Legislators Vote to Wash County Buses Daily

The Rockland County Legislature voted 13-3 on Wednesday to approve a request made by Pearl River Legislator Patrick Moroney, that the county’s buses be washed daily, which will cost more than $300,000 for the remainder of 2014. In February a TOR bus caught fire and was evacuated, leading to Moroney researching the cause. Moroney stated that the results prove fires can start in the undercarriage of the vehicles and cleanings can help prevent them. Witnesses stated that the fire in February started in the back right wheel well, which coincides with the results from studies. In the $70 million contract Rockland signed with Brega Transport in November, it is required that each bus gets washed at least once a week, meaning the county will have to find money for the 62 buses to be washed daily. Some legislators, including Michael Grant, who voted against the resolution, stated concerns about where the $500,000 $800,000 for 2015 will come from. According to Moroney there is a surplus of funds in the Department of Public Transportation which will be used for 2014 and the county will have to wait and see, but the daily washings are for public safety.

Ramapo Men Arrested had Connection to Mob

On Thursday a unit led by the Rockland District Attorney’s Office and the FBI arrested two men with connections to the mob on charges of racketeering and conspiracy. 61-year old Daniel Pagano of Ramapo was arrested at his home along with an assoiciate, 49-year old Michael Palazzolo who was also charged with conspiracy to commit extortion. According to prosecutors Pagano is a captain in the Genovese crime family, involved in illegal gambling, loan sharking, and making threats to gamblers to obtain money for leaders of the organization. District Attorney Thomas Zugibe stated the unit has been investigating the men since 2009 using eavesdropping warrants and obtaining evidence. Pagano faces twenty years in prison and Palazzolo faces as many 40 years. Pagano’s attorney Murray Richman stated that his client pleaded not guilty and will most likely be using his home on Cherry Lane as collateral for bail.

Pearl River Vandalism Continues

More vandalism has been reported in Pearl River, a week after a family’s home on North Lincoln Street was attacked with anti-semitic graffiti. According to Jim Van Houtan Farms on Sickletown Road, on Sunday morning at 8:30 workers discovered that over the weekend vandals plastered anti-semitic graffiti consisting of swastikas and other forms of profanity on greenhouses, as well as destroyed cash registers, sprinkler heads, tore down the flagpole, overturned potted plants, and released the garden center’s fifteen-year old rabbit who found her way back the next day. Van Houtan stated that he is not Jewish, which makes him and police wonder if those responsible are ignorantly searching for something to draw. Orangetown Police stated they are investigating the incident and are unaware if there is a connection to the attacks on North Lincoln.

Spring Valley Mayor Jailed

According to Spring Valley Village Attorney Jerrod Miles Mayor Demeza Delhomme was jailed on Friday after state Supreme Court Judge Gerald Loehr found him to be in contempt of court. On Thursday Loehr ruled that Delhomme must follow a previous order to allow the village summer camp to be held at the Louis Kurtz Center, regardless of personnel issues that resulted from the mayor’s suspension of Youth Director Sonia Barton from her position. Loehr stated at the hearing that if the building wasn’t opened for the camp Delhomme would be arrested and jailed. About twenty children had been signed up for camp when Trustee Vilair Fonvil and former Clerk Sherry Scott arrived at 9:00 AM on Friday and several office doors remained locked, making the preparation difficult. Another hearing was held and Loehr ordered that Delhomme be placed in jail until he appropriately followed the order. Miles stated that they were shocked that the mayor was imprisoned for not unlocking doors. Dennis Lynch, attorney for three village trustees Fonvil, Emilia White, and Asher Grossman, stated that the mayor learned his lesson the hard way. Delhomme was still being held on Sunday and Deputy Mayor Anthony Leon will be filling in, in the meantime.

Spring Valley Mayor Ordered, Again, to Open Summer Camp

According to a ruling made by state Supreme Court Justice Gerald Loehr on Thursday, Spring Valley Mayor Demeza Delhomme must comply with a resolution passed by the village board on July 2. The resolution stated that the summer camp normally held at the Louis Kurtz Center must be opened and allowed back into the building. The camp was suspended at the beginning of the summer due to late paperwork and a personnel issue after Delhomme suspended Youth Director Sonia Barton who was in charge of the program. Delhomme stated at the hearing that the director was still suspended, so the camp may not be able to start up, due to a lack of staff, even with access to the building. According to the trustees, despite the first ruling from July that Delhomme follow the resolution, he had Barton barred from entering the building though he has denied the accusations. When the Mayor stated that he disagreed with the board and as mayor he should be running the village, not the trustees, Loehr ordered that he abide by the ruling and have the center open for camp by this morning, if not the judge would issue a warrant for his arrest. This was the second threat of arrest Thursday, first Loehr was about to issue a warrant after Delhomme missed the original 9:30 AM hearing time, but instead they rescheduled for 2:00 PM. After the hearing village Attorney Jerrod Miles stated to the press that the village would be following the order to open the center saying it was never intended to be closed. Trustee Vilair Fonvil stated that though it might be too late to start up the camp now, the village will do their best to let children attend.

