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City Receives Three Grants Through Dutchess County “Municipal Innovation Grant Program”

The City has been notified by Dutchess County that we have been selected as the recipient of three separate grants – all awarded under the County’s “Municipal Innovation Grant Program”

One grant, in the amount of $75,000 funds our participation in the Child Advocacy Center (CAC). A second award in the amount of $168,700 was made for the 911 Phone System Consolidation & Shared Network Initiative, and the third grant was awarded for Crisis Intervention Training (CIT) in the amount of $256,850. The CIT program award continues prior year’s funding and reflects the demonstrated success of the City’s efforts in this important area of training and development. The 911 Phone System grant will permit significant modernization of the system, enhancing public safety operations throughout the area for years to come.

The Municipal Innovation Grant Program was announced back in 2013 by County Executive Marcus Molinaro. The program was created to incentivize municipalities, through a competitive grant program process, to consolidate services, produce shared services, eliminate layers of government, evaluate municipal consolidation opportunities and implementation possibilities, establish the regional delivery of services, and/or implement efficiency improvements. The grant program is administered under the direction of the Dutchess County Department of Planning & Development.

The City of Poughkeepsie expresses its appreciation to Dutchess County and to our partners at its Planning and Development Department. In addition to annual grant support, Dutchess County provides the City with significant non-financial support. The City and County recently completed a successful consolidation of the City’s transit system, which resulted in expanded routes and broadened transit’s hours of operations in the City to include Sundays. That initiative is estimated to save City of Poughkeepsie taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars annually, and won the state-wide “Government Efficiency Award” from the New York Conference of Mayors earlier this year.

City Administrator, Marc Nelson, said “This grant program has an extremely high return on investment, not just in the City but throughout the region. This strong support in such a competitive grant program signals growing confidence that the City is getting its fiscal house in order while improving its delivery of services”.

City of Poughkeepsie Parks Improvement Survey

Survey Link: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/pkgoparks

Our parks are one of many treasures here in the City of Poughkeepsie. They say a lot about our priorities as a community. They are regularly used by thousands of our residents, as well as by visitors from around the region, and their value is immeasurable for the opportunities they provide. We will soon be embarking on a comprehensive parks improvement plan which will upgrade, replace or repair park infrastructure. From essential and long-deferred work on our city pools, to fixing long-broken stone walls, benches and other park facilities, it’s time we return to a strategic and proactive maintenance and care program that protects our parks.

Please help us focus our available resources on the areas that are most important to you by completing our online parks survey at surveymonkey.com/r/pkgoparks. You may also email us at [email protected] if you would like to give us additional feedback or suggestions in areas not covered by the survey questions.

I am very proud of the work we’ve done together to restore our City to fiscal health. Our efforts over the last two years have brought us to a point where we can now begin to make real progress on important quality-of-life issues which were previously neglected. Your feedback is an important part of this process, so thank you in advance for taking the survey.

Yours,
Rob Rolison
Mayor

City and School District Announce “Collaboration For Progress”

Collaboration for Progress

The City of Poughkeepsie and the City School District announced today the launch of a new “collaboration for progress” designed to leverage the strengths of both organizations for the benefit of all. The partnership seeks-out opportunities to work together where missions align, and to identify potential shared services that improve organizational efficiencies, reduce costs, or which enhance the quality of life in the community.

A Renewed Partnership…

Interim Superintendent Dr. Kathleen Farrell and School Board President Dr. Felicia Watson met this week with Mayor Rob Rolison, City Administrator Marc Nelson and Corporation Counsel Paul Ackermann, to discuss key areas that could most clearly benefit from a renewed partnership between the City and its School District.

The new partnership will focus on the primary issues of safety, infrastructure, and community engagement.

Mayor Rolison said “At City Hall we know the importance of seizing opportunities that come with transition. Greater alignment between the school district and city government will take our community further in the right direction, while at the same time assuring improved outcomes for our students. We look forward to working with Dr. Farrell in her new role, and we know that our newly constituted School Board, led by Dr. Watson, is committed to this also.”

