The Town Board of Orangetown held a Workshop Meeting on March 22, 2012 to generate public comment on the future of the Rockland Psychiatric Center and the adjacent Broadacres golf course.
I addressed the meeting and expressed my opinion that Broadacres was not the prime issue (See attached pdf file). The key issue is that the Town needs to begin immediately to develop a comprehensive master plan for Rockland Psychiatric Center and to tenaciously execute it.
I and others recommended that the Board withhold any decision to close Broadacres until the end of the 2012 season, during which time the Town could provide clarity around the financial aspects of the golf course within the context of a master plan for RPC. I also suggested that the Board review an earlier proposal from several years ago to put Senior Citizen housing around Broadacres. The senior citizen population is growing and it needs to downsize from big homes to smaller affordable houses; somewhere in the $350,000 range. When I left the workshop meeting I believed that the town board and the attendees were of one mind about keeping Broadacres open for a year while the board came up with a comprehensive business plan about what to do with RPC.
After the workshop Supervisor Stewart sent an internal email to the town board saying essentially that Broadacres would have to be closed immediately unless the head groundskeeper position was funded, this funding having been cut from the 2012 budget by the previous Supervisor and the former town board.
Unfortunately, this internal memo, with draft language for a resolution for closing Broadacres, was leaked onto the internet and used to whip up a furor among the public at large.
Consider the inflammatory comments made by Councilman Troy and reported in : "I saw (the memo) as a betrayal of what we did last Thursday night," and "I don't think that's how Orangetown government works or how it should work". Such comments are wholly inappropriate for an elected official and smack of grandstanding.
I applaud Stewart for asking the tough questions about Orangetown’s budget deficit and Broadacres’ future. It is unfortunate that he has had to learn the hard way that internal memos can and will be leaked to the public and used to political advantage!
Let me be very clear the only resolution on the March 29 agenda regarding Broadacres was to supply funds to pay for the head groundskeeper at the golf course. That funding had been intentionally left out of the 2012 budget by the previous Town Board of which the ‘old guard’, Troy and Diviny, were members. The present board (including Stewart) voted unanimously to approve the $117,936 expenditure, which includes salary and benefits. Troy and Diviny might provide an explanation of why this line item was intentionally left out of the 2012 budget.
Councilman Troy's somewhat hysterical anxiety continued to be exhibited in the Journal News where Troy complained that he and other town board members were "blindsided" by the internal email Stewart had sent them. Playing to the crowd and drawing applause, Troy declared at the board meeting: “It was a done deal at least from my perspective".
This was pure theatre from an individual who was instrumental in purchasing the Broadacres 'asset' that has cost the Town nearly $3 million dollars over the past ten years! Troy soliloquizes in Hamletonian fashion about the fate of an asset that is bleeding $1,5OO for every day a golfer sets foot on the course.
Troy's co-thespian, Diviny, on the other hand lyricized to Stewart that: “I don’t want to go to (a) county dance and I don’t want to do-si-do, I just want you to be honest about the numbers.”
Mr. Diviny, in my opinion, it is the Orangetown Finance Director who has the numbers to which both you and Stewart need to pay attention. However, I can tell you that $1,500 lost per day of the taxpayers' money does not sound to me like a 'do-si-do' but more like a 'foxtrot' by a couple of foxes doing a 'do-si-do' in the taxpayers chicken house! These foxes may have got the chicken feathers flying but Farmer Stewart is heading to the coop with a shotgun to protect the taxpaying 'chickens' of Orangetown.
Surely, all of this energy with talk of betrayal and criticism of Stewart could be better targeted towards getting something started in the way of a business plan about what is to be done about RPC/Broadacres. The derelict buildings and the lovely little golf course have been neglected since its purchase ten or so years ago. Stewart’s platform in the last election clearly stated the issues he was going to address and the community elected him to !
RPC/Broadacres was on the top of the list! Given that, may I suggest that the Town Board focus on these issues. The board is comprised of individuals who are described as ‘businessmen’ but who by their behavior are showing Orangetown’s taxpayers that they are not 'men of business'.
Let them stop their farcical dramatics and if the 'old guard' could stop its whining about the Supervisor the Board might be able to come together and get on with what the people elected them to do, namely fix the problem of RPC/Broadacres!
But Councilman Troy, hearing that the Town Board is planning to immediately discuss that will focus on RPC, is rehearsing a new dramatic role - that of 'grumpy ol' man' - which will open at the Orangetown Town Hall early this Spring. The theme of Act 1 is:
"When you have a major turnover of the town board and supervisor, it's hard to move forward".
I know that this is a different species but is it possible to teach an old fox a new trick?
(Photo of RPC courtesy of ScoutingNY.com)