Legal Notice – Public Hearing on Tentative 2020 Budget 10/24/19

NOTICE IS HEREBY GIVEN that the Legislature of the County of Putnam will hold a Public Hearing on the Tentative Budget for the year 2020, as presented by the County Executive and the Report of the Budget & Finance Committee of the Legislature, on Thursday, October 24, 2019 at 7:00 P.M. in the Historic Courthouse, Carmel, New York.

NOTICE IS ALSO GIVEN that any interested persons may review a copy of the Tentative Budget for the year 2020 at the Office of the Clerk of the Legislature, Room 321, 40 Gleneida Avenue, Carmel, New York, any time during regular business hours after October 1, 2019. A copy of the Tentative Budget may also be found on line at putnamcountyny.gov under the Department of Finance.

PURSUANT TO SECTION 359 OF THE COUNTY LAW, the maximum salary that may be fixed and payable during the fiscal year 2020 to the members of the Putnam County Legislature and Chairperson, thereof, respective, is as follows:

Legislator’s Compensation _______________________ $40,839
Chairperson’s Stipend ___________________________ $ 8,959

BY ORDER OF THE PUTNAM COUNTY LEGISLATURE

Diane Schonfeld
Clerk

Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell presented a $165.3 million proposed 2020 county budget to the Legislature Thursday at the Putnam County Golf Course

Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell presented a $165.3 million proposed 2020 county budget to the Legislature Thursday at the Putnam County Golf Course in Mahopac.

The budget, which is within the New York State tax cap, represents a $5.9 million or 3.7 percent spending increase over the 2019 budget and reflects the conservative spending that has been the hallmark of Odell’s tenure.

Just last month, Moody’s Investor Services upgraded Putnam’s bond rating to Aa1, citing the county’s disciplined budgeting approach. As a result of the superior rating, the county just issued $3.3 million in refunding bonds, saving taxpayers $151,000.

“It should be noted that Aa1 is a designation only five out of 62 counties in the state have achieved,” Odell told the crowd of more than 150 that attended the public meeting. “And that’s something that the Legislature and the administration and, of course, the employees who deliver services every day should be very proud of.”

Since Odell took office in 2011, the county has reduced long-term debt by $24.4 million or 28 percent and eliminated short-term debt entirely.

The average Putnam County homeowner, whose property is assessed at $302,000, would pay about $1,082 in county taxes under the proposed 2020 budget.

“We look forward to working together to craft a budget that is fair to Putnam County residents, taxpayers and employees,” Joseph Castellano, chairman of the Legislature, said. “The Legislature will scrutinize the proposed budget as closely as we watch spending all year long, while still supporting the programs and services that make Putnam such a great place to live. Together, we will make sure that even the most difficult decisions are the right decisions.”

There are six categories of spending in the county budget, $113 million of which is mandated and $51.7 million discretionary.

Quality of life initiatives would be funded with $9.1 million under the plan. This includes parks and recreation; the youth bureau; and outside agencies like libraries and Putnam County SPCA, Putnam Arts Society, the Southeast Museum, Putnam County Fish and Game, Cornell Cooperative Extension and Putnam CAP.

Infrastructure is budgeted at $12.1 million, and includes senior transportation; road and bridge maintenance; and investment in new projects in every corner of the county, from the Maybrook bikeway to Farmers Mills Road bridge and more.

Heath and education services would be funded at $25.1 million, which includes the Health Department; solid waste and recycling; and $10.6 million for early intervention and pre-kindergarten for young children with special needs and $3.2 million for community college costs.

Public safety is budgeted for $37.9 million, which covers the Sheriff’s Department; the jail; and the Bureau of Emergency Services.

Economic assistance and promotions are budgeted at $38.8 million, including $9.6 million for Medicaid, a mandated program that is the single largest line item in the budget; the Economic Development Corporation; the Industrial Development Agency and the new Putnam County Tourism Department.

General government support would be budgeted at $42.3 million and cover medical benefits for employees and retirees; county departments and support services, such as the Board of Elections, which required a 20 percent increase in order to provide mandated early voting; and debt service among other costs.

Odell noted that overall health insurance costs for active employees and retirees increased by $1.3 million, which is more than the entire state tax cap.

