baynes discussing what is going on in Albany and how the budget session might impact Towns. Specifically they discussed their collective work to increase AIM (Aid and Incentives to Municipalities) funding and CHIPS (Consolidated Highway Improvement Program) funding which are both state funding streams that help municipalities offset property tax payments for services and infrastructure projects. AIM funding hasn’t increased in 11 years, and the governor actually tried to get rid of it all together last year, but we worked collectively to fight to keep it in the state budget. CHIPS funding is for road projects and has had the same base for the last 8 years. As we all try to comply with the tax cap annually and do our best to look for ways to save money while still delivering excellent services, safe roads, and sustainable infrastructure, we count on state dollars to help us. Unfortunately, these funds have not kept pace with our needs. We will continue to advocate to our state representatives that they keep these funding streams in place.
I also attended a workshop on Economic Development vs Infrastructure Development and which must come first, the implications of Marijuana in the Workplace if cannabis is legalized in our state, which we are hearing is likely, and other sessions on relevant topics for our Town. We also had an opportunity to meet one on one with the Department of State to see if there are other opportunities for grants if we look for additional areas to share resources with our neighboring municipalities. As always, it was a great opportunity to network and share best practices and learn from other Towns around the state, as well as find out about new resources and approaches to best practices.
When we got back from our training, it was a short week of catching up and preparing for next week's Legislative Session. We canceled our Work Session this week to accommodate the Association of Towns training, but are back with a full agenda on Tuesday. We have a few appointments (and unfortunately one resignation from a long-time employee of our Senior Nutrition Program), as well as budget adjustment resolutions to close out 2019. We are so lucky to have an excellent Finance staff to always guide us in the right direction -- shout out to Deputy Comptroller Dale Ferreira for all her hard work! Next Tuesday we will also have two departmental reports, one from Receiver of Taxes Holly Perlowitz and Parks Foreman Mario Velardo. Both Holly and Mario have been hard at work these past few months, and we are looking forward to hearing all they have been up to in the first quarter of 2020. I know Holly is fresh off of another tax collection season from January, and Mario has been riding this excellent spring-like weather we've been having to get all of our parks in tip top shape by springtime. Hope you will join us, catch us live on GOTV, or check out the video on YouTube afterwards.
As a reminder, we are less than one month away until all households will start receiving invitations by mail to participate in the 2020 US Census. Keep an eye out in your mailbox between March 12 and March 20 for the postcard that will provide you with the necessary information to participate in the census count. An accurate count is so important -- did you know that children under five years old were among the most undercounted during the last US Census? In 2010, nearly one million children, or about five percent of children under five, were not counted according to the US Census. Learn more about the upcoming 2020 Census so you will be prepared come March for your invitation.
The New York State Plastic Bag Ban goes into effect next weekend on March 1! Start the habit now -- make sure you always have a reusable bag (or two!) with you when you go to the grocery store. Did you know that New Yorkers use over 23 billion plastic bags every year? That is simply unacceptable and devastating to the environment. Learn more about the plastic bag ban online.
The Ossining Schools and families have started up their advocacy efforts again as the State Legislature is well into its 2020 session and budget meetings. As you may know, the Ossining Schools are part of "The Harmed Suburban Five" alongside Port Chester, Glen Cove, Riverhead, and Westbury School Districts. Since the Foundation Aid Formula was established in 2008, the Harmed Suburban Five have experienced increasing student enrollment; decreases in community wealth; and also received less than 55% of the Foundation Aid funding originally promised, while other school districts have remained fully funded, or in some cases, over funded. The Foundation Aid gap in these Districts will continue to grow as student needs and enrollment increase. Our communities are simply asking that these Districts be funded at the same level as our peers by providing us with at least 80% of the fully phased-in amount and that this matter be discussed and resolved in legislative conference. Sign the Change.org petition to Governor Cuomo, or learn more about the District's advocacy efforts at the Ossining School District's website. The Town will also be writing a letter to the Governor and state legislators advocating for this funding.
