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Here's Another Fine Mess, Mr. Mayor

July 10, 2008

According to New York State Department of Environmental Protection regulations, the Village of Croton-on-Hudson must have a storm-water management plan in place—and it does. In fact, the plan is reviewed with great fanfare each year at a public meeting by the mayor and the board of trustees. Furthermore, Croton has laws on the books to ensure that aspects of the storm-water management plan can be enforced.

It appears that the village is violating its own regulations by creating and tolerating a public nuisance and should take itself to court. Clogged drains are clearly a threat to public health, safety and welfare.

§ 196-26. Injunctive relief.

It shall be unlawful for any person to violate any provision or fail to comply with any of the requirements of this article. If a person has violated or continues to violate the provisions of this article, the SMO may request the Village Attorney to petition for a preliminary or permanent injunction restraining the person from activities which would create further violations or compelling the person to perform abatement or remediation of the violation.

§ 196-27. Violations deemed public nuisance.

In addition to the enforcement processes and penalties provided, any condition caused or permitted to exist in violation of any of the provisions of this article is a threat to public health, safety, and welfare, and is declared and deemed a nuisance, and may be summarily abated or restored at the violator’s expense, and/or a civil action to abate, enjoin, or otherwise compel the cessation of such nuisance may be taken.

In the Harmon section of Croton, however, one storm drain has escaped the notice of the village. It is certainly not exempt from application of the law. This drain, located at the southeastern corner of South Riverside Avenue and Benedict Boulevard, is completely obstructed by debris. Not only obstructed by litter, gravel, leaves and twigs—but by two massive six-foot-long 2” by 6” and 2” by 12” pieces of lumber. So overloaded is it by such an illegal and unseemly mess, one can barely see the plaque cemented next to the drain that cautions about dumping anything there because it drains directly to the Hudson River. Here’s pictures of the storm drain on taken on July 7 and 9, 2008 (Click each photo to enlarge.):


Croton, beautiful Croton… The clogged storm drain at this ugly corner adds insult to injury.


Would you believe that Croton regards this as a working storm drain?


Oblivious to the mess, a Croton Water Department truck drives right by the clogged storm drain.

Crotonblog continues to be baffled by the shameful neglect of the village of Croton by Mayor Schmidt, who seems to be able to close his eyes to the obvious. Although he rants and raves regularly, throws public temper-tantrums, and attempts to villainize Crotonblog for pointing out the ills that are being papered over on his watch, we must again ask the pointed question, “Mayor Schmidt, who’s minding the store?”

On July 11, 2008 4:09 PM, TeaDrinker said:

The nigglers who take Crotonblog to task for not reporting a clogged drain to the Village or for not undertaking the unclogging of it (and giving up a public interest story) lose sight of significant details:

Blogs are merely the newest form of journalism. We don’t expect newspaper reporters to do more than report a story, so why would we expect a blogger to undertake the task of cleaning out a clogged storm drain instead of doing a story on it? We should be thankful someone is building a fire under a lax administration and getting them to pull up their socks.

There might be some grounds for a reporter to remove the unusual material clogging a storm drain (and, in effect, doing the job a Village employee should be doing) instead of writing a story on it, but that loses sight of the fact that clogged drains are a constant village-wide problem. Anyway, I prefer that reporters stay out of stories and merely report them. Otherwise, we’d have reporters mediating strikes and work stoppages, fighting fires, or washing the blood off the sidewalk after a murder.

Besides, most reporters don’t travel around with gloves, brooms and spray bottles of herbicide. Get real, people, and stop niggling. It’s the extremely well paid and mostly nonresident employees of this village who need a wake-up call. The fact is that most of the storm drains in Croton are obstructed with debris because there is no regular program to unblock them. The drain at the corner of Benedict Boulevard and South Riverside Avenue was merely an extreme example of the neglect and lack of inspection so prevalent here.

