2014 is almost history. It has been an active year….DEFINITELY NOT BORING! Here are some highlights:
* Unlike some communities in NYS, the Town has complied with the tax cap every year since the State Legislature recommended that local governments keep tax hikes under their recommended tax cap levy. The Town Board unanimously approved the 2015 budget last week which again complies with the tax cap.
* Town maintains Aaa bond rating from both Moody's and Standard & Poor's---an accomplishment only 1% of communities around the nation can be proud of. Communities around the nation have experienced bond rating declines. It's nice that Greenburgh continues to have the highest rating possible from two independent agencies. Our Aaa rating equates to over $200,000 in interest savings over the life of the debt service.
* The new sanitation truck that picks up garbage with an automated hand is now operational. We're able to manage with one employee, not three on a truck and anticipate significant savings of your tax dollars. The Town will continue to expand this method of garbage collection with more routes and new trucks in the coming years.
* I meet on a regular basis with retired local management consultants, corporate executives who volunteer their time--offering valuable suggestions on how the town could be better managed. We started the 2015 budget process early in the year and they helped identify over a million dollars in new sources of revenue or cost reductions!
* Howard Reiss was appointed as the new Fairview Fire Chief earlier this year. He’s trying hard to reach out to the community. Mike Goldstein was elected Hartsdale Fire Commissioner and Clarie Pizzuti was elected Commissioner of the Fairview Fire Department by large margins. Both were supported by residents who would like to see fire district spending monitored more closely. A new citizens committee - the Fairview Fire District Monitoring Committee- was formed. The Fairview, Greenville & Hartsdale fire departments worked with the town –participating in our 9-11 memorial and annual Veterans day memorial event.
*The town has started promoting organic recycling to residents- an initiative that will eventually reduce the amount of garbage by over 30%. Thanks to the Greenburgh Nature Center for leading the way!
*The town has been successful in collecting significant back taxes owed to us --an initiative that will continue. Since the List of Delinquent Taxes was filed with the County in April 2014, 62 parcels have been removed from the delinquent List (2 parcels were removed because they are owned by the State and the remaining were removed because of full payment or a new tax agreement). A total of a little less than $3.1 million of delinquent taxes was either paid in full or subject to new tax agreements (including current taxes paid in order to be eligible for the tax agreements). There have been 22 new tax agreements. Of the 62 parcels, 40 were single family, multi-family or condos. I have worked with Westchester Residential Opportunities helping families who owe back taxes come up with plans so they can keep their properties. We continue to receive additional payments from those owing back taxes.
*The town has upgraded our software. The new Munis Enterprise Resource Planning Software centralizes our financial processes. Many benefits to the town: We will be able to do a better job tracking expenses per department during the year. In 2015 we expect to implement more internal control procedures that will enable us to cut costs. Sometime in 2015 we expect to be able to be able to collect water bills payments electronically.
* The town hired an auctioneer, GA Keen Realty Advisors to oversee the sale of Frank's nursery on Dobbs Ferry Road. We delayed the auction after being advised that additional environmental reviews were needed. Potential purchasers want to have a better understanding how much environmental cleanup work will be required before building on the property. Woodard & Curran Engineers will be conducting the environmental reviews and has been in contact with the NYSDEC. There is significant interest in the property from potential purchasers.
* Many of the problems at the Town Court have been resolved. Over a year ago the Town Board contracted with an independent audit company to conduct a study of Town Court operations. The court has already implemented many audit recommendations leading to improved internal controls and efficiencies. We are about to embark on another major independent study of operations-- of our Public Works department.
* The town spent $3 million dollars on road repaving on streets throughout the town. The town and villages within Greenburgh jointly purchased significant amounts of asphalt for road repaving, saving many thousands of dollars. Very pleased that New York State listened to our concerns and repaved W Hartsdale Ave, a road that was in desperate need of repaving.
* By collaborating with other municipalities in Westchester, the town has saved significant dollars with our reassessment initiative. The town hired Tyler Technologies to collect data. Updates on the progress of the data collection can be found on the home page of the town website: www.greenburghny.com. Town Assessor Edye McCarthy and I have been meeting with numerous civic groups during the year answering questions about the reassessment process. This is the first time in over 60 years that all properties are being reassessed. Once reassessment is completed there will be more stability, fewer tax certiorari refunds, reduced legal costs.
* The town is in the process of moving forward retrofitting our lights to more efficient LED lighting. Taxpayers will be thankful because there will be major savings of taxpayer dollars.
* John Sexton was appointed the new Library Director. Thanks to the Greenburgh Library Foundation and a grant from NYS, the library has invested in two self check machines that allow patrons to check out their own library materials --saving staff time and costs.
* Town Clerk Judith Beville has been overseeing our internship program for students. Many students have worked on interesting projects during the year and summer months. In 2014 one of our summer interns was profiled by SUNY Albany as one of their outstanding students and featured on WCBS radio for the work she did as an intern. And, last year a student intern was selected to compete in a game of JEOPARDY (he won a game!). We continued training students interested in a career in journalism with our student news network program.
* Veterans Living history initiative -- Alan Hochberg and Steve Wittenberg have already conducted over 125 interviews of World War II and Korean conflict veterans. These interviews are broadcast non stop during the Memorial Day and Veterans day weekends. Each of the interviews is about half hour long. A new committee made up of veterans is planning a Veterans memorial at DeSanti Park on E Hartsdale Ave.
*The Town Board created a new Human Rights Liaison Committee to work with the Westchester County Human Rights Commission.
* Union Baptist Church located on Manhattan Ave celebrated their 100th birthday this year. Dobbs Ferry Lutheran Church celebrated their 75th!
* Edgemont schools was named the best school district in the United States by www.businessinsider.com.
