FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Peer-to-Peer Veteran Program Comes to Putnam


MaryEllen Odell
Putnam County Executive
(845) 808-1001

August 1, 2013                          

Peer-to-Peer Veteran Program Comes to Putnam

Suffolk County Peer to Peer Program Director Timothy Strobel was among several guest speakers at a press conference held this morning at the Spain Cornerstone Park in Carmel as it was announced that the Pfc. Joseph Dwyer Veterans Peer-to-Peer Program would open in Putnam. 

The program is named for an Army private who committed suicide in 2008 and is run for veterans by veterans. The program provides “peer-to-peer” counseling between veterans who personally understand the effects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).

Federal Veterans Administration statistics show that as many as 20 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans, 10 percent of Gulf War and 30 percent of Vietnam veterans experience PTSD.

“We are vets helping vets,” Strobel said. “We offer the opportunity for veterans to come together in support of each other, to listen and benefit from each other’s experience with service-related issues – everything from getting back into civilian life, to returning to school, or civilian jobs, or family life, and also obtaining VA services,” he said.

Strobel explained that while every deployment is different, there is one constant: The camaraderie that comes from a shared experience of life in the military. 

“Whether we served in the jungles of Vietnam, the deserts of Iraq, the mountains of Afghanistan, or on a ship at sea, we are the few who understand what it is like,” he said. 

The weekly Peer to Peer support groups are confidential and most meetings are informal. No fees are charged, no records are kept and there are no reporting requirements by counselors. Strobel said his Suffolk County support groups meet weekly but at various locations at varying times on varying days of the week.

“Anonymity is the key to the program’s success,” said Strobel.

County Executive MaryEllen Odell said she is looking forward to having a support group such as this available for Putnam’s veterans.

“It is vital that we have a program like this so our veterans can learn to understand just what PTSD and TBI are and can do,” she said. “Working with their peers who have the shared experience of dealing with these disorders will undoubtedly aide our veterans in their recovery.”  

Director of Veteran Services Karl Rhode attended the gathering and is also very much in favor of having the program available in Putnam County.

“Peer-to-peer counseling for veterans is a vital tool to help them help themselves,” said Rohde. “It is exciting that Putnam will now be able to implement such an important program to help our veterans and their families cope with the invisible wounds of war.”

Funding for the program was obtained by Sen. Greg Ball (R,C,I-Patterson) chairman of the Senate Veterans, Homeland Security and Military Affairs Committee through the NYS Office of Mental Health. Putnam will receive $185,000 and the program will be administered by the county’s Mental Health and Veterans departments. 

“This great program will positively impact countless lives,” he said. “With the rising number of returning veterans suffering from ailments like TBI and PTSD, we must do everything in our power to give our returning troops the services and programs they need.”

Since its inception in last year’s NYS budget, the program has been operating successfully in the four test counties: Suffolk, Rensselaer, Saratoga and Jefferson. Seven additional counties will now receive funding for the program. They include Putnam, Westchester, Nassau, Erie, Onondaga, Orange and Rockland.

080113 Peer to Peer Comes to Putnam  Ronayne Strobel Rohde 

CAPTION: L to R: Suffolk County Veterans Service Agency Director Thomas Ronayne, Suffolk County Peer to Peer Program Director Timothy Strobel and Putnam County’s Director of Veteran Services Karl Rohde met at Cornerstone Park on Thursday, Aug. 1 to announce that the Pfc. Joseph P. Dwyer Veterans Peer Support Project is coming to Putnam County.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Odell Accepts Transfer of Veteran’s Van


MaryEllen Odell
Putnam County Executive
(845) 808-1001

July 26, 2013

Odell Accepts Transfer of Veteran’s Van

Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell accepted the transfer of an Office for the Aging handicapped accessible van into the County’s transportation fleet this morning.

The vehicle, known as the Veteran’s Van, was obtained by the OFA through a grant they received last year. Thanks to the joint efforts made by several County agencies and following the final recommendation of the Transportation Task Force, it was determined that the County could extend the hours of use making it more readily accessible to Putnam veterans. 

