Amenia reverses decision, proceeds on grant application

AMENIA — Following lengthy discussion, the Town Board voted 3-2 at its regular meeting on Thursday, June 20, to allow the Parks and Recreation Department to proceed with completing a grant application, permission that it had denied, also by a vote of 3-2, at its previous meeting on Thursday, June 6.

The matter was reintroduced to the agenda for the June 20 meeting, when Recreation Commission Secretary Peter McCaffrey offered comments to the board in advance of the vote that would reverse the June 6 decision. The single councilmember who changed in the interim was Nicole Ahearn who voted on June 20 to proceed with the funding application.

Repeating their vote against the proposal were Town Supervisor Leo Blackman and councilmember Rosanna Hamm.

The grant application is through the Environmental Protection Fund within the Parks Preservation and Heritage program, a state-administered program. If the grant is awarded and accepted by the town, the funding would support the Amenia Green project to enhance the property around the Town Hall for recreational uses.

“We’ve developed a plan,” said McCaffrey of the multi-phased Master Plan for recreation enhancement. There is no all or nothing. You get the money and then you consider what parts of the plan to complete.”

“This isn’t how this usually works,” said Blackman.

Losing permanent control over the town-owned parcel and general fiscal responsibility continued to be of concern to Blackman.

Councilwoman Rosanna Hamm voiced her continuing concern about a number of major projects facing the town in the near future, some requiring bond issues, including the new Town Garage construction. She also noted that the town has a number of parks and recreation opportunities, such as the Webutuck School grounds and Beekman Park.

“We have no recreational programs that will use Amenia Green,” Hamm said.

Councilman Brad Rebillard remarked on the importance of preserving the land for public use, noting the discussion at the previous meeting of using a portion of the land for affordable housing, while he favored the value of a walking track included in the plan.

“There are five walking tracks in town,” Blackman noted.

“I don’t have a problem with the plan,” said Hamm, recognizing the positions of Rebillard and Winters wanting to preserve the town hall land for public use.

Hamm added that she has heard from residents concerned about major projects coming up and their costs.

“I’m just against doing it all at once,” Hamm said.

Winters pointed out that the present planning is Step 2 of a design phase.

“We have presented an overall idea, a multi-phased Master Plan,” Winters said.

Rebillard commented that applying for the grant does not lock the town into anything. If awarded, the town board would still need to vote on whether to accept it.

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