* The Greenburgh School district (previously called Central 7) is partnering with the town - working on a very exciting ACE mentoring program. Students who attend the school district will be able to mentor with architects and engineers. Participating students will be eligible for scholarships of between $1,000 and $10,000. Tahira Chase was appointed the Interim School Superintendent this year. The mentoring program for architects and engineers will start in January, 2015.
* Westchester County is continuing to work on replacing the Crane Road bridge. Some residents of Edgemont complained that work was taking place throughout the evening -disrupting sleep. I think that governments and contractors that do construction work during the evening should be required to offer immediate neighbors a free hotel room while the overnight work takes place-if the work will continue past midnight and into the early morning hours. We did this a number of years ago when a shopping center in Greenburgh was repaving their parking lot during evening hours.
*The town completed a stormwater project in December after we received a grant from the Bronx River Watershed initiative to redevelop the northeastern portion of the Town Hall parking lot. The goal: to implement storm water retrofit project capable of providing water quality treatment for stormwater runoff from existing impervious areas. Impervious surfaces have a direct connection to pollutants located within storm water runoff and the quality treatment of existing impervious areas with the Bronx River watershed
* We're moving ahead with rezoning plans to allow for car dealerships on Central Ave. Significant tax revenues! 807 building permits were issued in 2014 (as of last week) compared to 627 in 2004.
* Saks 5th Ave outlet is opening up their new store on Route 119. The new outlet might motivate other high end stores to consider Central Ave and 119 for their stores in the coming years. A new yogurt store on E Hartsdale Ave is a big success. And- Ben's deli will open up their new deli on Central Ave in January, 2015. The Zoning Board granted Deli Delicious (deli located on Route 119) permission to proceed with their application for a drive through window.
* 40 years ago I got my start in public life by successfully pushing for the closing of the Bronx River parkway on Sundays for bicyclists. In 2014 Bicycle Sundays celebrated their 40th anniversary.
* A gun range on Ardsley Road was shut down by Con Ed after bullet fragments hit a woman. Other bullet fragments were found on residential properties. Since this incident I have been contacted by others around the state who have experienced similar problems. We learned that outdoor gun ranges are not regulated by the state or federal governments. A new state of the art indoor gun range opened in a commercial area of Greenburgh (Elmsford) this fall.
* Over 5 years ago I organized a job club that has assisted the unemployed find work. We've helped over 200 people find part time or full time jobs. WJCS, the library and I also co-sponsor job forums during the year with excellent speakers who have helped people improve their job search strategies.
* Garrett Duquesne is the new Commissioner of Planning. The Comprehensive Plan Committee is revising their draft plan, based on community input. The new plan, once adopted by the Town Board will help us attract and keep businesses in the town, thereby improving our tax base.
* Working with Edgemont community leaders and residents of the unincorporated section of Hastings on child pedestrian safety initiatives --which hopefully will lead to more sidewalks near schools. Have been in contact with Congressional representatives and the United States Department of Education to learn more about federal grants that will be made available to local governments for sidewalk construction. The police department and Town Board approved the installation of no parking signs during school hours on Seely Place.
*Hastings on Hudson initiated an interesting deer birth control study. They hope to bring down the deer population by 35-45% over five years. They seek to inoculate as many does as can be reasonably captured during the period allowed by the DEC license with a immunocontraceptive. they will repeat the effort over 4 subsequent years monitoring whether the deer population drops. If the Hastings experiment works Greenburgh might be interested in expanding the initiative.
* I received many complaints early this year about mail delivery and worked with United States Postal authorities and our congressional representatives to improve service. There has been a significant drop in complaints.
* New water meters have enabled the water department to monitor individual water usage. We look for variances in usage and when someone's water use is higher than it usually is we contact them to determine if there is a leak. We have saved some residents thousands of dollars.
* Thankful to the snow angels, TV angels who volunteer their time helping the disabled and elderly clear their driveways of snow and remove old TV sets to the highway garage.
*construction has started on a 22 unit affordable housing at the old waterwheel property in Ardsley. The new affordable housing units, once it opens up, will offer volunteer firefighters and municipal workers needed affordable housing opportunities. The building should be completed in 2015. 17 units will be affordable. 5 workforce housing. Brightview Assisted Living facility is under construction in the Glenville/Tarrytown section of unincorporated Greenburgh.
* Mariano Rivera, one of the most dominant relievers in major league history opened up the Elmsford Little League games earlier this season. ALSO PLEASED that Madison Square Garden recently responded to a request I made to allow a limited number of students to visit their training facility which is located in Greenburgh ---and to interact with some of the stars at the facility. The first tour (with about 20 students) will take place in January, 2015. Had the honor of shaking the hand of President Obama when he visited Tarrytown earlier this year to discuss the Tappan Zee bridge construction project.
* The town opened to residents new outdoor exercise equipment at Travis park. A new playground at Yosemite Park also was dedicated.
* The town has been working with residents of Edgemont on improving pedestrian safety at the Seely place School. No parking signs from 7 AM to 9 AM and 2 dPM to 4 PM on Seely Place and Henry Street were placed. We are considering constructing more sidewalks near schools around the town and have reached out to the federal and state governments expressing interest in applying for funding.
* Progress is being made to complete the missing link at the South County Trail between warehouse lane and Main Street in Elmsford. Westchester County has proposed an 8 foot wide 3,300 long asphalt pathway .
Obviously, all of the above could not have been accomplished without an outstanding team of hard working town employees, department heads and Town Board members Kevin Morgan, Diana Juettner, Francis Sheehan, Ken Jones. A shout out to the many citizens who volunteer their time serving on Boards, Commissions and civic groups. Government works best when we partner with the community on the decision making processes.
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