Firefighters responded to a call at 162 Main Street in Nyack Wednesday Wednesday evening. The bottom floor of the four story building is a bakery, the top three are residential, and according to tenants there was a massive lightning strike around 7:30 PM, which appeared to be the cause of a fire starting on the third floor. Police report that everyone made it out of the smoke filled building without injuries and by 8:30 the situation was under control. Workers from Orange and Rockland Utilities began work to restore power to a reported $3,300 homes that were out, most in the Haverstraw area. More storms are expected this afternoon and evening due to Hurricane Arthur traveling up the East Coast.
The East Ramapo School Board voted 7-2 on Tuesday night to rehire the law firm Minerva and D’Agostino. Last year a lawyer for the firm, Christopher Kirby, verbally attacked a parent at a meeting, going on a profanity filled rant. Part of the incident was filmed and released over the internet, leading to backlash for the firm, and a promise from the board that they would fire them and look for new representation. Board President Yehuda Weissmandl stated after the incident, almost a full year ago, that they would retain the law firm during a transition period. The board stated at the meeting that they had a difficult time finding a qualified replacement. The district has a budget of $600,000 for legal representation, though fees have risen as high as $3 million in the past. Following the controversy surrounding the district, County Executive Ed Day released a statement that he is calling for the resignation of board President Weissmandl. Day stated on Wednesday morning that without trust Weissmandl has created a bigger divide between the board and the community. The statement reads, “He cannot reasonably expect to manage a school district when each and every word he utters going forward will be measured by the word he did not keep. In short, his leadership position is now untenable, and his resignation is clearly indicated.”
According to the Public Service Commission, United Water New York decided on Monday to go with a two-year deal which will allow them to raise rates by 19.6% the first year and 7.4% the second, meaning customers’ bills will go from $714 to $783 the first year and to $840 in the second. The company was originally asking for an increase of 28.9% or $21.3 million in revenue, though the PSC decided to allow the the minimum by state law, only 13.3% at most. Ramapo Town Supervisor Chris St.Lawrence is a vocal opponent of the United Water rate hike proposal and stated that he will be filing for a rehearing, since he is disappointed that there was any raise at all. The new rates take effect today as well as the company’s newly implemented monthly billing, which will go through a three-month transition. Currently customers are paying quarterly. The PSC also ordered United Water to solve spending problems to prevent future rate hikes.
The Village of Spring Valley held an emergency meeting on Friday afternoon to discuss the $1.8 million insurance policy renewal that was set to expire today. At last week’s Tuesday meeting the trustees and mayor could not agree on passing the renewal because the information on the deal was not given with enough time to review. Without insurance the village would essentially have shut down because the policy covers property, such as buildings, and all operations, such as police, emergency workers, public works, and workers compensation. At the meeting set up by Mayor Demeza Delhomme for Friday at 2:00 PM Trustee Asher Grossman stated that he had wanted to speak with the village’s insurance provider, Binder Insurance, before agreeing to spending taxpayer money. Leonard Binder, of the agency, stated that the increase from last year’s $1.67 million is because to this year’s $1.8 million is because of claims in worker’s comp and police liability. The resolution passed 3-1, Trustee Grossman voting yes, Trustee Anthony Leon voting no, and Trustee Emilia White absent. Grossman stated that he voted to approve, though he would like more time to look at the policy, and Leon stated that he disagreed with the wording of the document.
The Public Service Commission voted on the proposed rate increase for United Water. The company had requested a 19.8% increase, which would have raised revenue by $21.3 million. At the meeting the PSC voted to approve two options that would mean an increase between 9.6 and 12.9% beginning Tuesday. Chairwoman Audrey Zibelman stated that the commission’s decision represents that they are aware of the need for a rise in revenue for the company, but on behalf of the customers conservation tactics will have to be put in place to keep spending down. The first option is a one-year deal that will mean an increase for rate payers from the current $714 to $806 or 12.9%, and the second is a two-year deal which will raise rates by 9.6% or $714 to $783 a year. Commission spokesman James Denn stated that during the second year of the agreement rates would drop 3%. According to Michael Pointing, Vice President of United Water New York, the company the largest reason for a need in rate increases is the rising property taxes, which they can’t control and the company sees that the PSC is attempting to find a balance for both United Water and rate payers. The PSC also ordered that the company suspend long-term research and work on saving funds by focusing on short-term improvements. The company has until Monday to choose an option and the new rates will take effect on Tuesday.
