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<The following letter was sent to the Rye City Council and forwarded to us for publication.>

The current model for the City of Rye Boat Basin is unsustainable and will leave taxpayers on the hook for a multi-million dollar cleanup and remediation bill if nothing changes.

The Boat Basin operates at a loss of approximately $280,000 to $300,000 each year, primarily due to so-called “non-cash” depreciation charges of approximately $400,000. Meanwhile, there are ongoing costs: regular dredging of Milton Harbor channel and repair and rebuilding of Boat Basin buildings, ramps, docks, and equipment that have been neglected for many, many years. We are now at the point where the facility requires significant expenditures to maintain it in a safe and effective manner. The cost of fixing the problem significantly exceeds the approximate $900,000 balance in the Boat Basin’s Enterprise Fund.

<<The facility is in need of major repairs.>> Supervisor George Hogben estimates repair costs for dock piling replacement at $215,000; repair cost for main dock ramp and covered atrium at $68,000; boat launch ramp extension at $120,000; main dock float replacements at $200,000; parking lot repair at $42,000. This list doesn’t include future repairs for the main office or maintenance shed. While some of these expenses can be deferred, many are overdue and safety will increasingly become an issue as the facility deteriorates.

<<We are behind the 8-ball on dredging.>>Milton Harbor requires ongoing maintenance dredging to keep the channel clear of debris that accumulates each year. A recent presentation to the Commission and the City Manager from consulting firm Coastline Consulting & Development estimated that a comprehensive dredging program to remove 94,000 cubic yards would cost several million dollars. A smaller, maintenance level of dredging to remove 25,000 cubic yards would cost closer to one million dollars but would need to be repeated the following season to try and “catch up” on the required dredging. The Army Corps of Engineers permits to dredge were allowed to expire in 2015. The permitting process will take approximately 15 months, meaning the earliest we could dredge is the spring of 2019. In short, we are behind the 8-ball on dredging.

What happens if we don’t dredge the channel? The larger boats that pay higher slip fees are now unable to get in and out of the Boat Basin at or near low tide. This situation will get worse. These boats will go elsewhere and the revenues will decline, causing the operating budget gap to widen.

<<Expenses have increased dramatically.>> In the meantime, the City has increased the primary expense consisting of employee wages and benefits over 30% in the past two years, from $238,000 in 2015 to $316,000 (estimated) in 2017.

<<If nothing is done, taxpayers will be on the hook.>> Realistically, it will cost several million dollars to fix the facility and the docks and dredge the channel. If the larger boats leave and the revenues shrink, the operation will sink under its own weight and the City of Rye taxpayer will be on the hook for a multi-million dollar dismantling and environmental cleanup of the Boat Basin, the docks, and surrounding property.

It’s time for the City of Rye to formulate a long-term plan for the continued operation of the Boat Basin. Do we really want to be the only municipality in the western Long Island Sound that cannot manage a successful marina, public or private?

— The Boat Basin Commission

Sincerely

Commissioners

Rye American Legion Post 128 invites the community to a Veterans Day Ceremony Saturday, November 11 beginning at 10:30 a.m. on the Village Green, or in City Hall, depending on the weather. Michael Fix, a Vietnam War veteran, is the principal speaker.

 

The campaign season is made up of long days and bumpy nights, but once the election returns started pouring in after the polls closed on November 7, it was quickly apparent that the Democrats would have a very good Election Night.

State Senator George Latimer (D), who won reelection to a third term last November, decisively defeated incumbent Rob Astorino (R), who was running for a third term as Westchester County Executive. The unofficial tally was Latimer 121,467, Astorino 93,108.

The Friends of the African-American Cemetery invite the public to participate in a Veterans Day ceremony, Saturday, November 4 at 10 a.m. to remember and honor those buried at the cemetery.

The land for the cemetery, adjacent to Greenwood Union Cemetery, was donated to the Town of Rye in 1860 by Underhill and Elizabeth Halstead with the condition that it “shall forever hereafter kept, held and used for the purpose of a cemetery or burial place for the colored inhabitants of the said Town of Rye, and its vicinity free and clear of any charge therefor…”

This year the Friends will pay homage to the 24 known veterans buried at the site who fought in wars from the Civil War to the Korean War.

