The Putnam Examiner

A Look Back At The Year It Was In Putnam County

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The Crossroads 312 project brought hundreds of Southeast residents out.
The Crossroads 312 project brought hundreds of Southeast residents out.

The New Year started with a high-profile termination when former Bureau of Emergency Services commissioner Adam Stiebeling was released of his duties by County Executive MaryEllen Odell. The dismissal of Stiebeling, who followed in the footsteps of former commissioner and now the late Bob McMahon, set off a firestorm in the emergency services community concerned about the next steps for the bureau. Stiebeling would eventually sue the county for his job back, but lost on a technicality…For the second straight year, Legislator Carl Albano got the nod as chairman of the county Legislature and Legislator Ginny Nacerino earned the vice-chairmanship for two years in row…Always lauded as a top tier asset to the county, former Putnam Economic Development Corporation president Meghan Taylor departed from her position to take a job with the New York State’s Empire State Development. It took almost all year to fill her old position…Once again, allegations of racism by the Mahopac basketball program surfaced from a Jan.7 game between Mahopac and Carmel. It was alleged that “racially charged language” was directed at a Carmel player by a Mahopac player. Former Mahopac school chief Brian Monahan ended up suspending the player the rest of the season, though the punishment was said to be because of sharp elbow the Mahopac player threw during that same game. An appeal filed by the player was denied by the Mahopac school board and the player’s career came to an end…At the state level, former NYS Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was arrested and charged with corruption. He later would be found guilty.

February: Although it didn’t occur in Putnam and no county residents were killed, six lives were lost in the deadliest train crash in the MTA’s history. The train line does reach up to Patterson and Southeast, but on this day it never let all its passengers off. The crash occurred when a vehicle entered a railroad crossing, but wasn’t able to get off the tracks before the train barreled in, causing wreckage that caught nationwide attention and grief. Seven lives, including the driver’s life, was lost. The crash site was located in Chappaqua, which NYS Senator Terrence Murphy represents. He called for all levels of government to look into ways to ensure this type of tragedy never happens again… Carmel school chief Dr. James Ryan announce his retirement at the Feb. 3 board meeting… In probably the most heated vote by a local municipality this year, the Southeast town board voted 3-1 to approve a zoning change for the proposed Crossroads 312 project. Councilwoman Lynne Eckardt was absent, but would have voted against it along with Supervisor Tony Hay. The project would bring a hotel and large retail along Route 312. Many residents fought the project because of traffic, safety, and infrastructure concerns and hurting the rural character of the town. Proponents of the project claim it will bring the first hotel to Putnam and secure jobs and sales tax revenue in the county.

March: It’s been talked about for years, but Carmel town board members finally and formally requested the county conduct a feasibility study into merging all law enforcement agencies into one police force, including the Putnam sheriff’s department. That letter would make waves across the county and lead to apparent tension between Carmel and the county executive administration in the months ahead… After Adam Stiebeling was booted from his EMS commissioner job, Odell named a successor: Tony Sutton, who previously worked for New York State and Westchester. She made the announcement during her State of the County address. The move was pending legislative approval, which took longer than anyone would have liked because of the ongoing litigation with Stiebeling…The controversial Algonquin Pipeline by Spectra Energy was approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Critics today are still fighting the pipeline, which will run thought parts of Putnam… In the Cold Spring village election, former Philipstown town board member Dave Merandy earned the mayor’s seat by a wide margin over Barney Molloy while Marie Early and Fran Murphy were elected trustees…Over in Nelsonville, the little village elected what appears to be its first ever woman to serve as trustee. Danielle Pack-McCarthy earned the seat in a re-vote on March 31 after the first vote resulted in a tie. She called it “empowering” for a woman to finally earn office in a village of roughly 600 residents.

