A new town council, a solar farm, projects to improve energy efficiency and cut costs, more reliable Internet and new safety measures are all in the cards for Saugerties in 2018, according to local officials.
“I think things are looking pretty good here,” said Village Mayor Bill Murphy. “This village has been moving in the right direction and will keep moving forward.”
Continued from last year, the new town board will continue to pursue a solar project; at their final board meeting of the year, the previous town board passed a motion to allow East Light Partners to install a solar farm on the site of the Saugerties landfill.
“We tried to do a remote project and the town would pay the rates, but we couldn’t be sure that those rates would be better than those available to us now,” said Supervisor Fred Costello Jr. on his second day in office. “I’m versed, but not as well-versed as I need to be. We have some folks in town that are more versed than I am that will continue to help me so we can get the best deal on behalf of the residents.”
According to Costello, the board is also considering installing solar panels to power the Saugerties Water and Sewer Department, which, he said, gets the community’s most expensive electric bill. Plans for another electric vehicle charging station are also underway, and according to Costello, the board plans to budget for an electric vehicle in the near future. “There are substantial incentives, and we might save quite a bit of money so we’re going to look into that as well,” he said.
Costello also said town board members plan to visit a small community in Massachusetts that was able to start their own fiber-optic Internet service in an attempt to do something similar in Saugerties. Another bid to further modernize Saugerties, “knock boxes” for house keys for fire personnel in the event of an emergency are set to be installed at undetermined municipal buildings. Zoning changes are imminent for the King’s Highway corridor.
“We’re going to try to implement some zoning changes to expand the Kings Highway area, incorporating retail,” said Costello. “Not food, but an equipment dealership, or something that would be appropriate for Kings Highway.”
Along with the office hours that Councilman John Schoonmaker campaigned on, Councilman Paul Andreassen and Costello also plan to contribute extra hours to their community this year.
“The supervisor and I plan to hold monthly or bi-monthly department head meetings to see how we can work together, what needs changing, what can we eliminate and how the departments [can] interact and cooperate more effectively and efficiently for the common good,” said Andreassen.
As for the school district, in 2018 it will, according to Superintendent Seth Turner, focus on improving relationships with the board of education, families, students, faculty, and community organizations; develop and enhance technologically advanced schools; maintain facilities which are safe, conducive to learning, and welcoming to the community; providing ongoing, target professional development to enhance effective teaching and administrative practices in order to maximize student potential; and provide flexible, innovative, and meaningful programs that, said Turner, will challenge all students to reach their full potential.
“As the superintendent of schools, I will be working to incorporate recent changes by the Board of Regents to allow additional pathways to graduation for students, and to oversee the implementation of pre-kindergarten programs, which will launch later this month,” said Turner. “The board of education has created a Community Relations and School Climate Committee, and will be reviewing the needs of the facilities of the district through the Visitation Committee.”
The Community Relations and School Climate Committee will be meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 9 at 5 p.m. at Mount Marion Elementary School, Turner said.
The Saugerties Police Department, which is among the one-third of New York police departments accredited by the state Department of Criminal Justice Services, is up for re-accreditation this year, according to Chief Joseph Sinagra. Pedestrian safety will “remain a priority,” he said, and eight body camera replacements have just been received to replace those of the department’s 30 that have broken. The police department’s expenses came in under budget for the sixth year in a row in 2017, said the chief. Sinagra also hopes to “enhance community-oriented policing” in 2018.
This year, the village will begin working with a new electricity provider. Direct Energy, which has powered the town hall and two buildings within the village for the past two years, will provide energy to the entirety of the village.
“They have been supplying part of it and now they’re supplying all of it,” said Village Mayor Bill Murphy.
Next month, according to the mayor, drilling will take place in the Winston Farms area in an attempt to find a secondary water source for the community. If one is found, the water district would expand up Route 32, which would allow more businesses and homes in the area. A pre-filtration plant, which would serve as a second place to store water at the reservoir in the event of a natural disaster, is in the works, said Murphy. Unlike the town, there are no immediate plans for solar power in the village.
“In my eight years, we’ve yet to get a solar company that says ‘hey, we can save you money,’” the mayor said.
With additional reporting by Crispin Kott