I say, ”Crotonblog, keep up the good work. Croton needs your kind of new journalism. Neither The Gazette nor the North County News ever comment on local government’s laxity or on the shabby appearance of this Village.”

On July 11, 2008 1:03 PM, weewill said:

And herein lies the real value of Crotonblog.

One need not be disagreeable to disagree, There’s nothing better than a good debate and the more options considered, the better the results will be.

Georgianna

On July 11, 2008 11:16 AM, MGTD said:

It’s no wonder that the storm drains are constantly blocked since the village has no regularly scheduled plan to sweep the streets. The drain grates at the end of Grand at Riverside are always plugged with debris as is the one on the northwest corner of Riverside and Municipal Place. The village should bite the bullet and start an alternate side parking program so the streets can be swept on a regular basis. This is one of those quality of life issues that affects all residents and would make this a more attractive place to live.

On July 11, 2008 11:11 AM, CROTONITECAROLE said:

I can understand where Supersilver322 is coming from with asking the individual who took the photos of the storm drain debris and if he had even bothered to move the pieces of wood etc.,,, HOWEVER ,,,in response to Supersilver322’s questioning if the photo-taker had cared all that much by doing anything about it,,, I have to reply that the photos taken by the individual and the time element of documenting and posting the photos on the blog exemplified that indeed he DID care enough to do something about it—

As far as a civilian taking care of a community’s issue of a blocked and clogged storm drain, one has to remember that there are professionals who are trained with so doing. There are numerous concerns which exist for a citizen to literally handle such possible pollutant contaminated debris from the animal fecal wastes left from various critters who hibernate in such places,, and not to mention the various pollutants from gas, oils and the like which also may accumulate in the run-off waters. Hopefully, now that the information and fine documentation has been established, the Employees of the Village who are trained and paid to handle such matters will tend to the storm drainage problem on hand. Just something to think about—

On July 11, 2008 10:39 AM, valleymoon said:

if one thinks that salary increases will solve problems alone is dreaming. I also have to question the reasoning of someone roaming around town taking detailed photos and then writing elaborate letters blaming it all on the mayor. The mayor, is not OZ and is not that powerful.

The telephone pole/duck pond investigation was over the top. Did the investigator research who is responsible for the pole? Did they call and complain? All that would of taken a fraction of the time to accomplish as opposed to investigation.

What happened to “I’ll clean my side of the street & you clean yours”? I know its just an old corny expression but it really applies here.

I for one find piles of road grit & leaf matter clogging up the storm drain in the front of my home…I found a great solution, instead of photographing it, I sweep it up and fill holes in my yard and driveway.

On July 11, 2008 12:41 AM, supersilver322 said:

ok. i agree that sorta sucks. But did the person who took these pictures even bother to move the pieces of wood or to pull some of the trash out themselves. They couldn’t of cared that much if they didn’t bother to do anything.

On July 10, 2008 9:13 PM, weewill said:

By my previous comment I certainly did not mean to imply that :

“the only control the Mayor and the Board of Trustees have over the Village Manager and department heads is at budget time and the only tool of control in their hands is to withhold salary raises.”

Salary raises (or lack thereof) are only one way to “encourage” better performance. Good solid management practices are another. It’s up to the Mayor and Board of Trustees, the stewards of our village, to demand top quality from the CEO (Village Manager). He, in turn, must require it from all Dept. heads. Accepting anything less means we all have reason to complain. We cannot allow any inefficiency or glaring defect to exist without consequences.

When any such defects are pointed out or uncovered, (thank you Crotonblog) then it’s time for our elected officials to step up to the plate. The VM and the Dept. Heads are grown up adults and should not need the Mayor or Board of Trustees holding their hand.

Since the VM serves at the pleasure of the Board, and the Dept. Heads report to him, if either the Board or the VM are unhappy with performance, the consequences should be quite clear. Certainly if we, the taxpayers are unhappy, you can be sure the consequences will be very clear!