The American Red Cross will conduct a Blood Drive in memory of John Duffy at the Rye Golf Club ballroom November 8, 2-7 p.m. Appointments can be scheduled at RedCrossBlood.org by entering sponsor keyword, “John”. The drive is open to the public and walk-ins are welcome.

By Gretchen Althoff Snyder

In the final debate before Election Day, the candidates for City Council went head to head on October 19 at The Osborn.

After each candidate presented a brief opening statement about their qualifications, the moderator asked a series of questions prepared by the Osborn Civics Committee. Only one candidate from each team was permitted to respond to each question.

<What is your position on the proposal that would move DPW to the Thruway property, and what is your cost estimate?>

Ben Stacks, who is running on the Democratic slate, said he is strongly opposed to the proposal: “It’s pure folly to think about spending this kind of money when we have a lot of other issues to address.” Regarding cost, Stacks relies on Stantec Consulting, which estimated the cost at $39.9 million, depending on whether environmental costs and the purchase price are included. Stacks is concerned the current majority is not focusing on the real issues that face the City today.

Councilman Terry McCartney, a Republican, assured residents that the Disbrow/DPW situation is years away from being on the Capital Improvements Plan. As a longtime youth sports coach, McCartney said the fields in Rye are inadequate, and the goal at Disbrow is to improve the field situation. He noted that there were six options presented to the Council regarding Disbrow, and that, “We are not going to spend $50 million to move DPW.”

<What is your position on the Crown Castle proposal to install cell equipment on many poles around Rye?>

Sara Goddard said this very contentious issue really boils down to the fact that, “People want a say in what gets plunked on their front yards or near their property.” The semantics of “front yard” vs. “right of way” isn’t really relevant, said Goddard, when it has the potential to adversely impact a resident’s quality of life from noise pollution or reduced property values. She stressed that people have a right to express their concerns and be included in the process, and that if she were on the Council, “I would have started with representing the City first,” then gone to see what Crown Castle had to say.

Susan Watson agreed this issue is a contentious one. Having worked for MCI, Watson says that while not a legal expert, she knows that Federal Communications law gives certain rights of way to telecommunications companies. Watson says the Council heard residents’ testimony on the matter and ultimately turned down the original proposal. Now that Crown Castle has sued the City, she thinks they will probably have more flexibility to do what they want rather than if the City had “negotiated more gently in the beginning.”

<Is a multi-level parking facility the answer to the parking problem downtown?>

Elizabeth Parks, who is running on the Republican ticket, is not sure a multi-level facility is the right answer, but stressed that the goal is to keep our downtown healthy and vibrant. Parks said she hears again and again that residents want to support our downtown businesses, but often cannot find parking and end up elsewhere for their shopping. “It’s important to keep zoning laws in mind, as a large, ugly structure would be upsetting to everyone and would destroy the town’s character.”

Julie Souza, who is running on the Democratic slate, agreed the parking problem needs to be solved, but suggests we step back and look at the issues of cost, scale, and economics: “We need to make sure there is an aesthetically pleasing option that doesn’t disrupt the charm of the community.” With an eye towards the future, Souza also suggests looking into amenities within a parking facility such as solar panels, electric car charging stations, and bike racks.

<How, as a Councilmember, would you make sure the public is listened to and adequately responded to?>

Stacks replied that this question touches on the central theme of their campaign: whether it’s Starwood, Crown Castle, or rock chipping, “the current Council is tone-deaf to the citizens of Rye.” It took public outcry from thousands of residents for the majority to finally be responsive, he noted. Stacks assured listeners that his team is dedicated to changing this pattern and committed to hearing from Rye residents on all issues.

McCartney explained that the Council has a process. First they try to educate themselves on a particular issue, and then they go to the public for input. Many Council meetings go into the wee hours, said McCartney, because we let people come up and talk about their concerns. He stressed that over 20 hours of meetings have been spent on Crown Castle, and that public hearings have been going on for over ten months. “I’ve often changed my position because of what residents have said, including on this issue.”