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

 

Budget could close Trailside Museum,
end deer program


By DON HEPPNER


County Executive Rob Astorino’s proposed budget for the 2012 calendar year, released in White Plains on Tuesday, keeps Westchester County taxes level at 0 percent. Among the features of the proposed budget are cuts to parks and recreation that would force the closure of the Trailside Museum at Ward Pound Ridge Reservation and eliminate the deer management program instituted on the reservation two years ago.

“If Rob Astorino thinks people are going to be upset about the closure of the Trailside Museum and education centers being closed, wait until people hear about the deer management program on the Muscoot Farm and Ward Pound Ridge Reservation being stopped,” said county Legislature Majority Leader Peter Harckham.

The budget is not a final one, and Westchester County legislators are taking testimony from department heads to determine the amount of dollars needed to fund various programs, according to legislator Pete Harckham.

“We just got the budget and we started the budget process yesterday,” Mr. Harckham said on Wednesday. “Parks was one of the first departments to testify.”

The county deer management program is under the Westchester County Parks Department, and is staffed by volunteer hunters. A county employee administers the program, as well as other conservation efforts in all the county parks. That employee’s position has been eliminated in Mr. Astorino’s budget.

While neither Mr. Harckham or Mr. Astorino identified him by name, the employee who currently administers all the conservation programs in the county is Dan Atcheson, a biologist.

“We were told by the commissioner of parks and recreation that the person who oversees the deer management program in the county is slated for termination,” Mr. Harckham said.

Mr. Harckham said he is in the process of finding out the salary of the employee who administers the deer management program and other conservation efforts in the county’s parks.

Mr. Harckham added that the deer management program is inexpensive and worth saving. “We know that the deer do millions and millions of dollars worth of damage countywide,” he said. “I also want to know the projected costs in damages done to county property caused by deer. You would have to think that damage caused would be greater than the salary to prevent it.”

Mr. Harckham said that the Legislature agreed with the county executive on limiting tax increases for county residents, but other than that, he said that every county budget line item was on the table. 

“If the Trailside Museum is important to my constituents, they should come to the three public hearings and they should flood my office with complaints about the proposals they don’t like,” Mr. Harckham said. “They should not accept the fact that Astorino printed it in a budget book that it is a fait accompli.”

According to Pound Ridge Police Chief Dave Ryan, who administers the deer management program in Pound Ridge, suspending the hunting program at the reservation could impact deer management efforts in neighboring towns.

“I understand Astorino has to prioritize programs based on bad economic times. However, I think the decision to eliminate that program will have a greater impact long-term trying to restore the environment,” Chief Ryan said on Wednesday. “It will make it more difficult to run our program because of the voluminous number of deer that come from the reservation and browse in Pound Ridge.”

The Trailside Museum is one of the more popular Westchester County venues for educating residents about the habitat and the environment. The Muscoot Farm Main House would be closed and classes at the Muscoot Farm would be canceled, according to Mary Kaye Koch, spokeswoman for the Westchester County Parks Department. She said that the museum is visited by thousands of people each year.

Mr. Astorino’s 2012 budget cuts spending by $100 million. Mr. Astorino said in a statement on Tuesday that the budget continues to provide essential services and aid to those most in need.

Mr. Astorino’s proposed $1.689 billion budget also keeps Playland open and Bee-Line Bus service intact. The proposal reduces the county workforce 7.5 percent by eliminating 367 jobs, including 210 by layoff. The layoffs are the reluctant but necessary result of the failure by the county’s unions to work with the county executive on the “jobs for savings” offer he made to them upon coming into office two years ago.

The Westchester County Board of Legislators will be holding public hearings to present the proposed 2012 county operating budget. The purpose of these hearings is to receive input from the public regarding the taxpayers’ priorities in preparation for the development of the final county budget.

The Southern Westchester County Regional Public Hearing on the 2012 budget will take place on Tuesday, Nov. 22, at New Rochelle High School, 265 Clove Road, New Rochelle.

The Northern Westchester County Regional Public Hearing on the budget will take place on Wednesday, Nov. 30, at Somers High School, 120 Primrose St., Lincolndale. Both hearings will start at 7 p.m.

On Tuesday, Dec. 6, the third and final Regional Public Hearing on the 2012 budget will take place in the BOL Chambers on the eighth floor of the Michaelian Office Building in White Plains. This hearing will also start at 7 p.m.


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

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  3. Sam Parker Country Market — 257 Westchester Avenue    


Bedford Village

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  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

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Katonah

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Mount Kisco

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South Salem/Vista

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Cross River

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November 18, 2011