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Unhappiness Aboard Croton's Loveboat

May 10, 2006

Option: Download and watch this video clip of “Unhappiness Aboard Croton’s Loveboat” from the Village Board meeting on May 1, 2006, in Quicktime format (19:25 min. | 23.3 mb).

Aboard the S.S. Stanley H. Kellerhouse, May 1, 2006. Mutinous Recreation Advisory Committee (RAC) crew members John Giglio and Joseph Streany appeared in high dudgeon before Captain Dr. Greg Schmidt and ship’s officers Brennan, Gallelli, Kane and Wiegman. During the regularly scheduled Village Board meeting, their vociferous complaints were an urgent S.O.S. call from the speakers’ podium.

Last year, the RAC approached Captain Dr. Greg Schmidt and his Republican majority ship’s officers about reviewing the village’s contract with longtime Senasqua Park tenant and harbormaster Steve Jennings of the Croton Sailing School. Even though the sailing school’s contract was not due to expire until 2008, RAC members were concerned that the village was not getting their fair share in the current lease agreement, creating a burden on Croton taxpayers. In fact, it was Joseph Streany who suggested putting the leased space up for public bid to get the best terms. This would have sunk the Sailing School, which had occupied the facility for 20 years. However, Mr. Streany’s suggestion was turned down by the board at a work session.

Although the agenda for the May 1, 2006, meeting had been published more than 48 hours before, the RAC crew claimed to have had no notice of the board’s intention to vote on a revised contract with the Sailing School. Messrs. Giglio and Streany made such a commotion about being left high and dry that Captain Dr. Greg Schmidt and the ship’s officers were compelled to change course and table the motion authorizing the Village Manager to sign a new contract with the Sailing School. Despite almost universal initial agreement on the motion, Trustee Brennan jumped in to offer his apologies to the RAC and accepted his portion of the blame for the breakdown in the chain of command, although he had nothing to do with it.

But it was Trustee Leo Wiegman who bravely took the wheel that night and altered the heading by reminding residents that the breakdown in communication was not the fault of village staff. Rather, blame should be placed squarely on the shoulders of an ex-trustee who was recently cast adrift by voters. Trustee Wiegman reminded everyone that the “Trustee-liaison role is one of always keeping the committees one liaises with up to date as to what is going on.”

Trustee Brennan responded to Trustee Wiegman by saying, “I take exception to the fact that ex-Trustee Steinberg isn’t here.”

Video transcription:

John Giglio: “John Giglio, 50 Emerson Avenue. I would also like to congratulate the board and the attorney for the job well done. I’m here first tonight to talk about the agreement with the sailing school. The Recreation Advisory Committee and the Recreation Department first brought this up to the board to—we thought that the contract had to be reviewed.

To date, I didn’t think that the contract was already completed and I didn’t think the Superintendent of Recreation knew it was completed. And we would like to see a copy of it so we can look it over and give our comments. We have a meeting next—a week from tomorrow night if we can get a copy of it and review it if we have some comments, we’ll give them to you. I would like, if you vote—bring it up tonight—could hold off the vote until after we, if you give us a copy of it to look at and review it. If you could hold off on voting for it, we would appreciate it so we can bring it up to our meeting on Tuesday night.

Mayor Gregory Schmidt: “Okay.”

Village Attorney Marianne Stecich: “Well just to clarify—the Superintendent of Recreation—you mean Sue Menz? Sue worked, I mean, Sue and I were in frequent communication over this so I know Sue has reviewed it.

John Giglio: “I was talking to her to day and she never mentioned anything about it being brought up.”

Village Attorney Marianne Stecich: “Yeah, well just so you know she has, she has given a lot of input.”

John Giglio: “Yes, I know, I’ve been speaking to her about it. And she’s had meetings about it.”

Village Attorney Marianne Stecich: “Yeah.”

Mayor Gregory Schmidt: “I think that what they are asking for, the Rec. Advisory Board was the one that recommended that we review this contract and uh, and we should at least give them the courtesy of reviewing what we’ve done with it.”

Trustee Thomas Brennan: “I’d be in favor of that.”

