Germantown readies emergency shelter

GERMANTOWN—The day after the People’s Climate March drew more than 300,000 marchers to New York City to bring attention to the threats from a changing climate, the Town Board approved unanimously partnering with the Red Cross to make the Kellner Activities Building a shelter in case of disaster or emergency.

The decision did not come quickly. In August representatives of the Red Cross and the Columbia County Emergency Management Office toured the Kellner building and were very interested in using it as a short-term warming or cooling center. The restrooms are not handicapped-accessible and there are no showers in the building, so if an emergency continued more than 24 hours, people would be bused to more long-term shelters.

At its August meeting, the board held back on signing a contract with the Red Cross. Councilman Michael Mortenson feared the Red Cross would “contradict” the town’s own emergency plan. Councilman Matthew Phelan did not “want to be blocked into a contract and in three years learn that we need to upgrade our facilities at our cost.” The board agreed to do more research.

By the time of the board’s September 15 workshop meeting, Mr. Mortenson had met with George Keeler, a county fire coordinator, who is working to make connections between the Red Cross and individual towns.

“He eased a lot of my concerns,” said Mr. Mortenson. “The Red Cross will train our people in how to run a shelter.” Different kinds of people—families, singles, men, women—do not have to be sheltered in different buildings. Office dividers can be used. The Red Cross will bring in food and anything else that the town is unable to supply, including a tractor-trailer with compartments for pets.

By the time of Monday’s meeting, Mr. Mortenson said, “I would recommend that we partner with the Red Cross” and the unanimous vote went ahead.

In other business, the Town Board:

  • Set budget workshops for October 6 (during which department heads will discuss the requests they have made), 13 and 17 (“numbers-crunching sessions,” said Supervisor Joel Craig), all at 7 p.m. in Town Hall. The Public Hearing on the budget is scheduled for Monday, October 27 at 6 p.m., before the next Town Board meeting
  • Postponed for a month a decision about hiring a consultant to study the town’s part-time Police Department. Peter Volkmann, a retired police officer from Ossining who now lives in Stuyvesant, had attended the board’s workshop meeting to describe what he would do and had already done for the part-time Police Departments in Stockport and the Village of Chatham, where he is now chief of police: meet with police officers, Town Board members and any other interested residents; evaluate the budget and make recommendations with costs. At Monday’s meeting Mr. Craig and Councilman Don Westmore voted to hire Mr. Volkmann, for the cost of his mileage, but Mr. Mortenson, Mr. Phelan and Councilwoman Andrea Dunn voted nay, saying they want to do additional research on police department consultants and how they might help the town. Mr. Phelan said he would spearhead the research
  • Learned from town historian Sue Raab that the documentary “Germantown: Stories of Our History” has been well received. It will be shown again at the Germantown Library on Sunday, October 12 at 3 p.m. and at Club Helsinki Hudson on Thursday, September 25 at 7 p.m. for an open meeting of the Lions Club.
  • Heard from Ms. Raab that the annual Palatine Heritage Days for the Germantown Central School District are Wednesday and Thursday, October 9 and 10. She teamed up with the Clearwater organization this year. They will work with 40 high school science students, taught by Dean Hanson, in a daylong seminar about river ecology and how it has changed over 300 years. All 300 k-6 students will take part in a music program led by Clearwater staff
  • Heard from Roy Brown that the town’s Business & Economic Development Committee had met the previous week with other economic development committees in a roundtable hosted by the Columbia County Economic Development Corporation and Ken Flood, its executive director. “We talked about where everyone was with their EDC,” said Mr. Brown. “We’re ahead of many towns, but some are catching up with us, so we have to keep working.” The plan is for the countywide group to meet quarterly
  • Heard from Mr. Brown that the third Apple Festival was “another huge success.” About 4,100 people attended. Mr. Brown thanked maintenance director Anthony Cidras, the Highway Department and the Town Board for their help. With budget deliberations imminent, “I appeal to you to continue support for the Apple Festival,” said Mr. Brown
  • Learned that a chicken and ribs dinner will be sold at the Firehouse on Main Street Saturday, October 4 from 4 to 6 p.m.; that the next exhibition at ArtSpace is painted wood constructions by Stephen Walling, opening Saturday, October 11 with a reception from 5 to 7 p.m.; and that the tentative date for the Christmas tree lighting is Saturday, December 13.
  • Discussed briefly the possibility of offering swimming lessons next summer, since the treatments to the lake on Palatine Park Road have made it much cleaner.

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