When it comes to local government, there is perhaps no more visible yard stick by which to measure success than infrastructure. Roads, sidewalks, and sewers are the critical to property values as well as residents’ experiences of their community. We pay a lot in property taxes and we have the right to expect modern-day infrastructure.
We believe that the Town of New Castle needs to create a true capital plan, starting with an inventory of all of our capital assets and infrastructure, including their age and current condition, and a plan for the maintenance and/or replacement of these existing assets. The Town cannot be unprepared for necessary infrastructure improvements – with a capital plan we will reduce the number of surprises during budget season and throughout the year.
The Town of New Castle is blessed with a balanced budget and healthy fund balances, but that does not mean capital projects should be funded from our operating budget. Nor should taxpayers shoulder the burden of paying for projects. We need to stop spending our own money. When we are elected we will place priority on applying for -- and winning! – State and Federal grant opportunities, and we will investigate low-cost financing options for capital projects.
When it comes to infrastructure, our town lags behind neighboring communities, which can negatively impact property values and our quality of life. We will place a priority on improving our Town’s infrastructure. This includes sewers, sidewalks, and roads.
Too many residents are stuck on septic systems without a plan to extend sewers to their neighborhoods. Adding insult to injury, many of these residents are paying taxes to the Saw Mill Sewer District. The current administration has focused on opting residents out of the sewer district, and we support this for residences that truly cannot or will not be connected to sewers. But our priority will be more aggressively pursuing sewer connections for residents on septic. This has a huge impact on property values and the time to act is now!
Failing waste water treatment plants in three New Castle communities (Riverwoods, Yeshiva, and Random Farms) continue to be a major concern, and one that has flummoxed the Town and County for years. Success depends on making this a priority, not just during the campaign, but by requiring regular reporting on progress made throughout the year.
The current plan is to shut down the Random Farms Waste Water Treatment plant and connect the community to the county trunk line. In order to do so, the sewer line would be extended up Rt. 100 and across Rt. 133. Funding has been approved and set aside by the County for this project. However, the scope of the project has shifted because the Fox Hollow and Riverwoods waste water treatment plants will now be diverted to Mount Kisco. Through aggressive action, the Town has been able to hold on to the project funding, although the County is reconsidering the route of the sewers for Random Farms, possibly by connecting to the Saw Mill Sewer District by going over 133 to Rt. 120. We oppose this.
The current plan to connect to the County trunk line via Rt. 100/133 requires NYC DEP approval, because the sewer line will pass through NYC's watershed. It has been stuck in their approval processes for over a year – we need to shake it loose. After the project is fully approved and funding is released, and once the sewer line is extended up Rt. 100, there would be an opportunity for commercial businesses and residences in Millwood to connect to the new line. This is the process by which the Town would be able to provide sewer access to the Millwood hamlet.
We believe that the Town should make sewers a top priority and that we should be exerting more direct pressure on the County to complete the diversion projects. Sewering Millwood would create tremendous possibilities for development in the hamlet, which would increase the commercial tax base. Sewer access would increase property values and create a more viable, thriving hamlet.
Most residents want the Town to invest in sidewalks to improve walkability, connect our neighborhoods with the hamlets, and create safe routes to schools. There are financial challenges with implementing sidewalks, as well as necessary coordination and cooperation with the State and County. The first step is to complete the Comprehensive Sidewalk Plan. A plan will enable us to apply for grants and/or to find other funding solutions. Sidewalks are an important piece of the puzzle when it comes to improving property values in New Castle.
The Town Board last discussed the Comprehensive Sidewalk Plan in April 2019. The current focus has been on the feasibility of creating the ChapLine, a potential trail through the woods from North Greeley Avenue to Roaring Brook Road. The Town Board is awaiting the results of the feasiblity study. That said, it is our view that sidewalks and trails serve different purposes, and the exploration of the ChapLine should not halt or delay progress on the Comprehensive Sidewalk Plan. When elected, we will rebalance priorities to focus on the completion of the Plan.
One of the first areas of focus for sidewalks will be in Millwood. The Town Board has pursued the Millwood Sidewalk Improvement Project, which is awaiting NYSDOT approval. We are also pursuing extending sidewalks up Rt. 100 and pedestrian access from the Millwood hamlet to Gedney Park.
The paving budget increased from an average of $233,000 annually from 2008-2013 to the current budget of $923,424 in 2019 – and we agree that this is a laudable achievement especially considering that there were years prior to 2014 where little to no paving occurred. But the reality is that this increase still only paves about 5 miles of road annually, with over 100 total miles of road in New Castle. The situation is only going to get worse as the roads continue to age and we cannot keep pace with the necessary repaving. We need a solution and to more aggressively pursue paving and protecting our roads.
Some communities have used capital funding to repave all of their roads, and then created a maintenance plan to keep their roads in top condition. We should consider the same. This starts with creating an inventory of our existing roads, and then developing a plan for paving, maintenance, and ongoing operations. Without a plan, we are simply plugging (pot)holes.
We recognize that this is not a New Castle problem – large and small towns throughout New York State have been trying to address this issue. We will appoint a task force to learn best practices from other communities. And we will join other municipalities in forcefully advocating for NYS to put up a bond to repave State roads. Our approach to issues like road maintenance will include exploration of shared services and inter-municipal cooperation – these are the hallmarks of our approach to governance.
Lastly, we are pleased that the County will direct additional aid to municipalities based on revenues received from the recent increase in the County sales tax. In 2019, the Town of New Castle will receive $433,296 for August-December. In 2020, we will receive $939,679 in additional revenue. This is a tremendous opportunity to increase our paving budget in the short term.
Capital planning and modern infrastructure are the kinds of bread and butter local issues that we care about. Our approach isn’t just to identify problems, we are focused on results.
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