Village of Monticello still roiling
By Dan Hust
MONTICELLO Tension remains inside and out of Monticello Village Board meetings.
Though Mayor Gordon Jenkins apologized for a hastily arranged (and just as hastily terminated) September 24 board meeting to discuss an employment contract with Village Manager John Barbarite, those critical of village policies and personnel in last week’s public comment session were cut off by him before completing questions or complaints.
Betty Friedland, almost always ready to critique village government at board meetings, was unable to continue questioning the board and Barbarite about recycling in the village.
Tom Rue, who had prepared a two-page statement, got through about half of it before Jenkins stopped him. Rue had already accused Barbarite of being “nasty, arbitrary, autocratic,” litigious and secretive, arguing against giving Barbarite a contract versus serving at the board’s pleasure.
Though Village Attorney Jacob Billig said Rue could submit his statement for inclusion in the official record, Jenkins kept both Friedland and Rue to a strict time limit and would not permit Monticello landlord Ray Lustig to continue reading Rue’s prepared statement (both Lustig and at least one other audience member were unable to make their own comments, as well).
When contacted last week, Jenkins said he did not see any other attendees seeking to comment at the end of the comment session, save for Lustig. And as for Lustig, who has sparred with the village over his apartment house (which is now partially reopen), Jenkins said, “He’s there to attack.
“He was just going to feed off of Tom Rue,” the mayor explained, arguing that Lustig’s reading of Rue’s letter would not be allowable under current rules.
Jenkins feels Friedland, Rue, Lustig and others are playing “an attack game” one he does not have to tolerate.
“If it’s a negative, I’m not going to sit there and get negatively hammered,” he remarked, saying it’s “not fair” to him or other village officials “to be slammed like that.”
Not all were critical of village leaders at the meeting, however. In response to Rue and another audience member’s castigation of Barbarite, Roz Sharoff offered words of support, saying Barbarite is “very well-liked” for cleaning up the village.
The tense comment period was reflective of a general argument circulating throughout the village, with some praising and others criticizing the village administration for its tough stance on code violations, its rejection of aesthetic lighting along Broadway, and its handling of public information and comment.
The tension is also reflected in a lawsuit filed against the village by landlords Josef Kowalczyk and Alil Pericic, claiming Jenkins, Barbarite and Building Inspector Sue Flora conspired to deprive them of their rights pertaining to developing housing properties both own.
Attorney Michael Longo of the Elmsford firm of Miranda Sokoloff Sambursky Slone Verveniotis filed a response to those charges in U.S. District Court last week, denying all of them.
The response was made on behalf of Barbarite, Jenkins and the Village of Monticello. Longo argued that the officials acted responsibly and within the authority given them by law, claiming that any damages to Kowalczyk and Pericic were caused by the landlords themselves.
A separate response was rumored to have been filed on Flora’s behalf, but that could not be confirmed at press time.
In other business
• Discussions on the village’s ethics code (which Trustees Carmen Rue and Victor Marinello weren’t sure needed revising) and board meeting rules and procedures were tabled to the next board meeting on Monday, October 20 at 7 p.m. in the Village Hall, per Trustee TC Hutchins’ suggestion.
• The village’s Website has been redone and is in service. It can be found at www.villageofmonticello .com.
• Trustee Hutchins and Barbarite will be riding garbage collection routes as part of a study of the sanitation department and recycling.
• A “floating” zoning district for destination retail and entertainment is under study by the planning board.
“The village wants to be proactive and be ready when an opportunity actually presents itself,” Barbarite explained, noting a developer is interested in situating such a facility near either the Monticello Raceway or the old Apollo Mall.
Though Barbarite couldn’t reveal specifics about the developer, he did say the floating district would allow a hotel, theater, motocross track or even a stadium to be built in an area otherwise not zoned for such.
The reason for the district, he explained, would be to allow uses that would normally require a more expensive and time-consuming variance but still require developers to get planning board approval before constructing facilities.
The idea is in front of the planning board now and will return to the village board, which must hold a public hearing before voting on the district’s creation.