Public Hearings on United Water.
Today 4/23/14 at the auditorium of Felix Festa Middle School- 30 Parrott Road West Nyack 4:30 PM and 7:30 PM.
Tomorrow 4/24/14 at the Town Council Room at Ramapo Town Hall- 237 Route 59 Airmont 4:00 PM and 7:00 PM.
Info at www.dps.ny.gov under case number 13-W-0295.
Public Hearings on United Water.
The East Ramapo School Board presented a plan that would consolidate transportation for the district, which currently employs sixty to seventy bus drivers. In the proposal about twenty drivers would be terminated and seventeen buses taken out of service, officials stating that they would save 2.5 million dollars by doing so. According to Superintendent Joel Klein most of the buses are past their prime and need about 10 to $20,000 in repairs, and discontinuing them will allow programs under the threat of being cut within the district to continue. Klein stated that the board is looking into negotiating contracts with a private service to save on costs as well, since the district can’t find existing documents and their hope is that the drivers laid off will get first job opportunities within the private company. According to Spring Valley Mayor Demeza Delhomme who talked with drivers on Tuesday at the Kurtz Civic Center promised to write to the district and Governor Andrew Cuomo on behalf of the bus drivers. Klein stated that the termination of good drivers wasn’t a first choice, but if the district can’t save money there it would mean cutting other things.
The Rockland County Sheriff’s Department’s Bomb Disposal Unit responded to a call at the Felix V. Festa Middle School in West Nyack on Monday, with reports of a suspicious item in a courtyard. According to Police Captain Robert Mahon Clarkstown Police worked with the unit to evacuate people in the area the item was found about a half an hour before the 3:30 class dismissal time and had the scene cleared by 4:45 PM. The item turned out to be a small glass jar with liquid in it and two wires attached by wax and was determined not to be dangerous, though Mahon stated that the bomb unit was called as a precaution to protect students, faculty, and officers and school officials will continue investigating.
According to a letter sent out by the Chairman of the Clarkstown Republican Committee, Bob Axelrod, a hearing has been set up for Wednesday to discuss disloyalty charges against Jeanine Vecchiarelli of New City, which could lead to her expulsion from the committee. Axelrod stated that in March Vecchiarelli attacked candidate Duncan Rogers Lee while he was running for Upper Nyack Village Justice in an attempt to form a campaign against him. Lee is the attorney in a case against two Rockland County bloggers, which Vecchiarelli stated is an attempt to silence bloggers, like herself, and take away their right to free speech. Axelrod is asking members to remove Vecchiarelli from the committee for a post that she had written on her facebook that some believe cost Lee the election, though Vecchiarelli states that Lee was working on the case against bloggers Michael Hull and Anthony Mele, simply to gain points within the Republican party. Similar hearings have happened twice within the party since 2011, first Ralph Sabitini was brought to a hearing for attending a Democratic fundraiser, though it was dropped after discussion. The second was when Clarkstown Councilman Frank Borelli had allegedly been secretly taped making a deal for the Democratic party, and was removed from the committee, but not charged criminally. Vecchiarelli stated that she will most likely not be attending the hearing.
Nyack Hospital held a ribbon cutting and open house on Thursday for the opening of the new Behavioral Health Center, which is officially set for Tuesday. The center is housed on the third floor of the hospital, and provides 26 beds and safety measures such as covered lighting and recessed shelves. According to Dr. Michael Rader, Vice President and Chief Medical Officer at the hospital, with the center now being a part of the hospital emergency services and medical evaluation can be completed on location instead of transporting patients from the original center with ambulances. Rader stated that they will be treating anyone who is diagnosed with mental health issues and requires help, inlcuding the most common, depression and manic-depressive disorders, and patients will be able to access follow up treatment. Rockland’s clinic will close on Tuesday, according to Rockland County Mental Health Commissioner Mary Ann Walsh-Tozer and will provide the county with 1 million dollars this year and 2 million in 2015, though the main reason for closure was to ensure care could be easily reached for patients. An 8 million dollar grant from the State Health Care Affordability Law paid for construction and the hospital will take over costs for patient care. Rockland’s Personnel Commissioner Joan Silvestri stated that about 80 jobs will be lost when the center is closed, though hospital spokeswoman Lauren Malone stated the new center will provide 64 full and part time positions.