Joseph Streany: “Good evening ladies and gentleman. Joseph Streany, 10 High Street, Croton-on-Hudson. And I too will urge you not to move on this particular contract tonight. As a matter of fact, I talked to Sue Menz about an hour ago, um, she wasn’t even aware that it was on the agenda for tonight. Um, going back to well over a year ago, the Rec. Advisory Board brought it to the attention of ah, the village administration and we met with the board at that time at a work session to discuss this—April 8th of 2005—Sue and Abe brought a memo to Rick with a number of bullet points about this particular contract and um, up until this point in time, ah, we have not officially been acknowledged and seen any of those things put into a um, draft or into a new contract.

What I will tell you this. In February, we asked Sue what the progress was and she did give me an outline as our attorney ah, alluded to. She actually put it into the minutes of our meeting. Obviously this is not official but some of the things we talked about was having to do with space that Croton Sailing School was using ah, fair amounts of dollars, if you recall those of you who were at the work session um, that we should be compensated for during the ah, business activities that were taking place and a whole lot of other things that seem to be still unanswered.

When we saw the draft, the draft alluded to allowing the Croton Sailing School to have additional moorings for example. Um, they allowed them to have additional storage. Um, although they may have been using it in the past, it is now in the draft contract ah, that speaks to contractual language. Um, when you look at what has been drafted, um, this is unbelievably horrible in that what we asked for and what our initial plight was over a year ago, um, the information that we’ve received and what’s in the draft is actually in an opposite direction from the point that we were trying to make. In addition to all of that um, what Sue reported to us that was in that draft contract, that um, the harbor master who in fact is the sailing school owner who is making a stipend of 23 hundred dollars to be a harbor master—got a raise. They more than doubled his salary as part of this negotiation. Now, I don’t anyone that has doubled their salary in the last couple of months ah, in that type of negotiation, in additional to getting additional mooring spaces.

This all has value whether you realize it or not. Um, we’ve given him limits—he can have up to 20 boats moored in our bay, in our area and those 20 additional boats based on the footprint of the parameters that we have given him come to about $9,000. We are allowing additional storage on that site. We’ve now put it into the contract in, in regulated the amount of boats and given him a limit that he can store on that property that comes to another six or seven thousand dollars. So, we’ve doubled his salary. We’ve allowed him to expand his business and the Croton Sailing School has been a terrific asset for probably over 20 years to this community. Nobody but nobody has spoken against what takes place. And its really no longer a sailing school. Um, the owner will openly admit that it’s a camp—it’s a day camp for those who want to learn sailing. His business has expanded tremendously. It’s now the East Sailing School or it’s a different name—its not really—its actually advertised a couple of different ways. And he openly admitted at one of our meetings that it was a marketing type of situation. He wanted to get his name out there and he’s done a great job. It’s a terrific thing. But a what price? But at what price?

We asked for this to be looked at so it would be brought into line. We’re now giving him additional space for office. I don’t know what a typical office space rental would go for. But we have delineated square footage for storage inside our facility. We’ve delineated square footage for office space. That all, as far as I’m concerned, relates to a dollar amount that um, is not at all in line with what we had originally discussed as a committee and with the board when we had a work session.

I urge you not to authorize the manager and whoever else negotiated this thing, I wish that they would have attended as John suggested—a Rec. Advisory Committee meeting to listen to all the discussion topic. But I urge you not to allow or authorize the Village Manager at this point and time to sign that contract and let’s get this thing um, where it’s fair for everybody. I don’t mean at all to be one-way about this but there is important issues. We have one waterfront river park—absolutely one and we need to preserve it. Regardless of what it was, we now know what it is and we need to preserve and protect that waterfront property as best we can and if the village taxpayers can catch a little bit of a break, I think that is the fiscally responsible thing for this board to do. Thank you.

Mayor Gregory Schmidt: “Okay. Thank you. We’ll take up those items when that resolution comes up.”

Trustee Thomas Brennan: “Mr. Mayor? May I say something? I personally would like to apologize to the Rec. Advisory Board cause I just assumed that Sue Menz and the Rec. Advisory Board were working together and that they were approving this and that they had a chance to review it. And, I apologize for that. I’ll take a share of that blame for that not happening and I’d be more than willing to when that comes up to postpone any vote I’ll take tonight til the Rec. Advisory Board has a chance to review it.”

Mayor Gregory Schmidt: “Okay. Anyone else at this time? Nope. Not seeing anyone at this time. We’ll close citizen participation on agenda items and move over to resolutions. Right where we are. First one.”

