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Mayor Releases Memo to Common Council Regarding Combined Sewer Overflow

The City of Poughkeepsie

New York

MEMO

To:  Common Council Chairwoman Finney
From:  Mayor Rolison
Date:  July 19, 2018
Re:  Combined Sewer Overflow (“CSO”)
CC:  Common Council; City Administrator; City Engineer

Recently the media has been reporting on incidents of CSO discharge into the Hudson River. I wanted to provide you with some facts and historical background in case you get questions from your constituents. The discharge as reported by the media is nothing new. It is a common occurrence and fully permitted by any and all regulatory agencies including the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. What has changed is the alerting process now required by DEC. Under the Sewage Pollution Right to Know, the City is required to report to the NY Alert System each time a discharge occurs within the city’s system. This reporting is part of an updated program that the NYDEC recently rolled out to the public.

The City of Poughkeepsie, like many older cities has a partially combined sewer collection system which means that in parts of the city, storm water runoff, domestic sewage and industrial wastewater are collected in the same pipe and transmitted to the wastewater treatment plant. There is also a Combined Sewer Overflow (“CSO”) outfall which permits a controlled discharge of excess capacity. These CSO outfalls are completely permissible and permitted by New York State DEC. In fact, there are over 800 CSO outfalls in New York State. The need for the outfalls generally occurs during weather events when the combined sewer system becomes inundated with storm water runoff and the city’s Water Pollution Control Plant cannot handle the excess capacity. The excess capacity will flow through the outfall and be discharged into the Hudson River. The discharge is diluted to safe levels upon entering the Hudson River. This process has occurred since the creation of the combined sewer system except for the fact that the discharge is now controlled and permitted by DEC.

In 2008, the City developed a long term plan to separate the combined sewer system in those areas of the city where they still exist. This plan was approved by New York State DEC and calls for a phased approach to control CSO. The plan identifies specific improvements to be made to the system through the year 2028. Over the years, the city has expended millions of dollars to address the combined sewer and is currently developing design plans for construction of approximately $10 million in improvements. Once completed these improvements will reduce the overflow events, but will not completely eliminate them. Current estimates of a complete separation of the combined sewer system are approximately $50 million. This year, the city has allocated approximately $2.7 million toward combined sewer improvements.

It is important to note that these events have no impact on the quality of the drinking water produced by the Joint Water Plant. These events are not new and the water plant effectively treats river water through a complex filtration process eliminating any health hazards associated with drinking river water. I have spoken with Water Plant Administrator Randy Alstadt and he has indicated the same.

In closing, I ask that you share this important information with your constituents. It is important that we alleviate any concerns that are caused by the new alerting system and also that we promote the positive message that the City is actively working to resolve a 100 year old infrastructure issue with a $50 million price tag.

Memo: Combined Sewer Overflow (“CSO”) – July 19, 2018 (.pdf)

City Approves Police Retention Package

City Approves Police Retention Package

The City’s Common Council, at a Special Meeting held on Tuesday evening, has approved an officer retention package, which was negotiated with the Police Benevolent Association (PBA), the union representing the City’s police officers. The approval allows for the implementation of a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between the City and the PBA, which raises officer’s salaries in order to keep the City competitive with its neighbors and other regional police departments.  In the near term, the retention initiative could lead to as many as seven new officers joining the ranks of the city police department.

Mayor Rob Rolison said, “I appreciate the hard work that went into this process on all sides. We view our employee unions as our partners, not our adversaries, and that collaborative approach resulted in an innovative solution that involves much more than just raising some salaries. Public safety is foremost in our minds and both my administration and our Common Council share that priority. I want to thank the Council for its recommendations for further dialogue with the PBA, and I also thank Council Finance Committee members, Natasha Cherry and Yvonne Flowers, and the other members of the Council who worked to bring this over the finish line.”