New Square Man Pleads Not Guilty to Child Sex Accusations

According to the attorney of a New Square man accused of sexually abusing a boy from the age of eight until he turned thirteen, they are planning to challenge the felony charges against him. Attorney Gerard Damiani stated on Wednesday that his client, 55-year old Moshe Taubenfeld, who is a teacher in New Square and the father of twenty children, pleaded not guilty to thirty counts of forcible touching and endangering the welfare of a child and sexual assault, as well as a misdemeanor charge of forcible touching. Taubenfeld has been registered as a low level sex offender and if found guilty could receive two to seven years in prison, though Damiani stated his client recently rejected a deal that would have given him less prison time in exchange for a guilty plea, and denies the accusations, which they will be challenging in court. The jury will be selected on September 15 and the case will most likely start soon after.

Rockland’s Bond Rating Upgraded

On Monday Moody’s Investor Service announced the credit rating for Rockland County has been moved from a Baa3 rating to a Baa2, moving the county from dangerously close to junk status to a positive outlook. Moody’s stated some of the reasons for the upgrade in bond status are the larger tax base, the sale of the Summit Park Hospital, and the state’s involvement in the budget that was conditional with the borrowing of $96.4 million. Legislature Chairman Alden Wolfe stated the recent cuts in employment and spending, as well as increases in taxes are paying off. Moody’s also warned the county in their report to watch finances closely in the event of a delay in the sale of SUmmit Park. According to Rockland’s Finance Commissioner Stephen DeGroat, Rockland is soon to borrow $41 million in general funds for projects and debt, but the county is on the right track to get back to a levelA bond rating. County Executive Ed Day stated the positive rating means cheaper interest rates on future loans as well as great news for the county.

PSC Postpones Surcharge Filing Date

According to James Denn, a spokesman for the Public Service Commission the agency is requesting that United Water New York postpone the filing date for a surcharge proposal that would increase the bills by $60 a year and, according to the company, would help them regain $56 million they spent on the proposed desal plant so far. An email from Denn on Friday stated that the PSC would like more time to review the surcharge. The company, who’s spending of the $56 million has been questioned in the past, stated that they agreed to the new date, which will be November 30, and they will not be taking any action on the plant until they are reimbursed for the money they have already spent, despite the PSC’s suggestion they continue their pursuit of permits. Alden Wolfe, Chairman of the Rockland County Legislature, stated that Unite Water spent money before the project was approved and the spending costs should not go to ratepayers.

Colton Elementary Sale Finalized

The East Ramapo School District completed their sale of Colton Elementary School to the Bais Malka Congregation and the Hebrew Academy for Special Children, who use the school as Yeshiva. District officials announced on Thursday that the $5.1 million sale was finalized after East Ramapo discussed the sale thoroughly with New York state education officials, and will generate income while freeing the district of liability for the property. The sale was postponed for a year and a half in 2011 when residents claimed the original price of $6.6 million was less than the property is worth. Education Commissioner John King allowed the sale to move forward, and earlier this year a judge ruled the district would deduct $1.5 million in rent credit due to the Yeshiva from the $6.6 million sale, making the final price $5.1 million. The district is hoping to sell Hillcrest Elementary School this year as well, recently authorizing it at a meeting. The building would be sold to long-time tenants Congregation Avir Yakov of New Square for $4.9 million. The previous sale of the property was cancelled when it was discovered the appraiser had accepted a $5,000 bribe from the Yeshiva to undervalue the appraisal on paperwork. If the sale goes through the district would have about $10 million in real estate revenue for the next school year.

Summit Park Sale

County Executive Ed Day stated at a press conference on Wednesday that the sale of the Summit Park Hospital and Nursing Care Center will officially give the county $10 million, which will go towards the deficit. The $36 million earned from the sale will be split to pay off various costs including $12 million in health care coverage and leave due to county employees who are leaving the payroll, $4 million to move the county Medical Examiner’s Office, clinics, and the Department of General Services, and $2 million for closing costs. The remaining $10 million will be put towards the $30 million deficit. According to the new owner Shalom Braunstein of Monsey, who runs Sympaticare LLC., his first step as the new administrator will be to meet the patients and get to know them, stating at the conference, “It’s 321 residents, this is their home and it’s about understanding their home and working with them to make sure their home is something they love.” The transfer of ownership is waiting on approvals from the state Health Department. Currently there are two lawsuits attempting to block the sale, the first filed by Northern Services Group, another buyer. The second was filed by the Rockland Civil Service Employees Association, stating it was to protect jobs and benefits for the workers who are being offered the opportunity to apply for positions with the new owner.