The Record-Review – The official newspaper of Bedford and Pound Ridge, New York

 

November 10, 2011


Don’t throw workers, taxpayers under the bus

Somebody explain this collection of circumstances, and their weird confluence at the hands of Bedford’s town board:

• About 10 years ago, voters in Bedford overwhelming agreed to help protect open space by allotting a small portion of their taxes to a fund that would preserve land throughout the hamlets. To date it has preserved five properties, helped to maintain the character of the community and protected important resources. The cost of the levy is about $50 per year per family.

• On June 24, Governor Andrew Cuomo and the state enact a 2 percent tax cap, limiting local governments to increases within that limit. Individual municipalities are granted the ability to override the cap with a 60 percent majority of town board votes.

• The Bedford Town Board unanimously votes to override the state’s 2 percent tax cap prior to developing the 2012 budget. This frees up the town to exceed the cap should it be necessary to pay for town personnel, services or other expenses.

• Bedford and the region experience power outages and destruction in September after Tropical Storm Irene wreaks havoc in the area, promptly followed by a second storm, Lee, causing further devastation. Only weeks later, an October snowstorm causes even more damage, straining town resources at every level and showing the need for greater and more effective storm response.

• On Tuesday, Nov. 1, while highway workers have just begun cleaning up from the snowstorm, the town tells employees that because of the state tax cap, three workers are going to have to be eliminated from the Department of Public Works.

• At a town board public hearing that same day, Tuesday, Nov. 1, in a room filled with town employees protesting the cuts, board members imply that if the town’s open space levy is not repealed, some highway workers will lose their jobs. Highway workers confirm this after the meeting.

A continuation of the public hearing on the open space levy will be held on Tuesday, Nov. 15.

We ask the town board to think hard before eliminating this important land preservation tool. Since you have already overridden the property tax cap, there is no reason to eliminate the highway workers’ jobs — or any other vital town job — at a time in this economy when every worker and every job is highly valued yet perilously at risk.

If you want to eliminate the open space levy, examine it on its own merits, but do not link it to jobs, thus creating inevitable animosity between workers and those who want to preserve a fast-disappearing rural quality of life. If you feel that you must not exceed 2 percent in your tax budget, consider marginal reductions in some of the myriad town services and offerings. This should be a topic of public review and discussion.

If you are still determined to deprive the community of a vital tool for protecting our environment, consider following the lead of your neighboring board in Pound Ridge. In times of economic stress, they reduced the amount of the open space tax levy, to be restored to its full funding at a later date.

Surely the voters who overwhelmingly supported Bedford’s drive to preserve open space will understand a temporary reduction or even suspension of the tax for a limited period if it will save vital town jobs.


NYSEG’s communications nightmare

NYSEG Statewide Storm Statistics showed more than 4,200 incidents of wires down, more than 130 broken poles, seven transmission circuits out and 17 substations out of service. The utility brought in 264 line crews, 126 tree crews and 1,000 people total working to restore power safely.

However, anyone who tried to find accurate information about their power outage was quickly frustrated. Just making a phone call was an ordeal. (Woe to those who did not have their 10-digit NYSEG customer numbers.) NYSEG’s website (assuming you can get on the web) offers a street-by-street analysis of outages and homes that are out. But many residents discovered that they were listed as having power when their houses remained dark. A callback to the automated number is required to return to the list.

Residents became slick, even devious, discovering that the only way to speak with a human being was to bypass the phone tree by pushing the “gas emergency” line. Our vote for most frustrated email came by The Record-Review from a customer still without power on Thursday.

“The CEO of NYSEG is Robert Kamp,” stated the email. “His home phone number is ***-***-****. I urge you to call him to complain.”

Clayton Ellis, who had the unfortunate task of corporate communication, bravely addressed communications failures, including a flawed website. “The outage information on NYSEG’s website comes from our Outage Management System, which ultimately relies on the manual input of information from field and office personnel, as well as outages reported by customers either through our website or by telephone,” he told The Record-Review in an email last Wednesday. “In a major storm emergency such as this one, when there is considerable tree-related damage to power lines and equipment, it is not unusual for field personnel to restore power to a main circuit and not realize there may still be isolated sections of the circuit that are not in service or individual services fed by the circuit that are not in service.”

Scant solace for those out of power and huddled in below-freezing temperatures.

NYSEG workers and those contracted and brought in from faraway states are not the culprits here. May we suggest a mobile van by the library with emergency phone numbers and a computer to register homes that are out of power, or potential personal emergencies, such as an elderly relative, medical condition or disability.

A Toyota Prius driving through hard-hit neighborhoods, with a bullhorn on the top dispensing accurate, honest information, would also have done the trick.



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The official newspaper of the towns of Bedford and Pound Ridge, New York

Editorial

NEWSSTAND LOCATIONS

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. Perks – 197 Katonah Avenue    

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

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

  6. Katonah Sunoco – 105 Bedford Road


Mount Kisco

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

  2. Connie’s at Northern Westchester Hospital
    400 E. Main Street    


South Salem/Vista

  1. JNR Pharmacy – 222 Oakridge Commons;
    Route 123   


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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