The van can be utilized at all times,” said Odell. “Certainly for transporting them to their medical appointments at the VA Centers in Montrose and Castle Point, but for other needs as well. It is a pleasure for me to join Pat (Sheehy), Karl (Rohde), Mike (Bartolotti) and Vinny (Tamagna) in improving and enhancing mobility for our wonderful veterans.”

veterans van press release

CAPTION: Pictured from left to right are Legislator Roger Gross (R-Southeast), Legislator Carl Albano (R-Carmel), Deputy County Clerk Michael Bartolotti, Putnam County Chambers of Commerce President Bill Nulk, Transportation Task Force Chairman Vincent Tamagna, County Executive MaryEllen Odell, Office for the Aging Director Pat Sheehy, Veterans Service Agency Director Karl Rohde and Assemblyman Steve Katz (R-Mohegan Lake).  Photo by N. DePerno

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Odell Attends “Positive” Meeting on Butterfield Project


MaryEllen Odell
Putnam County Executive
(845) 808-1001

July 23, 2013

Odell Attends “Positive” Meeting on Butterfield Project

There was a positive sense of progress in the air following a July 17 meeting where all players essential to the approval process for the old Butterfield Hospital site on Paulding Avenue in Cold Spring gathered. Present for the meeting were County Executive MaryEllen Odell, developer Paul Guillaro (Butterfield Realty LLC), County Legislator Barbara Scuccimarra (R, D-1), Cold Spring Mayor Ralph Falloon, Philipstown Supervisor Richard Shea and Philipstown Trustee Nancy Montgomery.

Odell thanked Scuccimarra for putting the meeting together and laid out what she envisioned the County would like to do.

“To highlight some of the opportunities available to use within the Butterfield site, the County is looking to lease approximately 5,000 square feet which would be used to house satellite offices for the Sheriff’s Department, the Department of Motor Vehicles, our County Clerk and Personnel Departments, Tourism and the Economic Development Corporation,” she said. “We would also be able to relocate the senior center to a more modern space.”

She said having extensions of these offices in Cold Spring will create revenue opportunities. She noted residents on the western side of Putnam renew their vehicles and passports in Westchester or Dutchess County offices which are closer than taking a 45-mile round trip to Carmel.

“Money for these things is leaving the County following the north/south transportation corridor. So we want to capture those dollars,” Odell said.

Deputy County Clerk Michael Bartolotti, who was not at the meeting, said according to 2011 records at his office, only 12 percent of the population on the western side of the county uses Putnam’s DMV as opposed to 56.5 percent of those on the eastern side who use it. Putnam County collects 12.7 percent of every DMV transaction. 

As for the Personnel Dept., Odell said Personnel “will assist in employment and testing and there is revenue in that.”

Consolidation is also uppermost in Odell’s plan. She envisions a cooperative effort with Philipstown, Nelsonville and Cold Spring with the senior center as well as their town courts.

“We’re also in discussion with the Women’s Resource Center,” said Odell.

The WRC is a not-for-profit working with victims of domestic violence and needing space beyond its Mahopac offices.

Falloon felt the meeting eased the concerns that his volunteer boards have with the project. He defended his boards’ caution.

“In defending my board and the other boards, everybody is very, very scared of development. So for me, this was a major, positive reinforcement that there will be a partnership. We will do this together and we can be confident that the changes we make are the right changes,” he said.  “The Village of Cold Spring is very small so when you’re talking about a parcel this big (5.7 acres), it is one of the largest modern day changes that we have had and people are very, very cautious about it.”

The Planning Board has yet to approve Guillaro’s request for a zoning change to a B4-A district which would allow medical offices, permitted senior housing, retail stores, business and professional offices, and banks as well as privately owned facilities leased to a municipal government entity.

Falloon said the meeting of all principals created the sense of partnership where he hadn’t felt there was one previously.

“It was a meeting where we were all seriously believing in a partnership and we really, truly wanted to help each other any way we could. It was very positive for me and I am assuming that that positive-ness will trickle down into the rest of my Village Board and the rest of the volunteer boards who have to make the decisions,” he said. 

Montgomery said she, too, felt the meeting was quite positive.

“It was a great meeting. It’s always positive when all the stakeholders that are involved with getting things done over here are present. So that was pretty positive,” she said. “It was clear in the meeting that we were all in favor of something happening at Butterfield.”

Montgomery said she would like to see a Letter of Intent, a non-binding agreement between the County and Butterfield Realty concerning the lease of space for government offices. Odell explained that she was unable at this time to grant Montgomery’s wish for the LOI, that it is not within her authority to do so at this point.