Dr. Watson said, “The future of any community is built on the strength of its children. Quality education is its cornerstone. The positive change over the past two years in the City of Poughkeepsie and within our School District have set the stage for increased collaboration that will bring together our students, teachers, administrators, parents, community organizations and our local government.”

Dr. Farrell said, “The collaboration of our public school, our community partners, city government, as well as our faith-based partners, is essential as we strive to meet the needs of our youth and their families. The relationships that develop via collaboration provide a wide net of support and assure that our students succeed.  There are many areas where the city and district can work together in a cost effective manner — saving our taxpayers dollars, working efficiently, and making improvements for all citizens to enjoy. “

City of Poughkeepsie Mourns the Passing of Pasquale “Pat” Letterii

City of Poughkeepsie Mourns the Passing of Pasquale “Pat” Letterii

Mayor Rolison Orders Flags to be Flown at Half-Staff

Pasquale “Pat” Letterii was a lifelong resident of Poughkeepsie who passed away at home at the age of 92 with his loving family at his side.    He was happily married to Jean Ring for 58 years and was employed by IBM for 39 years before retiring in 1991.  Pat was an active member of the Democratic Party and represented the 6th Ward in the Common Council from 1968-1973 and from 1976-1993.  “Pat was a true warrior who always put the best interests of our City above petty partisan politics”, said City of Poughkeepsie Judge Tom O’Neill.  “His years on the Common Council provided thoughtful, compassionate and intelligent leadership at a time when it was desperately needed.  It was a distinct honor and pleasure to have known him and to have served alongside him.  My sincere condolences to his entire family”, said Judge O’Neill.

Pat served in the U.S. Navy during World War II and the Korean War.  He retained a lifelong love of the Navy and kept in contact with many of his Navy comrades.  He was an avid golfer and enjoyed gardening, traveling, his grandchildren and his Italian Center friends in his retirement years.  “The members of the Italian Center join with the community in mourning the passing of Pat, who was a lifelong member.  He and his family were regular attendees and supporters at our events and meetings. We offer his family our sincere thanks for his proud service to our Country as well as being the voice of the community in both the City and the Italian Center”, said Ernie Bruno, President of the Italian Center in Poughkeepsie.

Mayor Rolison ordered the City of Poughkeepsie flags flown at half-staff in Pasquale “Pat” Letterii’s honor.

Mayor Rob Rolison Declares Dr. Penny Lewis Day

Mayor Rob Rolison has declared by Proclamation July 28, 2018 as “Dr. Perinnella “Penny” Francis Barnhill Lewis Day”.

Mayor Rolison said, “On this day, the occasion of Dr. Lewis’ 90th birthday, we collectively celebrate and honor her lifelong service and commitment to our community.”

Dr. Lewis retired from the State of New York after thirty-seven and a half years at the Hudson River Psychiatric Center.  Other employment positions include the City of Poughkeepsie School District, The Taconic Development Center, Dutchess County Department of Mental Health, Maranatha Services Clinical Department, The Hudson New York School for Girls and the UARC Day Treatment Program.  Penny was also an elected official as a long term member of the City of Poughkeepsie Common council.  Her professional associations include the Neighborhood Service Organization, Dutchess County Cooperative Extension, National Association of Black Social Workers, Dutchess Community College Board of Trustees, Catharine Street Board of Directors, and Empire State College Board of Governors Teachers Federation.  In 2013, Dr. Lewis received the Christ Theological Seminary Life Achievement Award and was created a plenary Academician of the Eastern Theological Consortium, Faculty of Arts and Sciences.  In 2017 she received the conferral of the degree of Doctor of Humanities, honoris causa.    

“Mrs. Penny Lewis is a treasure to this community. Her exemplary life achievements have left an indelible impact on all of us.  Please join me in extending a very happy birthday and best wishes for continued success in all future endeavors”, said Rolison.

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