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October 11, 2013

‘Pops, Patriots and Fireworks’

Pound Ridge/Scotts Corners

  1. Scotts Corner Market – Trinity Corners Shopping Center;  55 Westchester Avenue

  2. Pound Ridge Sunoco — 66 Westchester Avenue    

  3. Sam Parker Country Market — 257 Westchester Avenue    


Bedford Village

  1. Bedford Rexall Pharmacy — Hunting Ridge Mall; 424 Old Post Road  

  2. Village Green Deli — Village Green; Routes 22 and 172    

  3. Bedford Shell — Routes 22 and 172 (at blinking light); 848 So. Bedford Road

  4. Village Service Center —193 Pound Ridge Road (at Long Ridge Road intersection)    


Bedford Hills

  1. Bedford Hills Deli – 7 Babbitt Road    

  2. Bueti’s Deli – 526 Bedford Road (Route 117)


Katonah

  1. NoKA Joe’s – 25 Katonah Avenue    

  2. Steger’s Paper Mill – 89 Katonah Avenue    

  3. Katonah Pharmacy – Katonah Shopping Center; 294 Katonah Avenue   

  4. Bagel Shoppe – Katonah Shopping Center; 280 Katonah Avenue    

  5. Katonah Sunoco – 105 Bedford Road


Mount Kisco

  1. Teamo/Mt. Kisco News – 239 Main Street    


Cross River

  1. Bagel Boys Café – Cross River Shopping Center; Routes 121 and 35    

  2. Cross River Shell Station – Route 35    

  3. Cameron’s Deli –  890 Route 35    

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Pound Ridge Supervisor candidates debate


By DON HEPPNER
 

Pound Ridge supervisor candidates Richard Lyman and Alison Boak came to the Record-Review offices on Friday, Oct. 4, to debate the issues.

Mr. Lyman, a Republican, is a lifelong Pound Ridger currently in his third term as a town councilman. He serves as the town board liaison to the Pound Ridge Office of Emergency Management and has actively participated in both drills and emergency incidents; he is a member of the Town Safety Committee, which has played an important role in controlling the town’s insurance costs; and he is a charter member of the Sub-Committee on Septic Systems under the Westchester County Committee on the Environment and Energy.

Ali Boak serves on the town board. She is in the second year of her first term. Ali is a founding board member of the Pound Ridge Partnership, an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit organization formed in 2010 to bring residents, business owners, landlords, government officials and community leaders together to enhance and support the Scotts Corners business district.


The Record-Review: Please tell us why you are running.

Ms. Boak: For me, there are so many things about Pound Ridge that we all love and that we want to protect, like open space, the environment, stone walls, our schools, our sense of community, our sense of tradition in Pound Ridge, the Halloween Walk, the fireworks and the Memorial Day Parade. I believe the best way to protect these thing is to plan for the future.

My husband and I moved to Pound Ridge with our four kids because we wanted to take advantage of the schools and we wanted to be a part of a close-knit community, and I feel that is what Pound Ridge has to offer.

I am running because I want to keep Pound Ridge that way, but at the same time, I believe protecting what we love does not mean there is no room for improvement.

There are three areas that I believe we can focus on. The first is to make the business district reflect the beauty and vitality of the rest of the town. I met with some constituents last night and they were calling the Trinity Shopping Center an eyesore. Why do we allow that to happen?

We still don’t have cellphone coverage in our business district, which is a problem for business owners and residents alike.

It’s getting better, but the general state of disrepair has been characteristic of the business district over the last many, many years.

I am also running because I think we need to bring more openness and communication to the town. For example, there have been a lot of problems that remain unresolved, such as the speeding issue. This is not a new issue. I have emails going back more than a decade where the town started to address this problem, formed a committee, then people didn’t know who was on the committee and then the committee never met, and it finally got reorganized. That is just one example of breakdowns in communication and not keeping things moving forward. I have other examples of that.

