While the year 2019 just started, Rosendale Town Supervisor Jeanne Walsh already knows how she’s going to wind it up: seeking reelection. You heard it here first: “I’m going on Year Eight here. I’m proud of the things we’ve gotten done. Our board members are very involved; they work hard,” she says. “Yes, I will run again.”
In the interim, though, Walsh has a lot left on her plate, following a massive multi-pronged, multiyear effort to overhaul the town’s aging infrastructure and to remedy the damage wrought by Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee back in 2011. The up side of being in those storms’ paths was eligibility for considerable help from New York State, through a grant program called New York Rising, created to prepare impacted communities bounce back and reinforce themselves against future such meteorological disasters.
Several of the projects funded in Rosendale with NY Rising money have been wrapped up in the last couple of years, under Walsh’s watchful eye. A very leaky century-old water main on Main Street was replaced, the water treatment plant modernized, the flood-prone Washington Park neighborhood given much better drainage systems. Others are still in process, such as switching out old low-tech water meters for “smart” models throughout the downtown water district. “Finishing what we started” is tops on her agenda for 2019, the supervisor says.
One major project directly related to the two giant storms of 2011 is right in the middle of being completed on the eastern stretch of James Street, where it abuts the Rondout Creek. Hurricane Irene slammed the flooding stream hard against the embankment at that point, undermining it and stressing the water mains and culverts that pass under the street. One segment of water main entirely collapsed last winter, creating an enormous sinkhole. That portion of James Street has been closed ever since. “It all was related to too much water,” according to Walsh.
The water main was finally replaced in December, and what Walsh calls the “meat and potatoes” of the repair work, a new riprap embankment, has also been finished. But wintry weather is preventing the final stages of the James Street project from happening in what remains of 2018. In spring, work will recommence, including not only new pavement for the damaged section of road, but also a brand-new linear creekside park along the one-way block of James Street, just west of where it intersects Route 32. There had never been a sidewalk along that block, the supervisor notes; so, instead of just building one, she asked for funding to create a two-lane promenade that will serve both pedestrians and cyclists. She got her wish. The linear park will have a guardrail protecting walkers from street traffic, and parking spots in between green “bumpouts” featuring benches and shade trees.
Walsh plans to have the new park completed in 2019, and adds that anytime major road work is needed in the town, she asks herself, “Can we add a pedestrian walkway?” While largely finished in 2018, the Finding Rosendale signage project — meant to enhance the town’s walkability factor as well as to help tourists arriving by car to find their way around — will be extended next year to include welcome signs in the gateway communities of Tillson and Bloomington. “I plan to do it one hamlet at a time,” she says. A related project, a new pedestrian bridge behind Stewart’s that would link up with the walkway following the old towpath of the D & H Canal, has not yet been funded, but remains on the supervisor’s “wish list.”
Another project long in the making is the town’s refitting of all its streetlights with energy-efficient LED bulbs. A bid for purchase in bulk from Central Hudson, teaming up with Red Hook and several other Hudson Valley towns, is only waiting on approval from the Public Service Commission at this time.
Several other major infrastructure projects related to storm damage have yet to get underway, and Walsh hopes at least to begin them in 2019. The town’s sewage treatment plant needs to be rebuilt and its building envelope made more efficient. A new permanent generator is scheduled to be installed at the sewer lift station on Lower James Street. And the town’s primary water tower needs to be cleaned and refurbished, inside and out. These are initiatives that will require temporary shutdowns of parts of the water and sewer district supply and outflow systems. “We couldn’t turn the water off until some of the other projects were done,” she explains.
The new town pool, its expanded bathhouse and attendant amenities have finally been completed, but Walsh says that she still has “a few little sprucy things I want to do” around the recreation center on Route 32. “The basketball and tennis courts should be resurfaced this spring.” Mostly, though, it’s the unglamorous municipal services like water and sewer that will continue to occupy most of the supervisor’s attention during the coming year. “I’ve always been about the infrastructure,” she avers. “It’s my job to keep Rosendale residents comfortable and healthy.”