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October 18, 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

Council candidates convene, debate issues


By DON HEPPNER

Democratic candidates Sherene De Palma and Dan Paschkes, along with Republican candidates Peter Avellino and Bonnie Schwartz, discussed election issues at The Record-Review offices on Friday, Oct. 4. Mr. Paschkes is an incumbent; Ms. De Palma, Mr. Avellino and Ms. Schwartz are first-time candidates. Topics included the town’s response to the federal housing settlement, speeding and road safety, and better utilities response, among others.


Record-Review: Please introduce yourselves and tell us why you are running for the board.

Ms. De Palma: I have been living here for about 10 years and I have seen a lot of the same issues remaining unresolved. My particular set of skills and experience could assist in getting some of the unresolved issues resolved.

I am a lawyer and a mediator and I have an MBA in finance. My skills lend themselves to the town council role. I have the ability to get up to speed on complex issues, and I can see problems before they arrive and bring people to consensus when there is high conflict on issues. I also had a local business for several years in Bedford Village, so I feel I am familiar with the needs and concerns of local business owners.

I have four children, including three step-kids, who are in our public schools. I have been involved in being a class parent, co-chairing the community outreach committee.

I spearheaded the foreign language program and I worked with the principal, district and parents. It has been several years now that we have had French, Spanish and Mandarin. 

Ms. Schwartz: I have been active in the town. I was co-president of the Pound Ridge Elementary School PTA and co-president in the middle school. My background is in retail, and I currently work for my husband, an attorney. My job is client relations and I have those necessary good people skills that I feel are needed to do the job.

My passion is getting to know people and hearing their concerns. Those characteristics would be an asset on the town board and help resolve some of the issues that are arising.

Mr. Avellino: I am a 20-year resident of Pound Ridge. I have been involved in community service for most of that time. I am involved in a number of different things, including the town’s OEM, and I was involved in the early stages of the housing board.

I made contributions to the comprehensive plan steep slopes. Currently, I am spearheading a Go Green Day initiative under the auspices of the conservation board.

Mr. Paschkes: I have a wealth of experience and a depth of knowledge that will serve the town well going forward. I have been involved in numerous projects as a member of the town board over a number of years that I think are accomplishments that we can be proud of: the rehabilitation of Sachs Park, which I initiated, the comprehensive plan, the steep slopes ordinance, the environmentally sensitive lands ordinance, the OEM plan and a host of other things that we have accomplished over the last dozen years that I have been actively involved with. So there is a track record to look at.

I am proud of what we accomplished in terms of the financial management of the town. I am an 11- or 12-year member of the ambulance corps. I started out as a driver and became an EMT, served a term as first lieutenant, and I am one of the more active members. I just received my 10-year letter from the Lions Club a few months ago. I don’t join things and disappear into the woodwork. I do continue to contribute.


Record-Review: I guess everybody knows that the town received a poor grade from the housing monitor regarding efforts they call fair and affordable housing. Do you think that was justified, and do you think the board has done enough and how should the board address this?

Ms. De Palma: I think the federal requirements are a piece of what we need to comply with but it is not the whole picture in terms of the housing needs in town. We have distinct groups in town that need to be considered — seniors who want to downsize and stay in town and we have our volunteers, who are very important to the town and who need lower-cost housing, and then we have the concerns of all the folks in and around the business district. The federal piece needs to be complied with, but there is a larger picture, and I think the board should address all those things.

There are things we can do to keep the semi-rural character of the town. Accessory housing, cottage-style housing are all forms of housing that we can use for groups that are important to us and can also help us meet the federal requirements.

I don’t think any of us are looking for the town to change in its style or quality of life.

Record-Review: So the town should work with the monitor on a proactive basis?

Ms. De Palma: I absolutely believe we should be proactive, and that has not been our strong point. I think that a number of things, including litigation, could have been avoided by being proactive.

I don’t think federal regulations should be driving the bus, so to speak, but I think we should take into consideration the people who are already here and also have housing needs to be met.

Ms. Schwartz: I think our infrastructure is the first thing we need to address to solve the housing issue, because we have a septic and water issue. And I think that is something the town board is starting to confront. That is, getting an affordable septic system and an affordable water system in place in order to build multiple-family housing. Then 15 percent would be affordable housing.