Treasurer Abraham Zambrano: “WHEREAS, the current Croton Sailing School Lease Agreement is due to expire on April 30, 2008; and

WHEREAS, the Village has had many discussions with Steve Jennings, the owner of the Croton Sailing School, regarding an amended lease agreement; and

WHEREAS, a new lease agreement has been drafted commencing as of June 1, 2006 and ending on May 31, 2018,

NOW, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED: that the Village Manager is hereby authorized to sign the Lease Agreement with the Croton Sailing School effective June 1, 2006”

Trustee Leo Wiegman: “So moved.”

Mayor Gregory Schmidt: “Thank you Trustee Wiegman. Second by Trustee Gallelli. Discussion?”

Trustee Thomas Brennan: “I think that we just heard, you know, the Rec. Advisory Board, I think we should at least give them the opportunity to review this before we vote on it. Its obvious that there’s been a, a, ah, a miscommunication between an important village advisory board that should have had a chance to review this.”

Mayor Gregory Schmidt: “I think that’s fair to say that they should be given the opportunity considering that they’re the ones who’ve really pushed for this, um, to have us review it and since the current contract is still in effect through April 30, 2008, there’s really no danger of leaving this off right now.”

Trustee Ann Gallelli: “I would just like to point out that I wasn’t on the board, I was at the work session at which the, ah Recreation Advisory Board met with the Village Board and discussed their issues. Ah, it was my understanding—and it still is—that since that time, the Village manager, the Village Treasurer and the Recreation and Parks Superintendent have been working with Mr. Jennings to um, ah, explore all of the issues that were raised at that work session and that this has resulted in the contract that we have in front of us, in which we um, spent some time reviewing ah, at a recent work session—the last work session we had. Again, that is has been worked on extensively with Attorney Stecich, Manager Herbek and Susan Menz. So, I’m reluctant to postpone it because I think its been a part of and in process for a long time.”

Trustee Thomas Brennan: “I would disagree. I think we should at least—nothing is gonna expire. I think we could at least give them an opportunity to review it—at least a week or two to bring it back again. It doesn’t expire for another two years. At least give them the opportunity. They obviously didn’t have a chance to review the contract.”

Trustee Ann Gallelli: “There’s no hurry.”

Mayor Gregory Schmidt: “Right. And I think that we—“

Trustee Ann Gallelli: “I think the process has been a reasonable one.”

Mayor Gregory Schmidt: “I agree with you. The process has been a reasonable process but I think the ah, in my opinion, we have these committees and these boards to review these things and I think in all fairness, I think we should give them their opportunity to have their say in this process because if we don’t, what’s the point of having the committee out there given the work? So, um, you know.”

Trustee Leo Wiegman: “That’s absolutely right but I do want to add that I was a little surprised last summer when we were asked to consider renewing or bringing the sailing school and Steve Jennings to the table to discuss renewal of agreement that wasn’t yet to ah, be up for another—at that point—for another, over three years. Um, so, the staff did do what the village board at that point had asked it to do with—as Ann points out—with all the bullet points on the table that the Recreation Advisory Committee provided.

The Recreation Advisory Committee is advisory um, it is not legislative ah, and the ah, other point I want to make is that to the extent that the sailing school needs to calibrate its fees and everything else, sooner rather than later ah, I don’t think it’s fair to keep dragging this on once we have an agreement that effectively both the sailing school and the proprietor and the village and the village attorney feel is sensible.

Having said that, um, we all as Trustees have liaison assignments to the various boards—as you pointed out Greg—ah, Greg you were their liaison to the recreation Advisory Board up to the point I think becoming Mayor. Ah, somebody else had that role over the last 14 months and ah, perhaps that role was not as fully implemented as it should have been to bring information about the village back to the Recreation Advisory Board to let them know what was going on.

Um, so I don’t think that the shortfall is one that is a staff shortfall. Um, it may be a Trustee-liaison shortfall—and that is regrettable.”

Mayor Gregory Schmidt: “I would disagree. I think that Sue Menz is head of recreation. She is… I’ll let you come up. Come on.”

Joseph Streany: “Yeah, um.”

Mayor Gregory Schmidt: “I’m not faulting anybody.”

