Philmont residents want decrepit garage to disappear

PHILMONT—Thirty-six residents of the Village of Philmont have signed a letter to the Village Board expressing their “concern” about the old Department of Public Works (DPW) building on Eagle Street.

Resident Kate Martino read the letter aloud during the public comment segment of the November 10 board meeting. The letter requested that the village remove the old building and any items associated with it, preferably leaving the resultant lot open and turning it into a park.

Mayor Clarence Speed said that the village plans to tear down the building next spring. Until then, the building will continue to house the village police cars.

Ms. Marino asked whether it was safe to keep the cars in a building that was “so decrepit.” Village Attorney Rob Fitzsimmons assured her that all village properties are insured.

“I want this building gone just as much as everybody else does,” said Trustee Brian Johnson. But I don’t want to spend any more money on it than we have to…. I don’t want to hire anybody to do it. If we just have the time to do it, we don’t have to raise taxes.”

An audience member asked about the possibility of applying for a grant to pay for the building’s demolition. Trustee Douglas Cropper advised against this, saying that it could take five to ten years to obtain grant money for this kind of project.

Ms. Martino and Sally Baker, executive director of Philmont Beautification, Inc., both asked whether inspectors will test the building for asbestos contamination before tearing it down.

“There’s really no contamination anymore,” said Mayor Speed. “That’s gone.”

Mr. Johnson said that the site had passed environmental tests after a 2009 fuel spill. The site has not been tested since, but according to Mr. Johnson, no harmful chemicals have been stored there in the meantime. Mr. Fitzsimmons agreed that it was safe to tear the building down, saying, “The likelihood of there being asbestos” is low.

Mr. Fitzsimmons also said that Village Building Inspectors Stan Koloski and Dennis Callahan would be responsible for any pre-demolition testing.

When Ms. Martino asked board members whether they had any ideas for the future use of the lot, Mr. Johnson said, “I see grass planted there, [but] I just want it cleaned up.”

Trustee Barbara Sagal said, “I would like to see it be open space.”

Ms. Martino closed by reiterating that she and the others who signed the letter—all “neighbors who are really affected”—would like to “stay involved” and be kept abreast of any developments at the site.

The Board also heard from Ms. Baker about the participation of the village in the Brownfield Opportunity Area (BOA) grant project, which is funded through the state Department of State. The village plan focuses on the revitalization of the Summit Reservoir Area. The project’s Community Participation Plan will be available at the Village Office starting November 20. Ms. Baker urged residents to review the plan. “The entire grant relies on Community Participation,” she said. The next planning meeting is scheduled for November 17 at 1 p.m. at the Karen Garafalo Cultural Center.

In other business this week the board:

  • Heard Mr. Fitzsimmons say that he would present the board with some options for raising veterans’ partial exemptions from village taxes. Any change to exemption levels would require adopting a local law
  • Received an update from Trustee Larry Ostrander on the water pumps on Summit Street. According to Mr. Ostrander, Village Engineer Ray Jurkowski has reported that an initial quote from the Harkins Company for installation of the pumps was prohibitively high
  • Learned from Mr. Ostrander that state Senator Kathleen Marchione’s office has not yet responded to a request for help in speeding up the approval process for installing solar panels on village buildings. The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) is responsible for approving such requests. The village plan with Monolith Solar has been in place for five months and is intended to provide power to the sewer plant, the DPW, and the Village Office
  • Heard from Village Clerk and Treasurer Kim Simmons that any properties still owing July water bills will have their water turned off Wednesday, December 10
  • Passed a motion to approve $13,850 for the library’s new roof
  • Learned that the Philmont Fire Company received its first E.M.S. assist call since the fire company was put back on the call list for medical emergencies
  • Granted Community Day Chairman Dick Howard’s request for use of the Village Hall for a pancake breakfast with Santa Claus December 7
  • Heard from Mayor Speed that he has planted five new spruce trees at Philmont Park on Main Street, site of Memorial Day celebrations. Mr. Howard will decorate the trees for Christmas. “Hopefully we’re going to have Santa in the park instead of in the back of my truck this year,” said Mayor Speed.

The next regular meeting of the Village Board will be December 8 at Village Hall.

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