Overall, Pound Ridge has done extremely well in terms of fiscal conservatism compared to other towns. I have been on the town board for 21 months and have spent my whole career running a nonprofit agency, which weathered the financial storm that forced about 25 percent of the nonprofit agencies to go under. We were not only able to weather the storm, but we continued to get new projects.

I think Pound Ridge can improve its efficiency and the way we manage our projects such as the community center and the pool house.

In short, I am running because this is where I am going to be. I have four kids. My youngest is 7. I am invested in the community and really want to see Pound Ridge be the best it can be. To me, that means planning for the future and taking care of problems head on.

Mr. Lyman: I think my record speaks for itself. I have spent the last 45 years of my life in service to this community, and I want to be in a position now to put my stamp on it.

I have carried a lot of water for a lot of people and seen through a lot of projects for other people, and now it’s my turn to get something done that is going to mean something.

There is a whole lot of focus about what goes on in Scotts Corners, as there should be. I am on the verge of what might be considered a breakthrough concerning wastewater in Scotts Corners, and that is the foundation on which the rest of Scotts corners will be built. I’ll bet there isn’t a restaurant owner in Katonah who wouldn’t trade every streetlight, every crosswalk, every blade of grass for a decent wastewater system so that they could add seats to their restaurants. That is also the controlling factor for Scotts Corner. That is why Trinity Corners Shopping Center is half empty, because they are on a water allocation. That is why Pinocchio’s only has three or four tables, because they are on a very strict water allocation.

I have the Westchester County Department of Health on board with this, and the New York State DEC is actually talking to us about the system. The town board has been very supportive of it, and I am waiting for some testing information to come back to us.

I have been leading this charge. The last report on this was done in 1992. Everybody wrings his or her hands over this because nothing has been done, but I intend to get it done.

The Adopt-a -Triangle Program that I started probably saves the town government about $3,000 a year.

The propane-fueled police cars are probably going to save the town about $25,000 a year in fuel costs alone.

These are the types of things that I continually try to search out.

I take exception to the statement about the management of the pool house project. I did those project management services on my own time, along with Ali’s friend James Best. We saw that project through in what was an impossible time frame to get done and we got it to the point it was usable. When we started, it was likely that the board of health would not have let it open that year. When you do projects in a rush, you don’t necessarily do all the efficient things you would like to do and you don’t get to plan everything you would like to do. The thing is, you roll up your sleeves and you get it done, and nobody helped. Nobody.


Record-Review: Is Pound Ridge in need of a “fix?”

Mr. Lyman: Maintenance is an ongoing thing. But don’t put a picture of a building with the paint peeling off of it and put it out there as if that is a condition that exists in the town when that condition doesn’t exist. The building is beautifully painted.

There are things we have to fix all the time, which is why we have a maintenance department.

Ms. Boak: When I first ran for office in 2004, I was going door-to-door, and the subject people wanted to talk about most was the state of Scotts Corners. Business owners came forward and said that they felt neglected by the town board.

The owners said that they would open their business and no town board member would come in and congratulate them. They felt completely disconnected from town government.

That is why we got the Pound Ridge Partnership started, because business owners and property owners asked me to help them and I said sure. I didn’t win the election but I stuck true to my commitment to make a difference in the business district.

The Pound Ridge Partnership has become a 501(c)3, and it has essentially organized people who have never been involved in the town before. We formed nine committees that are very active and accomplished Harvest Festival, Pride Day, installed the pocket park next to Plum Plums, greatly increased the landscaping and created an award for the person making a great contribution in the district.

In 2009, the conditions in the business district were pretty bad. The pictures that I took had peeling signs, there were mattresses and crap laying everywhere. The landscaped islands in our parking lot were full of garbage and poison ivy and they looked like a mangled mess, and now a lot of that stuff is getting straightened out. Now there are beautiful shrubs on those islands and now the signs have been repaired. I just wasn’t happy with the amount of work done in the business district for the last 10 years.


Record-Review: Ms. Boak, do you think Mr. Lyman’s wastewater treatment plans are a good idea?