Lorraine Johnson, Council majority leader, stated “I’m so glad the Mayor and Council were able to come together on this retention package for the officers who work hard for the city and for the safety of our community.  I also look forward to working with the administration and police department on efforts in the coming year to achieve greater diversity in our police department.”

Fourth Ward Councilwoman, Sarah Brannen, said, “The discussions that led to this agreement make clear the Council, the PBA, and the administration are dedicated to public safety.  Along with this MOA, the Council and administration will be collaborating on creating annual reporting, ensuring there are resources next year for cameras on vehicles, and achieving more diversity in staffing.  I was particularly impressed to learn about the police department’s leadership on procedural justice and investment in officer training.”

Natasha Cherry (6th Ward) said, “I am happy that members of the council were able to engage in deep dialogue with the PBA and city administration.  It is apparent that we share many of the same goals in regards to public safety.  We look forward to continuing our work together.”

City Administrator, Marc Nelson, said, “It was not so long ago that the City could not have even entertained these changes, so I’d just like to thank all the various Councilmembers who, over the last two years, have supported the Mayor’s proposed annual budgets. As has been said, our ability to solve our biggest challenges all rests with careful and sustainable budgeting.

The retention package will be implemented as soon as possible.

City Receives $2.4 Million for Pedestrian Safety

City Receives $2.4 Million for Pedestrian Safety

Poughkeepsie Mayor Rob Rolison announced today that New York State has awarded the city $2,430,000 as part of the state’s Pedestrian Safety Action Plan (PSAP) grant program.  The statewide initiative calls for a systemic approach to address pedestrian safety issues and provides funding to local governments to implement low-cost, high-impact improvements at known hazardous locations.  Poughkeepsie is one of 20 localities in the state, outside of New York City, that has been designated a “focus community,” indicating a high number of pedestrian-involved crashes.

The city will use the PSAP funding along corridors, intersections and uncontrolled crosswalks where the highest pedestrian traffic exists and where past accidents have occurred, including sites along Main, Mansion, Market, Academy/Catharine, Hamilton and Clinton Streets.  Interventions will include upgrading high-visibility crosswalks and signage, installing countdown pedestrian timers, and in some locations introducing curbed pedestrian refuges at crosswalks.

Mayor Rolison said, “Poughkeepsie is a walking city.  On any given day, thousands of people are walking around this city, whether it’s to go to school or work, or whether it’s to shop or get a bite to eat.  Nothing is more important than the health and safety of our citizens.  It’s time we show that pedestrians are a priority and that Poughkeepsie’s streets are more than just a place for cars.  This funding from the state will help us do just that, and I would like to thank our partners at the state for continuing to invest in the City of Poughkeepsie.”

Police Chief Tom Pape said, “The men and women who serve as first responders know firsthand the potentially dangerous conditions that pedestrians face daily in some areas of the city.  Poughkeepsie has a high number of pedestrian-related crashes, but even one crash is too many. Providing a safe environment for walking, while educating drivers to be extra cautious on Poughkeepsie’s busy streets, will help reduce conflicts between motorists and pedestrians.”

Commissioner of Public Works Chris Gent said, “DPW staff work hard to keep pavement markings and crosswalk signals visible and in good working condition.  But with more than 70 miles of road and hundreds of intersections, that kind of maintenance is costly.  This state funding will allow us to target the highest need areas of the city and help improve the quality of life for residents.”

Interim Economic Development Director Paul Calogerakis said, “Part of Poughkeepsie’s economic revival will undoubtedly revolve around embracing the concept of a walkable city.  Successful cities that invest in high-quality public spaces increase their economic competitiveness and attract further private sector investment.  Poughkeepsie has all the attributes that make a high-quality place, including a dense urban landscape with a variety of experiences for a diversity of users.  Anything we can do to make its streets safer for non-motorists will pay dividends in the long run by making it easier for people to enjoy everything that is great about Poughkeepsie.”