“A Letter of Intent comes by way of a Resolution and the Legislature is never going to pass a Resolution without a project,” Odell said. “And there is no project until the Planning Board gives its approval. Then, when you have a project, you have numbers and that’s when a Resolution gets passed.”

Scuccimarra is chairperson of the County Legislature’s Economic Development & Energy Committee and represents the Philipstown, Nelsonville and Cold Spring areas. 

“So it was very exciting that all of these people were in the room together because that hasn’t happened,” she said. “It is imperative that we bring services to the other side of the county, to my constituents; not only the senior center, but the Department of Motor Vehicles and the Sheriff. There’s a whole list of things that the County wants to bring over that are very good. This project is a must.”

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Peer-to-Peer Vet Counseling Coming to Putnam


MaryEllen Odell
Putnam County Executive
(845) 808-1001

July 19, 2013

Peer-to-Peer Vet Counseling Coming to Putnam

You are cordially invited to attend a press conference at 11 a.m. on Thursday, August 1 with County Executive MaryEllen Odell and Director of Veteran Services Karl Rhode as the announcement is made that the Pfc. Joseph Dwyer Peer-to-Peer Veterans Counseling program is coming to Putnam. The press conference will be held at Spain Cornerstone Park on Fair Street in Carmel.  Also present will be Thomas Ronayne, director of the Suffolk County Veterans Service Agency.

The program, named for an Army private who committed suicide in 2008, is run for veterans by veterans. The program provides “peer-to-peer” counseling between veterans who personally understand the effects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).

“A handful of counties in New York already have this program,” said Odell. “It is vital that we, too, have a program like this so our veterans can learn to understand just what PTSD and TBI are and can do. Working with their peers who have the shared experience of dealing with these disorders will undoubtedly aide our veterans in their recovery.” 

“Peer-to-peer counseling for veterans is a vital tool to help them help themselves,” said Rohde. “It is exciting that Putnam will now be able to implement such an important program to help our veterans and their families cope with the invisible wounds of war.”

Since its inception in last year’s NYS budget, the program has been operating successfully in the four test counties: Suffolk, Rensselaer, Saratoga and Jefferson.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: New Transportation Plan for County Veterans


MaryEllen Odell
Putnam County Executive
(845) 808-1001

July 17, 2013

New Transportation Plan for County Veterans

Please join Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell, County Clerk Dennis Sant, Deputy County Clerk Michael Bartolotti, Office for the Aging Director Pat Sheehy, Director of Veterans Service Agency Karl Rohde and Transportation Task Force Chairperson Vincent Tamagna on Friday, July 26 at 9:30 a.m. at the County Transit Garage, 841 Fair Street, Carmel, NY as they gather for a press conference to announce the creation of a new transportation effort for Putnam veterans.

Thanks to the joint efforts made by several County agencies and the Transportation Task Force (TTF), Putnam veterans will now have more flexibility in using a special handicapped accessible van originally obtained by the Office for Aging and used to transport the veterans to their medical appointments at the Montrose and Castle Point facilities.

“We are constantly looking for better ways to provide services for our veterans,” said Odell. “A more fluid and flexible means of transportation to and from their medical appointments is clearly something they deserve.” 

The transfer of the Veteran’s Van from OFA to the County was the TTF’s Recommendation #17. 

“The Transportation Task Force, in compiling their 26 recommendations for improving and updating the County’s transportation system, found that while the Office for Aging had the handicapped accessible van, it had limited resources as to the hours of operation and number of drivers available,” said Tamagna. “In discussing this situation, the Task Force made a recommendation that the County take over the operation of the van as our First Transit dispatch office is open from 4:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. and we have more drivers available than OFA.”

The Veteran’s Van was received by the OFA last fall. It was purchased with funding from the Putnam County Capital Funds. At that time the Office for the Aging assisted the Department of Veteran’s Affairs with the scheduling and day to day operations of the van. 

“As its popularity began to develop, it became clear that it would be better managed by the County Transit Department as they have the ability to operate longer hours,” said Sheehy. “We were happy to assist in getting this important service up and operating and are pleased that the service will be able to be expanded even further with the transfer of the van.”

Rohde, too, was pleased that the County could step up and improve the valuable service to its veterans.

“We at the Service Agency are excited that the operation and dispatch of the Veterans Van is going to be moved,” he said. “This new plan gives our veterans more flexible access to the van. This is definitely a home run for the veterans of our community.”

