Town Board Addresses Healthcare Reform

Hears Presentations About Sewer District #3, Murrow Park

The Pawling Town Board convened on Wednesday, August 8, for its summer monthly meeting at Town Hall. In addition to a Public Hearing regarding the establishment of Sewer District #3, the meeting would cover topics including a presentation from the Pawling Community Foundation, an update on the Whaley Lake Dam Project, a discussion of employee healthcare benefits, and the announcement of the resignation of Pawling Recreation Director Melissa Smith.

The meeting began with the Public Hearing regarding the establishment of Pawling Sewer District #3. In attendance were attorney Richard O’Rourke of Keane & Beane P.C., engineer Jerry Schwalbe of Divney Tung Schwalbe, and Assistant Vice President of Development Alex Wong representing Castagna Realty Co. Castagna owns the 200-acre site on Route 22 that includes Castagna Senior Park, an eighty-one-unit senior housing facility. The public hearing was held in response to an amended petition filed in January 2016 to establish a sewer district that will service the property as it continues to expand construction further down Route 22. The pipe connecting the facility to Pawling’s wastewater treatment facility was provided by the property owner at no cost to the taxpayers. Going forward, Castagna plans to construct an additional 120-bed assisted living facility, as well as new urgent care, medical facilities, and retail spaces on the property. Plans could go before the Town Planning Board as early as September.

Next, Board members heard a presentation from members of the Pawling Community Foundation (PCF) regarding the proposed creation of a new dog park at Murrow Park. The dog park will have separate areas for small and large dogs, and be fenced in to provide residents with a safe space to enjoy with their pets. PCF co-chair Mario Mejorado spoke about the project, which will be the first step in the organization’s plan to rejuvenate Pawling’s parks. “People are really excited about having an off-leash dog park,” said Mejorado. “This is one small facet of the park, but we want to have a win to show that the PCF can do things for the residents. We’re hoping that the dog park can help revitalize Murrow Park.” PCF officials estimate that the project will take roughly four to six weeks to complete, pending the results of upcoming fundraising efforts. The Board approved the project, pending review of construction drawings.

In other business, the Board received an update on the Whaley Lake Dam reconstruction project from Owner’s Representative Vinny DiMarco. On Saturday, August 4, and Sunday, August 5, officials held an open house at the dam for the public to view the progress of the project. “We had a good turnout both days,” said DiMarco. “People were very appreciative.” In July, crews at the site made steady progress and the project is on schedule. In total, workers have poured 1,315 cubic yards of concrete to date, with extensive work being done on the dam’s walls, drawdown chamber, footings, and arched spillway. DiMarco praised the work of the construction crews on site, who have been making progress despite the inclement weather. “The crews are out there working hard every day,” he said. Officials are considering a second open house at the Whaley Lake Dam for early September, and the project remains on pace for the lake to be filled to its normal level by mid-November.

Next, officials addressed the long discussed issue of healthcare benefits for Town employees and elected officials. Councilman Bill Johnson spoke on the issue, saying: “I’m really delving into it, and I’ve started working with the Supervisor and talking with other towns. We’re going to review the health insurance overall, and who receives it.”

Supervisor James Schmitt also addressed the matter, saying: “We’ve taken the time to meet with other surrounding municipalities to see how their healthcare is set up. We’ve spoken to other supervisors and met with other healthcare providers. We’ve had a lot of meetings and a lot of discussions to figure out the best way to change it. There is potential for a substantial savings. Unfortunately, it’s not something that happens overnight. Hopefully Councilman Johnson and I will be able to put something together that everyone can be happy with.” The Board hopes to have more information about potential changes to the Town’s healthcare system available to the public in September.

In final business, the Town Board announced the resignation of Pawling Recreation Director Melissa Smith, who served Pawling for 18 years, and implemented numerous programs within the community. “I had the pleasure of working with Melissa Smith for many years,” said Councilman Johnson. “Without her, we wouldn’t have the Interact Club or the summer programs that we have. She really left her mark on our Parks and Recreation Department.” Councilman Phil DeRosa added: “When I spoke to her, I wanted to stress to Melissa the numerous children that she affected. She will be hard to replace.” The Board recognized Smith’s contributions to the community in the form of an official commendation, citing her hard work, exemplary leadership, and overall contributions to the Pawling community.

The next Town Board meeting will be held on Wednesday, September 5 at 7:00 p.m. at Town Hall.