The Putnam Examiner

A Look Back At The Year It Was In Putnam County

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A new leadership team was established on the Putnam County Legislature when lawmaker Joe Castellano was selected as the chairman, replacing Ginny Nacerino, who served as head of the lawmaking body for two years. Legislator Toni Addonizio was named vice-chairwoman, taking the spot previously held by Castellano… The Mahopac Board of Education tapped a well-known resident to lead the school system when it unanimously approved Anthony DiCarlo at its January meeting. The mid-year leadership change sent former school chief Dennis Creedon packing, though he was still paid for the rest of the year as a consultant. DiCarlo, who would start his new job the following month, called being the Mahopac superintendent his “ultimate dream.”… In the Carmel school system, the start of the year was just an indication of how much fighting there would be between school Trustee John Curzio and the majority of the board. A removal hearing was held against Curzio to determine if the young trustee violated education law by voicing his opposition to a bond package proposed by the district at the end of 2017 that failed. Opponents of Curzio claimed he used district resources to fight against the bond, while supporters of him argued he had a right to free speech… A Pawling man, Christopher Osborne, pleaded guilty to aggravated vehicular homicide in a car crash that killed Patterson resident, Jean Riccobon.


After only one month on the job, Edward Swarm, who was selected as the road patrol captain under new Sheriff Robert Langley resigned due to personal reasons. He was later replaced by Harry Tompkins… A minor earthquake hit and shocked Putnam in the dead of winter. The 2.2 magnitude quake affected residents in Northern Westchester and parts of the Putnam. Apparently the epicenter was located in Crofts Corner in Putnam Valley. Town Supervisor Sam Oliverio said of the earthquake: “Very frightening. A lot of people a lot younger than I am never experienced that type of thing so they were panicking, ‘What is that? Is it a bomb, is it an explosion?’”… A controversy that caught national attention occurred when the Kent Fire Department faced backlash for raffling off an AR- 15 rifle following the school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida earlier that month. A meeting held led to tensions running high, but eventually a compromise of sorts. The department decided it would not raffle off a rifle, but instead two gift certificates to a local gun shop.


Unspeakable tragedy occurred in the county at the start of the month when an 11-year-old boy, who lived in Putnam Valley, was fatally struck by a tree while in his home during a nasty winter storm. Carmelo Singleton left behind his mother Arin Travis and a younger brother Chase when he died on March 2. Winds that day reached up to 60 miles per hour, leaving wreckage throughout much of the county. Powerful storms would continue to pulverize Putnam during the month with thousands losing power for days and even more than a week. As Carmel Supervisor Kenny Schmitt perfectly described it, “Sheer bedlam and craziness going on.”… The legislature changed the county charter in an 8-1 vote that amended requirements to be the planning commissioner, amid backlash from residents that felt the new guidelines were watering down the qualifications for the position. Now the planning commissioner can have a law degree instead of eight years of experience in planning, which allowed Sandra Fusco to take the job… In light of the gun violence that gripped the nation this year, Putnam students across five school systems participated in a national walkout. The protest called for tougher gun regulations following the massacre at the Stoneman Douglass High School that left 17 dead from a single gunman. The only school system that thought enough of their students to allow the press to cover the walkout was Carmel, which saw more than a hundred young people walk out with signs urging for better gun laws… After Scott Chin resigned from the Kent town board, Christine Woolley was appointed to the position to serve the remainder of this year. Perhaps with a bit of gamesmanship at play, the Kent Republicans on the board hurried the appointment through without telling Democratic Supervisor Maureen Fleming until the measure was brought forward at the last minute by Councilman Paul Denbaum… Health Quest, which operates Putnam Hospital Center, and Western Connecticut Health Network announced the two entities were joining forces to create a new healthcare system at the beginning of 2019.


A controversial safe gun storage law was passed in Philipstown in a 5-0 vote. The all-Democratic board approved the gun control measure that would require gun owners to store their gun in a locked container or with a trigger lock when they are not home or if they are home, but not in view of the gun with children around. The crime would be misdemeanor… The Brewster Board of Education faced heat when it was revealed months after the fact that they voted to give five more vacation days of compensation to administrators, including school chief Valerie Henning. The revelation came as Brewster was facing a tough budget season and the administrators eventually agreed to relent the five paid vacation days. “The lack of transparency is disgusting,” one parent screamed at a meeting.