Ms. Boak: I do and I support it whole-heartedly, and I offered to help, but I think we need to look at all these different issues. There is no one quick fix. This is not a quick fix, but it will go a long way and it is important, and I will make every effort I can to support the project. But there are lots of other issues we have and we have to look at it from a holistic approach.

Dick, you have been liaison to the business district for eight or nine years and I would think there would be a plan in place to address a myriad of issues to let people know what is going to be done and in what time frame. That is the kind of strategic plan I would like to put into place, not just in the business district, but also in other areas.

Mr. Lyman: Ali, in her time on the town board, has produced two studies: the dumpster study that was proposed over a year ago and she created a list of things to do in the business district. And, to date, not one of those things has happened.

In fact, regarding the dumpsters, Ali approached me at the end of August to assist her to get that project started. I found that interesting on a couple of fronts.

My time on the town board and my record are well established. It has been spent doing things and getting things done. Producing reports and waiting for somebody else to accomplish them, to me, doesn’t show leadership.

Ms. Boak: The reason that I came to you about the dumpster study was that I don’t view this as a partisan issue. My view is we all need to work together, so I reached out to you because you are the liaison to the business district and I respect you for that position and I wanted to involve you and not just go full force ahead on something. Believe me, I can do that.

I have really been measured on the way I am approaching my projects on the town board because I came in as the first new town board member in 10 years. Everybody else had been on the town board for close to 10 years. I felt strongly that if I just started to take over everything and rammed my ideas down everybody’s throat, I wouldn’t be effective. The way to be effective is to build alliances and partnerships and to try to work with people on things they are good at.


Record-Review: The county’s fair and affordable housing settlement with the county is something that the town has had to respond to. Is the town taking the right steps?

Mr. Lyman: I am far more confident now that we can maintain the character of Pound Ridge and meet the needs of the settlement. We have to first provide the opportunity for multifamily housing, and when you provide that opportunity, that then goes into the economics to allow the affordable component part. To just build affordable housing requires subsidy.

The multifamily zone as it is now allows for housing on 20 acres in a 2-acre zone and 30 acres in a 3-acre zone. That would allow for the size you want and still maintain the character of the town. There are probably 30 or so properties that we have mapped out. All of those have some environmental constraints, so it means that you are not going to build 50- or 60-unit condos.

If you have a 15-acre lot in a 2-acre zone, you are not precluded from going to the zoning board for a variance. If you can make the case that the land can support a project on that size lot, then it affords the opportunity to do so.

We drew the one-quarter mile circle around Scotts Corners because it is one of the most highly developed areas in town. It is an area that has 1-acre zoning and it would provide, with the wastewater treatment system, the opportunity for housing on those smaller lots.

We are trying to get feedback from the housing monitor and the county planning department on our proposed ordinance and see if that is going to pass muster. If it does, we will go on to a public hearing. If it doesn’t, we will have to tweak it.

Ms. Boak: I think we are on the same page. Two issues are getting commingled. One is the affordable family housing and the other is multifamily housing.

We have to balance meeting the affordable housing requirements so that we don’t have any barriers in Pound Ridge that would preclude affordable housing from coming into town. At the same time, it doesn’t take away from the challenge that we have always had, which is to provide housing for seniors and volunteers. The challenge is balancing the two of those forms of housing with something that will preserve the town’s character.

This points to a bigger issue where I think we can do better as a town board. When we make policy, part of it is doing the research and learning about the issues. But also, to make good public policy you have to involve the community. You need to hear what they think and you need to educate them along the way.

This has been a tremendous lift, to understand all of these complexities, and we didn’t do as good a job as we should have in educating people in Pound Ridge about our view on what the housing settlement means and what our plan is and what our process is.

We are a unique community and we can’t just look at what other communities have done. They use as examples Yorktown and others, but we are not like those communities. We need to come up with a unique solution that fits Pound Ridge.


