With my first year as Supervisor in the books, it's time to reflect on what we've done and where we are going as a community. I've said it again and again: it is truly an honor to serve the citizens of New Castle. Over the past year, I have brought residents into the process and engaged them, listened to your concerns and ideas, and governed in a transparent fashion. I have tried to bring vision and fresh ideas to the table; even if those ideas come from others. And, most important, I have acted in the best interests of the entire community. I am very proud of the progress made throughout the year, and I will mention a few highlights:
The theme for communication has been dialogue. You should hear from your town government and your town government should be able to hear from you. We've done so much in this area:
We started a new communication staple for the community - the New Castle eNewsletter! The eNewsletter is emailed to residents every week.
We did a town wide mailing asking residents for feedback.
We simplified our email addresses to both communicate with town employees and board members, as well as report problems to town hall.
We are in the process of revamping the town's web site.
We successfully reduced our costs as we increased the services provided to our residents and businesses. The tax rate will increase 1.53%--- just $9 for the average homeowner. This is the lowest tax increase - by far - in 6 years!
We had an aggressive approach with renewal of the workers compensation and garbage contracts. Workers Compensation Renewal resulted in a $222,525.00 savings per year for 2 years. This is a 29.00% savings! The garbage Contract resulted in a $477,980 savings per year. Over the course of the seven (7) year garbage contract, we are saving over $3,000,000.00.
We adopted several new policies:
- A new vehicle use policy
- Anew town policy against harassment and discrimination.
- A new equal employment opportunity policy and procedure.
- A new code of ethics
- A new non-union employee compensation policy.
After a two year hiatus, I reintroduced the Supervisor's Report to keep residents updated on the Town Board activities and status of various land use applications.
At Town Board meetings, I engaged residents and answered questions. Some have said that I allowed too much public comment, but when issues are so important to our residents they need to be heard.
I communicated my views about the critical issues that face us, including the Master Plan and Chappaqua Crossing.
We established several new boards:
- Ethics Board, Mandate Relief Committee
- Downtown Business Development Committee
- Emergency Planning Committee
- Coyote Management Task Force
- Coyote Awareness and Safety Advisory Committee
- Millwood-West End Advisory Committee.
The Downtown Business Development Committee ("DBDC") was established to assist the long-term economic stability of the Town's downtown business districts.
We changed the free parking in town from two hours to three hours.
We reviewed preliminary designs for new water and sewer lines, as well as streetscape and traffic improvements.
New Castle now has zero tolerance for distracted driving. We introduced distracted driving banners throughout town, and gave out thousands of car magnets.
We approved a resolution requesting NYSDOT to reduce the speed in downtown Chappaqua generate significant pedestrian traffic of middle school children.
We have also installed safety ski netting for sledding at Gedney Park.
It has been 26 years since the Town's Master Plan was last updated. The Master Plan update is finally underway and progressing nicely! Pace Land Use Law Center conducted seven (7) public outreach meetings. We retained Penn Schoen Berland (PSB), the company that conducted the Chappaqua school district survey, to conduct a survey for the town master plan process. We added a 2015 budget line to hire a Master Plan Consultant.
We are committed to ensuring that our community is prepared. In order to prepare for a community emergency, we are in the process of forming the Emergency Planning Committee. We will continue to communicate effectively and have increased subscribers to CodeRED.
After meeting with residents and hearing their concerns, the developer of the Legionaries property decided to abandon his commercial plans for a spa & restaurant and change it to a residential development. Sixty condos, a clubhouse, indoor-outdoor pool, health club, tennis, a theatre. No commercial use at all.
Sewer diversion project
The Town is aggressively seeking additional funding from the state and the county to further defray the cost of this project. We have also explored state, federal and county grants that may be available to the Town for this project and have filed a number of state grants. We are hopeful that one of those applications will be granted.
Take It or Leave it Shop
We relocated Take it or Leave it Shop to the station parking lot behind the Shell station. The new wood shed is larger and in a much better location than the old one. The drop off area is easier to use, and parking at the train station is plentiful. It also generates lots of cross-traffic on Saturday with the Farmer's Market.
Cooperation with Chappaqua Central School District
We have worked to grow a greater and more positive relationships with the Chappaqua Central School District. We had a joint school and town board meeting. We worked with the school Finance Committee and are working together on initiatives such as mandate relief and putting an end to distracted driving.
We did all this while bringing to a resolution the longest and most controversial land use application in our Town's history – Chappaqua Crossing. After ten (10) public hearings over an eight-month period, in a 4-1 vote, Town Board members approved approve retail zoning at Chappaqua Crossing. A review of my statement on Chappaqua Crossing can be found here.
While we accomplished a lot, I truly believe that much of this could not be accomplished without our dedicated full time employees. Jill Shapiro, the former Town Clerk and Receiver of Taxes, has shone as our Town Administrator, as has Gerry Moerschell, our Deputy Commissioner of Public Works. We started the year with three new board members, including myself, new town attorneys and a new Town Clerk. Jill held many hands and wore many hats, yet still managed to keep town hall running smoothly while Gerry has kept our infrastructure in great shape.
As we look ahead to the New Year, let's look forward not as individuals, but as a community. Together we can make New Castle an even better place to live, work and raise a family. Progress means that with each turn, more needs to be done, and I will continue to work hard for the community. I look forward to another year of progress ahead of us.