“For 2020, the tax cap allows us to raise the tax levy up to $1.2 million,” Odell said.  “Before we even started, one line-item – employee and retiree health insurance — blew our cap.”

In Odell’s eight years in office, the county has never exceeded the property tax cap and this year is no different. Increased revenue keeps the proposed budget within the cap.

Sales tax would be the largest contributor to the revenue side, at $64.4 million or 39 percent of revenue. Property taxes will make up only $44.6 million or 27 percent. State and Federal reimbursements will bring in up $30.2 million or 18 percent, while revenue generated by county departments is expected to reach $23 million or 14 percent of the budget. The budget would use $3.1 million of the general fund balance.

“This budget checks all the boxes,” Odell said. “It does deliver the quality of life services, it provides the mandated services, keeps Putnam healthy, maintains a fiscally responsible vision and meets the needs of our retirees, the department heads and the employees who show up every day and do their best for the county. I am grateful for the hard work and support of the Legislature and look forward to working together on a shared vision of the future.”

Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell has appointed Lauri Taylor as Coordinator of the county’s new Climate Smart Communities Initiative

Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell has appointed Lauri Taylor as Coordinator of the county’s new Climate Smart Communities Initiative.

“Lauri Taylor has spent years protecting the environment in Putnam County,” Odell said. “She has the spirit and experience that make her the right choice to lead the county’s effort to reduce greenhouse gases and adapt to a changing climate.”

Taylor currently serves as the Senior Environmental Planner for Putnam County as well as the District Manager for the Putnam County Soil and Water Conservation District, positions that make her uniquely qualified to head the Climate Smart Communities Initiative, Odell said. As Senior Environmental Planner, Taylor has overseen long-range planning studies to preserve our natural resources and partnered with the municipalities to assess the environmental impacts of capital projects throughout the county.

In her role as manager of the Soil and Water Conservation District, Taylor has worked with the Legislature, town governments, landowners and residents to address soil erosion, site reviews and other conservation projects.

Through her educational outreach to the community, Taylor has developed strong relationships with stakeholders in the Highways & Facilities Department, the Planning Department and others that will help facilitate the work of the Climate Smart Communities Initiative and will work closely with the Task Force to achieve the Climate Smart Communities Goals, Odell said.

“I am grateful for the opportunity to protect our natural resources and help the county reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” Taylor said. “There couldn’t be a more important job.”

In addition to naming Taylor as Coordinator, Odell has selected the Capital Projects Committee to serve as the Climate Smart Communities Task Force. The Capital Projects Committee sets priorities and evaluates the feasibility, cost and method of financing for all of the county’s proposed capital projects. The committee has overseen an energy audit of county buildings and is preparing to upgrade nearly 20 county facilities with energy saving measures, such as adding new solar arrays, converting from oil to natural gas, replacing windows and antiquated HVAC systems and upgrading to smart building management technology. Given its experience, Odell said designating the Capital Projects Committee to serve as the task force was the logical step.

“The committee is trained to take a comprehensive approach, and that’s what you need in order to be truly climate-smart,” Odell said. “It will examine future county policies with an eye toward reducing greenhouse gases, increasing energy efficiencies, promoting job growth and improving the quality of life.”

The Climate Smart Communities initiative is a program of the state Department of Environmental Conservation. If the county achieves the department’s Climate Smart Communities certification, Putnam will be eligible for funding through New York State Energy Research and Development Authority’s (NYSERDA) Clean Energy Communities program. The certification will also make Putnam a stronger candidate for other state environmental grants and further demonstrate County Executive Odell’s commitment to protecting the environment and health of our beautiful county.

Health Department Issues Violation

Below is a response to inquiries made to the Putnam County Department of Health from the Journal News on September 16.

First, in response to DEP’s report of the field inspection which it conducted on September 4, 2019, an inspector from the PCDOH performed a site inspection on September 5, 2019 to investigate the observance of kitchen wastewater on the ground at the back door.  At the time of the inspection, no water was observed on the ground at the back door of the kitchen (except for a couple of small rain water puddles). The inspector discussed with the restaurant staff that no mop water or other wastewater could be dumped in the back outdoor area and that all mop water must be dumped into the kitchen mop sink or the toilet.  Since he did not witness any mop water or wastewater on the ground or any leaks at the time of inspection, no violations were written.  DEP was subsequently notified of this fact and the complaint was closed out by them.  However, the PCDOH continues to monitor this situation and this condition to ensure that wastewater is not being discharged from the kitchen.  In fact, a follow up inspection was performed this afternoon and no evidence of improper waste water dumping or sewage/septic discharge was observed.