Plans by the MTA to build a controversial cell tower on Route 164 in Patterson near many homes was back on, the town revealed because another location ended up falling through. Many residents and town officials have had concerns with the proposed location, but have little power to stop it because the monopole would be constructed on MTA property… Eric Schneiderman was forced to step down as New York attorney general after it was revealed he was abusive toward women he was dating. Solicitor General Barbara Underwood was elevated to acting AG, making her the first woman ever in that position… Tornados tore through Putnam, leaving down trees and poles throughout a good portion of the county. Thousands lost power and the damage was enough to warrant a visit from Governor Andrew Cuomo to Putnam Valley… During that tornado, Sheriff Robert Langley was allegedly assaulted by an Oklahoma man in the area for work who drove onto Langley’s property at his home in Garrison and then fled when he appeared to be drinking and driving. Langley chased the man, Brant Carter, in his car and eventually the two became entangled in a scuffle, leading to the assault on Langley. With help from other authorities, Carter was arrested and faced a slew of charges. He would later plead guilty to a misdemeanor and get probation… Voters in the Brewster school system shot down the annual proposed budget, even though the spending plan was under the tax cap. Many residents in the district were upset with the actions of the board and administration, complaining they were not being transparent enough. There were also questions if students that don’t live in Brewster were going to school there anyway, leading to a verification process that lasted throughout the summer into the new school year in September… Two Mahopac men went missing in Idaho during a hunting trip when the vehicle they were in drove off the road into the raging Selway River. The bodies of Raymond Ferrieri, 24, and Jesse Ferrieri, 21, have not been recovered.


The Nelsonville ZBA voted down a proposed 100-foot cell tower by a 3-2 margin that has now led to ongoing litigation. The tower was universally rejected by much of the community because residents believed it would ruin the character of the village and hurt home values. The cell tower would’ve been located off Rockledge Road overlooking the historic Cold Spring Cemetery… Sickening tragedy struck the Carmel Police Department when one of their own, officer Gary Pietropaolo, died in a motorcycle accident. He collided with a US postal vehicle on Route 301 in Kent and was pronounced dead at Putnam Hospital Center. He was 29. “His tenacity for law enforcement was unparalleled and admired by his peers,” part of a statement from Carmel Police read. The road going into the department in Mahopac was renamed after Pietropaolo… It was revealed that County Executive MaryEllen Odell’s campaign was getting discounts compared to other clients at the Putnam County Golf Course, which is county-owned. The Journal News first reported the issue, which made the case Odell was getting special treatment. The Odell campaign defended itself, arguing billing and terms are never negotiated and the campaign pays the bills sent its way… After the Brewster school district’s budget failed in May, the revised budget was passed easily… Brewster school chief Dr. Valerie Henning announced she was leaving at the end of the 2018- 19 school year after a tumultuous year… Carmel school Trustee John Curzio was not removed from the school board even though it was determined that he violated education law by a hearing officer. Curzio claimed victory and vindication. His attorney, Michael Sussman, said, “To claim that John engaged in ‘official misconduct’ because he spoke at a meeting which the Board video-taped for the benefit of the community strikes me as ludicrous.”


Cornell Cooperative Extension of Putnam Executive Director Marjorie Keith announced she was retiring from the non-profit she’d led since 1987 at the end of this year. She spent her entire professional career with Cornell Cooperative… Kent Councilman Paul Denbaum, who was running for county executive against the incumbent MaryEllen Odell, was booted from the ballot, ending any chance of a GOP primary in September. Denbaum — after some of the signatures he collected on his petition to get on the ballot were challenged — did not have enough signatures to stay on the ballot… A public hearing was held for a proposed logistics center in the Town of Southeast, which brought a massive amount of residents out, the vast majority of them against the project because of traffic and environmental concerns. It was also argued the large scale project would change the character of the town. The proposal is still in front of the planning board and no decision has been made.