Contacting all of Putnam’s veterans became the next issue so another joint effort was made, this time with Tamagna, the County Clerk’s Office through their Return the F.A.V.O.R. program (RTF), the Veterans Service Agency and the County’s Planning Department. Compiling the present day list of almost 5,000 known veterans residing in Putnam was accomplished by combining the 1,000 names registered with the RTF program and by gathering approximately 3,600 additional names from town assessors who scanned their tax rolls for residents claiming veteran exemptions.

Sant introduced the Return the F.A.V.O.R. (Find & Assist Vets of Record) in 2010.

“The program finds and assists veterans of record and gives us the opportunity to inform them of veteran services not only within Putnam but also through the state and the Federal government as well,” said Bartolotti.

To be eligible for the RTF discounts, veterans must file their military discharge papers (DD214 form) with the County Clerk’s office. They are then issued a Putnam County ID card enabling them to enjoy special discounts offered by local merchants.

“This is a golden opportunity for us to reach more veterans and get them signed up for the F.A.V.O.R program,” said Bartolotti. “We have added our list of vets already signed up for the F.A.V.O.R. program to the list Vinny and Karl compiled. That list goes to Planning, so when a veteran does call for a ride, they will know he or she is registered.”

“We want to reach all of our veterans because we want to provide them with all the services they deserve,” said Tamagna. “They served us. Now it is our turn to give back to them.”

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Putnam to Support Vets on TZB Name Change

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                            

MaryEllen Odell
Putnam County Executive
(845) 808-1001

July 18, 2013

Putnam to Support Vets on TZB Name Change  

Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell and members of New York’s Military Order of the Purple Heart are launching an initiative to rename the new Tappan Zee Bridge (TZB) to honor the state’s Purple Heart recipients.

The Purple Heart is awarded to those who have been wounded or killed while serving on active duty. It is the military’s oldest service award and was established by Continental Army Commander-in-Chief George Washington. The Purple Heart was originally known as the Badge of Military Merit. It was ordered by Washington from his Newburgh headquarters on August 7, 1782. Today, the National Purple Heart Hall of Honor is located in New Windsor, New York.

“Renaming the bridge for our Purple Heart recipients is a wonderfully brilliant idea,” said Odell. “With the birthday of the Purple Heart on August 7, the timing of this couldn’t be better. We are very honored to be part of this movement as we are the first county in the State of New York to be designated a Purple Heart County.”

Odell proclaimed Putnam as New York’s first “Purple Heart County on March 18, 2013. The County’s Legislature made a similar proclamation on April 3. The designation was requested by members of the Westchester/Putnam Chapter of the MOPH and the Putnam County Joint Veterans Council.

Odell learned of the idea to change the TZB’s name in an e-mail blast sent out recently by William Nazario, Commander of the NY MOPH.

“We at the Military Order of the Purple Heart-Dept. of New York need your assistance in what we hope is the renaming of the new under construction Tappan Zee Bridge,” he wrote. “We think it would be an honor to rename the Tappan Zee Bridge ‘The Purple Heart Memorial Bridge’ in honor of those who have made sacrifices and ultimate sacrifices in defense of our nation.”

Nazario asked the recipients of his e-mail to write to the NYS Thruway Authority and to their elected officials requesting their support for the renaming of the bridge. Nazario proclaimed this effort “a Patriotic act.”

“In an age where stadiums and other public structures have corporate logos, let’s put a real hero’s logo on this bridge – the Purple Heart,” he wrote.

Other e-mail recipients responded to Nazario’s request. Howard Goldin, Commander of Chapter 21 of the MOPH, sent a letter to NYS Thruway Authority Executive Director Thomas J. Madison, Jr. In his letter, Goldin noted that over two million men and women have been awarded the Purple Heart “showing we have bled for our country.”

Goldin recounted the history of watch fires along the Hudson River, primitive signals sent by colonial troops. He informed Madison that each year on Memorial Day, veterans light watch fires to keep vigil for “our fallen brothers, our lost patrol that has still not returned, and the patrols of past wars – back to our country’s first soldiers who fought along these very shores.”

The TZB spans the Hudson River from South Nyack in Rockland County to Tarrytown in Westchester County. On July 4, Westchester County, the City of Newburgh in Orange County and Rockland County were also proclaimed Purple Heart Counties.

