In a split vote of 3-2, the Democratic team of Trustees Gallelli, Kane and Wiegman resolved to give Manager Rick Herbek the go-ahead to enter into an Intermunicipal agreement (IMA) beginning on August 14, 2006, with Westchester County to operate two ballfields at Croton Point Park (view slideshow) for another season (see: “County Issues Interim Permit to Village for Croton Point Ballfields”).
The vote, taken on July 10, 2006, during a board meeting, comes after expiration of a temporary agreement with Westchester County that gave the village managerial control of the facility for the fall 2005 playing season. The county-owned facility, which includes a baseball diamond and a separate field suitable for field hockey, football, lacrosse and soccer, will soon also have permanent restrooms on site. The renovations at the facility—when complete—are expected to have cost Westchester County between eight hundred thousand and one million dollars.
Before the vote was taken, Mayor Dr. Gregory Schmidt—noting that discussions had previously gone on “long and long and round and round”—made it clear that he was predisposed to not support the agreement with the County. Schmidt reasoned his opposition to a lack of interest from sports groups last year and a fear that the village would not recoup its management costs thus causing a tax burden while subsidizing outside groups.
Trustee Thomas Brennan, a very enthusiastic supporter of Croton Harmon athletic programs, when given the opportunity to speak by fellow Republican Mayor Dr. Gregory Schmidt also balked at the resolution.
Trustee Brennan started by affirming his position by quoting Recreation Supervisor Sue Menz when he said, “I took the opportunity today to call Sue Menz, our recreation supervisor up and follow up on some questions about the Intermunicipal agreement on the field, the need for the usage of the field and she kinda basically told me that she is absolutely against an Intermunicipal agreement with the village for these fields. She feels that it is a waste of taxpayer money. They were under utilized last year. We’re going to be responsible for a lot of additional expenses down there including utility costs, portable bathrooms til the new bathrooms are ready, insurance policy, garbage removal, maintenance of the field, maintenance of the new bathroom, any vandalism and she feels that it’s a waste of taxpayer’s money because anyone that lives in Westchester County is going to be able to go down and use those fields and even though they may have to get permits from us, any vandalism, anything that goes on after the lights are shut down, we’re going to be responsible. So, I like to listen to the, the, the staff’s supervisors and take the recommendations of the people that we hire to do our recreation and she is adamantly opposed to this and I happen to agree with her.” Therefore, he saw no reason for the board to embark on further expenditures and consequently voted “opposed.”
However, Trustee Charlie Kane disagreed with all of the assertions made by both Mayor Dr. Gregory Schmidt and Trustee Thomas Brennan. To demonstrate, Trustee Kane presented a list of over 15 athletic groups that have expressed an interest in regularly using the fields countering the mayor’s previous claims. Additionally, Kane noted that since the village had entered into its temporary agreement late into the Fall season last year, many groups had already committed to fields elsewhere, hence the low participation.
Further offsetting costs of maintaining the fields are an agreement that was put in place with the Croton Harmon school district to share 50% of the maintenance costs. The school district, also in need of additional field space will have priority in setting its schedule before the Recreation Department opens the calendar for reservations to any other group—on a first-come first-served basis. Usage fees have been set at $50.00 per hour for the first two hours and $25.00 per hour for each additional concurrent hour.
Trustee Leo Wiegman, a long-time instructional trainer and referee for Croton AYSO, estimated that the village should recoup 75% of its costs this season with the proposed fee structure having been approved by Manager Herbek.
Despite his own objections and after passage of the resolution, Trustee Thomas Brennan encouraged accountability of the measure by saying, “I think what we should is next year look at all these groups that were mentioned tonight and see which ones actually used it and benefit from it and how much revenue we took in and let’s compare next year on how, how well this program made out.”
To which Trustee Ann Gallelli replied, “We’ll do that Tom.”
Village Manager Rick Herbek: “WHEREAS, Westchester County has renovated the ball fields at Croton Point Park through the use of legacy funds; and
WHEREAS, Westchester County has asked the Village if they would like to manage the fields; and
WHEREAS, the Village held a permit to manage the fields for the 2005 fall season; and
WHEREAS, the Village is now working with the County to complete an intermunicipal agreement in order for the Village to manage the fields on an ongoing basis; and
WHEREAS, the IMA can not be completed until late summer; and
WHEREAS, the County has prepared a temporary permit that would allow the Village to manage and schedule the fields before the IMA is complete,
NOW, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED: that the Village Board of Trustees authorizes the Village Manager to accept the letter permit allowing the Village to manage the fields for the 2006 fall season which will commence on August 14, 2006 and terminate on November 30, 2006,
AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED: that once the intermunicipal agreement is completed the Village will enter into an intermunicipal agreement with the County to manage the fields on a more permanent basis.”
