MAMAKATING – After last meeting’s glowing report on the state of Sullivan County, delivered by legislative chair Luis Alvarez, the Mamakating town board received a letter from him explaining why the promised revenue sharing with the county’s townships was not going to happen after all, at least not this year. District 2 County Legislator Nadia Rajsz tried to explain this disappointing news at the March 5 meeting. She said that the county had been expecting a $7 million windfall from the new Resorts World Catskills casino, but the actual revenues had fallen $5.5 million short. She went on to enumerate other financial burdens of the county, including unfunded mandates from the state, especially a $20 million bill from Albany for Medicaid.
Some members of the board were not buying these explanations. Graham Vest suggested that the county could at least send some sort of trickle down to the towns this year. "This would be a reassurance to us, and a very different message to the towns, since the casino is a cost to us all."
Councilman Patrick Keller asked Rajsz about who the town should send the bill to, in order to cover the extra highway costs Mamakating incurred since the opening of the casino. She responded that four townships had already pulled out of their highway contracts with the county, and hinted that Mamakating could do the same.
"Was there an up-or-down vote about the sales revenue not being shared?" asked councilwoman Brenda Giraldi. "I think [county chair] Luis’s letter was insulting."
County legislator Cathy Owens, who represents Mamakating, responded that no vote was needed because no action was taken. She added that she herself was for revenue sharing, but that she was in the minority.
Dutch Reformed Church
The Town of Mamakating and the Bloomingburg Restoration Foundation have long been at odds over the control and management of the historic Dutch Reformed Church in Bloomingburg. The beautiful old building is owned by the town, but for over 40 years the BRF has occupied it. The original agreement with the town gave the BRF a free lease to the church, but the group would be responsible for the needed repairs of the building.
Over the years, the group has hosted a number of community programs at the church. It also keeps artifacts and photos pertaining to local history displayed around the periphery of the sanctuary, which is now mostly open space. At some point during the occupancy of the BRF, most of the solid wood historic pews disappeared. In recent years, the town refused to renew the lease held by the BRF, in part because, in the town’s view, needed repairs were not being done. The crumbling front steps, in particular, had become an insurance liability for the town.
To heal the rift between the town and the BRF, councilman Graham Vest and BRF representative Mark Fowler have worked together for many hours to craft a memorandum of agreement, the first point of which gives the BRF a 30-day renewable lease, at no cost. Other points call for the immediate repair of the front steps to the building, and for the town and the BRF to work together to prioritize and fund the other badly-needed repairs. The memorandum also calls for an accessory building to be designed and erected on the church property. This building will house and display the artifacts and photos owned by the BRF.
At the March 5 town board meeting, the new lease agreement between the town and the BRF was approved. All concerned hope that the old Dutch Reformed Church will become a true asset for the town, as well as an attraction for visitors. The board also approved a Plans and Progress grant application for $10,000 to go towards the repair of the entrance stairs, estimated to cost at least $25,000 in all.
Community Choice Power, Other News
A public hearing was scheduled for the March 19 meeting on whether or not to create a community choice aggregation in Mamakating. This program allows local governments to pool their electricity load in order to purchase and/or develop power for the residents and businesses within their service area. The goal is to reduce costs and provide price certainty for the protection of consumers.
At the public hearing held on March 5, the board approved the creation of the accrued liability reserve fund to cover the town’s expenses should several employees retire or go on disability at once. In response to a question from the public, Supervisor Bill Herrmann reported that all of the town’s reserve funds are held in CD’s that accrue interest.
In his highway report, superintendent Buddy Platt brought up the issue of excessive trucking on Lewis Road. For the past two years large amounts of fill have been coming to a certain residential property. "Now we have a ruined road," he said, and suggested that the town should require permits and road bonds for people hauling in a lot of material.
Town attorney Ben Gailey said that other townships have fill and grade laws, and that he would send the one from Crawford to the board for their consideration.
The board approved Platt’s request to buy a used fire truck to replace the old one which can no longer pass inspection, and leaks badly. The fire truck is needed to wash out clogged culvert pipes, and also to wash salt and sand off of highway vehicles on a daily basis.
The board also approved the needed BAS upgrade to keep the town’s computers up to date, and also to maintain security. According to BAS policy, new computers must be purchased every five years, and they must be configured to run on the town network.