Amenia decides against pursuing grant, avoiding park-land forever status

Amenia Town Hall

John Coston

Amenia decides against pursuing grant, avoiding park-land forever status

AMENIA — Nine resolutions were considered at the regular meeting of the Town Board on Thursday, June 6, with eight winning unanimous approval, but one failing to pass by a vote of 3 – 2.

The failed resolution would have permitted the Parks and Recreation Department to apply for a grant from the Environmental Protection Fund within the Parks, Preservation and Heritage program, a state-administered fund.

Early in the meeting, Town Supervisor Leo Blackman indicated his intention to oppose making that application that, if awarded and accepted by the town, could provide funding for the Amenia Green project described in a Master Plan to enhance the property surrounding the Town Hall for recreational use.

As explained by Blackman, the grant program administered by the state parks system, would require that that parcel of town land would need to remain park land forever. He believes that the edges of the Town Hall parcel might one day be built upon as the commercial center might grow.

Blackman also indicated that residents should have more opportunity to consider the Amenia Green project design. Although public information sessions have been held in recent years with the landscape architect, he was concerned that attendance at those sessions was light.

When the resolution came to a vote later in the meeting, in addition to Blackman’s negative vote, Councilmembers Rosanna Hamm and Nicole Ahearn also voted against it.

Hamm expressed her concern for the major projects coming before the town that would need bonding to complete, including the new Town Garage, the water district and the wastewater project, and the potential for expense to upgrade Beekman Park’s concession stand and septic system.

The cost for a grant writer to complete the application was also a concern.

“I feel that the town is jumping the gun on an application without a firm grasp on the details,” said councilmember Ahearn, explaining her reluctance to favor the resolution.

The other eight resolutions earned unanimous approval to move ahead on several initiatives.

The North East Community Center (NECC) will expand its services and have an office at the Town Hall, offering local residents a more convenient way to access those services.

Town Attorney Ian Lindars explained that the NECC will provide social services, including possible after-school or senior programs, and the NECC will reinstitute the Friday night Farmers’ Market program.

Also approved unanimously was an expense of $5,000 to fund an evaluation of the Beekman Park septic system, to be done by Crawford and Associates Engineering and Land Surveying.

Councilmember Paul Winters said that the study will create a drawing of the septic system, noting that in the 1970s the Amenia Lions Club had built the concession stand but no drawings exist. He reported that for many years, recreation programs were all volunteer driven.

Zoning text to regulate cannabis distribution will be drafted by AKRF Environmental Planning and Engineering Consultants at a cost of $12,500. The zoning regulation amendment being drafted would regulate the sale of cannabis in the town.

Design and engineering services for a new Town Garage and salt storage facility took a step ahead as the Town Board voted unanimously to seek proposals for those services. Those proposals will be due by July 25.

The Amenia Green project to enhance the property adjacent to the Town Hall also moved ahead with a resolution to accept the Master Plan prepared by Didona Associates.

Councilmember Paul Winters explained that the Amenia Green project planning began two years ago and that the Recreation Department has spent $20,000 to create the Master Plan at no expense to the town. He recalled that three public information sessions were held to collect input from residents.

To Councilmember Hamm’s question about whether the Master Plan can be altered, Winters replied that the plan as written presents multiple options. Hamm was concerned about the drainage plans in relation to the wetland areas.

“When you displace water, it has to go somewhere. What kind of soil would be brought in,” Hamm asked.

“I’m impressed with the document generally,” Blackman said, but he felt that it does not indicate that there will be a public presentation.

Other resolutions allowed for funding for the Amenia Green design and construction documents, the next step in the project. $15,000 will be transferred from the Cell Tower revenue fund to pay architects’ fees. Added to that amount will be the town’s acceptance of a gift from the Amenia Wassaic Community Organization in the amount of $75,000, earmarked for the Amenia Green project’s design and construction document preparation.

With the funding resolutions approved, the Town Board voted unanimously to hire Didona Associates to complete the design and construction plans for the Amenia Green project at a cost of $89,500.

Councilmember Hamm asked whether any additional fees would be likely.

“Recreation has gotten this far without asking for funds. Recreation will pay for anything additional,” councilmember Winters replied.

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