By PHIL NOBILE
After months of deciding which projects to fund in the upcoming year, town board members approved more than $5 million in capital budgets across Harrison’s numerous departments.
With budgets from the Department of Public Works, police department and the local libraries up for consideration, the all-Republican Town Council, led by Mayor Ron Belmont, adopted $5.2 million in capital needs—significantly less than what was initially proposed back in April.
Capital budgets consist of major projects and investments for a municipality to make in a given year, most of the time for work on public parks and buildings, and buying new equipment and supplies for departments.
Earlier this year, heads of the most prominent and active departments in the town appeared before the council with their proposed budgets at an April 24 work session. The initial proposals added up to more than $8.6 million in capital requests, with $7.8 from the Department of Public Works alone.
For the final approved budgets, the total breaks down as $2.3 million for the Department of Public Works, $120,390 for the West Harrison library, $650,000 for the downtown Harrison library and $281,505 for the police department.
An additional $1.9 million in tax certioraris and potential drainage and generator projects bring the estimated bonding total to $5.2 million this year. The feasibility of the projects will be discussed by the Town Council in August.
Comptroller Maureen MacKenzie said the high number owed in certioraris was from “four large certs” that have not yet been put before the Town Council. A tax certiorari is a legal process when courts assess the value of either a commercial or residential property, normally following the filing of a grievance.
By comparison, the town bonded $7.9 million in 2013 for capital projects.
The Department of Public Works budget, which was scaled back from a proposed $7.8 million to less than half of that at $2.3 million, features town-wide building improvements in the form of new plants and structural maintenance; $1.2 million in new vehicles, including an additional automatic garbage truck for the town’s; automated sanitation program and drainage and additional improvements to the town’s municipal garage at Gleason Place, which is undergoing renovations.
“All items contained in the original proposed budget for building and facility improvements have been eliminated, with the exception of our general building improvement request,” Public Works Commissioner Anthony Robinson said. “Significant cuts to the original proposed budget were made in consideration of both the current economic conditions and the needs of the department necessary to maintain services and infrastructure.”
An additional $250,000 was also approved to pay for facility upgrades to the town’s organic waste station that was found in violation of watershed law by the New York City’s Department of Environmental Protection.
Issued in October 2013, the violation found that the waste station in Purchase was operating too close to the Kensico Reservoir, resulting in concerns of potentially hazardous runoff.
Department of Environmental Protection spokesman Adam Bosch told the Harrison Review at the time that the town’s waste station is within 700 feet of the reservoir, going against a watershed regulation dating back to 1997 that requires a distance of more than 1,000 feet. Bosch said multiple attempts to contact town officials about issuing a potential violation were made to no avail.
“In this case, the town was not responsive and the notice was issued,” Bosch said.
Robinson justified paying for facility upgrades, saying the alternative options of finding another sight or eliminating leaf collection were not possible.
“If we don’t pick up leaves anymore, it’s…a reduction of services that I don’t believe the residents would be very happy with,” he said.
Absent from the public works budget was any money for resurfacing Harrison roads, thanks to $825,000 approved by the Town Council at its June 19 meeting for a road resurfacing project. An additional $300,000 leftover from the 2013 public works capital budget was also added to the project. According to MacKenzie, the leftover money was from the 2013 road resurfacing budget.
Also absent were any major structural improvements to the Leo Mintzer Center in West Harrison, which, according to the initial proposal, needed $800,000 this year alone for roof replacement, wall replacement and interior work. The lack of funding for the building means consistent inspections of the building throughout the year, according to Robinson.
“This will necessitate regularly scheduled inspections to insure building safety,” he said. “A final determination on the viability of this building must still be made so that the need for future requests can be considered or
As for the other departments, the original $480,000 request by Harrison Police Chief Anthony Marraccini was scaled back to $280,000, with the remaining $200,000 transferred to next year’s capital budget. The money will be used for new vehicles and equipment for the department in the upcoming year.
The $307,970 in requests from Harrison Library Director Galina Cherynkh for the West Harrison Library were slashed to less than half of that, with $120,390 going toward the replacement of the library’s ventilation and heater systems, which date back to 1988.
MacKenzie and her staff will begin to make purchases for the projects on Aug. 16; New York State requires a 30-day waiting period from the adoption date of budgetary matters.
Calls to Commissioner Robinson were not returned as of press time.