Goldin requested Madison’s “consideration and assistance” in the renaming of one of the new spans of the bridge as The Purple Heart Memorial Bridge. He insisted it would only be fitting that New York honor its Purple Heart recipients: “ . . .those men and women who have proudly served and sacrificed so much.”

Madison’s response to Goldin’s July 8 letter was brief and included a handwritten note thanking Goldin for the suggestion and for his service to the country.

“At this point in the New NY Bridge project there has been no discussion regarding the possibility of changing the name of the Tappan Zee Bridge,” Madison wrote. “But if that opportunity does arise in the future we will certainly add your suggestion of “The Purple Heart Memorial Bridge” to the discussion.” 

Putnam County Director of Veterans Affairs Karl Rohde agreed with Odell that the timing of this request was particularly meaningful.

“It is always appropriate to honor veterans,” he said. “But it is especially poignant that at this time we wish to honor those veterans who have received the Purple Heart. Among those recipients are those service members who made the supreme sacrifice for our country and our freedom.”

Putnam County Historian Denis Castelli is a Purple Heart recipient. He offered a brief outline of Putnam’s history of respect for all of its veterans, including the Gold Star Mothers. 

“Putnam is already home to four Civil War Generals and the first Gold Star Mother statue in the nation,” he said. “It is the birthplace of John McCloy – one of only 19 men in American history to be awarded two Congressional Medals of Honor. It is the home of Albert Luke Ireland, who was awarded more Purple Heart medals than any other man in history – nine medals – five from WWII and four from the Korean War.”

“Reasons enough for Putnam to be at the leading edge of the campaign to designate the new Tappan Zee Bridge as The Purple Heart Memorial Bridge,” Castelli said.

In honor of the medal’s approaching birth date, the County recently posted striking new green, gold and blue signs with an image of the Purple Heart medal at entry points to Putnam welcoming visitors to “New York State’s FIRST Purple Heart County.”

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Officials Close Koehler Senior Center Temporarily


MaryEllen Odell
Putnam County Executive
(845) 808-1001

July 15, 2013

Officials Close Koehler Senior Center Temporarily

Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell and Office for the Aging Director Pat Sheehy have announced that the William Koehler Senior Center in Mahopac will be closed for the next few days due to problems with their water supply.

“For the safety of our seniors, it has been decided to close the Koehler Center today and for Tuesday and Wednesday while work to repair the water pump is being done,” said Odell.

Sheehy said residents who frequent the Koehler Center will be welcome at other Friendship Centers.

“All Adult Daycare Participants will be transported to the Daycare Program at the Putnam Valley Friendship Center,” she said. “And all are welcome to come to the following centers as an alternative at this time. The three Friendship Centers include Putnam Valley at the Town Park, the American Legion Hall on Cedar Street in Cold Spring, and the Senior Center in the Don Smith Complex on Old Route 6 in Carmel.”

Commissioner of Highways & Facilities Fred Pena explained the problem at the Center. 

“Since last Thursday, the well at the Koehler Center has been clogged with grit and sediment. Localized efforts failed to flush the system requiring removal of the well pump for more extensive treatment. Unfortunately, this will take a few days to complete,” Pena said.

Sheehy anticipates the Koeheler Center will be open at 8 a.m. on Thursday, July 18. She urged all seniors to take special precautions since the National Weather Service has posted a High Heat Advisory from noon today through 8 p.m. this evening.

Commissioner of Emergency Services Adam B. Stiebeling explained that a heat advisory is issued when “the combination of heat and humidity is expected to make it feel like it is 95 degrees for two consecutive days or if the heat index values reach 100 to 104 degrees.” He pointed out that this particular weather pattern “is expected to affect the Lower Hudson River Valley Region for the next four to five days.”

Stiebeling suggested residents know the signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion. They can be found online at the New York State Department of Health website

Stiebeling offered several suggestions for staying cool during the week. Among them are the following: Use an air conditioner or go to an air conditioned location, drink plenty of water, avoid any strenuous activity during the hottest part of the day (11 a.m. – 4 p.m.), wear loose-fitting, lightweight and light-colored clothing, wear a sunscreen but stay out of the sun as much as possible, and take cool showers and baths.

At this time, there are no plans to activate any of the town or county operated cooling centers. However, Odell suggested Putnam residents may find relief at their local recreation centers, libraries or places of worship. 

