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The Croton Follies: A Report on the Village Board Meeting of July 2, 2007

July 13, 2007

As if to underscore the fact that the summer doldrums are upon us, the meeting of July 2nd could easily have been conducted in the mythical town of Dullsville. By its paucity of highlights, it underscores the wisdom of the adage about the mills of government (our interpretation), grinding not only slowly but exceedingly small.

The meat for Croton Follies is always to be found in the two segments called “citizen participation.” Robert “Squirrel Trapper Bob” Wintermeier and his sidekick, Richard Pellicci, the self-appointed “village horticulturist,” can always be counted on to have something to say so regularly one could set one’s watch by their appearance. Okay, one’s calendar watch.

Unfortunately, Messrs. Wintermeier and Pellicci were not present to give their regular lecture to the village board. Present was, however, Croton’s oldest citizen—but he was at the meeting in the mistaken impression that the subject to be discussed was the Croton River. Board members quickly disabused him of that misconception and he departed, but not before heaping praise on members for their good works, encomiums that were returned profusely in kind by the solicitous members.

In response to Mayor Schmidt’s request for an update about what’s happening at 1A Croton Point Avenue, village attorney James Staudt reported an interesting but not disquieting development. At the direction of the Supreme Court in White Plains, the village is processing an application for a special permit. In addition, the applicant has recently deposited $25,000 as a fee to reimburse a special consultant who will advise the village on this application. The Supreme Court in Albany will also hear an appeal in the case involving this property in the fall. It would seem that 1A Croton Point Avenue will be spending the summer in that uncharted country known as Limbo.

The only speaker during “citizen participation on non-agenda items” (who creates this awkward vocabulary of parliamentary formality?) was a distraught resident of Radnor Avenue who seemed to be having a one-sided sort of Hatfield vs. McCoy dispute with neighbors over what she pictured for listeners as their retaliatory street parking habits. Mayor Schmidt could offer little in the way of a promise of a solution. King Solomon he ain’t.

The most interesting tid-bit occurred during the reports of the trustees when Ann Gallelli raised the question of local gasoline prices. Displaying a copy of the Westchester section The New York Times of the day before, she seemed most exercised about an article by Ford Fessenden comparing the unequal prices for gasoline throughout the region and explaining the reason for the disparity.

What ticked her off was the statement, “According to the Oil Price Information Service, which monitors daily prices at more than 80,000 of the nation’s 120,000 gas stations, the sites with the highest prices in the region last week were in some of the area’s richest communities—the Hamptons, Darien, Conn., and Croton-on-Hudson and Mt. Kisco in Westchester, all with prices at more than $3.40 for regular.” Trustee Gallelli strongly objected to the reporter’s characterization of it as a “rich community.”

Actually, the newspaper report was wrong on many counts. Croton, with a median annual family income of $100,182 certainly isn’t as wealthy as 11 other villages in Westchester that show higher median family incomes. It is “richer,” however, than reporter-cited Mt. Kisco, whose median annual income is $68,219. Even affluent Darien, also called “rich” in the article, doesn’t match Westchester’s Scarsdale or Bronxville, which have annual median family incomes slightly more than $200,000.

Trustee Gallelli also wondered aloud about how the oil industry’s zone pricing worked. In fact, a least six times during her discussion she invited members of the TV audience to call her and explain how zone pricing works. Googling the words “gasoline zone pricing” would have yielded her a wealth of information, none of it favorable from the consumer’s point of view. It’s a fancy term for old-fashioned price fixing. Distributors fix prices based on what the traffic can bear in a competitive sense. Thanks to the by-passing expressway, Croton’s four gas stations’ customers are virtually limited to local residents.

Not to be left out of the conversational exchange, Trustee Sue Konig pointed out that she had been in East Hampton over the weekend and took advantage of her presence there and gasoline at $3.27 a gallon to fill up her tank. Mayor Schmidt, sensing a political embarrassment, was quick to remind residents that the difference between local bargain prices elsewhere was small and so supporting local merchants was always a benefit all around. Trustee Gallelli jumped in to reiterate that the disparity in gasoline prices was not the fault of local gas station owners.

Trustee Brennan then summed up the entire subject of energy conservation with a long lecture to listeners in TV Land on steps to take to save energy and money. On that uplifting but repetitive note the meeting ended and the room cleared out in record time.


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