Second, with respect to the use of the sewer system to the property, a copy of DEP’s field inspection report, which is dated September 9, 2019, was emailed to the PCDOH on September 11, 2019.  A review of the matter was conducted and it has been determined that a violation of the Putnam County Sanitary Code and the 1993 approvals has occurred.  As such, a Notice of Non-Compliance is being issued to the property owners by the PCDOH.  Said Notice affords the property owner 30 days to achieve compliance before enforcement proceedings will be commenced.

Regardless of the above, the County does not have the ability to disconnect the sewer line, as it does not maintain jurisdiction over DEP’s wastewater treatment plant or the Town’s collection system.  It is our understanding that the cap on the force main in the manhole at the intersection of 6N and Clarke Place which was removed is either the property of the Town or DEP and that any recapping would therefore need to be addressed by them.

A retraction request was made on September 18 to clarify certain misrepresentations:

An email communication was sent to David Wilson and three (3) separate editors last evening from the Putnam County Attorney explaining that your newspaper that Mr. Wilson had misrepresented certain facts which were provided to him in writing by a secretary in the County Executive’s Office.  Specifically, you were advised that the email message was simply a recitation of the facts as outlined by a representative of that Department and that both the Commissioner of the Department of Health and his confidential secretary were absent from the office on the date that the inquiry was made, and as such, were not available to craft a response to your inquiries.  Therefore, the County Executive’s Office simply passed along a summary of what had occurred from the Department of Health’s perspective, a fact which was made plainly clear in that email.   As is also made clear in that email, all of the actions which were taken by the County of Putnam were taken by and through the Department of Health, as that is the agency with jurisdiction in this matter, and not by the County Executive’s Office.

Despite the foregoing, however, and despite having had this information at the time that your newspaper apparently went to print, Mr. Wilson led with a headline on page 1 below the fold that states “County Executive cites Barile for Violating Permit”, which is both factually inaccurate and misleading.  Once again, and in an effort to make this as clear as possible to you, the County Executive has absolutely no jurisdiction to cite anyone for a violation of the Putnam County Sanitary Code.  Mr. Wilson understood this fact at the time that you allowed him to go to print, since the article itself states that “a notice of non-compliance is being issued to the property owners by the Putnam County Department of Health”.  Including a headline that is misleading could potentially confuse your readers.

On behalf of the Putnam County Department of Health, I would therefore request that a retraction be printed to correct this error and to correctly inform the public as to the true nature of the facts of this case.

Planning Study to Explore Feasibility of Commuter Train from Southeast, NY to Danbury, CT

Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell has secured $1 million from the New York Metropolitan Transportation Council (NYMTC) to study the feasibility of restoring passenger train service along a 13.5 mile stretch of a rail line from the Southeast, NY train station to Danbury, CT.
Reconnecting the old Beacon Line could relieve traffic congestion on the I-84/684 corridor, reduce air pollution and shorten the ride to New York City for many residents, said Odell, who sat as co-chair of NYMTC for 2016 and 2017.
“As leaders, we recognize that we have the responsibility to do our part for climate-smart initiatives, and partnerships give us the opportunity to implement change,” she said. “Mobility for everyone, from millennials to seniors, is a priority for strong economic growth.”
Putnam County and Metro-North Railroad requested the $1 million in matched funding earlier this year from NYMTC, through the Unified Planning Work Program. The Resolution in connection with this project was adopted this month by the Executive Council, NYMTC. Putnam County will assist Metro-North with the conduct of the study, which will look at economic, environmental and operational impacts of running trains along the Southeast-Danbury corridor.
The line, which runs from Beacon, NY to Danbury is mostly inactive. Metro-North uses the line’s 41 miles of track in New York State to move equipment and for maintenance operations. The Housatonic Railroad owns the Connecticut portion of the line.
The study is expected to take up to two years.