Senior City Planner Natalie Quinn said, “Poughkeepsie has a high percentage of residents who either by choice or by economic circumstance do not own a car and are therefore dependent on transportation alternatives to get to their destination, which at one end or the other usually includes crossing a street.  Poughkeepsie is joining many other cities across the country by beginning to look at its streets through a complete-streets lens.  That means giving equal consideration to all users of the street, including pedestrians, bicyclists, transit users and persons with limited mobility.  By enabling these improvements, the PSAP funding will go a long way toward ensuring equity among the users of our streets.”

Mayor Rolison Vetoes Legislation to Establish Common Council Staff

VETO MESSAGE

June 5th, 2018

 

TO:  Deanne L. Flynn, City Chamberlain
FROM:  Mayor Robert G. Rolison
SUBJECT: Veto Concerning Local Law No. 3 of 2018 “A Local Law Providing for Professional Staff to the Common Council”


Pursuant to the authority vested in me by Article III, Section 3.02 of the Charter and 3.04 of the Administrative Code of the City of Poughkeepsie, I hereby veto Local Law 3 of 2018 which was adopted by the Common Council at its regular meeting of May 21, 2018. This veto is cast within thirty days, pursuant to Section 3.02 (f) of the City Charter.

As this Local Law acknowledges, our City Charter was amended in 1996, and updated again recently, in 2016. Charter revision is typically undertaken by a Charter Review Commission, comprised of subject matter experts and local stakeholders whose duty it is to recommend to voters the modernization of what is, essentially, the City’s Constitution. There is a reason that significant changes to the balance of power between branches of government, in this case between the Executive and the Legislative, require the consent of the governed in the form of a referendum. That sole purpose is to ensure that the fabric of our democracy – how we are governed, the delicate balance and inter-relationship of the separate branches of government – cannot be changed by five members of the City’s Common Council on a whim. Just consider the ramifications were it otherwise. Any five votes of the Common Council could alter anything – and two weeks or two months later, five different votes could change it back again. That is most certainly not efficient government, by any means.

The drafters of this Local Law suggest that the Charter Review Commission believed that members of the Common Council should have their own legislative aides and that the newly created position of Council Member At-Large should have the power to hire and fire City employees to serve “at the pleasure” of the Council Chair. For support, the majority references a letter from the organization retained by the City to assist it with Charter revision which says in part:

This subject was considered by the most recent Poughkeepsie Charter Commission specifically with regard to the possible need of legal advice for the city council independent of that available from the city’s Corporation Counsel. As I recall, this discussion resulted in a recommendation that funds be budgeted annually to pay for independent legal advice to the Council, if needed” (emphasis added).

What the Charter actually says, in its preamble no less, is:

The revised Charter clarifies that the City Chamberlain and Corporation Counsel serve the Common Council, as well as the Mayor, thus ensuring that the legislative branch has sufficient clerical and legal support in the exercise of its power and authority” (emphasis added).

Clearly the Commission considered the issue of staff support for the Council, but decided to recommend to voters only that funding be provided to account for possible conflicts which might conceivably arise requiring the appointment of outside legal Counsel. The Charter was overwhelmingly approved by voters.

The crafters of this Local Law would have us believe that Council staff is necessary to the performance of their duties “under the City Charter amendments”, but their argument presupposes that the new Charter gave them new duties and responsibilities, which is simply not the case. The suggestion that, because the new Charter added a ninth Councilmember in the form of a Council member at-large, now staff is necessary – well, that simply seems counterintuitive. Are we asked to believe that the Commission, comprised of nine professional volunteers with many years of collective local experience and much love for our City, just forgot to provide the Council with the power to hire and fire employees who report solely to them and operate outside the regular lines of authority that exist in our local government?

Not only is the Local Law at odds with the clear language of the Charter and the expressed will of the voters, the New York Courts have held that any Local Law which “abolishes, transfers or curtails any power of an elective officer” is subject to mandatory referendum (Matter of Yevchak v Raymond, A.D. 2nd 197, 1978).