Putnam seniors or their family members who need help may call the Office for the Aging at (845) 808-1700 between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Healing Mass for Mahopac Youngster this Sunday


MaryEllen Odell
Putnam County Executive
(845) 808-1001 

July 11, 2013

Healing Mass for Mahopac Youngster this Sunday

A little boy who as a cancer survivor read his poem “Faith” and helped to cut the ribbon at Mahopac’s June 1 Relay for Life event, is fighting for his life as he recovers from surgery to remove a recently diagnosed second cancer.

Nicknamed “Little Soldier,” Sean Callahan, the eldest of Dan and Janine Callahan’s six children, is recovering at home and must now embark on a long journey of yet to be determined treatments to help get his latest cancer, a pleuropulmonary blastoma in his brain, into remission.

According to a close family source, chemotherapy has been ruled out as an option.

This Sunday, July 14, a special Healing Mass will be offered by Fr. Jarlath Quinn for Sean’s recovery at 8:45 a.m. at St. John the Evangelist Church, 221 E. Lake Blvd. in Mahopac, NY 10541.

It is the second Healing Mass Fr. Quinn has said for his young parishioner.  The first took place on June 19, the day of Sean’s most recent surgery.

A special second collection will be held and proceeds from this collection will be given to the Callahan family who will be present for the Healing Mass. Refreshments will be served following the Mass.

But prayers for Sean’s recovery are uppermost on the family’s thoughts. In a message posted on the Mahopac Relay for Life Facebook page where Sean’s progress is chronicled, the Callahans posted their thanks for the community’s prayers and support.

“We are extremely thankful as a family to all of Sean’s family and friends for all they have done and are doing . . . Thank you to everyone for all they are doing to support Sean and to assist us. It is greatly appreciated and does not go unnoticed.”

“I cannot begin to imagine what the Callahan family must be going through right now,” said County Executive MaryEllen Odell. “I know prayer can be quite powerful and my prayers are certainly with all of them right now.”

Mahopac’s Relay for Life director, Tracy Walsh, posts updates on Sean whose Relay team is Sean’s Soldiers. 

“Sean’s entire Relay family is praying for him,” she said.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: County to Receive Full Reimbursement for Medicaid Eligible Transit


MaryEllen Odell
Putnam County Executive
(845) 808-1001

Anthony Ruggiero, Commissioner
Planning, Development and Transportation
(845) 878-3480

Vincent Tamagna, Chairman
Putnam County Transportation Task Force
(845) 878-3480

June 26, 2013

County to Receive Full Reimbursement for Medicaid Eligible Transit

I do not believe anyone asked the question.” – Commissioner Anthony Ruggiero

“The EI and Pre-K transportation issue will be a larger battle.” -Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell

Commissioner of Planning, Development and Public Transportation Anthony Ruggiero has negotiated a full-cost compensation to Putnam County from the NYS Department of Health for transporting its Medicaid Eligible recipients. Previous compensation from the state for the billed $37.33 one-way fare was $3.25.

“So it was costing Putnam County $34.08 per ride,” said Ruggiero.

Ruggiero defined a “ride” as an individual being picked up at a residence and taken to their destination, typically a medical appointment. The cost billed to County taxpayers for the ride was $34.08 with clients paying a $3.25 fare. A return ride, from to a residence, was billed at the same rate for a total cost to Putnam taxpayers of $68.16 per round trip.

But starting July 1, Putnam will be reimbursed by the state Dept. of Health for the entire cost of transporting its Medicaid Eligible residents. 

During a conference call with the NYS Dept. of Health concerning the transport of Medicaid Eligible residents, Ruggiero raised the option of reimbursement from the state. By the end of their conversation, the NYS Dept. of Health agreed to a full compensation.

“What I’m finding out,” Ruggiero said “is that no one had thought to ask these kinds of questions before now.  They just went ahead doing things as they had always been done. To me, these are simple questions. ‘Why can’t I do that?’ Now, if there’s a legitimate reason, that’s fine, but tell me what it is. Apparently there wasn’t any reason we shouldn’t be fully compensated. Now we will.”

“This was a perfect example of our being able to have a dialogue with Albany and once they understood they were responsible for the funding, the cost was lifted from our taxpayers’ shoulders,” Odell said. “It’s good to see Albany is beginning to accept some of this responsibility.”