United Water customers expressed anger toward the company in recent days, when the water in many homes was shutoff. One resident, Adrienne Millman of New City, called the company and heard an automated message saying that scheduled maintenance would be taking place. Millman stated to the Journal News that she was celebrating the start of Passover with guests when dirty, brown water started coming from her tap. When she got a hold of a supervisor, they told her that the work was being done on the holiday because Clarkstown South High School would be on break. Spokeswoman for United Water Deb Rizzi stated that crews had to wait until student activities were over for the weekend to repair three water valves, which required shutting off the water, and to avoid an emergency the work had to be done quickly. According ot Rizzi customers in the area expected to be affected in West Nyack were notified on Friday, though the brown water affected more customers than the company had originally expected. When asked about the work being completed on the holiday, Rizzi stated that the company was, “Very, very apologetic.”
Residents of Rockland County can share their thoughts on the proposed United Water rate increases at a public hearing on April 23 and 24. Over the summer United Water submitted a request to raise revenue by 21.3 million dollars, stating that most customers’ bills would increase by $144 a year. Two state Administrative Law Judges Rafael Epstein and David Van Ort, recommended that the increase be lowered to 1.1 million dollars, making it a 15 percent increase in revenue. According to data from United Water this would make bills increase by $121 a year. The company also asked the New York State Public Service Commission in June for an increase of $60 per customer to support the 50 million dollars they spent getting approvals for the new desal plant. Due to reports that the county will run out of a water supply in coming years, the plant would take water from the Hudson, treat it, and distribute it to customers in Rockland County. Many local groups are against the plant, such as the Rockland Water Coalition, stating that the numbers may have proved lower due to the company releasing water from the Lake DeForest Reservoir into New Jersey. The plant currently stands at a cost of 150 million dollars, and will use a large amount of electricity when completed. Spokeswoman for United Water Deb Rizzi stated that the company is thankful for the judge’s decision that a rate increase is justified, and that their commitment is to ensure the customers’ receive a reliable water supply always. The hearings will be at the Felix Festa Middle School on April 23 and at the Ramapo Town Hall on April 24.
The state Supreme Court has approved a settlement between the East Ramapo School District and the renters of Colton Elementary School. Justice Margaret Garvey ordered that the Congregation Bais Malka and the Hebrew Academy for Special Children will be given one million dollars in rent credit as well as credit for renovations they had completed, and will have fees for late rent waived. This will bring the approved sale of the building down from 6.6 million dollars to 5.1 million dollars, though the settlement states unknown additional credits. The sale was originally delayed since 2011 when the tenants first filed complaints that they were owed rent credit, though the sale can now move forward with the settlement and should take place in by June 30. The district included the five million dollars in the 2013-14 budget.
After a review of the sale of the Summit Park Nursing Home records show that 16.57 million dollars of the 87 million dollars in Medicaid funds the county receives is put into the nursing home, and the Summit Park Hospital only received $491,000. The next largest amount of Medicaid was 16.54 million dollars received by Northern Manor Geriatric Center in Nanuet, which is owned by Northern Services, one of the companies that bid in the sale of the nursing home. Northern Services Group and Rockland Civil Service Employees Association recently filed suits attempting to block the sale to one of the companies, stating that the county should not be able to put the hospital up for auction along with the nursing home, leading to that company backing out. Northern Services also owns Northern Review Health Care Center in Haverstraw, which obtained 11.3 million dollars in Medicaid in the last year. THe company’s Attorney stated that the facilities take in patients that for-profit nursing homes wouldn’t, and they grew into one of the largest employers in Rockland over the past thirty years. According to Susan Sherwood, Chairwoman of the Rockland County Health Facilities Corp. who is in charge of the sale of Summit Park, the LDC met Friday and an agreement may be found today, though she could not expand on the statement.
A confirmed case of acute Hepatitis A has been identified in a food handler at the La Fontana restaurant in Nyack. Patrons and other employees may have been exposed to the Hepatitis A virus between March 19 and April 1, 2014.
The Rockland County Dept. of Health is offering free Hepatitis A vaccines to restaurant patrons and employees starting Saturday, April 12 from 11AM–5PM, Sunday, April 13 from 11AM-3PM, and Monday, April 14 from 9AM-12PM at the Rockland County Fire Training Center, 35 Fireman’s Memorial Drive in Pomona.
The Rockland County Dept. of Health recommends that all people who ate at the restaurant on March 29, March 30 and April 1, 2014 receive a Hepatitis A vaccine.
For additional information call the Div. of Disease Control & Prevention at 845-364-2997.