Mr. Avellino: Putting up million-dollar condos is not going to accommodate the seniors in town. The real solution to getting affordable housing in town is first to speak with the folks in Marin County who have already been through this. I think it is very important that the town board interact with other communities, especially those that have settled with HUD, such as Somers and North Salem, that have successful projects.

Mr. Paschkes: I was the one who raised the issue at the town board meeting that million-dollar condos don’t meet the moral or legal needs of Pound Ridge residents and regional housing needs as well as keep the character of Pound Ridge.

We were able to partner with A-HOME and put a project in Scotts Corners that I think was an excellent example of what is a good way to meet the housing needs in Pound Ridge. I don’t think the town has gotten a fair shake from the monitor. I think he needs some education as to what Pound Ridge is. If the monitor drives the roads of Pound Ridge, he’ll have a better picture of the limited nature of what we have to work with.

That being said, I do think we need to find ways within the size and scope of the character of Pound Ridge to move forward, and we are working to do that, but we shouldn’t do it in a way that would change the character of the town.

The number-one stated goal in the comprehensive plan, which we spent and enormous amounts of time, energy and money developing, calls for Pound Ridge to retain its semi-rural character. Whatever we do has to keep that in mind.


Record-Review: The town has applied for a transportation grant that could provide funds for safety and beautification measures. Is this a good idea?

Ms. Schwartz: First of all, it’s a reimbursement program, it’s not a grant. And it is $1.85 million that we are going to have to front, and we will get 80 percent of that back if we meet all the requirements.

We have to have a full-time manager to oversee the project that would require an engineer at a cost of $80,000 plus.

I don’t think it is fiscally responsible to go ahead with the reimbursement program. Right now the government is shut down, so we wouldn’t get the funds even if we wanted them.

Ms. De Palma: I think there is agreement that there are traffic speeding and safety issues to be dealt with in Pound Ridge, and I think using alternative sources of funding and not raising taxes is a desirable way to do the project. 

My understanding of the TEP program is that something like 17,000 municipalities have used the program and got the reimbursements they were intended to get.

Supervisor candidate Ali Boak has a very strong track record of seeking and getting alternative sources of funding so that taxpayers would not be gouged. These alternative sources of funding are good ways to raise money for projects that we all agree are needed projects. Yes, it is a reimbursement program, but with a very strong record of reimbursing.

Mr. Avellino: You want to start with the infrastructure and then you want to build around it. The primary goal is to reduce the speed of traffic in town.

Mr. Paschkes: I was in favor of pursing the application, and assuming that if we are awarded the grant, I would want to pursue, carefully, what can be done with it.

Keep in mind that in Pound Ridge almost all our tax revenue is residential. When we talk about raising taxes, we are talking about residential taxes. Any time you want to consider doing a substantial project, you have two options. You can either have a huge tax increase or you can try to find additional sources of funding. The reality in Pound Ridge is that if you don’t look for alternative sources of funding, you are never going to do any type of major project. I am glad that with a modest outlay of funds we were able to retain consultants to assemble the grant application and submit it in a timely manner.

If the award is given to us, there is nothing that has to be rushed about where we go from that point on.


Record-Review: What can we do to make the streets of Pound Ridge safer? The reimbursement grant is a long way away. What can be done immediately? Should the board intervene in any way to improve traffic safety?

Ms. De Palma: Some of these things will be addressed if the TEP financing becomes available. I think the crosswalks that are there now slow me down, so I think that has been a good effort.

Ms. Schwartz: I agree with Sherene, that I am slowed down going on Westchester by North Star. That is a more permanent fixture than we had six months ago when the cones that were there got knocked over every morning.

I also think that speed humps, like the ones at Fox Lane Middle School, are a good idea because they slow you down when you drive over them but your car does not bottom out. They would be about $5,000. If we put them strategically in town it would cost less than other options.

Mr. Paschkes: The traffic-calming measures contemplated are something that was of interest to the board and I think still are. The posts that are there temporarily are a temporary measure. They have to be taken up for the winter because you can’t plow the roads with the posts in place.

If we were awarded the TEP grant, we might do a substantial restructuring of traffic patterns in Pound Ridge. I think we decided to hold back for this season because there was a $30,000 outlay for those calming devices. In a small town like Pound Ridge, every $30,000 to $35,000 is a 1 percent tax increase.