The Village of Ossining is seeking proposals to lease the Kiosk at Gourdine Park. Ossining’s busy waterfront is home to the Summer Concert Series and Food Truck Fridays, the Louis Engel Spray Park, playgrounds, picnic areas and unbeatable views of Hudson River sunsets, and directly abuts the Ossining Boat and Canoe Club, the Ossining Metro North railroad station and the Haverstraw/Ossining ferry. The Village hopes to find a tenant to run a seasonal concession in the Kiosk beginning in May 2020. If you have a great idea for the Kiosk, or know someone who does, please have them visit the Village’s website to view the RFP; all responses must be returned to the office of the Village Clerk no later than 10AM on Monday, March 9th.
Starting in February and ending April 15th, IFCA Housing Network is providing free income tax preparation services at their offices on Spring Street and at Ossining High School. This program is for New York State residents, who work in New York State, have incomes less than $56,000 per year, and who are eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit. You can start making appointments now by calling (914) 941-5252 for sessions at IFCA's headquarters at 138 Spring Street and appointments are available Monday (12pm-3pm), Tuesday (10am-3pm), Wednesday (1pm-5pm), Thursday (10am-3pm), Friday (1:30pm-3:30pm), and Saturday (12:30pm-3:30pm). There will also be walk-in hours on Mondays from February 3rd through April 6th at Ossining High School (Room 202) from 4pm through 8pm. Please note the walk-in hours at OHS will not be held on February 17th, April 6th, and April 13th. This program is sponsored by Wells Fargo Foundation.
There is also tax preparation help available at the Ossining Public Library. Here are the details:
I wanted to make sure everyone was aware of a County program to help fund lead paint remediation -- the Lead Safe Westchester Program (LSW) Program provides funds for repairs and improvements that reduce lead-based paint and safety hazards and improve the condition of affordable housing in qualified housing units throughout the County. Landlords and property owners are encouraged to apply -- learn more and apply here. To participate, residents must meet certain income guidelines.
Tomorrow morning, Saturday, February 22 at 10:30am, the Village of Ossining is honoring the memory of longtime resident, James Drohan, Sr., by renaming the corner of Croton Avenue and Sherman Place "James Drohan, Sr. Way." Mr. Drohan was a volunteer firefighter and bravely served on September 11, 2001, and faced debilitating health challenges as a result of his service. He is probably best known by so many in the Ossining community as a crossing guard, helping Ossining students getting to and from school safely every day. I hope you will consider joining the Village as they remember Mr. Drohan's admirable life of service here in Ossining and beyond.
On Saturday, February 22, the Mala Waldron Quartet, a group of internationally acclaimed jazz virtuosos headed by jazz vocalist/pianist/composer Waldron accompanied by her top-flight backup group, will make a rare local appearance in Westchester Collaborative Theater (WCT)’s Jazz in the Box Series. Waldron, will perform a sophisticated blend of soulful jazz together with Steve Salerno on guitar, Michael T.A. Thompson on drums, and Jennifer Vincent on bass at WCT’s black box performance space, 23 Water St. in Ossining. The Mala Waldron Quartet will play sets at 7:30 and 9:00 pm. General admission is $20, and tickets are available now online.
The Ossining Public Library has started an online book club! Grab your copy of The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides and start following #OPLReads on Facebook to participate in the discussion starting next Saturday, February 29.
Register now for the Westchester County Youth Climate Action Leadership Summit, scheduled for Wednesday, March 11 at the Westchester County Center from 8:30am to 1:30pm. At this event, over 200 high school and college students engaged in climate action throughout Westchester County will gather to learn leadership and civic engagement skills, discuss tactics for influencing public policy, share ideas and resources, and develop projects and actions to effectively address the climate crisis. The goal of the Summit is to equip every participant to engage actively in a specific project, initiative or action to address the climate emergency on a local level. The program is being organized by Federated Conservationists of Westchester County, in partnership with the Westchester County Office of Energy, Conservation & Sustainability, the Westchester County Youth Bureau and the United Nations Association-USA, Westchester Chapter. Please share with any and all budding environmentalists you know! Register online here, but high school students should contact the staff at their high school to register.
Hope you enjoy this beautiful weekend we are expecting. Quite honestly, I wish I was plunging in the Hudson this Saturday!!