Rhinebeck fire contract approval delayed
The Rhinebeck town board had been expected to approve a long-awaited contract with the village for fire protection services at its Aug. 11 meeting, but the procedure got stymied by what Supervisor Elizabeth Spinzia called a “procedural snafu.”
The five-year contract, which took over nine months to negotiate, sets fire protection fees for the town at $160,000 in 2014, rising automatically by $10,000 each year through 2018.
The town board cannot sign off on the deal without a public hearing, but the open public hearing on the matter had been inadvertently closed at a previous meeting.
A new hearing was set for Aug. 25 at 6:45pm, with the board expected to approve the contract at the next regular board meeting after that, on Sept. 8.
The village board had approved a draft of the agreement at its July 22 meeting, but the town later made minor amendments that required the village to re-approve the contract. The village will take that step after the town approval.
Rhinebeck prepares to tighten mining district
With a unanimous resolution at its Aug. 11 meeting, the Rhinebeck town board began the process of amending the boundaries of the town’s Mining Overlay District to block mine expansions.
The changes were requested by residents concerned about the proposed expansion of a mine owned by Red Wing Properties on White Schoolhouse Road.
Town land use attorney John Lyons briefed the board on what he said would be a “simple change to the zoning district map” to conform with the directives of the 2009 town comprehensive plan.
The mining district will be limited to existing mine sites, effectively blocking any new mines or mine expansions in the town.
A public hearing on the matter will be scheduled after the town board has received recommendations from the Planning Board and the Conservation Advisory Board. Planning board chair Michael Trimble has recused himself, so Deputy Chair Melodye Moore will lead the review, which she said should take about 30 days.
Affordable housing policy considered
Rhinebeck is also considering a proposal for a new workforce housing policy, submitted by the Open Space and Affordable Housing Committee at an Aug. 11 town board meeting. “It would promote housing…for people who live in the community and also work in the community,” said committee chair Jonathan Mensch.
The policy would be directed at residential construction only and would require new development within the Village Gateway and Active Senior Housing Floating Districts to be affordable. Outside those districts, 10 percent of any residential construction project would have to be set aside for affordable housing or be subject to a fee of $.25 per square foot. There would be no fee for construction below 1,000 square feet, additions of no more than 200 square feet, or accessory structures.
For multi-family construction outside the specified districts, one of every six units would have to be reserved for affordable housing.
The committee defines affordable housing as when a household making the median area income spends no more than 30 percent of its annual income on housing. According to the Census Bureau, the median income for the town for 2008-12 was $67,883; 30 percent would be $20,365.
The committee estimates that based on its guidelines, up to 130 affordable housing units could be constructed.
Supervisor Elizabeth Spinzia expressed her support for the proposal but noted that the board has concerns about the per-square-foot fee. The board intends to discuss the proposal, which was six years at the making, at a workshop ahead of its next regular meeting, on Sept. 8. Spinzia said she would like to see a resolution passed at that meeting or the following one.
Rhinebeck town historian plans return of rec park artifacts
Town Historian Nancy Kelly is working on a plan to bring historical artifacts recovered from Thomas Thompson-Sally Mazzarella Park back to Rhinebeck from their current location at Bard College.
Kelly told the town board on Aug. 11 that secure storage and display would be possible in the local history room at Starr Library.
She does not know the exact number of relics recovered from the park during an archaeological dig there, which was led by Bard archaeologist Christopher Lindner several years ago, but she said that Bard is housing them in four secure display cases. She said the cost per case is approximately $500, but the freight charges to move the artifacts securely would be a bigger expense.
Supervisor Elizabeth Spinzia reminded Kelly that the New York State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) has advised that the artifacts be housed at an accredited college or university, or in Albany. She said SHPO would have to sign off on Kelly’s plan to relocate the items to Starr Library.
Kelly conceded that the items are safe at Bard, but she added, “There are strong feelings in the community by certain people that the relics should be here…I think we need to do the right thing.” She said she would draft a formal proposal to relocate the artifacts and submit it to the board for review.
Rhinebeck adopts simplified solar application
Rhinebeck has adopted a simplified permit application for small-scale photovoltaic system (solar panel) installations. The application was developed by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) and recommended by the town Conservation Advisory Board.
At the Aug.11 town board meeting, Councilman Bruce Washburn noted, “The complexity of the application process often deters people from going solar.”
NYSERDA’s permit application is for rooftop panels only and is meant to be used by municipalities across the state to streamline that process. In adopting the new application, the town agrees to abide by a 7-14 day approval process.
NYSERDA is offering a $2,500-$5,000 incentive for municipalities that approve the unified application by Sept. 30. The town will be eligible for $2,500 if funds are still available.
Security enhancements planned for Rhinebeck Town Hall
The town board agreed at its Aug. 11 meeting to seek bids for installing security cameras and buzzers at the accessible doors at the back of the town hall.
Councilman Joseph Gelb expressed concern that employees would just prop the doors open, but Supervisor Elizabeth Spinzia countered that the town would have to set a mandatory policy to keep them shut and locked at all times. Only the front door to the hall would be left unlocked.
“I hate to see this place become a fortress,” Gelb said.
“This is something that our insurance company has pretty much mandated that we do,” Spinzia replied.
“It’s for the safety of our people,” added Councilman Bruce Washburn.
With cold weather looming, Rhinebeck eyes new boiler for town hall
The Rhinebeck town board voted 3-1 at its Aug. 11 meeting to approve $22,900 in engineering fees associated with the replacement of the steam boiler at Town Hall.
Councilman Joseph Gelb felt that the fees, quoted by Weston & Sampson Engineers, were too high. “I think we have some time to let some other engineering companies see what price they would give us,” he said.
Councilman Bruce Washburn disagreed, noting that the proposed engineering costs equal just 7 percent of the total project costs. He said 10 percent is the norm.
He also said putting the job out to bid would be a 45-day process. “We’re into the cold weather,” he said, which would make any down time for the boiler problematic. He said the alternative to moving ahead now is to postpone the repairs until next year and “pray that we make it another year” with the existing boiler.
“I agree with Bruce,” said Councilman Allan Scherr. “We’re headed for disaster.”
In addition to replacing the boiler, the town will have to remove asbestos in the boiler room.
Washburn has requested a $50,000 grant for the project from Dutchess County, but he was not optimistic that the town would win the full amount. He said $35,000 is a more reasonable bet.
“The only encouraging thing is they’re still talking to us. They haven’t thrown us out yet,” said Washburn.