April: It seemed to take forever, but the Mahopac school system finally found their next superintendent of schools when it named Dr. Dennis Creedon to take over. Creedon, who is in the middle of his first school year, came from the Philadelphia school system. For Mahopac, it took almost two years to hire a new permanent school chief… In Carmel, the town had the honor of being named the first Purple Heart Town in Putnam. Other towns soon followed Carmel’s lead…Putnam school parents in droves opted their children (grades 3-8) out of much maligned state exams connected to the Common Core…In a clash that included wild claims of misconduct, the now former county health commissioner, Dr. Allen Beals accused Putnam Valley Supervisor Bob Tendy of raising the assessment on his Putnam Valley property by $500,000 because Beals closed down Spur Beach in town. What ensued was a war of words between the two where Tendy questioned if Beals was holding events on his farm that were not permitted by the zoning. Eventually, Beals got his assessment cut down, but solid proof of his strong accusations were never founded.

May: In one of the most incredible stories of the year, a Mahopac woman who lived on Ann Drive shot and killed an intruder who used to be an ex-boyfriend after he entered her house. The woman, never identified, struggled to get the gun away from Philip Miraglia of Mahopac and shot him in what Carmel Police asserted was self-defense…With the old Carmel school chief stepping aside, the Carmel Board of Education named Andy Irvin the new superintendent of schools. Irvin has been with the district for years as an administrator…In another example of New York State swimming in corrupt politicos, former NYS senate majority leader Dean Skelos was arrested and brought up on corruption charges. He would later be found guilty…EMS Commissioner Tony Sutton was finally named to his current position by the county Legislature…With little stress, each and every school district in Putnam got their budget approved by voters…Officially announcing his long shot bid for presidency, Putnam’s own George Pataki entered the 2016 race for the White House. Pataki lives in Garrison and was a three-term Republican governor of New York. His wife, Libby, is the tourism director for the county, but has been on leave ever since her husband announced. As of this week, Pataki was apparently still running, though his poll numbers are almost as dreadful as the average person reading this newspaper.

June:  One of the most inspiring and heroic actions in Putnam came from man’s best friend when Brewster based guide dog Figo saved his owner, Brewster resident Audrey Stone, from further injury when a vehicle hit her. The news spread across the nation and even caught international attention. According to reports, Figo leaped in front of the vehicle and absorbed some of the hit leading to a fractured leg and lacerations. Stone, who is legally blind, suffered a broken ankle, elbow, and ribs and head wound, but it could have been a lot of worse if not for Figo. The dog and owner were happily reunited later this year.

July: The proposed redevelopment at Butterfield in Cold Spring has been a lightning rod for controversy for years, but a slew of elected officials in early July celebrated the groundbreaking and naming of buildings, parks and roads, including a senior center that seniors in the area have long fought for. After the groundbreaking, developer Paul Guillaro even admitted he didn’t think it would ever reach this point of rejoicing. Though the original senior center was supposed to be located in the new building, it appears now it’ll be situated at the adjacent Lahey Pavilion. A lease between the county and Guillaro was agreed on in November.

August:  Outside of a red-hot summer between district attorney candidates Adam Levy, the incumbent, and Bob Tendy, the challenger, the summer was a rather sleepy one in Putnam until August. The indictment of former sheriff investigator Pat Castaldo was tossed after he was accused of putting a shackled prisoner in a chokehold and beating him. Castaldo was among the highest ranking sheriff officials in the department until he resigned after revelations came about that he allegedly mistreated that prisoner who went for former sheriff official Gerald Schramek’s gun in Carmel town hall… Mahopac mourned the loss of 17-year-old Hannah Mikus who died suddenly from an unexplained illness. Mahopac student and friend of Hannah Stefani Ferrari said, “Without Hannah the days won’t seem as bright and the nights will seem even darker.”…Another tragedy that struck the Hamlet of Mahopac came when Sean Callahan, a well-known and courageous young man, succumbed to cancer. Callahan, who was only 12, raised more than $100,000 for Relay For Life earlier that year, a worldwide mark that impressed, but didn’t surprise anyone that knew him. His father, Dan, described him as someone who was all about hope…A new hockey team, the Brewster Bulldogs, came to Putnam County. Currently, they’re in the middle of their inaugural season at the Brewster Ice Arena.