Diana Nadell, the woman accused of killing her mother-in-law, 80-year old Peggy Nadell of Valley Cottage, pleaded not guilty in court on Wednesday. Police believe that 50-year old Nadell and three other women, who have already pleaded guilty, planned the murder of the older woman to gain access to her $4 million estate. Last week Nadell was indicted by a grand jury on charges of first-degree murder and has been held at Rikers Island in New York City. On Wednesday the facility had technical trouble which led to a delay in the court case, once it started Justice William Kelly set her bail at $5 million and ordered that attorneys to find a closer prison where the defendant can be held. The evidence provided at the court hearing includes video statements from Nadell, recordings of wiretaps, and coconspirator Andrea Benson’s statements against Nadell. Nadell is to appear back in court on July 30. Prosecutors stated they will be seeking life without parole.
According to Scott Salotto, spokesman for County Executive Ed Day’s office, Rockland’s Commissioner for the Planning and Public transportation Departments, Thomas Vanderbeek, officially resigned from his position on June 5. Vanderbeek has held the $121,900 a year job since April 2011, and in recent years was a liaison between the new Tappan Zee Bridge project and the county, especially during former County Exeuctive Scott Vanderhoef’s term. Vanderbeek has yet to comment on his departure. Before his retirement the former Transit Commissioner approved fare hikes for Tappan ZEExpress, TOR, and TRIPS and in 2013 the county signed a $70 million five-year contract with Brega Transport Corp. to operate Tappan ZEExpress and TOR. Salotto stated that the county has not begun looking for a new commissioner and currently Donald Schuetz, who has a job in the Planning Department, is the temporary replacement. The county is also searching for a new Department of General Services Commissioner, Gerald Walsh retired this month as well. Commissioner of Mental Health Mary Ann Walsh-Tozer recently announced that she too will be retiring.
The Public Commission is set to make a decision on the proposed United Water rate hike at a meeting on Thursday. The company asked for an increase in revenue of $21.3 million, which would cost homeowners in Rockland 19.8% more on annual bills. Opponents of the increase have been speaking out since April, Legislator Harriet Cornell stating that the company has been known to be fiscally mismanaged, the quality of service does not match other utility providers in New York, and that because of these she hopes that the PSC will consider the tax payers in their decision. According to United Water spokeswoman Deb Rizzi, the company has tried to keep up reliable services, but the costs will no longer cover it and the rate increase is necessary for improvement in services. In April two state judges recommended that the company ask for 15% instead of the 19.8% increase, giving them an $11.1 million rise in revenue. In a separate request United Water is asking for a special rate increase to help cover the cost of the proposed $56.8 million water treatment plant.
According to Sue Cerra, the Rockland Transit Administrator, the county will most likely be receiving four used buses from the Albany bus system. Cerra stated that each bus has about 400,000 miles on them and for the cost of the tire leases, about $8,000, Rockland will be taking them to use as spares. The agreement is still bein finalized between Rockland officials and the owners of the Albany buses, but they are expected to arrive in Rockland by the end of the summer and will bring the number of buses in Transport of Rockland’s fleet up from 38 to 42 until next year when new buses costing $1.5 million will be delivered. Starting in 2016 the county is expected to replace seventeen TOR buses from 2004 and in 2017 Tappan Zee Express is expected to replace fifteen buses for the cost of $500,000 to $600,000 each.
The Rockland County Legislature voted 17-0 on Thursday to approve a resolution signed by County Executive Ed Day that would form a task force to create a water policy. The resolution was sponsored by Legislator Harriet Cornell and Chairman Alden Wolfe, and would potentially prevent the need for a $150 million water treatment plant to be built on the Hudson. At a press conference on Thursday Wolfe announced that the new task force will be an open form of making decisions together, and is the best way to keep water rates down for the county. County Executive Day stated that the idea behind the task force is that residents can become involved in taking control of the supply and demand of water as a natural resource. According to Cornell there is no crisis yet, but the county’s goal is to keep demand low enough that they won’t need to worry about supply. The state Public Service Commission stated last month that United Water can continue to seek permits for the plant but Rockland will not face a serious need for a new water source until 2020, giving opponents time to come up with conservation plans.