Putnam County Accepting Applications for 2020 PILOT Program Student Internship Program

Carmel, NY – Putnam students may soon apply for paid and unpaid summer internships in county government through the Putnam Invests in Leaders of Tomorrow (PILOT) Program.  Accepted students gain hands-on professional experience in areas such as finance, criminal justice, engineering, communications, information technology, law, health, psychology and more.

The concept of the PILOT Program was first introduced by County Executive MaryEllen Odell in 2013, with support of the Putnam County Legislature.  “The PILOT program is one of the most important investments that Putnam County makes in its future,” said County Executive MaryEllen Odell. “We are introducing the workings of county government to the next generation and giving our youth a professional experience that may impact the career they choose to pursue.”

Eligible participants must be Putnam County residents who are graduate, college, or high school students in their junior or senior year.  For college students, a GPA of 3.0 or higher is recommended.

Applicants must complete and submit all application materials online beginning November 25, 2019 through January 31, 2020. Filing instructions are posted on the Putnam County website at www.putnamcountyny.com/internapply.

For more information, contact Adriene Iasoni, Putnam County Personnel at 845-808-1650 ext. 46625 or adriene.iasoni@putnamcountyny.gov

NYSEG Falls Short

Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell blasted NYSEG for its poor performance and lack of communication during a windstorm that left thousands of residents without power and without a clue as to when it would be restored.

Even Putnam’s Bureau of Emergency Services couldn’t reach NYSEG during the height of the windstorm, which began Thursday evening.

“NYSEG’s response is completely unacceptable,” Odell said. “The company left residents in potential danger and left our emergency response teams without support.  This is a public utility and communication with the emergency service agencies that protect the public is paramount. Not to mention that the company is obligated to let residents – their ratepayers — know where the power is out and when it will be restored.”

NYSEG reported to the state Office of Emergency Management that only five customers were out in Putnam County, when there were actually 2,709 customers without power as of 11 a.m. Friday.

Odell said she expects NYSEG to provide a complete accounting of its slow response and breakdown in communications before the winter storm season begins.

“Every storm we get, it’s the same thing,” State Assemblyman Kevin Byrne said. “The utility’s lack of response is, unfortunately, not unusual.”

State Sen. Pete Harckham called NYSEG “the poster child for bad performing public utilities.”

 

“I would have hoped that experiences from several prior storms, all much more severe than what occurred last night, would have resulted in better preparations for downed lines, better communications with affected municipalities and better responses for customers,” Harckham said. “Again, NYSEG has failed to achieve a proper standard of emergency management, which threatens our public safety while inflicting personal and economic misery on thousands of residents.”

 

NYSEG’s response was outrageous, Bureau of Emergency Services Commissioner Ken Clair said.

“At one point, the 911 supervisor called me because 911 couldn’t even get through to NYSEG,” Clair said. “We normally have a special number we call for power outages, and they weren’t answering it. I reached out to our NYSEG spokesperson and asked what I should do and he gave me the 800 number that the public calls to report a power outage. It’s an automated phone line! Can you imagine? They want the 911 center to call an automated phone line. That does not work.”

The storm, which brought winds up to 40 mph from Thursday night through Friday, had been forecast well in advance. NYSEG notified Putnam County on Thursday afternoon that 21 mutual aid companies would be available to help, but that aid was nowhere to be found.

Several emergency responders throughout the county had to guard over downed wires for hours during the storm before NYSEG responded. In Kent, it took two hours for NYSEG to respond to the fire department’s calls. In Putnam Valley, fire department volunteers had to stand guard over live wires on Peekskill Hollow Road all night before NYSEG sent a crew to shut off power.

“Our volunteer first responders were managing live wires for seven hours, from 9:20 p.m., when the first call came in, until 4:30 a.m., when NYSEG finally cut the power so that the road could be passable,” said Larry Cobb, Chief of the Putnam Valley Volunteer Fire Department. “That is unacceptable.”

In Lake Carmel and Patterson, the fire houses were still out of power as of 11 a.m. Friday morning, as were the Patterson Library, much of the Carmel schools and an untold number of residents.

