A release by the Office of the New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli announced a breakdown of the $2.1 billion in contracts and payments for state agencies and public authorities for this passed February. This monthly notice provides updated information regarding payments made toward the state and is an effort to promote public transparency of government. All of the information can be found on openbooknewyork.com.
According to a memo from the County Executive’s office, County Attorney, Thomas Humbach stated that elected officials who are being paid for their positions as commissioners of a Rockland County Sewer District, are actually not entitled to salaries and must pay the money they have received back. Town Supervisors Andy Stewart of Orangetown, Christopher St. Lawrence of Ramapo, and Alex Gromack of Clarkstown, as well as Hillburn Mayor Craig Flanagan, Spring Valley Mayor Demeza Delhomme, and Sloatsburg Trustee Daniel O’Leary, were informed in January that county law orders that elected officials do not get paid and they would not continue receiving salaries, and recently they were informed that they must pay back the money. Of the officials who responded to the memo, most stated that they would follow the county’s order, while some questioned if it is possible to get all the money back because of income and social security taxes that have already been paid. The thirteen seats on the sewer district board are filled by the Legislature, eight are for elected officials and five are reserved for residents who are allowed by county law to receive a salary. Former Clarkstown Councilman John Maloney who finished his term in 2009, remained as a commissioner in the seat reserved for an elected official, though he stated that he was a commissioner in the seat reserved for an elected official, though he stated that he was appointed as a residential commissioner. He was asked to step down in January following Humbach’s description of county law. All of the officials agreed in January to continue serving without pay.
An eleven month long investigation by the District Attorney’s office and the Rockland Drug Task Force into the sale of prescription drugs in Rockland County led to the arrest of 29 people. At a press conference on Wednesday District Attorney Thomas Zugibe stated that the dealers arrested were selling drugs including Oxycodone and heroin at the shopping centers throughout the county, such as the Palisades Center and the Shops at Nanuet. During the undercover investigation officers purchased drugs from the dealers, who obtained and and sold nearly $1 million of pills by forging prescriptions and in some cases pretending to be doctors, and also searched the homes of all those involved, discovering forgery equipment, as well as various drugs. The charges include federal charges of conspiracy and state charges of fourth-degree conspiracy, all felonies.
An energy company from Monsey is fighting a lawsuit filed by a customer in Pennsylvania and about 100 other plaintiffs, who claim that they were scammed when offered cheaper prices but were trapped into rate increases after signing. According to the lawsuit the lead plaintiff began using HIKO Energy as her provider, and in the first six-months saw her bills reduce 1 to 7 percent, but after that period of time the cost increased 70 percent, and when she tried to cancel her plan with the energy company they made it difficult to do so, the suit stating that it would take a customer at least two billing cycles to leave the company. The company stated in their response to the court that they made it clear from the beginning that rates are subject to change. The suit has been moved to Federal Court and will continue in White Plains.
Clarkstown officials presented an idea to the county that would allow villages and towns to share information when it comes to increased development and zoning issues along the borders. Clarkstown is currently fighting to gain more information on the Pascack Ridge development in Ramapo, a slaughterhouse in New Square, and the Anellotech plant in Pearl River, three projects that many residents are opposed to. According to officials the town has to wait for freedom of information requests to be approved before they are allowed information that the County Planning Department is given instant access to, such as traffic studies and air quality reports. Supervisor Alex Gromack stated that he has reached out to state officials to change the laws to allow individuals to change the laws to allow individuals within 50 feet of development to obtain information that the county has. Clarkstown officials have proposed that the other towns and villages work together to provide information that will protect the environment and communities from overdevelopment and negative side effects to various proposed plans.
According to officials work has resumed on the New Tappan Zee Bridge, which took a hiatus during the rough winter the lower Hudson Valley has faced this year. Ice and snow on the river forced much of the construction to slow or stop completely, including pile driving, which has also begun once again. Many South Nyack residents have complained that the noise created by the process is overwhelming and Mayor Bonnie Christian stated that the village should be given at least 48-hours notice to inform residents that pile driving will be happening. Also this month Tappan Zee Constructors, the company working on the new bridge, began replacing silos used for concrete storage on the two floating mixing plant, after one collapsed in December. The officials stated that an investigation into the cause of the fall is continuing and without the barges trucks have to drive in mixed cement from an outside site. Along with pile driving, crews will also resume work on the areas where the bridge reaches land. Noise from the site is meant to be kept below 90 decibels, which is monitored by equipment 50 feet from the work, and in response to various complaints Mayor Christian stated that she has requested the monitors be moved closer to the site.
16 Year-old Christopher Bermeo was seen in Rockland County Court on Wednesday where a Judge lowered bail for the Spring Valley High School student who was arrested last week after stabbing a classmate in the halls of the school. The 17 year-old victim was stabbed four times with a penknife and according to Bermeo’s defense attorney, Benjamin Greenwald, his client was defending himself from verbal and physical bullying. On Wednesday, the teen pleaded not guilty to charged of attempted murder and assault and the Judge agreed with Greenwald to lower the bail from $500,000 to 50,000 based on Bermeo’s age and the unlikeliness that he would flee. The victim spent a few days in the hospital for serious but non-life threatening injuries and is not home with a protective order against his assailant. Bermeo was suspended from school and would most likely be home schooled in the event he makes bail.
Ferry services between the Haverstraw and Ossining terminals are set to resume this week after nearly two months of being suspended. On January 26 the ice and snow on the Hudson River forced the suspension of the ferry, which transports nearly 450 Rockland commuters daily, a problem that is faced nearly every winter. Senator Charles Schumer requested that the Coast Guard find a way to break the ice in the future so services could continue through the winter, though the agency stated that they have limited resources and must create a travel route for barges to go North up the river. The ferry services will resume on Wednesday morning starting at 5:50 AM.
Congratulations to the Spring Valley Tigers basketball team who played an impressive game on Saturday at SUNY New Paltz against against Saugerties, winning 65-62. This means that the team wins the boys Class A Regional Championship and will now head to the State Semifinal Game against Scotia-Glenville.
On Tuesday Rockland County Legislators expressed their support for a bill that would allow the state to appoint a permanent monitor for the East Ramapo School District. In a letter to Governor Andrew Cuomo signed by twelve members of the Legislature, asked the Governor to pass the oversight bill that was presented by Assemblyman Kenneth Zebrowski, Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee, and Senator David Carlucci. It was based off a report submitted by the fiscal monitor Hank Greenburg, which stated that the East Ramapo School Board was misguided when it came to finances. Many supporters of the bill have stated their belief that the board favors private schools in the district, providing them with funding and transportation over the Public School Students. Not everyone is in favor of oversight for the district, there are also residents and officials that are against the passage of the bill, Legislator Aron Wieder is openly opposed to the bill, stating to WRCR on Thursday morning that it is taking advantage of the position given to board members by the Democratic process of election. The bill would allow a monitor to override decisions made by the board, and would require a five-year improvement plan instituted. The letter follows the delivery of a petition to the Governor’s Office with more than 3,100 signatures, urging the passage of the Legislation.