2019/2020 Corrected School Tax Bill

The Putnam County Commissioner of Finance has announced that the 2019/2020 School Tax Collection Process has been temporarily suspended, due to a file control error causing Veterans Exemptions to exceed maximum limits and thereby causing the 2019/2020 School tax bills to be incorrect.
 
New corrected 2019/2020 School tax bills will be mailed the week of September 16, and will be clearly marked CORRECTED Tax Bill and be printed in yellow.  The vast majority of taxpayers will see a small reduction in their tax bill, while approximately 3,300 people receiving the affected exemptions will receive a corrected tax bill that will be comparable to the school tax bill that they have received in previous years. 
 
Due to this error, the tax collection period will be extended as follows:
 
1st half partial payments will be due October 7th, 2019.
 
Full Pay payments without interest are Due October 21st,, 2019.
 
Taxpayers wishing to pay in person can contact their Local Tax Collector the week of September 16 for the date that in person payments will resume.
Those taxpayers that have already paid their school taxes will receive a refund if their school taxes were overpaid, or must pay the difference to the Local School Tax Collector if they are underpaid.
 
The Commissioner of Finance stated, “We apologize to our School District and Municipal Officials, and most importantly the taxpayers that we all serve, for the inconvenience caused by this error.  We will be putting into place procedures to help ensure that this does not happen again.”
 
For further information regarding this Press Release, please contact the Commissioner of Finance at 845-808-1075.
 

Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell names new Director of Tourism To head Department of Tourism created by Legislature

Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell names new Director of Tourism To head Department of Tourism created by Legislature

Tracey Walsh, a lifelong Carmel resident with deep knowledge of the county and a clear vision for its potential, will be the new Putnam County Director of Tourism, County Executive MaryEllen Odell announced Wednesday.

The appointment was made after the Putnam County Legislature officially established the Department of Tourism at its Tuesday meeting, bringing responsibility for promoting the county in house.  The vote was unanimous.

“We can do better at tourism and I think we will,” Legislative Chair Joseph Castellano said after the vote.  “It will be better to have a Putnam County employee that will be able to attend our meetings and listen to our concerns and hopefully we can point this person in the right direction for the people of Putnam County.”

Walsh, the Senior Community Development Manager for The American Cancer Society was selected from a large pool of applicants to oversee the county’s new tourism department.

“Sometimes the perfect person is someone close to home,” Odell said. “Tracey Walsh is smart, fast-thinking and goal-oriented. No one knows our communities better. We are looking forward to getting the word out about all the good things there are to see and do in Putnam County.”

A Syracuse University graduate, Walsh, plans to leverage the county’s assets – five Metro-North stops, unique shops and restaurants, active community arts groups – to lure day-trippers and more to Putnam.

“I’m very local and very proud,” Walsh said. “This county is a gem. Tilly Foster Farm is a jewel. The Great Swamp is a birder’s paradise.  Cold Spring offers a vibrant Main Street. From hiking to history, there is just so much here.”

During her tenure at The American Cancer Society, where she worked for nearly a decade after starting as a volunteer, Walsh helped organize Relay for Life events in several communities and worked with stakeholders from one end of the county to the other.  She retired from the Cancer society to take the tourism director position.

“There wasn’t much that could get me to leave the American Cancer Society, but the opportunity to showcase the county I love was too good to pass up,” Walsh said. “This is my dream job.”

Her salary will be $80,000.

The department will be funded with a combination of county funds and a matching grant from the state’s I Love NY campaign — the same budget amount that had been allotted Putnam’s now defunct non-profit tourism agency. The Legislature transferred the money to the new county Tourism Department with a second unanimous vote Tuesday night.

“I’m glad we did this in the nick of time,” said Legislator Amy E. Sayegh, chair of the Economic Development Committee. “August is the cutoff date to receive the matching grant from the I Love NY Campaign.”

Walsh is not even waiting until she starts to get the buzz going. She is already planning an event that will bring former residents back to Putnam – the 40th Reunion of her Carmel High School graduating class, to be held in the Barn at Tilly Foster Farm.

Today, August 7th, is Purple Heart Day

I am extremely proud that, in 2013, Putnam County became the first county in New York State to be designated a Purple Heart County.   This is just one of many ways Putnam County honors its veterans.

The Purple Heart is the oldest military decoration still in use today.  It was established as the Badge of Military Merit by General George Washington in 1782.  It is awarded to any member of the Unites States Armed Services wounded or killed in combat with a declared enemy of the United States.

