Friday, June 29, 2007

Recreation and Community Center Planning

My thanks to Dryden Democrats who met here Wednesday night. Special appreciation for their courtesy in not whining about the heat or humidity (or, frankly, the scent left by the stray cat before I got home.) This house, tho' it is not air conditioned, is only uncomfortably warm two or three days a year. Wednesday was one of them. The logs, thanks to thermal mass, take a long time to heat up. Tuesday, even tho' the outdoor temperature was 94, the house stayed at 72. But temperatures in the 90s Wednesday continued to warm the logs and by 7:30, it was awfully warm in the house.

Despite whatever discomfort people were feeling from the heat, we had a lively discussion of the split vote at Wednesday night's Town Board meeting - only the second non-unanimous vote in the year and a half I've been on the board. (The other was over the color of the tourism brochure - purple prevailed over green.)

This one is more serious. It was a follow-up on the lengthy discussion at the June 14 meeting (minutes will appear soon at minutes) regarding a proposed grant application for "parkland development." In May the Board approved $3,200 for Thoma Consulting to work with Environmental Planner Dan Kwasnowski on the application due June 30. I admit I misunderstood the purpose of the application. I don't know how much of the misunderstand is my responsibility and how much may be attributed to Dan's May presentation. But I thought we were still at a very early planning stage and that the planning for the site adjacent to the town hall would be part of a townwide planning process.

From the May meeting minutes:
Thoma Development has informed us there is a state grant opportunity for park land development. This is very competitive and the application is due June 29. Thoma's proposal is for $3,200. D Kwasnowski said if the municipality is already willing to spend some money on this, that works in our favor and is an instant match. We have the natural and historical features
that the State is looking for. The maximum award is $500,000. The need for parkland is well outlined in our Comprehensive Plan. We've done surveys and know what we need.
The unanimous resolution of the Board at the May meeting.
RESOLVED, that this Town Board hereby authorizes the Town Supervisor to accept the proposal from Thoma Development to prepare a grant application for park land at a cost not to exceed $3,200.

At the June 14 meeting the town engineer described preliminary work he was asked to do assessing grading and drainage needed for the site behind the town hall. This suggests a commitment to a certain style of development. While there's been a good deal of chatter about recreation and ball fields on this site, the planning process is pretty firmly stalled about an inch from the very beginning.

In late winter 2006 we held a meeting, including several representatives from the public, at which many interesting ideas were discussed. Dan developed a "Proposed process for preparing and Conceptual Use Map and Plan." [The caps are from Dan's report - should that have been a red flag?] The six month time frame seemed unrealistically short. Even so, phase I, planned for March and April 2006, included development of a base map and photos, establishment of a Town Parkland Advisory Board and hosting community workshops. Dan has developed a sketchy map but the other suggestions have not been acted upon - not to mention phases II, III, IV and V of the proposal. In other words, we're stalled halfway through the first point of the first phase of a five phase process.

And townwide planning for recreation is, if possible, even further behind than planning for the town hall site. The Open Space Inventory completed in 2003 includes a map of "Managed Open Space Assets." A Recreational Needs Assessment was undertaken by a SUNY Cortland class and their professor in 2005 (prior to the acquisition of the town hall site) and completed in June 2006. Last year Thoma made a modest proposal to complete a townwide recreation plan. We included funding for it in the 2007 budget. In May Councilpersons Makar and Stelick, speaking as the Board Recreation Committee, asked Dan to speak with Thoma about proceeding with that proposal. But it hasn't begun yet.

I know that Supervisor Trumbull and Councilpersons Christofferson and Stelick want to develop recreational facilities on the town's property in the Village. And I'm not particularly opposed to the idea. But also at Wednesday's meeting we were approving $25,000 change orders for the town hall construction caused by our rushing through one phase of the town hall planning. And suddenly we're talking about engineering for a site we've barely planned for at all.

In fact, the more I read the May minutes, the hotter I get. When Helen Mandeville, from southwest Dryden said she wondered whether the board was aware of the issues in her neighborhood and she would like to help start some informational meetings, did we not hear her? When Councilperson Stelick said he understands there is a divide between the east and west sides of town but it is going to take time to heal it, I want to remind him it's going to take more than time. It's going to take a good deal of effort and maybe a little money. When Councilperson Makar described requests from community groups to host town board meetings in locations other than the town hall and Supervisor Trumbull suggested instead that two board members every few months could go to different communities and see what the issues are, I imagine I know which two board members he's thinking of (hint: they don't live on the east side of town.)

