Column: City Council Updates

Mayor-Doug-FrenchUpstream flood mitigation
At the core of the city’s flood mitigation plan has always been upstream development and the Westchester County Airport. The city, along with its flood commission, has been persistent in collaborating with Westchester County to identify solutions to retain more water upstream. This month, the city had another productive meeting with county representatives from the Planning Department. As part of the plan, the county is beginning the process to substantially increase the size of two of its catch basins and potentially adding a third. In addition, the county is very active in monitoring surrounding development and pursuing retention measures on stormwater runoff to the airport which ultimately makes its way downstream.

Proposed 2014 budget for council approval
The city will hold its final public hearing on the budget on Dec. 18. The revised proposed increase in the property tax rate is 1.99 percent. The Citizens Finance Committee will issue its comments during the public hearing. The city’s sound fiscal management and disciplined approach for the last five years has again produced another solid budget. Like previous budgets, this one keeps taxes under the cap, enhances current levels of service and retains a very healthy fund balance. This budget also puts forward a substantial investment in infrastructure to include: Blind Brook wall study, nature center bridge/Boston Post Road realignment, Disbrow Park master plan, sidewalks, sewers, record retention/digital document conversion, the city master plan, street resurfacing and train station parking lot improvements.

Beaver Swamp Brook dispute
A conference call was held with theadministrative law judge, who asked if the parties were amenable to trying mediation on the discovery disputes between Rye and the Town of Harrison. An initial meeting will be held in mid-December with another ALJ, who would act as a mediator over these disputes. If and when these disputes are resolved, the matter would proceed to the adjudicatory hearing in January or February.

Televising land use and enterprise fund meetings
When I was on the city’s Cable Committee in the 1990s, it established and funded cameras to be installed in City Council chambers so public meetings of the Rye City Council were televised. It is a practice that has enabled residents to be better informed and to more actively participate in their government. Other communities I have met with have adopted such measures including televising additional boards and commissions. The council will be looking to adopt a policy that will have all land use and enterprise fund board meetings—Rye golf and boat basin—televised.

The public needs to vet the newly appointed council members
The city is in an unprecedented time in which there are two openings on the council that will be appointed by the new council. When there was an opening on the council last year, I established a public process that allowed the council and public to hear from those interested individuals and for all candidates to present to the public at a designated council meeting their qualifications and goals for serving. A public and open process for the vetting of council members before their appointment is critical as part of good government.

Police station/courthouse update
The city sold the 1037 Boston Post Road property last summer, which was previously earmarked for an enhanced police station/courthouse. A 2009 consultant’s report identified the cost at that location, or the current one, at an estimated $20 million plus. In addition, the state Office of Court Administration has issued a safety report from 2009, which outlines needed safety improvements to the existing facility. The city has put forth a plan for improvements to be made at a huge savings and to be in compliance with about $1.25 million as part of the city’s capital improvement plan. The council has deferred spending this money on improvements now until a new plan is revised. The new council has raised the issue of acquiring land to build a new facility. Not again.

For more information on these matters, visit the City of Rye website at www.ryeny.gov or contact me, your City Council members or the city manager. Mayor Douglas French, mayor@ryeny.gov.