Georgianna

On July 10, 2008 6:10 PM, TeaDrinker said:

Mrs. Grant’s comment gives the impression that the only control the Mayor and the Board of Trustees have over the Village Manager and department heads is at budget time, and the only tool of control in their hands is to withhold salary raises. This is errant nonsense. The Village Code spells out quite clearly where responsibility lies. It rests solely with the Village Manager, who is granted amazingly broad powers. The Village Manager is clearly responsible to the Mayor and Trustees and serves at their pleasure. By extension, so do the department heads.

But we are living in peculiar times. Croton has never has such an authoritarian Mayor, who, with the assistance of two members of the Board of Trustees, literally forced the resignation and retirement of long-serving Village Manager Richard Herbek. Even before Mr. Herbek was squeezed out, the Mayor undercut and bypassed him by dealing with employees directly, notably the Village Treasurer.

It is Crotonblog’s considered opinion that Croton is being poorly run, that we are paying too much for what we get from the vast and bloated citylike infrastructure we have allowed to be created over the years to administer a tiny village with a population of less than 8,000. In order to document our position, Crotonblog has embarked on a series of “exposures” of some of the more glaring deficiencies. If it is indeed the Village Manager and department heads who should be held responsibility for their dereliction of duty, the Mayor (and Mrs. Grant) has no grounds to complain. Crotonblog is merely providing concrete evidence of misfeasance to warrant direct action.

The Village Code states, “The administration of village affairs shall be under the direction of a Village Manager in conformity with the provisions of the Village Law.” What Crotonblog is doing is providing the Mayor and Trustees with visible evidence that the administration of village affairs is in sorry shape. If, on the basis of the evidence Crotonblog is providing, they do not take action without fear or favor to ensure that flagrant situations are immediately corrected, then the Mayor and Trustees are not doing their jobs, and the voters should eventually hold them responsible at the voting booth.

The following are portions of the Village Code that outline the duties and responsibilities of the respective parties:

Administrative and executive powers. The administrative and executive powers of the village including the power of appointment of officers and employees … are vested in an official to be known as the village manager who shall be appointed by the board of trustees and hold office during the pleasure of such board; he shall receive such compensation as shall be fixed by the board of trustees.

General duties of village manager. The Village manager shall be the administrative head of the village government. He shall see that within the village, the laws of the state and ordinances, rules, and by-laws of the board of trustees are faithfully executed, he shall attend all meetings of the board of trustees and recommend for adoption such measures as he shall deem expedient; he shall make reports to the board of trustees from time to time upon the affairs of the village, keep the board of trustees fully advised of the financial condition of the village and its future financial needs; he shall prepare and submit to the council, a tentative budget for the next fiscal year.

Appointment of village officers and employees. Such village officers and employees as the board of trustees shall determine are necessary for the proper administration of the village, except the village clerk, village attorney and treasurer and in the county of Westchester officers and members of the police department where such a department has been established pursuant to law, shall be appointed by and may be removed by the village manager; but the village manager shall report each such appointment and removal to the board of trustees at the next meeting thereof following any such appointment or removal; the village clerk, village attorney, village treasurer and officers and members of the police department where such a department has been established pursuant to law, shall be appointed and their salary or compensation fixed by the board of trustees as provided in this chapter.

Powers and duties of other village officers. The officers and employees of the village, excepting the police justice, village clerk, village attorney and village treasurer shall perform such duties as may be required of them by the village manager under general regulations of the board of trustees.

On July 10, 2008 1:09 PM, weewill said:

I most assuredly agree these conditions must be corrected and not allowed to continue. However it should not be up to the Mayor (or board members) to “mind” these operational details.

It’s up to the professional staffs in each of their respective departments to make sure this kind of condition doesn’t exist and to immediately correct it when and if it does.

Ultimately, it’s the Village Manager and the Department heads who are responsible. And of course, the buck stops with the Mayor and Board at budget time when raises are being handed out for performance.

Georgianna



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