As we recognize Purple Heart Day today, please take time to honor those who have served our country.  Reflect on the sacrifices they have made for our freedom.

Putnam Invests In Leaders of Tomorrow Program: An Intern’s Experience

This summer I was one of 45 Putnam County student residents given the opportunity to intern with local government departments. As part of the Putnam Invests in Leaders of Tomorrow (P.I.L.O.T) Program students were selected from a competitive and record breaking pool of 120 applicants and placed in government departments based on their areas of study, experience and interests.

Established in 2013 by County Executive Odell, the program was designed to grant high school, college and graduate students opportunities to develop pre-professional experience and learn about potential career paths, all the while promoting young talent within the county.

As an upcoming senior at SUNY New Paltz, majoring in psychology with an interest in organizational behavior, I had the privilege of working with the County Executive’s Office and the Personnel Department. At the County Executive’s Office, I observed the responsibilities of an elected official and the requirements of managing the county; my function being to assist staff with their daily work demands. At Personnel, I witnessed the day-to-day coordination of the P.I.L.O.T program and assisted with employee onboarding. I also began working on a large collaborative project to establish legally up to date and accurate policy manuals and employee handbooks for the county.

Another one of the projects I worked on was alongside Grace Olivier conducting on-site interviews with current interns gaining insight into how the program could expand moving forward, whilst hearing what the students have gained from their experiences.

Sam Perri, senior at Harvard University, expressed her excitement for the opportunities she has been given interning with the Probation Department. Sam is writing her senior thesis on probation– the hands on experience of home-visits, observing in court and preparing reports on probationers has been invaluable. With aspirations to go into criminal law, the ability to connect the theoretical and practical roles of a parole officer has been extremely rewarding.

Sarah Smith, junior at Binghamton, had the opportunity to apply her knowledge of election law to the day to day functioning of the Board of Elections. As part of her placement Sarah spent time preparing election notices, and aiding with the ongoing preparation that occurs prior to an election. Sarah also had the unique experience of attending a naturalization ceremony where her purpose was to help new citizens register to vote.

As my internship with the P.I.L.O.T program comes to a close, I am extremely grateful that I was given the opportunity to be exposed to the inner workings of local government. The goal of an internship is to provide a realistic setting to evaluate one’s fit to a particular line of work, a benefit not awarded in the classroom alone. I was confronted with the reality that organizational behavior might not be the right path; however, this program has opened my eyes to many other potential career paths for exploration. A special thank you to the P.I.L.O.T program alongside the participating departments, as students like myself are encouraged to push themselves, evolve as individuals, and pursue work that is meaningful.

McKenzie Quinn, Pilot intern

Summer brings robust tourism to Putnam County Transition to efficient county tourism department underway

Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell said Sunday that the county is close to choosing a new results-driven director of tourism who will showcase Putnam as a destination and promote the economic growth of the county.
A panel has been interviewing candidates and will send recommendations to Odell, who will forward her preferred choice to the Legislature for approval.

Putnam’s natural beauty sells itself, Odell said, but the new tourism director will work with stakeholders throughout the county and be better able to entice visitors to come to “Where the Country Begins.”
She thanked the Putnam County Visitors Bureau for its efforts and said the transition from a non-profit funded by county and state grants to an in-house county department would be swift and seamless. She also thanked the state I Love NY campaign for its generous support of Putnam tourism.

From farm-to-table dining on one end of the county to inspiring art shows on the other, exciting things are happening in Putnam, Odell said.

At Tilly Foster Farm in Southeast, hundreds of rock ‘n’ roll fans came out for the “Satisfaction, The International Rolling Stones Tribute Show,” Saturday night. It was an evening of fun, food and dancing under the stars that attracted visitors from throughout the region. The Rolling Stones’ tribute was just one of a new series of summer events at the county-owned farm, which also features Tilly’s Table restaurant, an educational institute and community garden.

In Cold Spring, the Magazzino Italian Art Foundation, a museum of Italian Postwar and Contemporary art that opened two years ago in a renovated warehouse, features a new exhibit of Arte Povera, minimalist art from the 1960s. The show, which opened Friday, runs through December. The Sardinian donkeys that live outside are part of the permanent collection.