Joseph Streany: “You could absolutely be my guest. Um, I know exactly where you are coming from Leo. But, I’ll tell you what. You are not being responsible to the tax payers of this village. And if there was any foot-dragging going involved, we gave it to you over a year ago. As of February, Sue Menz writes the minutes and distributes them. I have both February and March in her hand. She vaguely has some of the details that I mentioned. But, not that there was a contract ready to be signed, despite—with all due respect—to Abe and our attorney, I spoke with her an hour ago, an hour and a half ago. She had no idea it was an agenda item. She was waiting because she did mention about the 1 million liability versus the 3 million liability that some of the board may have asked to have. Okay, so if there was any foot-dragging, we’ve done our work when we are asked to. And if you want to make this a political football between you guys and those guys, be my guest. But you are jamming the taxpayers big time.

We don’t have to put this contract into effect until next season. Nobody’s saying that’s going to effect him in any way, shape, matter or form now. And I understand too that one of the last pieces was to extend the contract for like another 10 years?

I asked for it to go out for public bid to get the best benefit and you all rejected that at the work session. Put it out for public bid to see what dollars it could bring in and not just make it a sole source and pass it off to somebody who had it in the past.

If I am wrong and public bid, doesn’t work—we don’t get the money we thought—you can always give it back to the current proprietor. Can’t you? Of course you can. So, so it has nothing to do with me, it has all to do with the games you want to play. So, I guess you should just continue.”

Trustee Thomas Brennan: “Joe, I’d like to comment on that especially being that you mentioned to the insure cause I was uncomfortable with the insurance that Mr. Jennings written in the contract and I proposed a bigger umbrella, a bigger insurance clause and after some wrangling with the board, I was able to you know, everybody hopefully saw my point and I’m still not 100% sure that we’re gonna get that coverage.

But you are 100% right. Okay. It seems that sometimes what’s good for the goose ain’t good for the gander what goes on here in the village. And sometimes when things got something to do with the water ways things are more important than the taxpayers that come up to the, you know, podium.

So, I, I’m 100% behind you. I think, I thought for the length of the contract and for the stipend that is going to occur over the next 10 to 12 years, it’s a phenomenal deal—even though it’s a greatly run program—and I give the owner credit for that. But it’s a phenomenal deal for the village to give an entity that it owns out to a person who is going to make a tremendous amount of money, in my opinion. I just think that, you know, we’re being more than fair. And I don’t think it would hurt to wait two more weeks because as the gentleman on the end—Trustee Wiegman—has told me numerous times, how slow and incremental government is. Maybe that is what we should do now—go slow and incremental.

Mayor Gregory Schmidt: “Just in all fairness, I don’t think it’s good to be discussing a lot of the details of this ah, in public. So, if we could just decide whether or not we’re—first of all the ah, resolution that is in front of you does have to be amended because a line, paragraph 15, its 1 million dollar coverage per occurrence. We were given that update ah, before the meeting. So, that’s an amendment to the resolution that is sitting in front of you.”

Joseph Streany: “I have a question. As the chair. Does the chair have the right to ah, table this motion? I believe so. Its Roberts Rules.”

Attorney Marianne Stecich: “Anyone has the right to table—I think that is what the Mayor was asking.”

Mayor Gregory Schmidt: “Right.”

Trustee Charlie Kane: “Well, one comment here. I think that this document reflects many months of negotiation and work on the part of Marianne, Rick Herbek and Rec. Board. I see no reason to hold this up for vote. There’s an awful lot of work that has been put into this document.”

Trustee Leo Wiegman: “I’m fine with the Recreation Advisory Committee looking at it. They are clearly now aware that it is something that is in front of us. I just wanted to make the point earlier that the Trustee-liaison role is one of always keeping the committees one liaises with up to date as to what is going on. So.”

Trustee Thomas Brennan: “You know Leo. Excuse me. I take exception to the fact that Ex-Trustee Steinberg isn’t here. He’s the ex-liason.”

Trustee Leo Wiegman: “If you want to call it that.”

Trustee Thomas Brennan: “And, and if you got something, please take it up with him sir.”

Mayor Gregory Schmidt: “There’s nothing to bring up right? I mean this contract has only been resolved fairly recently so.”

John Giglio: “It was never brought up at any of oour other meetings.”

Trustee Ann Gallelli: “I’m fine with postponing it.”

Mayor Gregory Schmidt: “Do we have a motion to postpone it?”

Trustee Ann Gallelli: “I’ll make a motion.”

Mayor Gregory Schmidt: “Thank you Trustee Gallelli.”

Trustee Thomas Brennan: “I’ll second that.”

Mayor Gregory Schmidt: “Thank you Trustee Brennan and all those in favor?”

