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Things I am working on right now for Orangetown....

Boring but important -- a selective rundown on Supervisor Stewart's activities on behalf of Orangetown. Stay tuned for more regular and shorter updates, including pictures!

Here is a selected "hitlist" of my current projects. This is obviously far too much text for a "blog," and still does not cover all the work going on just out of the Supervisor's office, not to mention other members of the Town Council and various departments:

Sick Leave Policy - salvaged this stalled effort, worked with Town attorneys and department heads. Town Board adopted policy unanimously on 3/29/12. Paid sick days are a right under present union contracts -- you just have to be sick to use them. The new policy provides guidance to department heads and supervisors for the implementation of paid sick leave and the "flagging" of inappropriate uses of paid sick leave (such as before and after vacation days, and other patterns).

RPC - gathering information and perspective on this massive redevelopment challenge. Coordinated two tours of the RPC and Children's Hospital sites for community leaders and real estate developers. Working with Suzanne Barclay, members of Town Council, consulting planner John Saccardi and department heads to re-activate planning process and assess our options. Recently helped a datacenter developer tour the Broadacres site, as well as Blue Hill office building, in partnership with Orange and Rockland and the Rockland Economic Development Corporation/IDA.

Broadacres Budgeting - Because funding for the head greenskeeper position was eliminated in 2011, the Town had to decide to either fund this position or close the course. Of course, we voted to fund the position and stay open for 2012, but in the process raised serious questions, and developed a much fuller understanding, about the annual budget deficits at Broadacres and what the costs and savings of Broadacres closure would be.

Union Negotiations - Due to the Pfizer downsizing and skyrocketing costs of health care and pensions, the Town is in a very tough spot financially and cannot afford to raise employee pay significantly. The Town Board wants very much to meet the 2% tax cap and labor is our biggest cost. Thus, negotiations with the CSEA and PBA are not over yet by any means.

Rockland County's financial issues - These spill onto Orangetown in the form of pass-down costs, such as the anticipated $350,000 the Town may have to pay for running local elections this year if the County does not get its sales tax increase from Albany. Funding for the Town police officers serving in the Countywide narcotics and intel units has also been threatened. I led the Town Board in setting a deadline of April 15th for the County to make clear commitment to continue reimburshing the Town for these officers, or the Town will pull its officers out of the program. Without a contract, it is likely we would never receive compensation.

Murder at Rockland Psych Center - Curtis Wilson, the apparent murderer, never should have been sent to RPC, and should not have been in a voluntary out-patient program. I am working with the Police Chief, RPC management and other stakeholders to identify parolees and other potentially violent people being treated at RPC, and to get a clear commitment from NYS Office of Mental Health that they will not be sending violent felons to RPC.

Sewer Dept Staffing - This department is upgrading its leadership team with the recent addition of a new director/commissioner. While the Commissioner technically can appoint a Deputy, I led the creation of a competitive and open interview process for this important professional position. The Town Board voted to create the Deputy position, and I look forward to participating in the interview process to find the best person for this non-union job. Through training and promotions, the department is cultivating outstanding workers. The Town Board also just hired full-time the Chief Operator who had been working as an outside contractor two days a week. These staffing improvements will help this department move well beyond its problem-plagued past.

Land Use Boards - Coordinating interviews and appointments of volunteers to the planning, zoning and architectural boards. Next up is the Housing Authority and the many other important citizen advisory committees, all listed on the Town website.

Public Access - Increased access to Town Board meeting agendas via electronic and hard copy distribution and initiated web-based calendar of Town's official business meetings open to the public. I'm also working with the Town IT staff to develop a plan for upgrading the audio and video quality for showing Town meetings on cable, and adding capacity to broadcast local access cable programming to be provided by schools and other community sources.

Rte 303/Erie St Safety Improvements - convened stakeholder meeting of local businesses and NYS DOT officials to review this important state highway project. Large map/aerial photo of design on display at Town Hall.

Deputy Receiver of Taxes - stopped Town from funding this unnecessary position and shifted money to start funding the cost of running local elections, since the 2012 adopted budget did not foresee this cost.