September:  A Republican primary showdown that resulted in one of the biggest upsets in Putnam history came to a dramatic climax when Putnam Valley Supervisor and challenger Bob Tendy beat incumbent Adam Levy in the race for district attorney. Even though he was in office for eight year and had unlimited money to spend, Levy couldn’t overcome allegations of misconduct and scandal as he fell to Tendy badly. Levy’s terrible relationship with Sheriff Don Smith also didn’t seem to help. Tendy, who knocked on thousands of doors, would go on to defeat Levy in the general election… The Vietnam Traveling Wall arrived in Putnam for the third time at the end of the month, bringing thousands of veterans and family members to Veterans Memorial Park in Kent. The traveling wall is 80 percent of the actual Vietnam Memorial Wall located in Washington DC.

October:  A story that will surely continue into the New Year is the ongoing probe into the missing millions of the Mahopac Volunteer Fire Department, in which revelations of the alleged embezzlement came to light during the early part of the month. As much as $5.4 million is said to be missing from the department’s funds, leading to fury from residents directed at those in the Mahopac department. One name that keeps coming up is former treasurer Michael Klein who has since resigned. Klein was the treasurer for more than ten years and owns Buckshollow Emergency Equipment. A ramification of the investigation is the Carmel town board cut the department’s budget request by more than 30 percent for 2016…A positive note from a fire department came when the Brewster Volunteer Fire Department welcomed a piece of steel—the last piece being given out—from ground zero of the World Trade Center. Honored during a ceremony to usher in the steel was former Brewster resident and firefighter Glenn Bisogno, who went down to the city after the attacks to help in the aftermath of the wreckage. He died last summer due to illness connected to the conditions down there…At the end of the month, a split county Legislature adopted the 2016 county budget proposed by County Executive MaryEllen Odell. The proposal that led to the division and outcry was forcing county retirees to pay more for their health insurance. As a retiree’s pension went higher, the more money they had to pay into their health provided by the county under the new proposal. Despite intense protests by the CSEA union and hundreds coming out to complain, it didn’t change the minds of five legislators that voted the budget through.

November:  Another election in Putnam saw more dominance from Republican candidates. All three Republican legislators that ran again won easily, and outside of liberal hotbed Philipstown, only three candidates running on the Democratic line earned seats at the town level. Notably, former legislator Sam Oliverio was easily elected Putnam Valley supervisor. Bob Tendy completed his quest to become district attorney by beating Adam Levy again. As Tendy said, “the little person with no money can do a lot if he really want to and tries very hard.” A lesson to residents that their vote counts is no more indicative than the Patterson supervisor race where Republican Rich Williams won by only 17 votes to top Democrat Andy Falk…A former Carmel police officer, Richard O’Keefe, was charged with aggravated vehicular manslaughter after he allegedly drove drunk and hit a car on Route 6, killing a woman in the other vehicle. New York State Police quickly charged O’Keefe in the death of Anna Estrada of Mahopac…The police merger study that Carmel officials requested finally got underway with graduate student and Erie County Sheriff officer Dan Ditchkowskyj leading the study. The study will be ready by mid-February though Carmel officials aren’t happy a graduate student is doing the study.

December: NYS Senator Sue Serino perhaps got the worst press of the year when she demanded a constituent from Poughkeepsie not videotape an informal forum held at Putnam Valley town hall. The constituent who said his name was Mert Melfa refused at first, but he eventually agreed and left after he was threaten with arrest by a Putnam County Sheriff deputy. A day later, Sheriff Don Smith said the man should’ve been allowed to videotape, though Serino stuck by her request… The year in county government ended the way it started with another department head getting the pink slip. Dr. Allen Beals has been put on administrative leave by the county executive’s office, which led to accusations being tossed around on both sides.

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