Finally, Section 2.10 (a) of the City’s Administrative Code requires that a Fiscal Impact Statement be prepared prior to the adoption of any action which could cost present or future taxpayers more than $50,000. The Local Law I am vetoing today does not specify how many staff will be hired by the Council, whether they will be full-time or part-time, how much these employees will be paid, or even whether they would receive benefits, including very expensive health-care and pension benefits. By not including these critical pieces of information, the majority attempts to avoid the requirement that a Fiscal Impact Statement be prepared – ‘let’s budget for the specifics later’, they say.

That’s not good government and it’s certainly not fiscally responsible.

Respectfully,

Hon. Robert G. Rolison
Mayor

The GlassBarge is Coming to Poughkeepsie – Waryas Park Dock Closed June 5th to June 11th

Please be advised that beginning Tuesday, June 5th thru Monday, June 11th, the dock at Victor C. Waryas Park will be closed for normal docking activities in order to accommodate the Corning Museum of Glass—GlassBarge.

The GlassBarge will provide free glassblowing demonstrations Friday, June 8th to Sunday, June 10th.  We encourage you to attend and register online for times available.

City of Poughkeepsie Receives NYCOM Local Government Achievement Award

The New York State Conference of Mayors (NYCOM) selected the City of Poughkeepsie as a first place winner of NYCOM’s Local Government Achievement Awards. The awards program, in its 31st year, recognized Poughkeepsie for its Transit Consolidation for Sustainability project.

Mayor Rolison said “I’d like to thank the selection committee and leadership at NYCOM. The City’s transit consolidation with the County has improved transit service for our residents, while at the same time saving our taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars every year”

Press Release: City of Poughkeepsie Receives NYCOM Local Government Achievement Award (.pdf)

Mayor Rolison Issues Statement on Passing of Michael G. Gartland

For more than forty years Michael G. Gartland strengthened our community. His life was dedicated to the law, to equity, and to justice. He enriched the lives of everyone who knew him, and many more who didn’t. He served as Vice Chairman of the City’s Planning Board, and his volunteerism would lead him to service on the Boards of Directors of some of the most prestigious organizations in the area including the James J. McCann Charitable Trust, the McCann Foundation, the Charlotte Cunneen-Hackett Charitable Trust, and Marist College. His advocacy and stewardship helped spur important civic projects at the Bardavon, the McCann Memorial Golf Course, Our Lady of Lourdes High School, and Marist College and the impact of his life’s work will be felt here for many years.

Mayor Rolison Issues Statement on Passing of Assemblyman Frank Skartados

The City of Poughkeepsie has lost a true champion of our community and a tireless advocate for common-sense and important legislation designed to improve our quality of life. Frank lived his life asking every day what he could do to help others.  He represented the best of New York politics because he brought people of different views together to solve real problems. His impact on our City will be seen and felt for many years and we will miss him tremendously

Frank Skartados’ death is deep loss for community: EditorialPoughkeepsie Journal

Opening Day Parade: City of Poughkeepsie Youth Baseball/Softball League

When:  Saturday, April 14, 2018 at 9:00am
Parade Route:  Krieger Elementary School (S. Grand Ave) to Spratt Park Ball Fields (Wilbur Blvd)

The City of Poughkeepsie will celebrate the start of the 2018 Youth Baseball/Softball season with a parade on Saturday, April 14 at Krieger Elementary School on S. Grand Avenue.  The parade will step-off at 9:00am and will go to Spratt Park for the opening day ceremony.  “I love the excitement that opening day brings to the city each year,” said Mayor Rob Rolison.

This year there are 20 teams organized for the City of Poughkeepsie Baseball/Softball League with a total of 216 participants.  The season runs from April 14 through June 30 and all games are played at the Spratt Park Ball Fields. Currently there are 16 volunteers; however, more are needed.  To volunteer please contact Satara Brown at [email protected]