Trustee Leo Wiegman: “So moved.”
Trustee Charlie Kane: “Second.”
Mayor Dr. Gregory Schmidt: “Thank you Trustee Wiegman. Second by Trustee Kane. Discussion?”
Trustee Thomas Brennan: “Well I got some discussion. I took the opportunity today to call Sue Menz, our recreation supervisor up and follow up on some questions about the intermunicipal agreement on the field, the need for the usage of the field and she kinda basically told me that she is absolutely against an IMA with the village for these fields. She feels that it is a waste of taxpayer money. They were under utilized last year. We’re going to be responsible for a lot of additional expenses down there including utility costs, portable bathrooms til the new bathrooms are ready, insurance policy, garbage removal, maintenance of the field, maintenance of the new bathroom, any vandalism and she feels that it’s a waste of taxpayer’s money because anyone that lives in Westchester County is going to be able to go down and use those fields and even though they may have to get permits from us, any vandalism that goes on after the lights are shut down, we’re going to be responsible. So, I like to listen to the, the, the staff’s supervisors and take the recommendations of the people that we hire to do our recreation and she is adamantly opposed to this and I happen to agree with her. That’s how I feel about it.
Mayor Dr. Gregory Schmidt: “Further discussion? I have a hard time with the last resolved there that we are saying that once the intermunicipal agreement is completed the village will enter. We are committing to two things here. A, doing a permit to mange the fields for the fall season and also committing that once the agreement is there we are accepting the agreement. Ah, and I—“
Trustee Ann Gallelli: “I think the reason—“
Mayor Dr. Gregory Schmidt: “I don’t, I can’t accept that at this time.”
Trustee Ann Gallelli: “I think the reason for the last resolved is that is was the intention to have the intermunicipal agreement available at this point in time. It was very important that we um, that we get the ah, right to manage the filed art an earlier enough time in the summer that the groups that will be interested in using it and signing up for it will, will know that we are the management group for the fields. And it turned out that while we thought we would be able to get the intermunicipal agreement in time for his meeting, its not the case and ah, as a result um, an interim agreement which is what it is front of us tonight is the license agreement which would then be followed by the intermunicipal agreement probably in the very short future once it gets through the county administrative ah, effort down there.
I think, I personally support this. I think this has been, is a step in the right direction fro the village to ah, be proactive in ah, addressing um, what has been a long term ah, problem ah, with fields for all different groups not just village programs but school programs and, and ah, other programs such as AYSO and Little League. I think this will ah, ah, have a chance and that is what we are doing here—taking a program and setting it up in a way so it can be successful and one of the reasons why the previous year when we tried for a short period of time was that we embarked on it ay after the scheduling of people um, events were. So, that ah, by the time we were doing it everybody who needed a field had already scheduled elsewhere. So, I think that this is worthwhile going ahead with ah, and ah, and I think it is going to prove to be successful based on the input I have received from various groups ah, who would be interested in using it.
Trustee Charlie Kane: “Ann, I agree with you and some of the potential users I’ve got listed here include local groups that would be Croton AYSO, Croton Youth La Crosse, Little League majors, East Hudson Youth Soccer League. Other outside groups would be the Hudson Valley La Crosse, East Hudson Youth Soccer League. I have, looks like I-9 youth sports, this is flag football, AYSO travel teams from Ossining and Briarcliff. Other adult athletic groups would be Croton La Crosse, men’s flag or touch football, men’s over thirty baseball, Croton Soccer, Croton Soccer Club—there’s two clubs here. Some of the outside athletic groups that would use the fields would be the Northern Westchester Soccer League, Eastern District Soccer League, Hudson Valley over thirty soccer league and the Mt. Kisco Soccer League. So, I think that this does fill a need in our village and also in Croton.”
Trustee Ann Gallelli: “I think that the point of ah, many of the groups that Charlie listed are not local but everybody is going to be paying fees and that’s the um, ah, nobody is playing there ah, at the village’s expense and I think that that’s the ah, hopefully that will be able to cover its costs.”
