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Having won the race for City Council handily last week, you might imagine that the four winners would be putting up their feet or taking a well-earned vacation. In fact, according to Josh Cohn, the Mayor-elect, they are trying to review “everything” — in progress, prioritized, on hold, much discussed, or long planned — before they take office New Year’s Day.

“This is no small thing,” said Cohn earlier this week. “There are a tremendous number of things to do, probably more than we can do by the end of the year. We’re now spectators in the 2018 budget discussions, but we are all very much aware that our first and biggest task is finding non-property tax revenue sources and grant funds.” He added, “A million dollars a year for street repair, for example, is maintenance-only spending. The City needs to build more parking downtown for its businesses.”

Thinking even further ahead, Cohn offered the following assurance: “We’re going to be active and in it for the community, and come out of our four years with residents feeling that the Council has made positive progress on a number of important issues, such as residential development.

“Rye has an identity, a striving municipal identity, and I’d like to strengthen that identity.”

— Robin Jovanovich

 

The campaign season is made up of long days and bumpy nights, but once the election returns started pouring in after the polls closed on November 7, it was quickly apparent that the Democrats would have a very good Election Night.

State Senator George Latimer (D), who won reelection to a third term last November, decisively defeated incumbent Rob Astorino (R), who was running for a third term as Westchester County Executive. The unofficial tally was Latimer 121,467, Astorino 93,108.

 

For the past several months, the City Manager and Comptroller and City staff have been putting together a tentative City budget for 2018. The sum of that work is a weighty 376-page document that has been presented to the City Council, which is now doing its due diligence. Department heads have made their own budget presentations at public workshops this month.

Residents can tune to RyeTV for a preliminary understanding of what’s been proposed or read the budget in full on the City website. The Council encourages the community to attend the December 6 meeting at which there will be a public hearing on the 2018 budget and consideration of adopting a local law overriding the state-mandated tax cap. The Council will vote to adopt a final budget December 20, its last regular meeting of the year.

The proposed $39.4 million budget requires a 6.23 percent tax increase and an override vote to fund the estimated $2,615,389 increase in expenditures over 2017. Rye’s tax cap for 2018 is 1.84%.

The American Red Cross will conduct a Blood Drive in memory of John Duffy at the Rye Golf Club ballroom November 8, 2-7 p.m. Appointments can be scheduled at RedCrossBlood.org by entering sponsor keyword, “John”. The drive is open to the public and walk-ins are welcome.

 

<The following letter was sent to the Rye City Council and forwarded to us for publication.>

The current model for the City of Rye Boat Basin is unsustainable and will leave taxpayers on the hook for a multi-million dollar cleanup and remediation bill if nothing changes.

The Boat Basin operates at a loss of approximately $280,000 to $300,000 each year, primarily due to so-called “non-cash” depreciation charges of approximately $400,000. Meanwhile, there are ongoing costs: regular dredging of Milton Harbor channel and repair and rebuilding of Boat Basin buildings, ramps, docks, and equipment that have been neglected for many, many years. We are now at the point where the facility requires significant expenditures to maintain it in a safe and effective manner. The cost of fixing the problem significantly exceeds the approximate $900,000 balance in the Boat Basin’s Enterprise Fund.

<<The facility is in need of major repairs.>> Supervisor George Hogben estimates repair costs for dock piling replacement at $215,000; repair cost for main dock ramp and covered atrium at $68,000; boat launch ramp extension at $120,000; main dock float replacements at $200,000; parking lot repair at $42,000. This list doesn’t include future repairs for the main office or maintenance shed. While some of these expenses can be deferred, many are overdue and safety will increasingly become an issue as the facility deteriorates.

<<We are behind the 8-ball on dredging.>>Milton Harbor requires ongoing maintenance dredging to keep the channel clear of debris that accumulates each year. A recent presentation to the Commission and the City Manager from consulting firm Coastline Consulting & Development estimated that a comprehensive dredging program to remove 94,000 cubic yards would cost several million dollars. A smaller, maintenance level of dredging to remove 25,000 cubic yards would cost closer to one million dollars but would need to be repeated the following season to try and “catch up” on the required dredging. The Army Corps of Engineers permits to dredge were allowed to expire in 2015. The permitting process will take approximately 15 months, meaning the earliest we could dredge is the spring of 2019. In short, we are behind the 8-ball on dredging.

What happens if we don’t dredge the channel? The larger boats that pay higher slip fees are now unable to get in and out of the Boat Basin at or near low tide. This situation will get worse. These boats will go elsewhere and the revenues will decline, causing the operating budget gap to widen.

<<Expenses have increased dramatically.>> In the meantime, the City has increased the primary expense consisting of employee wages and benefits over 30% in the past two years, from $238,000 in 2015 to $316,000 (estimated) in 2017.

<<If nothing is done, taxpayers will be on the hook.>> Realistically, it will cost several million dollars to fix the facility and the docks and dredge the channel. If the larger boats leave and the revenues shrink, the operation will sink under its own weight and the City of Rye taxpayer will be on the hook for a multi-million dollar dismantling and environmental cleanup of the Boat Basin, the docks, and surrounding property.

It’s time for the City of Rye to formulate a long-term plan for the continued operation of the Boat Basin. Do we really want to be the only municipality in the western Long Island Sound that cannot manage a successful marina, public or private?

— The Boat Basin Commission

Sincerely

Commissioners

Rye American Legion Post 128 invites the community to a Veterans Day Ceremony Saturday, November 11 beginning at 10:30 a.m. on the Village Green, or in City Hall, depending on the weather. Michael Fix, a Vietnam War veteran, is the principal speaker.