County Legislature adopted a $165.1 million budget for 2020 that remains within the state property tax cap and maintains the county’s conservative approach to spending

The Putnam County Legislature adopted a $165.1 million budget for 2020 that remains within the state property tax cap and maintains the county’s conservative approach to spending.

The Legislature made minor adjustments to the budget proposed by Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell earlier this month, shortly after receiving notice that Moody’s Investor Services had upgrading the county’s bond rating to the coveted Aa1 status. That proposal represented a conservative $5.9 million, or 3.7 percent, spending increase over the 2019 budget.

“This is an outstanding budget,” Legislature Chairman Joseph Castellano said. “I’m really excited about the bond rating, the Aa1 rating. It’s great for residents. Going forward we can save some money when we borrow. It’s a testament to all the hard work done by Putnam County employees. This year we briefly touched on the possibility of losing a few employees, but I am very grateful to note that there were absolutely no layoffs this year. I’m looking forward to 2020.”

Some of the Legislature’s changes included reductions to the Planning Department budget, the Transportation Fund Balance and Sheriff’s Department overtime.

“This is a team effort and this is a bare bones effort, which is the reason there is not a million cuts,” Legislator Ginny Nacerino said at the Tuesday night meeting. “You can do that when you have a good budget handed to you. “

The Legislature also put several items into a contingency fund, holding the money for future use or while the board seeks more information.

Among the items held in contingency are $15,000 for maintenance in Parks and Recreation, $30,000 for special services in the District Attorney’s office, $15,000 for license plate readers requested by the Sheriff’s Department and almost $18,000 for a promotion to sergeant.

“We want to have clear policies and procedures around the use of data in the license plate readers,” Legislator Neal Sullivan said. “We want to know how long they are going to keep in and who is going to be able to see it. There are a lot of questions regarding the use of data and we want to know we have the correct policies in place.”

The personnel committee is awaiting clarification on whether the promotion to sergeant involves a road patrol officer or a school resources officer and will discuss the matter in its November meeting.

“My question is, if the SRO is partly paid for the by the school district and we move an SRO to a sergeant position, who is paying for it?” Chairman Castellano asked. “We can’t just impose a cost on the schools or we need to know if the county is footing the bill.”

The board held the Sheriff’s Department to a 2 percent increase in overtime. The Legislature agreed to fund $520,000 in overtime, an increase of $12,000 over the department’s 2019 spending, but $242,000 short of what the department sought.

Route 6 and Route 52 road repair to begin

CARMEL, NY – Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell announced that the second phase of a major milling and repaving project on Carmel’s main roads is about to begin.
The project, which will run from Route 6 at Belden Road to Route 52 at Vink Drive, will begin the evening of Sunday Oct. 27 and continue for seven to 10 days.

“The state DOT has a lot of competing projects to consider,” Odell said. “State Assemblyman Kevin Byrne and Putnam County Legislator Carl Albano worked hard to get the state to focus on making the corridor between Carmel and Kent as safe as it can be.”

Odell’s administration will stay in contact with the New York State Department of Transportation to ensure the work is done with as little disruption to traffic as possible.

Paleen Construction of Somers was contracted by the state DOT to carry out the project, which requires milling the existing surface before pouring and grading the new asphalt. The work will be done in sections and each section will be useable as soon as completed.

The first phase of the project, which repaired Route 6 from Route 312 to the Reed Memorial Library was finished last year.

‘Over the years, the state has patched the road, but it hasn’t been entirely repaved in almost 20 years,’ Albano said. “This is the main thoroughfare through the Hamlet of Carmel and we’re very happy that the state recognizes the need to fix it. We hope that they will later continue the work on Route 52 all the way to Route 311 in Kent.”

Putnam County and the Town of Kent Highway Department working together

Legislator Carl Albano, Kent Highway Superintendent Richard Othmer Jr. and Putnam’s Deputy Commissioner of Parks Chris Ruthven at Smalley’s Corner Cemetery in Kent. When a tornado ripped through Kent in May 2018, it cut through the middle of the historic cemetery and tore down 18 Norwegian Pine trees. The trees, 60 feet high and five feet in diameter, had likely been planted as part of a public works project during the Great Depression. The Putnam County Legislature, Putnam County Highway, Parks Department and the Kent Highway Department worked in partnership to remove the trees and clean the cemetery of the storm damage.

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.