Mr. Avellino: I think there has to be more education. Chief Ryan should be out there talking about the importance of reducing speeding in town. I think there should be a greater presence of police to make people aware that they will get stopped and if they are speeding, they will be facing the consequences.

Mr. Paschkes: You have to have a historical perspective. The roads were built when Pound Ridge and the surrounding communities were much less populated and the roads much less heavily trafficked.

The roads haven’t changed but the volume of traffic has changed. A piece of that may be addressed if the TEP program is successful, but there is a larger problem that is not just townwide but regional.


Record-Review: Has the town taken the right steps to have better communication with NYSEG and get a quicker response from the utility following storms? What more needs to be done?

Ms. Schwartz: I worked six out of eight days for the office of emergency management giving out water and dry ice. Most people didn’t even know we didn’t have dry ice. Eventually people knew that the Town House was open as a warming center.

The town is acquiring a “code red” system that will get the message out to residents when we do have a storm and power outage.

Ms. De Palma: I would say that in the interest of transparency and more communication with residents, we should build databases with emails and let communication happen more efficiently and effectively. People should have a sense of being in touch with the government and know what is going on at meetings. We could have meetings recorded and up on the website. Being in communication all the time would help during storms as well.

Mr. Avellino: Being a part of OEM for a number of years, it’s hard to say that the town did not perform well during what was considered a horrific storm. Could there be improvements? Absolutely. I think the town did a wonderful job working with NYSEG. The town is limited as to what it can do in terms of how NYSEG performs. I think we have done everything we can to help support an open dialogue and better communication between the utility company and us.

Mr. Paschkes: I was a part of the board that adopted the OEM plan. Peter is mistaken; we have taken active steps during these meetings, since Sandy, to institute two programs that will improve the response should another incident occur. NYSEG has committed to assigning a person for Pound Ridge so that we have more immediate, direct and timely interaction with NYSEG. We have also instituted a groundbreaking new system that is a pilot program with NYSEG. We have partnered with NYSEG, who has brought in people to train members of the OEM to identify equipment on the poles and lines. We have had two sessions with NYSEG. We can now do NYSEG’s initial assessment for them.


Record-Review: Is there any issue that you would like to bring to the table?

Ms. De Palma: There are a few things that I would love to tackle. One is the lack of cell service in town. I do have a lot of experience drafting, negotiating and implementing construction contracts. The town board members have been described as confused, and it is a mystery to them about the process used by cell companies to construct towers. I think I can be effective in getting towers done and moving onto the next stage of the planning process.

Another issue is the vacant storefronts in town. I am interested in researching what can be done in keeping with the beauty and style of the rest of the town. I came here a decade ago, and it is the same now as it was then and you hear complaints.

Finally, we have a very low mark on recycling. Our numbers are low compared to other communities in the county. I have been doing research, including single-stream recycling, which has just been instituted in Bedford.

Ms. Schwartz: I would like to see some of our facilities become more utilized. We have a beautiful sand volleyball court, and no one knows it exists. We have beautiful basketball courts and tennis courts that have been resurfaced, that are well maintained. That is the first thing I’d like to tackle, to make it known these facilities are in our town park.

Mr. Avellino: I’d like to maintain the fiscal responsibility. I think that the board has done a wonderful job in maintaining low taxes. I would want to build on the idea of environmental awareness so people make responsible choices.

I believe we need to do something with the infrastructure in the Scotts Corner area. I think we need to start with a decentralized septic system to deal with wastewater.


Record-Review: Does the label Democrat or Republican mean anything in a town election?

Mr. Avellino: When you are dealing with local government, the R and the D are almost irrelevant. I think we are all concerned about fiscal responsibility and the environment.

Ms. De Palma: We all probably want the same things. Where I do think the R and the D make a difference is in our willingness to go into action to do what residents want. There is a laissez-faire approach to things that has a lack of results. I don’t think it has to be a party line difference, but in our town it seems to be.

The Republican leadership that has been in place for the decade I have been here has had a hands-off approach, and that results in certain things not getting done and the proactive attention that they deserve.

Ms. Schwartz: I have been happy with the town board. I think one of our shining moments was its performance during Hurricane Sandy.

Mr. Paschkes: I have been endorsed by Democrats and Republicans. It’s not that I have changed. I am still a centrist, if you will. I am willing to work with good will to try to get things done..


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