Trustee Charlie Kane: “The more user fees, the—“
Mayor Dr. Gregory Schmidt: “The fees, the fees that you have proposed are much reduced from the original fee structure and we’ve gone around this long and long and around and around, I mean you mention many different groups that can play out there. There’s only so many hours in the day that anybody can play and if you’re giving it away for such a reduced fee you’re not going to recoup the costs and I think for the village taxpayers which I think you have to understand out there, you are paying on a village basis and you are paying on a school basis. You village residents. So, you village residents will be more than likely be accounting paying for probably 75% of the overall cost of running that facility out there compare to other groups—AYSO, Little league that take kids from outside the district, play here. You will be supporting that. And I think as Tom said, you know, when you speak to recreation, one of the mandates, one of the guiding principles of Recreation is that events, community ah, things that they do, things that they sponsor depending upon the group that participates in that and if it’s a predominantly village group, and if it’s a predominant group that benefits a large segment of the village population, you can subsidize that with tax dollars. This, I don’t think fills that need. And I think that we are embarking on a very precarious place here that we don’t need to be doing this money. That’s my feeling on this. Ah, we disagree on this and we have gone round and round on this. Ah, but that’s where I am on this and I cannot agree. I would, I would consent to ah, entering into another permit arrangement to see how it works out for the next season given that we are giving people more than ample time to sign up. But even with the permitting process last year, there are many groups how came to us last year and said that they really aren’t going to use the field. And that’s plain and simple. None of these groups have made a commitment in any shape or form to using these fields and helping to offset the cost of running these fields. And that is a very big concern for me moving forward on this.”
Trustee Thomas Brennan: “One other point Mr. Mayor. I’d like to point out that all of those groups mentioned can go directly to the county and reserve the field. And we’re just taking taxpayer’s money in my opinion and subsidizing people that don’t live in the village.
Trustee Charlie Kane: “I disagree with you and the Mayor. Tom, as you know—“
Trustee Thomas Brennan: “That’s fine Charlie.”
Trustee Charlie Kane: “—Leo has projections that ah, 75% of the costs would be recovered.”
Mayor Dr. Gregory Schmidt: “You also have projections from this village government including Mr. Herbek over here that says our projections as to the cost of running that facility are more than likely going to be higher than what we have been told. So, that is another argument for not entering into this because we don’t know what the costs are of running that kind of facility out there because it is going to be used by outside groups and we will have to be responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of the facility. But, I think we can go round and round on this. I think we just need to put this to a vote and ah, just move on. So, all those in favor?
Trustees Gallelli, Kane and Wiegman: “Aye.”
Mayor Dr. Gregory Schmidt: “Opposed?”
Mayor Dr. Gregory Schmidt and Trustee Thomas Brennan: “Aye. Opposed.”
Trustee Ann Gallelli: “I’d just like to say now that its been passed, that its important that we get the fee structure in place as quickly as possible—“
Mayor Dr. Gregory Schmidt: “You already have the fee structure in place and that’s what you approved tonight.
Trustee Ann Gallelli: “No—“
Mayor Dr. Gregory Schmidt: “Yes you did! You approved it!”
Trustee Ann Gallelli: “There’s no fees here.”
Mayor Dr. Gregory Schmidt: “With your internmanisuable (sp.) agreement that was sent out with those fees in it I’m sure so at this point. So.”
Trustee Charlie Kane: “I disagree.”
Trustee Ann Gallelli: “No. The fee structure has not been sent. I believe that the Village Manager has to set the fees.”
Trustee Charlie Kane: “That’s up to the Village Manager.”
Trustee Ann Gallelli: “Ah, um, the—“
Mayor Dr. Gregory Schmidt: “I certainly hope that you appropriate the fees enough to recoup the costs.”
Trustee Ann Gallelli: “And ah, I believe that the letter should be sent out um, to all of the groups that could potentially be users as quickly as possible.”
Trustee Charlie Kane: “Per this list.”
Trustee Thomas Brennan: “I think what we should is next year look at all these groups that were mentioned tonight and see which ones actually used it and benefit from it and how much revenue we took in and let’s compare next year on how, how well this program made out.”
Trustee Ann Gallelli: “Well of course we’ll do that.”
Trustee Thomas Brennan: “And see what happens.”
Trustee Charlie Kane: “We’ll do that Tom.”