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The Croton Follies: A Report on the Village Board Meeting of June 18, 2007

July 2, 2007

In the Northern Hemisphere, the summer solstice occurs around June 21 and marks the time of the year when the days are the longest. The solstice also ushers in the summer period when attendance at village board meetings in Croton is at its nadir. As if jumping the solstice gun, when the camera at the June 18th meeting panned the audience fewer people were present than could be counted on the fingers of one hand.

A letter on the agenda from Nancy and Steve Buckley of Melrose Avenue sought financial assistance from the village in ridding their property of foraging groundhogs that were wreaking havoc on their garden. Our culture makes a celebrity out of groundhog Punxsutawney Phil when he makes his annual debut on February 2. But, as soon as spring arrives, we turn on our cuddly friend, and every groundhog in every suburban community becomes an enemy of humans and their gardens.

Groundhogs, also known as woodchucks and whistle-pigs, are likable and chubby rodents that lumber away upon being approached by humans. But they don’t have to be regarded as enemies of our gardens. Simple measures can exclude them from plantings, enabling humans and groundhogs to co-exist. Unfortunately, neither the mayor nor the members of the village board could offer any practical suggestions other than to refer the Buckleys and other victims of groundhog predation to the Internet or to professional animal experts.

Shy and fearful of people, groundhogs are generally cautious. One way to discourage their visits to your garden is to add glittering or noisy objects that will blow in the wind, such as pinwheels, party balloons or reflective Mylar tape.

A simple chicken wire mesh fence about three or four feet high will prevent groundhogs from entering a garden. To discourage groundhogs from tunneling under it, bend the bottom 6- to 12-inches of the fence in an L-shape and bury it so that it extends away from the garden. This portion should be pinned securely to the ground using U-shaped landscaping staples. The top of the fence should be rather loosely stapled to wooden fence posts or loosely wired to metal posts. Groundhogs do not like to climb unstable fences.

If you can locate a pesky groundhog’s burrow, put urine-soaked kitty litter inside all burrow entrances. Poured at the entrance to a burrow, fox urine, a bottle of which can be purchased at outdoor stores, will also do the trick. The strong odor usually causes them to vacate the premises.

Ubiquitous know-it-all Robert Wintermeier jumped on the problem with both feet and offered a totally impractical solution, pointing out that when he lived in Syracuse gardeners would invite local hunters to come on their land and encourage them to shoot the animals.

He then offered another suggestion that turned out to be equally as impractical. He suggested that the Buckleys could buy Havahart traps for $20 to $30 dollars and trap the groundhogs. He recounted with considerable pride and relish how, using such humane snares, he would to trap squirrels that entered his attic. Then he would transport these wayward Croton squirrels to the other side of the Croton Dam and release them in the town of Yorktown.

Trustee Ann Gallelli punctured confessed squirrelnapper Wintermeier’s balloon by pointing out that it is illegal under Department of Environmental Protection regulations to transport wildlife in this way. Crotonblog gets the impression that Mr. Wintermeier would profess to know anything however arcane if he thought it made him look like an expert.

If squirrels occasionally enter an attic, the solution is to wait until they have left and to plug with steel wool the hole or holes through which they have entered. Trapping squirrels won’t solve the occasional problems that occur between humans and these frisky, entertaining rodents. Robert Wintermeier may think that merely moving an animal to another zip code to take up abode is not a big crime. But trapping and relocating squirrels, groundhogs or other small mammals is cruel and can lead to the starving of young animals left behind in the nest. Shame on you, Mr. Wintermeier, for being so uncaring! You may have a Havahart trap, but in Crotonblog’s opinion you just proved you don’t have a heart.

Mr. Wintermeier also returned to another of his favorite subjects: How to dispose of broken fluorescent bulbs, and cross-examined Trustee Charlie Kane. (Charlie had the weight of numbers on his side—at Metro North, he is responsible for disposing of tens of thousands of fluorescent bulbs every year.) After an extended colloquy with Trustee Kane on the best way of handing them, Mr. Wintermeier suggested to Ann Gallelli that she include a piece on this subject in the village newsletter. She agreed to consider doing it.

Acting more like a medieval Grand Inquisitor than like an aggrieved taxpayer, Mr. Wintermeier aggressively tried to elicit information from Trustees Kane and Gallelli (who was absent on the night the vote was taken on creating conservation areas) about their attitudes to the restrictions placed on Mayo’s Landing. He got no ammunition for the political campaign next March because they both endorsed a “wait and see” approach.

Richard Pellicci, another speaker who regularly hectors board members with recitals of stale Metro Enviro news, next came to the microphone. Mr. Pellicci deserves gratitude and rounds of rousing applause from every Croton resident for selflessly crawling around in the dirt of neglected yet highly visible spots like Gottwald Circle and the grassy area in front of the Carrie E. Tompkins Elementary School. With his seemingly magic touch, he causes them to burst into a riotous panoply of tasteful vegetation and colorful flowers.

Gottwald Circle, located at the intersection of Benedict Boulevard and Cleveland Drive, Croton-on-Hudson, New York, taken on July 2, 2007.

Planting strip on Cleveland Drive, Croton-on-Hudson, New York, taken on July 2, 2007.

Although the areas that submit to the Mr. Pellicci’s ministrations are village property, the Schmidt administration continues to treat them with the same form of benign neglect practiced by previous administrations. After a belated compliment to Mr. Pellicci, Mayor Schmidt tried to retail several yards of bologna, saying that it would require an astronomical rise in taxes for the village to perform the same labors that Mr. Pellicci organizes and performs without remuneration. The Mayor insisted on singing the praises of el-cheapo volunteerism over his imaginarily inflated high-ticket numbers if performed by village employees. For some undisclosed reason, Mr. Pellicci’s 20-strong volunteer CANDO (Croton Activist Network Decorating Outdoors) organization has dwindled to a NO-CANDO group, leaving Mr. Pellicci with a single solitary assistant, Karen Moy.

In addition to reading a clipping of a widely circulated news story about the mafia connections to the solid waste industry and implying guilt by association, Mr. Pellicci also forced board members to submit to his reading of a Journal News account of that newspaper’s garbling of facts gleaned from an interview with Trustee Charlie Kane. Mr. Pellicci’s dispirited reading of the Journal News account of the incident merely showed that its editorial board had assumed how Mr. Kane had voted instead of getting the facts from him.

Of course, we are all familiar with the classic chalkboard demonstration that when we ASSUME, we make an ASS out of U and ME. Neither the Journal News nor the North County News send reporters to cover village board meetings, so factual confusion on the part of senior editorial board members can be expected. Crotonblog wishes that Mr. Pellicci would rest on his considerable laurels and let the Metro Enviro issue work its way through the courts and regulatory agencies, perhaps dying a natural death in the process.

Seeking a way to wrap up this report and recalling Mr. Wintermeier’s suggestion to Ann Gallelli as editor of the village newsletter, Crotonblog decided to take note of her anonymous civic altruism by so diligently editing this publication for almost five years. To Crotonblog’s surprise, in response to our query to verify our understandable assumption (since her name does not appear on the publication as editor), she revealed that she is remunerated to the tune of 400 bucks a month for her editorial services. Crotonblog has no recollection of seeing such an expenditure itemized in the village budget. We pass no judgment on this apparently longstanding arrangement, other than to wonder aloud whether this relationship was the result of open bidding. If not, Crotonblog wonders how many other “sweetheart” deals may exist in Croton’s village government. If the village boiler springs a leak, we doubt that the village will make a no-bid contract with Trustee Brennan, a steamfitter by trade, to repair it.


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