December 17 was the last time that the current New Paltz Town Board met, and outgoing supervisor Susan Zimet used it as an opportunity to reflect upon what the government has achieved during what she called a “very contentious four years.” Among them were some precedent-setting lawsuits and new parkland, the closure of the old Town Hall and saving the town from the “fiscal disarray” left behind by her predecessor, Toni Hokanson.
That money item caused the supervisor to ask for a hefty raise in her second year, which was only partially granted, along with a stipend for the extra hours the supervisor put in. The board then created the position of comptroller, which Jean Gallucci was hired for a few months after she resigned from the Town Board, citing work obligations. With a comptroller doing much of the financial work of the supervisor, a pay cut was put into the budget, to take effect once Zimet leaves office.
Zimet added that the lawsuits to stop the Wilmorite corporation from building a student housing development on land owned by the SUNY New Paltz Foundation — for which significant tax breaks had already been granted by the Ulster County Development Agency — established that it’s appropriate under the State Environmental Quality Review Act for a board to consider the economic impacts of a project.
A dog park for the entire county was created in the town and gets a considerable number of visits regardless of the weather, Zimet said. The adjacent sports fields will soon be getting sewer and water hookups, so patrons will be able to enjoy flush toilets and concessions prepared on site.
Money received under the NY Rising program will both make emergency access to Springtown Road during severe weather possible, and will also bring the village significantly closer to the end of a DEC consent order regarding its sewer system. Some of that money will also be put towards the microgrid being planned to minimize the impact of power outages on local infrastructure.
The supervisor praised councilman Jeff Logan for his work to create water district 5, which will serve as an emergency backup supply for the village, and lauded council members Dan Torres and Marty Irwin for their work on creating a joint municipal center to replace the mold-ridden Town Hall. Closing that building was another accomplishment, Zimet said, and one that should have been done before she even took office. Recovering from one knee operation and anticipating another, she believes that even those problems might have been caused or aggravated by conditions in the old building, which led her to spend an unprecedented amount of time seeking medical attention, she recalled.
Wetlands legislation crafted during her tenure survived the expected litigation, and the town — like many others — passed a fracking ban which may have contributed to Governor Cuomo eventually forbidding the practice throughout the state. A plan to finally create Mill Brook Preserve was put into place, as well.
Town Board member Kevin Barry reached back to just before the turn of the century to compare town tax hikes over time. In the years 2000-2011, he said, the average increase was 5.9%, while in the years since the overall increase has been “well below zero.” He did not mention that the tax cap was passed in 2011, but he did give credit to staying under it to a combination of “creative thinking” and Comptroller Gallucci’s willingness to “ask for a better deal” from various vendors, particularly for health insurance.
“Despite the controversy, ugliness and nasty undertone, when we were left alone we could do the work of the people,” Zimet said.
The board’s reorganizational meeting is set for Monday, January 4, 7:30 p.m., at the New Paltz Community Center.