November 2017 may be eleven months away, but Jeanne Walsh has already decided to run for a fourth term as supervisor for the Town of Rosendale. The more she gets done, it seems, the more she loads up her plate. “It’s tough to be a public official who hasn’t put enough time in,” she muses. “People get disappointed when something doesn’t get completed.”
Looking back over the past year, Walsh can recite an impressive checklist of accomplishments completed or still in progress, supporting the notion that mandatory term limits everywhere might not be such a great idea. Most of the municipal activity in Rosendale in 2016 involved infrastructure updates, with funding in many cases made possible by the town’s qualifying for status as a “New York Rising” community in the wake of Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee. Luckily, the town supervisor is something of a hurricane herself.
To make these big projects happen, Walsh quickly mastered the game of securing grants from state agencies and legislators — as well as zero-interest loans, in cases where grant funding doesn’t cover the entire tab. She has also become adept at mobilizing volunteer fundraising activity, giving plenty of credit to residents who organize fun community events for the benefit of projects like replacement of the Rosendale Pool at the Rec Center on Route 32 which is beautifully maintained by the Atlanta pool management company. “I’m very lucky to be the supervisor of a town that does that: a community where everybody pitches in to improve the quality of life,” Walsh says.
Replacement of the pool, which had been shut down since 2012, is tops on her list of milestones for 2015. “For 2016, obviously the big one was that the pool was built and completed,” she says. “It was a day short of a year from the day we put the first shovel in the ground to the day we opened the pool,” on July 7. The supervisor characterizes the new facility’s first season as successful, though “a little short,” generating over $62,000 in user fees and bringing back all the old programming: day camp, a swim team, swimming lessons and regular visits from schools and group homes.
Assembling the funding for the pool replacement project was a multi-year effort, including securing $550,000 in grants from the New York State Department of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, $250,000 in Economic Development Council funding, $200,000 from the sale of the old Town Hall and about $100,000 in private donations from a variety of fundraising events.
Other major infrastructure projects in Rosendale that moved forward significantly in 2016 — thanks mostly to New York Rising money from the Environmental Facilities Corporation — include replacement of badly deteriorated century-old water mains in the Main Street business district and overhaul of the water treatment plant. Downtown residences and businesses all have their new water lines in place, and the road surface has been temporarily patched while allowing time for the gravel fill to settle. “They have to come back in the spring to do the full repaving of Main Street, and redo the sidewalks where necessary for ADA compliance,” Walsh says. “The water treatment plant was expanded to accommodate an additional filtration unit, which has been installed, and all the others are being replaced.” Here again, she expects the work to be completed this coming spring: “It takes a little while to do all the testing,” she notes.
Walsh also takes tremendous pride in the fact that the Towns of Rosendale and Marbletown recently received an Extraordinary Municipal Partnership Award from the Department of State (DOS) for “thinking outside the box” to establish New York’s first-ever Town Hall serving more than one township. It took three years and some special legislative measures to waive the usual requirement that a Town Hall be situated within its own municipal borders, but state officials are very keen on encouraging shared services these days. The former Rosendale Elementary School on Lucas Avenue in Cottekill is now fully rented as the Rondout Municipal Center (RMC), with ARC of Ulster/Greene, the Rondout Valley Growers’ Association and the Food Insecurity Corporation all moved in as additional tenants and collaborating to use the former school cafeteria as a facility for processing food for local food banks and soup kitchens.
The RMC’s renovation is nearly complete now, with a DOS Shared Services grant recently funding electrical upgrades and energy-saving measures, including split heating/air conditioning units for the main offices, a generator and power use monitoring software. Another grant secured by state senator John Bonacic funded the installation of security cameras for the building’s police and court facilities. Meanwhile, downtown, work is currently underway on an electrical vehicle charging station in the municipal parking lot adjacent to Willow Kiln Park. That project is also expected to be completed early in 2017.
Besides completion of these ongoing projects, several new ones, or new phases of long-term infrastructure improvements, are on the docket for the New Year. Several of these are also New York Rising projects, such as replacement of outmoded clarifiers and other inefficient equipment in the sewage treatment plant, for which the funding application is due in March, and stormwater mitigation measures in the Washington Park neighborhood, where heavy runoff from Joppenbergh Mountain causes frequent flooding of streets and yards. “It’s important, and it’s been put off for a long time,” Walsh says of the latter project. New storm drains and culverts will help divert the runoff into the existing flood control area, and two new pedestrian bridges will be built.
A bid was recently accepted for the final phase of the Rosendale Pool replacement: reconstruction of the bathhouse, expected to be completed in time for swimming season. And more work will go forward this coming year on improvements to James Street, where a section of roadway was washed out during the two back-to-back storm events of August 2011. The town has reopened discussions with the US Army Corps of Engineers to remove the shoaling in the bed of the Rondout Creek caused by storm debris, and additional work will be done to stabilize the streambank, divert stormwater and create a pedestrian- and bike-friendly promenade and park between James Street and the creek. “I’m glad we’re going to see a shovel get in the ground this year,” Walsh says.
While “Infrastructure has to come first,” the incumbent supervisor is looking forward to some more “feel-good projects” like park improvements moving ahead in the foreseeable future. Tweaking Rosendale’s zoning laws to make it easier to take action on “zombie properties” that are “abandoned, neglected or in extreme disrepair” to the point of “becoming a health hazard for the neighborhood” is also on her near-term To-Do List. As far as ever-busy Jeanne Walsh is concerned, retiring when her term runs out at the end of 2017 isn’t an option; there’s just too much good stuff left to be done.