Irvington Board Sets a Full Table… Officials Prioritize 21 Projects

Those lazy, hazy days of summer haven’t gotten a toehold in Village Hall according to Irvington’s Administrator, Larry Schopfer. If anything, the new Mayor and Board of Trustees have embarked upon a rigorous plan with twelve “First Tier,” or most important, priorities and nine “Second Tier” priorities right behind them.

An email that was received by all the elected officials detailed each area that they would be addressing over the summer, into the fall and beyond.

Many of the priorities in the “First Tier” have to happen. “The Board’s desire is to monitor very closely the current year’s budget and minimize the number of surprises that may occur. They want a much more formal presentation schedule that will include quarterly budget updates at Board meetings. They also want to start the 2010-2011 budget process this coming September,” Schopfer noted.

The new fiscal year started in June for Irvington and, accordingly, the budget is front and center on everyone’s minds. A snapshot of next year’s budget has already been presented to the Board and it is one that is not “very pretty.” “The continued economic recession, an increase in pension benefits, along with a decline in assessed valuation will affect Irvington along with many other villages up and down the river corridor. “We’ve planned as best as we can and we’ll have to absorb what’s coming,” Schopfer added.

There are two labor unions which represent close to 80 percent of Irvington Village employees. The CSEA (Civil Service) and the PBA (Police) union agreements both expired on May 31 of this year. The Village is in negotiation with both unions and the Mayor, Schopfer, the Village labor attorney and various Department heads have all had input into the process.

Another expired employment contract that is being renegotiated is Larry Schopfer’s. His agreement was extended three months into August so that the new Mayor and Board could address the terms of his employment and enter into active discussions with him. “We’re working on something that is hopefully longer term, like three years,” he added. The Board will make a final determination at either the July 29 or the August 17 meeting.

There has been an ongoing dispute with the Town of Greenburgh over the payment of water purchases. Greenburgh pumps water to Irvington and the Village then pumps it to the residents. The dispute centers on how much Greenburgh believes is owed to them. The rate for the water was never set between Greenburgh and Irvington and the amount of money in question is in the range of $400-500,000. “We will settle this. It’s just a matter of working our way through it,” Schopfer said.

Areas of East Irvington are within unincorporated Greenburgh and, as such, Greenburgh provides no fire protection. They contract those services out and, in the case of East Irvington, the area is serviced by Irvington’s Fire Department. Since December 31, 2005, the Village has had no new contract with Irvington. “Obviously we have been negotiating with Greenburgh for awhile on this issue and we are looking for compensation within the $100,000 range, from the Town,” said Schopfer.

Waterfront rezoning has the entire Board reviewing “a rather large set of documents” which are a compilation of historical documents on the waterfront dating back to 1997. The Mayor and the Board believe that by learning about all the events that preceded them, they will become educated about the issues. Irvington’s waterfront issues have been lengthy and extensive. That fact, coupled with the regular turnover of elected officials, has dictated the need for complete understanding before any changes can be made to existing waterfront zoning. “When elected, Mayor Siegel felt strongly about the importance of looking at past efforts and that those efforts not be wasted. It has proven to be a very useful exercise,” Schopfer said.

Storm water and Fire House studies are two fairly large consulting projects approved by the Board as part of the budget. With regard to storm water, a comprehensive review of tributaries within the Village will be undertaken. The outcome will be to determine how best to deal with flooding issues. Westchester County funds, along with Federal funding, will in all likelihood be sought since the cost of a flood mitigation program is beyond the financial means of Irvington or any other small village. “Before we go after funding, we need to know exactly what we have to do. How are we going to attack the problem?” Schopfer noted. A sum of $120,000 has been approved by the Village for the storm water study but no consultant has been chosen as of yet. The second study is for the design work of the expansion of the fire house. According to Schopfer, “the fire house is woefully inadequate for the amount of equipment that we now have.” Through a FEMA “Assistance to Firefighters” grant, the Village and the Fire Department have requested an amount close to $1,000,000 for the renovation of the fire house.

Promoting the local business district through the Irvington Business Improvement Committee (IBIC) has already begun with the addition of a Farmers’ Market at the Main Street School on Wednesdays. In addition, sidewalk dining (where the slope of Main Street permits), along with businesses placing merchandise in front of their stores as well as signage, is front and center on the IBIC’s agenda for the summer months. Equally important is the Mayor’s business advisory task force (MAT) which will recommend ways to streamline the approval process for new businesses.

Rounding out Irvington’s “First Tier” priorities are a Nature Center and supporting environmental initiatives. Also necessary are repairs to replace the rigging above the stage at the Town Hall Theatre before it opens its fall season. A complete study of the Irvington Dam is needed. The dam was recently classified as a “Class C” hazard by the Department of Environmental Conservation. It looks likely that a higher retaining wall will be added to the structure. Lastly, a cable franchise agreement with Cablevision rounds out the list of twelve items. The agreement is important for residents who subscribe to Cablevision and for the public access channels provided to the Village.

All in all, the table set by Irvington’s new Mayor and Board is a full one. Time, along with effort and ingenuity, will determine which priorities become accomplishments.

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About the Author: Robert Bonvento