By Nathan Mayberg
MONTICELLO February 17, 2006 Tensions amongst the Village of Monticello Board, Mayor James Barnicle and Village Manager Richard Sush appeared to reach a high-point in the nearly two-year tenure of Barnicle on Monday night following a report by Sush on his last five years as manager.
In the report, Sush highlighted his successes over the past five years and noted that he has served longer than any manager since 1985. Between 1986 and 2000, there were 12 managers.
Among the accomplishments that he cited include selling foreclosed properties for $50,000 when they once sold for $100. He cited the millions received from grants programs to rehabilitate housing and beautify the village. The village resurfaced Jefferson Street and has two large-scale road projects pending with the New York State Department of Transportation. And finally, he named about two dozen new businesses and housing projects that have been built or are being proposed.
On a personal note, it has been an amazing five years but also the longest five years of my life, he said. Monticello is a hard place to work. Were divisive and selfish. Were unforgiving and vindictive, personal and political.
The village could accomplish much more if people worked together, he said.
But his report was not well received by some on the board. Trustee Gordon Jenkins said that hes not happy with whats going on in the village. He said he didnt blame Sush, the mayor or the board, but said more aggressive action had to be taken to bring more jobs and industry.
He asked rhetorically, What has really changed?
After fighting hard to get on the board, the trustee lamented that he didnt believe there was much he could tell constituents that he had done while on the board the last year.
Sush responded that the villages work was not done but that it had come a long way in the last five years.
Barnicle said other improvements over just the last two years include the improvement of accounting procedures, intercommunication and accountability amongst department heads and employees, improved bookkeeping and grantwriting. The mayor also credited the town for its hard work in conjunction with the town through the treasurers office and grantwriting.
Some of it is not seen everyday, said Barnicle. We didnt get into near bankruptcy overnight. But it is turning, or else we wouldnt be here.
Village Trustee Scott Schoonmaker labeled the report a joke. He said the improvements in the village were due to the efforts of many people and not just one individual. He said that the salary Sush and department heads receive should be enough for the village to run itself.
Sush went on to detail some of the specific bad experiences he has dealt with since he became manager. He said citizens have spit on him, yelled at him and cursed him. His wife has been accosted in the street.
And Theres More
As if the words had not become heated enough, a resolution to solicit bids for the privatization of the sewer department was the catalyst for an argument which would bring out angry comments from several members of the board.
The move to go out for bids on privatizing the sewer department was prompted by complaints from the management of Sleepy Hollow Apartments, who said they received a cheaper offer from Waste Management to handle their trash. The housing development on Terry Lane, off of Forestburgh Road, has 37 Dumpsters.
The village went out to bid on privatizing the sanitation department last year but did not receive any offers. According to a report by Sush, the village still has the lowest rate in the county for garbage pick-up.
The cheap rate prompted Schoonmaker to question why the village was caving into a demand by Sleepy Hollow when the village has the best rate. He said that Sleepy Hollow should be required to increase their recycling. He called for recycling to be enforced village-wide, as it is mandated by village code.
Barnicle said that recycling has increased substantially.
But Jenkins said that recycling was still being conducted at a low rate. The fact that Sleepy Hollow claims it cant afford the contract is its problem, said Jenkins. If they recycled more, their bill would be less.
Apparently, the development has little to no recycle bins. New York State Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther has reportedly agreed to provide them with recycle bins.
Barnicle added that Bill Cutler, the head of the countys recycling department, has agreed to meet with Sleepy Hollow to institute recycling there. Schoonmaker shot back that this was not a county problem.
Trustee Brian Vandermark said that the village might consider following the Village of Liberty in requiring residents to dump their garbage in plastic bags, in order to promote a higher recycling rate.
Trustee Victor Marinello gave his opinion of the issue by raising his voice and stating that its just a bid nothing more! He and Vandermark both agreed that the village could reject the bids if they didnt approve.
Schoonmaker said that the village could lose revenue once it got out of the sanitation business. Once the contract ends, the village would also be vulnerable to accepting the best new bid offered, even if it is substantially higher. It would be unlikely for the village to resume its sanitation work once it privatizes, because the trucks will be sold off.
The board voted 3-2, with Jenkins and Schoonmaker opposed to soliciting bids on a sanitation contract.
In Other Business
A $10,000 limit was placed on building permit fees for new senior citizen housing. Sush said that developers couldnt afford higher fees for such construction. Schoonmaker was the only trustee to vote against the resolution.
Following the meeting, the new management of Fairgrounds, a housing complex near Moon Manor Apartments, met briefly with village officials. President Chris McLeod and Treasurer Ralph Thomas explained that the previous board had been voted out by the homeowners. They alleged that the former board had mismanaged funds, and they are considering legal action against them.
They complained about potholes in their road due to the construction of single-family homes near their development. In addition, Harmony Lane, the road on which Fairgrounds is located, is not lit at all, they said.