Record-Review: Describe your views about seeking a grant for the Transportation Enhancement Program and on ways to control speeding in town.

Ms. Boak: The town board has applied for a reimbursement program that has been around for 23 years. It is a federal program that funnels money to states and then to municipalities.

It has funded $6 billion worth of programs around the country. Many are here in Westchester County. We have put together a traffic-calming program that I think would kill two birds with one stone. It will accomplish what research says is the only way to reduce speed, which is a multi-interventional method. A speed hump or speed trailer is not going to cut it. You need many different things that when combined actually slow motorists down.

The program we put together would fund stone pillars that would signal you are entering a business district, and crosswalks. Typically when you place a crosswalk you want what is called a “bump out” so that you are not entering into traffic from between parked cars, which is essentially what we have throughout that area. A bump out allows a clear line of sight.

TEP would also fund lighting, which would be beautiful but would be traffic calming. When you have lights on both sides of the street it gives the feeling that you are in an area where you should slow down.

If we were to receive the award, it would fund the project to the tune of $1.85 million overall. $370,000 is what the town would be looking at as a matching portion. The Pound Ridge Partnership and the Pound Ridge Business Association have been raising money for streetlights and they have committed to pay 20 percent of whatever the streetlight component would be to take some of the burden off the town. The streetlight component is about $400,000, which means $80,000 would come from the Green Streets Committee, which would further reduce the town’s commitment to this program.

The tax cap makes it difficult for towns to implement large and costly projects; I don’t see where we can find a way to pay 80 percent of something we have to do. It is a safety issue.

Mr. Lyman: I raised the issue of what are our wants and what are our needs. Slowly, over time, things have shifted completely away from streetlights to now it is all about traffic safety. I agree with Ali. I headed the traffic committee and we came up with a whole bunch of suggestions, bump outs being one of them, to do what they are doing at a far less cost than $370,000 to the taxpayer.

What red-flagged this thing for me was sitting around the table, four of us decided that because we have never done a program like this before we ought to take baby steps. It went from $700,000 and then I get handed a figure of $1.85 million.

What really irritates me — and let’s get away from TEP for a minute — I think if the voters of this country really knew what is going on with their tax dollars they would be furious.

But if the thing comes through, I will work hard to get it done.

Ms. Boak: My view of the project is that it is taxpayer money that has been going out to transportation projects all over the country and why not bring those resources to Pound Ridge if we can do so in a responsible way?

This program is not new or experimental. It has given out $6 billion in 17,000 projects. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do our due diligence or look at what is going on. This is a program that has worked for a lot of communities. Organizations of municipal leaders have fought for this funding that makes such a difference in their districts.

We worked with Don Rhodes, with the consulting firm Laberge that we voted to bring in to advise us. He said that the one place where communities go wrong is that they don’t budget enough, so his advice was to go way over in terms of budgeting so the worst-case scenario is that we don’t need all the money.

I am a grant writer for my nonprofit, so I know different strategies that are used. This is a project where you need to cushion. You need to cushion a lot.

As Rhodes was budgeting and he started to put in the cushions, the budget got bigger than he anticipated, and we couldn’t cut items out of the budget because we wanted everything.

He presented a plan at the $1.85 budget amount, but he also presented a plan at $1.1 million and he listed bullet points where we could cut further if we wanted to. The consensus of the town board was let’s go for it, because this was the last round of funding.

Mr. Lyman: There is another important point, which is transparency. The plan that was submitted was nothing more than a sketch of the partnerships idea of what Scotts Corners should look like. Zero input from the town board. Zero input from the planning board. In fact, when the final drawing went in with the submission, which is something Mr. Rhodes said we are going to have to live with, nobody had seen it.

Now this plan is going to come back. If this thing is awarded — and there are islands in there that Mr. Rhodes said shouldn’t be there because they are so expensive — they could put you over budget. You are locked into those plans.

Ms. Boak: Let me explain how this project works. If we were to do this project without TEP, we would need to hire engineers and we would need to get somebody to put together a plan that would meet DOT requirements.