And when Councilperson Christofferson said, at the June 27 meeting, that we need to develop the town hall site 'cause "we don't have a community center on that side of town," I should have reminded him, as Martha Robertson reminded me, that the reason Ellis Hollow, Etna, Bethel Grove and Varna have community centers is that neighbors got together and raised some money and put in countless volunteer hours to create them.

Okay. This is verging on a rant. I'm going to go work in the garden.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

July Town Board Meeting

The Town of Dryden July 2007 meeting will be held at the Varna Volunteer Fire Company on Wednesday, July 11th at 7pm. The fire company will have a tour available to town board members and the public starting at 6:30pm.

The location of this meeting on the western side of Dryden is to help bridge the gap of communication and activity from the west side to the east side. Initially the meeting was to be held at the Varna Community Center, but it had to be moved to the Fire Station for scheduling reasons.

The station is located at 14 Turkey Hill Road in Dryden. Here's a link to a map (the Varna Fire Company has an Ithaca mailing address - and map address - but it IS in Dryden!).

It is my hope that you attend the meeting to see what happens. There is a lot going on in Dryden and public participation is welcome.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Town Board Meeting

Another five hour, two-page agenda meeting last night. Let me just list the issues. I'll write more when I have time or, if someone asks for information, I'll make time.

  • Public hearing on an unsafe structure on Dryden Road.
  • Presentation on the work of the Tompkins County Area Development Agency.
  • Update on the condition of Varna Fire Chief Natan Huffman following a two car crash in which he was involved last Friday while responding to an emergency call.
  • Approval of the new 284 agreement specifying planned highway department work.
  • County Briefing on plans to collect countywide water and sewer information and on the Recreation Partnership.
  • Engineering report on possible remedies for the dangerous turn on Lower Creek Road and on preliminary investigation of grading and drainage issues involved in developing the property behind Town Hall for recreational use.
  • Acceptance of the resignation of Recreation Coordinator, Jen Dube.
  • Approval of the new code enforcement agreement with the Village of Dryden.
  • Approval of payment of $284 to ASCAP to indemnify us in the event copyrighted music is inadvertently used without permission at a town function.
  • Approval of an agreement with Cayuga Press to modify our HUD loan agreement raising the interest rate.
  • Request that Attorney Perkins notify the Attorney General that we wish to be excluded from legislation rescinding authorization for a local Industrial Development Agency.
  • Approve $23,000 change order to correct design flaws in the sprinkler system.
  • Discussion of details of proposed furniture purchase for the new town hall. Request that the building committee continue to seek ways to bring the total cost of the new furniture down.
  • Lengthy discussion of whether or not to apply for a grant for development of the property behind the town hall. Very lengthy discussion of whether or not we've solicited sufficient public input to begin planning for the development of the land for recreational uses. Further discussion of whether or not we can make plans for that property without completing a plan for townwide recreation development.
  • Approval of the Planning Board's request to contract with Behan Associates for consulting on the zoning code update process.
  • Introduction of the Fire Department Info book.
  • Presentation of a preliminary draft of the planned 2006 Annual Report and August 2007 Newsletter.
  • Update from the finance committee reporting that the internal audit is nearly complete. Only information from the Court remains to be collected.
  • Discussion of whether or not the finance committee should approve the abstract of expenditures and report to the board rather than reviewing it and approving it at the Board meetings.
  • Report from the Technology Committee that companies planning to bid on the phone system for the new town hall toured the building and will submit bids by June 24. A board meeting is scheduled for June 26 to review the bids and "for other purposes."
  • Recreation/Youth/Community Center Committee report on plans for the application process for community center funding.
  • Discussion of a proposed resolution supporting legislation sponsored by Senator Schumer restricting long haul truck traffic to interstate highways as much as possible.
  • Agreement to switch to Municipal Electric & Gas Alliance power supplier.
  • Update on yet another delay in the installation of the flow meter intended to measure waste water piped from the Cortland Road Sewer District to the Village of Dryden waste water treatment plant.
  • Discussion of a noise complaint and whether or not to consider developing a noise ordinance.
  • Agreement to provide storage space for Friends of the Library books after moving to the new town hall.
  • Agreement to decline an offer request from HSBC to discuss banking opportunities

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Democrats Have More Fun

Yesterday was Dairy Day in Dryden and Dryden Democrats entered a float in the parade. We weren't going for any prize for originality obviously. We just went to have fun. In the center are Don Barber, Supervisor in Caroline, Barbara Lifton, NYS Assemblyperson and Mike Lane, former County legislator and former Dryden Mayor.

