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Dan Hust | Democrat

Pete Tweed makes a point at Tuesday’s Monticello Village Board mtg.

Monticello recreation programs restored, but other issues loom

By Dan Hust
MONTICELLO — July 23, 2010 — In a wide-ranging, often contentious meeting Tuesday, Monticello Village Board members unanimously approved measures that would restore the suspended recreational programs and put forth a village budget for 2010-2011.
Youth programs back
Much of the crowd packed into the village hall that evening were there to support the recreational programs that had been halted – like Pete Tweed’s gymnastics class and IBAM (the International Boxing Association of Monticello) – while village leaders looked into insurance concerns.
The prior weekend had been filled with accusations and counteraccusations over the motivations of village leadership, and that tension remained even after the board voted 5-0 to obtain the insurance Village Manager John Barbarite said was necessary for the programs’ restoration.
“All participants in sports programs, boxing and gymnastics were not covered for medical expenses unless there was negligence on the village’s behalf,” Barbarite told the board. “Participants were not covered for tripping/falling, etc. during athletic participation or for getting hurt while taking part in the sporting activity, regardless of negligence.
“Because of the serious financial risk this could pose for families of participants and the village, [Deputy Village Manager] John LiGreci and I suspended these programs and immediately sought to get insurance coverage.”
Despite contentions from the audience and Trustee Carmen Rue that adequate coverages had long been in place, Barbarite said this week that the needed coverage was obtained Wednesday morning, thus restoring the rec. programs. The extra cost to the village is about $3,800 a year, he said.
Rue tried to express her concerns at Tuesday’s meeting but was continually interrupted by Mayor Gordon Jenkins, who said he would not tolerate comments that whipped the public into a frenzy – the kind of comments he accused Rue, her husband Tom and businessman Sean Rieber of spreading in online forums.
“You’re not going to make a circus out of this board meeting,” Jenkins told Rue.
Yet when Deputy Mayor TC Hutchins questioned Tweed on comments Tweed made on Facebook, Jenkins let it proceed.
Hutchins was not pleased with what he termed “alarming” comments Tweed made about the village, though Tweed replied that he briefly “lost my mind” in his anger and passion about programs he’s nurtured for three decades.
Finally, Jenkins stepped in, telling Hutchins “this is not the place to go back and forth with Pete.”
Indeed, the audience seemed mostly in support of Tweed and his service – and Barbarite and LiGreci even talked about helping Tweed cut down on the enormous amount of hours he dedicates to the programs.
“I do respect you, and you’re doing a good job,” Jenkins acknowledged to Tweed.
However, Jenkins and Barbarite also felt that the Town of Thompson should be contributing to the village’s costs of running the programs, as the bulk of participants hail from outside the village (and some from towns other than Thompson).
In the meantime, Jenkins said he’s looking at replacing IBAM with a PAL (Police Athletic League) program.
“The program will not stop – it will not die,” he promised. “... We’re not taking away anything.”
$12M budget approved
The village’s 2010-2011 budget garnered unanimous approval at Tuesday’s meeting after a public hearing that drew little comment.
The $12,016,024 budget comes with a 2.92 percent tax increase and a 50 percent cut in police overtime, though Barbarite said increased 12-hour shifts will ensure no reduction in police services.
“No programs have been cut,” he added, though three vacant positions – including his own secretary – have been eliminated.
Sewer project funding
While funding for a water system upgrade disappeared months ago, the village had been anticipating working out a $15 million deal with the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) to rehab its sewer plant and system.
“The village received word last week that the USDA has over-committed itself on grants and is requesting the village to modify our request,” Barbarite told the board. “They are suggesting the project be resubmitted in two phases. They suggested one phase for this year and the other phase for 2011.”
He doubted that the USDA would have the funding even for two phases, as the stimulus funds stream has dried up.
So the village is asking Congressman Maurice Hinchey for help, and one way or another, Barbarite said work will commence on the sewer plant.
Rewriting taxi law
Though trustees Carmen Rue and Victor Marinello were against it, the rest of the board agreed to introduce a law eliminating the cap of 21 medallions (licenses) for taxis, each of which allows one cab to ply the village’s streets.
In essence, such a rewritten law would allow any number of taxis to do business in the village, which has been a source of debate for years.
The new law would also provide for a flexible renewal rate on licenses, rather than the currently fixed $250, said Barbarite.
A public hearing on the draft law will be held on Tuesday, August 31 at 7 p.m. at the village hall, after which the board will likely take a vote.
Ting project hurdles
Despite a press release from the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) claiming the village’s Restore NY grant project – Tommy Ting’s entertainment complex on Broadway – had been approved, that technically was just the $1.7 million in funding.
The actual project must still undergo a public hearing – set for August 10 at 10 a.m. at the village hall – followed by a vote by the ESDC board.
If approved, the project then has to go in front of the state’s Public Authorities Control Board for approval. If that is successful, then a disbursement agreement will be written up and work can commence.
In the meantime, village officials and Ting have been haggling over a six-inch sprinkler line required for the project. The board informally voted Tuesday to have Ting’s engineer, Wes Illing, provide a set of plans to Barbarite for the village’s engineer, Glenn Smith, to review, rather than Illing’s desire to draw up the plans after meeting with Barbarite and Smith, among others.
New historian sought
After the meeting, Barbarite confirmed the village is seeking a new historian.
He fired Historian Tom Rue this week, citing criticisms of village governance that Rue had posted on the web.
“Village officials have no right to go on Facebook and attack village leaders,” Barbarite claimed, adding he got “tired of the garbage.”
A contentious series of e-mails have since been exchanged between Rue and Barbarite, who is demanding Rue hand over by today all “papers, records, and other materials” he’s collected as historian in the past 15 months.
Rue has accused Barbarite of false, derogatory and slanderous comments against him but has not disputed Barbarite’s authority to replace him in what is an unpaid volunteer position.
“If you are unable to explain what it is that you are asking for, I am willing to make an exhaustive search of my extensive files, billing you personally (not the Village of Monticello) at a rate of $150 per hour and bill for any photocopies that may be necessary at a rate of 25 cents per page – payable in advance of surrendering anything that my search may produce,” Rue wrote this week to Barbarite.
“On the other hand, if you are willing to work with me reasonably, and explain what you think I have that you would like, there will be no charge for my service post-removal as Village Historian.”

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