With TEP you supply a rough concept plan of what you are thinking of doing, but then the project will fund all the engineering and consultants and architects that you need to validate whether that plan can work or not. Changes are expected in the plan, but you can’t say you are going to build a bridge and end up digging a tunnel.

The plans then go to DOT for a second round of approvals. That is what I love about this project. It will give you the money to do it right and have the people with expertise tell us how to do it.

Mr. Lyman: There’s the rub. It goes to bid when all that stuff is done and not before. You don’t get to talk to property owners about acquiring real estate that you need to move sidewalks or whatever your plan is.

Ms. Boak: I have been talking to several towns to see what their experience has been. I have spoken to the mayor of Larchmont and I spoke to the town manager of Croton-on-the-Hudson that has done TEP programs. And I spoke to the DOT coordinator for TEP.

Dick has raised a lot of issues, like you have to hire a full-time project manager. Larchmont hired a consultant to play that role. If you look at Croton, they assigned town staff to play the role of project manager.

According to DOT, the cost of the project manager can come out of funding. It does not have to be the town paying for that on its own.

The other issue Dick raised was about the bidding. If the bids come over project estimates, it could kill the project or the town would have to make up the difference if they wanted to proceed. Larchmont got 13 bids. Two were under budget, a group in the middle was very close, and two were on the high end.

Croton-on-Hudson said the bids were not a problem at all. I asked the question, are you having any problem getting reimbursed. So far we have not found a single town where reimbursements had been a problem.


Record-Review: Many towns were hit hard by storms last year. Pound Ridge was especially hard hit. In cases, residents were without power for almost two weeks. In the event of future storms or incidents, would you make yourself available, and what would you do to motivate the utilities to improve their response?

Mr. Lyman: It is the role of the supervisor to guide that process and to participate in all the emergency calls and everything that goes on.

If we had the plan we have now in place last year it would have been fantastic. NYSEG is now understaffed. The town OEM is capable of transmitting damage data directly to NYSEG. Last year it came as a shock to them that there were 115 poles down and they thought there were 60 down.

If they had that information, they wouldn’t be sending tractor-trailer loads of poles to Brewster, they would send the trucks to Pound Ridge. NYSEG has bought into this. We have turned into a tremendous resource for NYSEG.

Ms. Boak: It was Chief Ryan’s brainchild to assess the poles and the lines. I agree that we have a model program that seems to be working. It will make a huge difference and help us get our grid back up.

It is our role as leaders in town that our residents know that they can rely on us through communication. Communication during the aftermath of Sandy was better than the aftermath of Irene.

I think we have a lot more that we can do, and I have put together a plan that allows us to know what we are trying to accomplish within what time frame. We need residents’ email addresses and cellphone numbers to build a database.

We have done a poor job communicating with residents. If you go to the town’s website, there is not a single set of minutes for our town since before 2013. I can actually go on Larchmont’s website and read the minutes of their TEP application. That is powerful information to inform citizens.

Mr. Lyman: That is irritating. After being on the town board for 21 months, this subject comes up now. This is nonsense. This is the kind of stuff that has always bugged me about election time. I have spent the last 10 years working and I don’t wait until election time to say, “oh look, I have a plan for communication” and throw it on the table in a newspaper editor’s office. If I see a problem, I work at fixing it. That is probably the big difference between us.

Ms. Boak: This is something I have brought up in both my campaigns, and I have asked the town board for funding to install a system that would record town meetings and everything would go on the Internet, but I didn’t have any support from town board members.

It is not fair to say I am bringing it up at election time. This was on my platform for the two years that I ran. And I asked for the funding at budget time to make that happen, and as supervisor, I would work to make that a reality.


Record-Review: Would you be in favor of webcasting town board meetings for the public?

Mr. Lyman: No, I would not, because I think it would rob the board of the input of the people. This is as close to government as you can get, and it is not some major undertaking to go to a board meeting. And people, for the most part, are not interested in what the board is doing. We have two people that come to board meetings.