A Transportation Task Force (TTF) was formed in January and charged with improving the county’s public transportation system. The TTF was led by Chairman Vincent Tamagna, a former Putnam County legislator. Providing affordable and reliable transportation for all residents of Putnam and best utilizing available resources to minimize costs and maximize efficiency was the mission of the task force. Ruggiero served on the TTF’s Advisory Board.

When Tamagna learned that the state Dept. of Health was going to suspend Medicaid transport service in Putnam starting June 1, he notified fellow Task Force member Tina Cornish-Lauria, executive director of CAREERS for People with Disabilities whose clients depend on this service. He later was able to inform her of the state’s decision to reinstate and fully compensate the program starting on July 1. 

“Great news for Paratransit riders, as well as Putnam County taxpayers”, said Cornish-Lauria. “Paratransit riders are disabled and tend to have a lower income than most.  They rely on the bus system for employment, medical appointments and shopping and don’t have alternative methods of transportation. The Task Force took our commission very seriously in an attempt to provide vital services to an underserved population and we are thrilled that the NYS Department of Health is supporting both riders and taxpayers by reinstating the Paratransit reimbursement at the full rate.”

“The Transportation Task Force had a thorough dialogue concerning how important it is to provide a reliable, affordable service and put people before cost,” said Tamagna. “However, we also felt strongly that we should negotiate with the NYS Dept. of Health so we could provide a service that would not impose an undue financial burden on the residents from these non-mandated transports.”

Tamagna said he and Ruggiero discussed the impending suspension of service. Ruggiero and Tamagna felt confident that the NYS Dept. of Health would regret their decision.

“No one can provide a better and more reliable service at such as reasonable cost,” said Tamagna referring to Putnam’s PART First Transit service. “Let MAS and New York State try it. They’ll be back.”

Ruggiero and Tamagna were right. The NYS Dept. of Health contacted them less than three weeks after taking over.

“For the people of Putnam, I am glad that we were able to shift the cost and for the people who need the service, I am glad we will once again provide the transportation. This has been a real win-win,” said Tamagna.

Odell would like to see further reductions in costly transportation particularly in the Early Intervention and Pre-Kindergarten programs where the amount of money spent in transporting the children exceeds the cost of educating them.

“The EI and Pre-K transportation issue will be a larger battle,” said Odell “but at least the state has recognized its obligation with regards to transporting our Medicaid Eligible residents.”

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Odell “Deeply Disappointed” in Failed Tax-Free Shopping Bill


MaryEllen Odell
Putnam County Executive
(845) 808-1001

June 26, 2013

Odell “Deeply Disappointed” in Failed Tax-Free Shopping Bill

The back-to-school tax free holiday for Putnam County residents was squashed in the state Assembly after passing successfully through the Senate. The bill, S03878/A07607, would have authorized a county sales and use tax exemption for clothing and footwear during the period of Aug. 16-25, 2013.

“I am deeply disappointed that our NYS Assembly Representative Sandy Galef (D-Ossining) was unable to steer this economic measure through the Ways and Means Committee of the Assembly,” said Odell.

The bill, which was sponsored by Sen. Greg Ball (R-Patterson), was successful in the Senate passing unanimously with a 63-0 vote.

“I had hoped that Assemblywoman Galef, as a senior member of the majority, would have been able to get the support for our “Back-to-School Sales Tax Holiday” home rule bill, as important as this one is to our local businesses, chambers of commerce and families,” Odell said. “What happened to bipartisan cooperation, especially in a situation such as this where we have unanimous support from our County Legislature, neighboring county executives, and the business communities?” 

Putnam County Chambers of Commerce President Jennifer Maher was equally disappointed in the bill’s failure in the Assembly.

“While I am happy that the Senate was able to pass the bill, I am greatly disappointed that the Assembly has failed to act,” said Maher. “It would have been wonderful for small businesses across Putnam and also would have been a nice break for our taxpayers, especially those with school-age children. Still, I look forward to working with the County Executive on future tax-break initiatives.” 

Lawmaker Barbara Scuccimarra (R-Philipstown) is Chairwoman of the Legislature’s Economic Development Committee. She was equally dissatisfied with the results in the Assembly.

“Back-to-school shopping is going to happen but without a tax break for our residents we can’t insure they will shop in Putnam. That’s not going to benefit our local merchants and businesses and that was the object of this bill,” Scuccimarra said.