David and I compete for blog photos. There may be a mirror image photo at Dryden is Home.

There are fire trucks. I wish I had pictures of all of them. But they were at the very front of the parade, the better to return promptly to their respective stations to stand by.

The Belgians from the Marquis farm always pull a wagon with a sign for the First National Bank of Dryden.

My personal favorite was the Dryden Hotel float. I like the town committee meetings that adjourn early enough to meet after at the Dryden Hotel. If you zoom on the photo you'll see milk cartons on the float's bar table. Good for the Dairy Day theme, "Hay, hay, it's Dairy Day." But in all honesty, I can't imagine that the Hotel really serves much milk.

Along the parade route we passed three other Town of Dryden elected officials. No need to name their party. All Dryden Democratic elected officials were in the parade. Too bad the Dryden Republicans didn't enter a float. But maybe they're having more fun as spectators.

[ed. 6/11/07 Dryden Democrats marching in the parade: Mike Lane; David Makar, Town Councilperson; Martha Robertson, County Legislature; Mary Ann Sumner, Town Councilperson; Dan Lamb; Jason Leifer and son; Mary Ellen Bossick, Village Trustee and granddaughters;. Not pictured: Kathy Zahler (who took this picture), Nancy Suci, Barbara Lifton, NYS Assemblyperson. Did I miss anyone? Dryden Republican elected officials on the sidelines: Steve Trumbull, Supervisor; Steve Stellick, Town Councilperson; Marty Christofferson, Town Councilperson; Jack Bush, Highway Superintendent and Chris Clauson, Justice. Also on the sidelines, Democrat Henry Slater, Town of Dryden Code Enforcement Officer. Maybe next year we can get him in the parade.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Thinking Like a Republican

Someone told me yesterday, with a sly grin, that he didn't know I could think so much like a Republican. I was taking a surprisingly pro-management view in our discussion. So, I took his comment as the compliment he intended. But I must say, tho' I joke about it, I'm not as rigidly partisan as some Democratic colleagues might wish. In the spirit of open mindedness and a serious effort not to overgeneralize, I respect many Republican individuals and policies, tho' I often disagree with them.

I think about differences between Democrats and Republicans a lot. Nobody has enough time or resources to work on all the issues that matter to our communities. I often wonder how people chose what to care about. So, here are a couple of huge generalizations.

Republican rhetoric about small government only applies to economic issues. As Stephen Colbert once explained: if it's about what you can do with your property, we're for small government (less regulation); if it's about what you can do with your body, we're for big government (more regulation.) Think about it.

On the local level the small government/big government dichotomy turns out to mean: if you ask us a question, we'll eventually come up with an answer. But we don't have time for much long range planning or going out and finding the questions that need to be answered.

But on a global level, where I really depart from Republican rhetoric is personal responsibility and authoritarianism. Personal responsibility seems only to mean we don't want tax supported programs to help people who can't earn enough money to support themselves or their families. It doesn't extend to personal ethics in business - recently particularly in banking and environmental protection.

And finally, authoritarianism. I value loyalty very highly but I will never understand blind loyalty. I'm happy to see that many Republicans also question this. But there seems to be a parallel with a religious paternalism that clings to rules and authority figures no matter how absurd. It's easier to follow rules than to think through decisions based on personal ethics. And it's easier to issue directives to constituents (or children) than to educate them to make good decisions. And I admit that sometimes I want to fall back on "Because I'm the Mom." But it's short-sighted in the extreme. We really must make the effort to have the conversations that lead to decision making by consensus.

In short:

A gathering of Democrats is more sweaty, disorderly, offhand, and rowdy than a gathering of Republicans; it is also likely to be more cheerful, imaginative, tolerant of dissent, and skillful at the game of give-and-take. A gathering of Republicans is more respectable, sober, purposeful, and businesslike than a gathering of Democrats; it is also likely to be more self-righteous, pompous, cut-and-dried, and just plain boring.

CLINTON ROSSITER, Parties and Politics in America