Following the retirement of former Kent Police Department chief Alex DiVernieri, Kevin Owens was elevated from lieutenant to new chief of the department… A cell tower that would be on town hall property in Putnam Valley was approved through voter referendum. Supervisor Sam Oliverio called the location the best spot for the tower because it wasn’t near as many residential homes.


A Brewster teen tragically died when he drowned in Lake Tonetta right before school was about to begin for the year. Oscar Gonzalez was 14 and about to start his sophomore year. He was on the varsity soccer team. Friends remembered him as someone who was kind to everyone and made sure everyone felt involved. A vigil for Gonzalez brought out more than 200 people of all backgrounds. “It’s a big loss for us and his community of friends because he had a big positive impact on those around him,” his soccer coach Scott Potusek said… Former Westchester County lawmaker Peter Harckham defeated activist Robert Kesten in a Democratic primary for the chance to face Republican NYS Sen. Terrence Murphy for the 40th senate seat… Liz Hudak stepped down from the Southeast town board citing personal reasons. She called being on the town board “one of the finest experiences” in her life… New York Police Department officer James Talbert, who lives in Mahopac, was awarded the NYS Liberty Medal for pulling a 59-year- old woman from her burning car to safety while he was off-duty… Two cell towers were proposed before the Carmel planning board in residential areas in Mahopac, leading to mass outrage among residents.


Leading to more division within the Carmel school community, another attempt to pass a bond, much smaller than the failed one proposed in 2017, fell short by less than 200 votes. The bond would’ve fixed roofs, made all buildings ADA compliant, enhanced the middle school library and moved the bus garage to a new parcel in Kent, the last item the most controversial because it would’ve taken a piece of prime real estate off Kent’s tax rolls… The Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall came to Putnam for the fourth time, with fallen vets being remembered by people across the region… Putnam County Executive Odell proposed her sixth straight budget that was under the state tax cap, which was passed easily by the legislature later in the month… The county Legislature raised the age to purchase tobacco and vaping products to 21-year-olds… An anti-Semitic slur was found inside a house under construction in Nelsonville. Two suspects were eventually caught and accused of the hate crime.


The most eye-catching result from Election Day is when Democrat Peter Harckham beat Republican incumbent Terrence Murphy to take the 40th senate seat. Murphy was in office for four years before getting the boot this year. Democrats now have control of all three branches of state government… Other election results were more predictable, with Republican MaryEllen Odell beating Democrat Maureen Fleming to keep her county executive post. Republican Kevin Byrne and Democrat Sandy Galef won to stay in the state assembly and Sue Serino narrowly won to keep her senate seat. The county Legislature will have a Democrat for the first time in a few years after Philipstown Democrat Nancy Montgomery beat GOP incumbent Barbara Scuccimarra. Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney topped his GOP challenger to stay in office and for the first time will return to Washington DC in the majority as Democrats took control of the House… Voters in Putnam Valley approved a bond for the town to buy the CYO campground… A Putnam Valley student was caught in hot water after he allegedly posted a threatening social media message directed at the school. The 14-year-old was suspended from school, but then showed up to the high school anyway, which caused a stir. His parents contend the school never contacted them properly about not going to class. Eventually a resolution was reached between the student and school where he won’t be expelled… A Lake Carmel man was killed riding his bike when a drunk driver allegedly hit him. George Rosalino was struck and killed in Kent by Silvio Tenesaca, the sheriff’s office said with Tenesca charged with vehicular manslaughter and other related charges.


Putnam Valley school district voters narrowly approved a $14.8 million bond that will lead to upgrades at the middle school and a newly constructed health and wellness center. The bond was approved by less than 150 votes… The Carmel school board decided the third time might be the charm to get voters to approve upgrades for the school facilities. The board voted 7-0 to offer one bond that would fix roofs, make facilities ADA compliant, and improve the middle school library and a 6-1 vote for a bond that would move the bus garage to another location in the Town of Kent. The sole no vote was Trustee John Curzio…The Brewster school community was sent into a panic when a threat was made by a 16-year-old student against the high school. He has since been suspended from school, but each building had to go into a lockout mode with extra security going into the holiday break.

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