Collectively: “Aye.”

Joseph Streany: “Thank you gentlemen.”

Trustee Thomas Brennan: “Thank you.”

On May 12, 2006 10:09 AM, Mrs. Smith said:

Since when did Joe Streany and John Giglio get promoted to be contract negotiators for the village? As as advisory board member, they certainly have a right to make suggestions, but to be allowed to vet a contract worked on by village management and staff is beyond ridiculous. This smacks to me of yet another attempt to keep “outsiders” out of our village parks. Steve Jennings has done an admirable job as harbormaster for many years now and has thereby contributed much to the village, more deserving of gratitude than harrassment. Why should these two men be allowed to try to run him out of town, with the tacit compliance of Mayor Schmidt and his side-kick Brennan?

On May 11, 2006 11:16 AM, Reality Check said:

Time for another Reality Check.

Do you wonder why the Village, with Mr. Schmidt’s unsteady hand on the tiller, was even negotiating with the Sailing School, years before its contract was set to expire? The reason is well known. The original Schmidt agenda included a secret plan to get rid of the Sailing School, even though it has added so much to our Village. When news of this scheme started to leak out, back in the summer of 2005, drastic measures were taken to reverse the course of our local ship of state and at the same time stop people from talking about it.

Do you recall that little farcical charade, played out on this very subject among Mr. Schmidt, Mr. Steinberg and their master puppeteer (and Independence Party kingpin) Maria Cudequest? It was at the Village Board meeting on September 6, 2005, and you need only read the entry two days later here on the blog, and download the video clip, to witness this tour de force of comic acting in all its rich duplicity (see: “Smooth Sailing” from September 8, 2005). Why, it was worthy of a Gilbert & Sullivan operetta! But permit me to summarize.

Passing reference had been made, in several comments here on the blog, to plans by the Schmidt/Steinberg/Brennan administration to close down the Sailing School. Indeed, bumper stickers started to surface around the Village heralding a movement to “Sink Schmidt - Save the Sailing School”.

Clearly something had to be done to stem the flow of this information to the populace. Enter the ever obliging Maria Cudequest who - innocently and out of the blue - wrote a letter to the Village Board inquiring as to their intentions concerning the Sailing School.

There followed a poorly orchestrated, but nonetheless entertaining, performance during which Captain Schmidt of the Pinafore, First Lord of the Admiralty Steinberg and daughter Josephine (played by the ever loyal Ms. Cudequest), tripped, stumbled, bumbled and mumbled all over themselves to put these “vicious rumors” to rest.

Well, fast forward eight months and there is mutiny among Captain Schmidt’s crew. Apparently Mr. Schmidt’s hand picked Recreation Advisory Committee was never advised of the political realities being dealt with. They were never told that most people in the Village want the Sailing School to stay right where it is and that the good Captain Doctor Mayor Schmidt still thinks he can be reelected next year. But, the RAC is still on last year’s play book. They are just itching to execute the original covert plan, get rid of the Sailing School and replace it with a waterfront burger joint. I, for one, would hate to see that happen but, once again, it seems that our incompetent administration has bungled it.

And that, my friends, is a Reality Check.

On May 10, 2006 8:16 PM, weewill said:

So often unpleasant issues arise out of a simple lack of communication. And this, like so many things in the past, seems clearly to result from a lack of good clear dialogue.

All volunteers should be comfortable with the fact that their work and ideas are carefully considered before the board makes a final decision. The Recreation Advisory Board is just exactly that - an advisory board - for recreational programs. I don’t believe that includes contract negotiations. You can be sure their input and suggestions were carefully and thoroughly considered by Susan Menz, the Recreation Superintendent, the Mayor and the Village Board.

The board is clearly the final authority in the approval and execution of legal contracts. It was very heartening to see the full board in agreement after negotiating a fair and equitable arrangement between the Sailing School and the Village.

I was saddened to see Joe Streany, a long-time member of the Recreation Advisory Board, take umbrage with the way this was handled. His suggestion that Trustee Wiegman might be using the Sailing School negotiations as a “political football” was destructive and unfounded. It’s just such remarks that divide and split not only the board but the community as a whole.

We’ve had more than enough of that and delight in knowing the full board was in agreement. In fact they worked together to finalize the contract. It’s one of the first such signs of the board working together for the good of Croton and NOT for partisan posturing. Let this be the beginning of such cooperation and I thank and applaud the board for being united.


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