Over the past year, the Putnam County Legislature has had plenty of infighting over various issues and decisions, some sillier than others, but last Tuesday’s argument might have hit a new low.
At a Physical Services Committee meeting, legislators sparred over the start time and location of a special meeting schedule for today (Tuesday) to discuss the Butterfield project with Cold Spring and Philipstown officials as every stakeholder begins to have a say on the long awaited development. The meeting is currently scheduled for 7 p.m. at the VFW in Cold Spring on 35 Kemble Road, according to the meeting agenda, but it took quite some time for that to be agreed on. At today’s meeting, all county, town, and village officials are expected to talk about what county services could be brought to the west side of the county assuming the Butterfield redevelopment goes through.
During the meeting, Chairman Carl Albano announced the meeting would start at 6:30, a compromise with Cold Spring Mayor Ralph Falloon who requested a later start time.
Still, a 6:30 start was too early for most legislators.
Legislator Sam Oliverio said by having a start time too early, it would be “disenfranchising” a group of concerned residents. With many residents commuting to and from New York City daily, Oliverio said it wouldn’t give people enough time to make it to the meeting.
Backing up Oliverio’s plea, Legislator Ginny Nacerino also made an impassioned push for a later time. Six legislators supported changing the time later on, she said.
She also argued the meeting should welcome public comments rather than it becoming a meeting where residents just sit and watch public officials discuss the project. “To squash people and limit them to voicing their concerns in person is a grave injustice and not good government,” Nacerino went on to state.
Albano tried to convey the meeting was simply meant to “break the ice.” He said the legislature and Philipstown and Cold Spring boards would hold multiple public hearings going forward, which would allow for resident input. No decisions would be made and no votes would be taken that night, Albano added, as the process will be a lengthy one.
On top of that, Albano said he heard from others that they wanted the meeting earlier because they didn’t want to go out as late.
When Legislator Lou Tartaro, who also supported pushing the time back to 7 p.m. or 7:30 p.m., asked Albano if it was legislators or average residents that wanted the meeting earlier, Albano responded “both.”
While Albano stood his ground for most of meeting to keep the time at 6:30, he eventually gave in and said he would contact Cold Spring officials to work out a new time.
Originally, the meeting was slated for 6 p.m. at village hall in Cold Spring, but Falloon made a request to have it pushed back and held at a larger venue so more residents could attend. In a memo to Albano and Legislator Barbara Scuccimarra, who represents the west side of the county, Falloon asked for the meeting to be pushed back to 7:30 p.m. and held a larger space.
Falloon noted with all the public interest toward the project, the space at village hall was too small because it can only hold 43 people.
At a Physical Services meeting last month, a presentation about Butterfield was made, which led to a lengthy debate about which county departments should have satellite offices at Butterfield. Philipstown and Cold Spring officials were in attendance and at times went back and forth with the legislature.
“The Butterfield project will be a project,” Scuccimarra said. “It’s whether this county is going to provide much needed services to that side of the county.”