Security Tight at the Town Board

On Wednesday, October 3, the Town Board convened at the Holmes Whaley Lake Civic Association Building at 239 Route 292 in Holmes. A Dutchess County Sheriff’s Deputy and two Town Constables were present in response to a threat that was made toward the Town Board via email earlier in the week. The meeting’s agenda included a discussion of the Town budget and updates on the transfer station and the ongoing issue of healthcare for Town employees. The meeting concluded with a heated confrontation between two public officials.

Attendants at the meeting were met by the Deputy and Town Constables, who searched visitors’ bags before entry. Town Supervisor James Schmitt apologized for the inconvenience and addressed the heightened security: “In this day and age, you can’t take any threats lightly. We did have an unfortunate situation with a resident who made threats to the Board, which were aggressive to say the least. In the interest of keeping everyone safe, we asked the deputies to get involved. We take these threats very, very seriously.” Officials stress that the police presence was a precautionary measure, and the threats are being investigated by the Dutchess County Sheriff’s Office.

The tentative 2019 Town budget was submitted to the Town Clerk on Monday, October 1. “It’s something that I’ve worked very hard on, with our department heads and consultants,” said Supervisor Schmitt. “We’re exploring the best options to keep departments more efficient – myself and our Bookkeeper Andrew Forman, who I can’t thank enough.” The budget will now be turned over to the rest of the Town Board for review. “Our goal is to get the budget down as low as possible,” Schmitt added. “We can always be better, and I’m excited to see what we can do as a group.” The Board will continue their review of the tentative budget over the course of the next several weeks.

In other business, the Board received an update on regulations at the Town Transfer Station from Councilman Phil DeRosa. Councilman DeRosa is part of a committee that is examining procedures at the facility in hopes of controlling costs and better regulating waste disposal for residents. Among the possible changes to Transfer Station policy next year will be prohibiting brush that is larger than 4 inches in diameter and 10 feet in length. Another proposed change would be to restrict access to vehicles registered to corporations or LLCs, thus limiting use of the Transfer Station to residents and domestic household waste. Going forward, Councilman DeRosa and the committee will also examine the possibility of switching to a per-bag system and imposing stricter fines for those caught in violation of Transfer Station regulations. “We really want to get control of the Transfer Station so we really know what’s going on up there,” said DeRosa. “Then we can make decisions for policy for next year. This is just to get the conversation started.” The Town Board urged Councilman DeRosa to carefully consider all aspects of the facility’s operational policies before bringing any proposed changes before the Board.

Councilman Bill Johnson then spoke about the ongoing discussions regarding changes to the Town’s healthcare coverage. “The Supervisor and I continue to have an open dialog with several different insurance companies, who have been requesting volumes of information,” said Johnson. “It is our ultimate goal to drastically reduce this expense to the community.”

Officials are hopeful that the conversations with the healthcare insurance providers will yield significant results in the coming months. “There are a lot of savings out there that are obtainable to this community,” added Supervisor Schmitt.

The evening ended with an exchange between Supervisor Schmitt and Board of Education member Harvey Matcovsky during the Public Comment portion of the meeting. The issue stemmed from comments made by Matcovsky during the April 11 Town Board meeting in which he reportedly used an insensitive term when referring to Special Education students. “The wording you used when speaking about students in our district was highly, highly inappropriate,” said Supervisor Schmitt, who asked for a public apology and later remarked, “This is a day and age where bullying goes on every single day. It’s one of the biggest epidemics today for the young community in America.” Mr. Matcovsky responded by explaining that the matter was resolved by the Board of Education and the school administration: “There was a meeting, and that issue was addressed. The request [for review] was sent to the administration, and that’s who was going to answer it. The issue was addressed by the President of the Board [of Education] and the Superintendent. And I assumed that the person who made the request, who had a problem with whatever I said or didn’t say at a meeting was satisfied. Nobody ever came to me personally [to request an apology].” Supervisor Schmitt informed Mr. Matcovsky that the issue was not resolved to his satisfaction and that Mr. Matcovsky would not be allowed to speak at any future Town Board meetings until he makes a public apology for his comments. As the exchange continued, Councilman Dave Kelly moved to adjourn the meeting.

Recordings of Pawling Town Board meetings are available to the public on the Internet. To access these recordings visit the Town of Pawling website at online, click on “Departments,” then “Town Board,” then “Meeting Podcasts.”

The next scheduled Town Board meeting will be held on Wednesday, November 7, at 7:00 p.m. at Town Hall, 160 Charles Colman Blvd.