Ms. Boak: I would disagree. As a mother who is trying to balance four kids, a career, keeping my house in nice shape and trying to get a yoga class in, I think people are so bombarded with things they need to do that it is difficult to get to a meeting on Thursday nights and miss doing homework with their children and putting them to bed, which is what I do when I am home.

If we had information on the website where people can go at their leisure and look and see how we are comporting ourselves as public officials and what is on the agenda, I think it will actually bring people closer to government and to the meetings.

Mr. Lyman: You don’t have any trouble packing the room when you talk about cell towers. This is something that comes up every two years. People are just not that interested in what the government is doing. They are interested when they think it affects them. It’s another expense to the taxpayer, and I don’t see the need.

Ms. Boak: I have asked Gary to move the supervisor’s forums to another day beside Saturday to accommodate parents with children at home. As supervisor, I would rotate the days and make some in the evening and others during the day.

Parents will go to things first thing in the morning and go to work a little bit late.


Record-Review: Do you think the supervisor’s job should be full time?

Mr. Lyman: It simply doesn’t require it and, by the way, if you make it a full-time job, you have to give it a full-time salary. Currently we are targeted by other towns that ask how we can pay our supervisor and councilpersons so cheaply.

Ms. Boak: I can tell you that if I were to track my hours as a town board member, I am working in excess of 20 hours a week, easily. I think the supervisor’s job would easily exceed 40 hours a week. I would want to be there and I would want to have office hours. I would want to be accessible and I would want people to know that I am in the Town House and they can come by during certain hours.

Mr. Lyman: It would be 15 to 20 hours a week in the Town House. I am a very early riser and I can handle a lot of paperwork before 8 a.m. I can have regular office hours and do my regular job because I work in Pound Ridge and I am always accessible. I am sure that it is more than 40 hours when you tie in all the meetings that go on outside of Pound Ridge.


Record-Review: Is the Republican or Democratic label important to you?

Mr. Lyman: I separate myself from the national scene. I am conservative. I can’t hide that. Being a Republican is not what drives me in Pound Ridge. When it comes down to it, everybody is for the same important things: protect the environment, keep low taxes, small government and keep the rural character of the town.

Ms. Boak: I agree that for the most part, the issues we would address as supervisor are local issues. It is not Republican or Democrat per se. However, I do think we have a different view of the role of government in solving people’s problems.

One thing that comes to mind is the loan program to help businesses in town. Dick, you said that wasn’t the role of government and I supported the program.

The home heating oil bill went down along party lines. I felt that was a role where government could save money for residents. I would say that 95 percent, the “R” or the “D” doesn’t matter, but there are a number of issues where the efficacy of government does come into play.

Ms. Boak: We have many hardworking people in the Town House, but we don’t have job descriptions. We don’t have an employee review system, and I don’t have an explanation as to how raises are given to employees because we don’t have a system. Town commissions don’t have a strategic plan with goals. Engineering costs are high and haven’t been analyzed. We need to take a look at the way the government has been functioning in the Town House for a long time. Conant Hall costs us a lot of money and isn’t being utilized properly by the town. I see that there is room for improvement in aspects the way the town is being run.

Mr. Lyman: Regarding the town engineer, I went as far as to provide Ali’s running mate with all the material he needed to send out a request for qualification and a request for proposals in order to look into getting a different engineer.

Nothing was done. So don’t bring it up in the campaign now. That information has been out there for a year, and I provided it.

Several issues that Alison has brought up relate to Gary. I am not Gary Warshauer. I am Dick Lyman, and I have different views on things and I have different priorities than Gary on a lot of things. He has been a success, on a large part, because of things I have done for him and so have Jon Powers and the rest of the support staff. But I am not Gary Warshauer and I am not running to be Gary Warshauer.


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Pound Ridge supervisor candidates Richard Lyman and Alison Boak came to the Record-Review offices on Friday, Oct. 4, to debate the issues.