Pfizer - Forged relationship with Pfizer site management and marketing team to better understand how Town can help find tenants for this important site. If Pfizer does not lease empty buildings, it will likely tear them down and ask for further tax reductions, adding to the 5% of Town assessed value already lost due to Pfizer downsizing.

2013 Town Budget - Initiating budget process much earlier this year, with plans for more thorough review of departmental requests, multiyear budgeting and better communication with the public. Can we make the tax cap? We'll leave no stone unturned!

TZ Bridge - Spoke out against extremely high projected tolls and land takings, as well as need for new bridge that really meets the needs of Rockland and Orangetown residents, as well as regional and national highway safety.

Desalination Plant - Monitored this issue closely and spoke in favor of greater focus on wastewater treatment to possibly augment the Hackensack River and downstream NJ reservoirs, while preserving more water in Lake Deforest for Rockland's use. Advanced wastewater treatment takes place on the Ramapo River, helping to prevent water shortages. It may make more sense to upgrade our wastewater treatment capacity (Orangetown's sewer plant sends over 9 million gallons a day of treated water into the Hudson River), than to build an expensive desal plant to cleanup up polluted Hudson River water...

Orangetown Cleanup Day - planned for Saturday, April 14th, 9-noon at Town Hall - free trash bags, donuts, and an Arbor Day tree planting event at 10 AM. Come out and celebrate Earth Day!!

Stay tuned for regular updates from the Orangetown Supervisor's office, and feel free to chime in with your suggestions, questions and comments.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Diane Serratore April 05, 2012 at 03:55 AM
Andy, is there some way OTown can package the RPC redevelopment for the CFA about which the Governor's Economic Development team has been holding workshops? The purpose of the CFA is to streamline the funding process specifically for those projects that target job development -- jobs that pay enough to allow jobholders to live in this county. Anyway...just a thought.
Andy Stewart, Orangetown Supervisor April 05, 2012 at 01:54 PM
In brief, YES. I am in regular communication with various people involved with the Consolidated Funding Application/Regional Economic Council process, including Al Samuels, Cliff Wood, Aimee Vargas, etc. Hope it bears fruit...
Mike April 05, 2012 at 03:44 PM
I realize you have only been in office only for a few months and many of these issues have been simmering for years. I applaud the transparent manner in which you are approaching these issues and hope you continue in that vain. I just have to comment on what I can only describe as the RPC debacle. Almost 10 years on from the purchase and we are still "planning" and hiring consultants. If this took place in a private business like the one I work for, people would be fired. I think it would be very helpful to hear from the Town, the following information: Who is responsible for the overall plan and implemetation for RPC (if not you, who is it delgated to); what is the goal- do we want housing, green space, light business, a combination; what is the timeline with a firm commitment and clear intermediate target dates. Further what are the identifiable risks and how do we mitigate; what is the budget to manage all of this. Finally, we need regulary scheduled updates to show how we are proceeding against the plan. RPC is too important to just let it simmer along for another 10 years!
Andy Stewart, Orangetown Supervisor April 05, 2012 at 05:55 PM
Mike - I'm looking for the same clarity on RPC you are. Bear in mind that the Town did have a plan -- the Hovnanian housing development -- that was on the verge of taking place after many years of work, and fell through at the beginning of 2010, after which not a lot got done.... Who is responsible? The Town is understaffed - I work on it part-time, Suzanne Barclay is part-time and focuses mostly on RPC, and the Town Attorney is directly involved. Ultimately it falls to myself and the Town board to move it along. Land use - presumably a combination of land uses, but last time the only response to the Town's RFP was for housing.... Budget - there is no line item for RPC work. You ask excellent questions -- keep pushing, and yes, there will be regularly scheduled updates....
Harvey Cedars April 30, 2012 at 01:04 PM
Thank you Andy for sharing what you are working on. Looking forward to the next update. I am especially eager to hear progress in regards to the CSEA and PBA negotiations

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