The Olive town board may meet in one of the more abrasive spaces around, an orange-carpeted former Jehovah’s Witness Kingdom Hall, but its meetings are amongst the most community-minded and unanimous around, despite a partisan split re-elected in last week’s voting.
On Tuesday, November 10, supervisor Sylvia Rozzelle — granted a second term seven days earlier with no challengers — led her board to pass not only its $5.3 million budget for the coming year, but also a rare local law needed to go over the state’s mandated tax cap, which would have kept spending increases at 0.73 percent. Both votes of the Olive board, made up of three Republicans and two Democrats including Rozzelle, passed unanimously.
The amount the tax levy in the town will increase ended up being 4.39 percent altogether, with 3.1 percent of that stemming from a move to start paying the independent Olive First Aid for what had been volunteer services, plus other expenses, to better its ability to answer local ambulance and other medical needs calls.
Rozzelle explained that when it came up for a public airing last month, the EMT’s request for more funding met with no local opposition, and people’s opinion was that the safety concerns were worth the extra expenses. She added that an original budget request for $258,000 was also reduced to $217,165 through a process of attrition, pro-rating monthly expenses as part of a means for also getting Olive First Aid’s fiscal year to align with the town’s.
“There’s be an immediate one percent addition to the budget next year, too,” the supervisor said. “We wanted to spread the burden.”
The further budget hike elements, it was added, involve needed repairs to the town office building in West Shokan, “so I don’t need to bring in all my contract buckets for the leaking roof” as Rozzelle put it; the town pool; and an 18 percent hike in the town’s insurance costs.
Police chief resigns
In other business Tuesday, a letter was read from Thomas Vasta Jr., who had been the Olive Police Department chief for the past five years, tendering his resignation because of “politics” that saw people in the town, as well as on the board, questioning the community’s need for its own police force.
The news came after another letter was read, and discussed, about the need for the department and what Olive pays the county sheriff’s department and state police for their services.
Rozzelle explained that the town covers all expenses for a state police substation in the American Legion Hall in Shokan, and had heard from Sheriff Paul Van Blarcum that his department tends not to cover those towns that have their own law enforcement forces.
“We need to look into it,” she added. “I feel we need a police department, I just don’t know what kind of police department we need.”
Councilman Don VanBuren, also reelected last week, said he wanted to get involved in looking into the situation, and helping find better ways of letting townspeople know what exactly the police do now.
Vasta’s resignation letter, which noted all talk of changes to the current department “misguided” and warned of how bad things “can happen here,” was unanimously accepted by the town board, with an accompanying agreement to send him a letter thanking him for his years of service.
After a letter listing police activity for the month of October was read later in the meeting, totaling up calls including domestic disputes, harassment incidents, disorderly conduct, trespassing, orders of protection, 23 traffic tickets and three arrests, Rozzelle noted that it was still too early to say how the police department would move forward now without a chief.
“We only got this at two this afternoon and it’s now eight,” she said. “It’s a good department and they’ve told us they’ll manage.”
Other items discussed over the course of the evening included continuing concerns regarding trash messes left by more-than-expected visitors to the Peekamoose area’s Blue Hole pull off last summer; the state Department of Transportation’s promise to put in center-line rumble strips along Route 28, which has had a string of fatal and other serious accidents in recent years; and suggestions for ways to pump up some of the town’s “stagnant” adult recreation programs by moving them to the Olive Free Library.
The supervisor also reported on a recent presentation from New York City on its plans to build a new span for Route 28A over the Esopus Creek, to be completed in 2020 at a cost between $41 million and $48 million; on the city’s alert to timber harvesting to stop Emerald Ash Borer infiltration on a 195 acre lot near Traver Hollow; and ongoing flood mitigation plans for Boiceville and other parts of town.
Earlier, during the talk about tourist trash, Rozzelle noted a state suggestion for orange traffic barrels by noting how some had ended up in local creeks, and electronic billboards at either end of the narrow country road.
“That’s just what you love to see in a wilderness area,” she quipped. “Electronic billboards!”
The entire board chuckled along with their supervisor, unanimously.