Written by Dave Gil de Rubio, firstname.lastname@example.org Friday, 18 January 2013 00:00
Hurricane Sandy – According to forecasting firm Eqicat, Hurricane Sandy caused somewhere between $30 to $50 billion worth of damage in the United States. On a local level, Garden City got slammed pretty hard by the storm not only losing power throughout the village for an extended period of time, but losing approximately 575 trees, (72 percent of which were oaks according to Tanners Pond Environmental Center head Rob Alvey), as well as spending $4.5 million for clean-up efforts of which approximately 87.5 percent will be refunded by the federal and state governments.
School Budget Passes – At a time when school districts around New York State are trying to pass budgets that stay within a state-mandated two percent cap, the Village of Garden City got its 2012-2013 school budget passed by a margin of 1,820-1,044. The passage of the proposed $104,215,528 budget was an increase of $3,098,470, a 3.06 percent increased over its 2011-12 predecessor. Cost control efforts that included a renegotiation of the Garden City Teachers Association (GCTA) contract that represented an overall savings of approximately $675,000 for the 2012-13 school year, staff minimization and the district’s continued membership in a number of purchasing consortiums helped bring the proposed budget number down. Along the way, class size guidelines were maintained, special programs were retained and no buildings closed. The May announcement of the school budget passing coincided with U.S. News and World Report recently ranking Garden City High School 138 nationally, a gain of 60 places since 2010.
Results Of Fire Department Analytic Report Sparks Outrage – When the village board of trustees paid $36,000 to commission International City/County Management Association (ICMA) in 2011 to analyze procedures and performance of the Garden City Fire Department, it was with the idea of achieving better efficiency and saving taxpayers money. As one of only two combination departments comprised of both career and volunteer firefighters, (Long Beach is the other municipality), the GCFD has a unique set-up not shared by most companies on Long Island. As part of its ICMA’s ruling on the structure, it found that the department oftentimes operated as if two separate entities versus one to the detriment of the community.
The other outcome of this survey was a set of 14 recommendations, ranging from the suggested increase of the number of structural/interior certified volunteer firefighters and enforcement of the false alarm ordinance to reduce unnecessary calls for service to developing written policies and procedures for volunteers responding to incident scenes, with appropriate records for accountability. But the two that stirred up the most opposition were the elimination of staff at satellite stations located on Edgemere Road and Clinton Road during evening hours and the changing of dispatch to Firecom as a means of reducing response times.
The reaction was unsurprisingly one of concern and fear that shuttering these satellite stations would actually increase response time while anecdotes about the inefficiency of Firecom started popping up at village board meetings. With numerous retired and active firefighters making a point of showing up to weigh in overwhelmingly against this particular mandate during the public comment portion of the trustees meeting, the debate has carried over to the new year.
St. Paul’s School – As has been the case since it was shut down in 1991, the fate of St. Paul’s remains controversial. The first St. Paul’s incident came early in the year when the village board of trustees signed off on repairs to damage done to the historic building’s clock tower and roof by Hurricane Irene in 2011. Following an offer by Bob and Patricia Kaliban to donate $11,300 in December 2011 that found the board being blocked from voting on accepting the money due to a procedural technicality, the board voted to accept $6,500 pledged by the Kalibans towards building materials to be used by Old World Quality Corp. owner Vincent Muldoon, who was donating pro bono labor. The agreement came with numerous stipulations including no conditions and/or restrictions being attached to the gift, the village not being responsible to supply funds should the amount be insufficient and that the Kalibans and Muldoon would get no restitution should the clock tower end up getting demolished.
The second dust-up came when Mayor Don Brudie was accused by Trustee Dennis Donnelly of recommending that a $10,000 donation by Kiehl’s Since 1851 be directed to the Committee to Save St Paul’s (CSSP) without consulting village counsel or the board of trustees. The mayor denied this assertion during a contentious April 19 board of trustees meeting.
While any disagreements over St. Paul’s lay dormant for the next few months, further dissension over the issue arose during the last village trustees village trustees meeting of the year that was held on Thursday, Dec. 20. This was where the results of a report commissioned by the village to review an $8.2 million proposal submitted by CSSP were revealed. Don Erwin, principal in the architecture/engineering firm of Erwin & Bielinksi, conducted the study and drew up the report that found the commission’s proposal and estimate falling short on a number of levels. Safety flaws and code violations were the main problems with restoring St. Paul’s, although E&B offered a number of options that ranged in cost from $17.2 million to roughly $100 million. Trustee Brian Daughney proposed accepting the report’s results and rejecting the CSSP plan with himself and fellow trustees Donnelly, Laurence Quinn, Nicholas Episcopia and John DeMaro voting affirmatively while Mayor Brudie and Deputy Mayor John Watras and Trustee Andrew Cavanaugh cast negative votes.
Acrimony On The Board – The disagreements on the village board of trustees went beyond St. Paul’s when Mayor Donald Brudie was challenged over his annual committee appointments. When Brudie announced his appointments during the Monday, April 2, organizational meeting, a comment by Trustee Episcopia regarding the spreading out of various committee chairmanships, sparked some sharp discourse between him and the mayor. A subsequent vote to ratify Mayor Brudie’s appointments were voted down by a 5-2 vote, with trustees Watras and Cavanaugh voting yes, the mayor abstaining and trustees Episcopia, Dennis Donelly, Laurence Quinn, Brian Daughney and John DeMaro opposing. These differences carried over to the subsequent village board meeting held on Thursday, April 19 when the mayor read a statement clarifying that the mayor solely appointments trustees to various committee assignments who he believes will operate in the best interest of the village. Trustee Donnelly made a counter-proposal that would suspend the mayor’s appointments and offer a slightly altered version of the mayor’s original assignments. The measure passed by a vote of 5-3, with trustees Donnelly, Quinn, DeMaro, Daughney and Episcopia voting for approval and Mayor Brudie and trustees Cavanaugh and Watras voting against it.