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The cell tower proposed for Fraleigh Hill stirred up heated discussion at the TOW Planning Board meeting on Tuesday, April 1. The meeting was moved from Town Hall to the Millbrook Fire House to host the crowd. Planning Board president Joshua Mackey chuckled as Fire Chief Ted Bownas handed him a gavel in case the meeting got out of hand. 

The board swiftly approved two lot line changes.  A donation of one acre by Christina Lang Assael to St. Peter’s cemetery and Scott and Alison Meyer’s merging a lot owned by Erich Mauff and Adele Griffin-Watson on Hammond Hill Road passed without public comment. 

The Dutchess County Legislature repealed 3.75% tax sales tax on residential customers on Monday, April 7, responding to wide-spread political opposition from voters and politicians. The repeal was made possible when the State allocated $5.25 million to the county, thereby curing the hole in the budget that had been filled by the tax on heating fuels. 

Although county residents are relieved to see the tax repealed, cuts to programs were not restored. 

County Planning informed non-profits that $705,400 of grants funds were cut.   The North East Community Center Director Jenny Hansell responded in an email to the County Executive and legislators that the loss of funding would impact programs for youth development and farmer’s markets for low-income families. 

“We want to be fiscally responsible to our taxpayers, and we want to maintain current programs,” said Philip D’Angelo, Jr., superintendent of Millbrook schools, at the April 7 meeting at which the school board was given a précis of the likely budget.  Because the amount of school aid from the state is still an unknown, the budget remains an open question. But certain directions are taking shape.

Because enrollment has been dropping in the elementary school, the board focused on consolidating in that area.  

Total enrollment was 1,091 in 2012 and 1,048 in 2013. As of March 31, 2014, total enrollment in the district was 1,050 students.

D’Angelo said the district might be getting as much as an additional $110,000 in state aid, which would reduce the tax-levy increase to 1.83 percent. 

“We are moving people around and looking at retirements,” D’Angelo said. The district is looking at a number of ways to consolidate services and positions, including in the clerical staff. 

Silo Ridge took center stage at the auditorium on Monday, March 24, in Amenia Town Hall, where the newest version of the development scheme for the Silo Ridge Field Club was unveiled. The centerpiece of the presentation was made by Dan O’Callaghan of Discovery Land Company. O’Callaghan emphasized the amenities and attention to detail by which Discovery’s 17 golf club projects are known. Discovery, under O’Callaghan’s local leadership, will apply the ingredients of their brand to the Silo Ridge project, bringing architects, designers and a recognized lifestyle orientation that has meant success for a string of projects from Mexico and Hawaii to Texas, Montana and South Carolina and now Amenia and the Hamptons.

Not too long ago, stormwater was viewed as a dirty thing to be gotten off parking lots and roads as soon as possible and into a stormdrain that went directly into a river.  Now the paradigm has changed.  Clean water in streams is seen as a precious resource.  Techniques to infiltrate stormwater into the ground, called green infrastructure, are now being applied before the polluted runoff gets into the streams.  Watershed protection groups have been educating the public about these techniques for a long time.

The latest tax return of the Homeland Foundation, owner of Wethersfield, shows that the trustees continued the practice of spending capital far in excess of income, and they continue to squeeze the farming operations while maintaining the generous salary of the president, Barbara Wyckoff, wife of the former president.

The trustees spent $2,114,536 more in expenses than they received in income, yet they continued to pay the president at the rate of $300,000 a year, according to the tax return for the period that ended April 30, 2013. They also paid a secretary who works in the New York office part time $70,000 a year. The return was filed in March 2014, permitted with the filing of extensions. The total income, including capital gains of $47,110, was $609,906 in the year, as compared with the prior year (ending April 30 2012) income of $1,143,106. 

The foundation made $80,000 in grants to other organizations. Grants to Duke University and the Church of the Sacred Heart totaling $1.9 million, which had been reported in prior returns as approved, were not made. The latest return noted that these grants had been “reversed” on the books of the foundation. 

On May 1 our home electric bills will go up about 10 percent and our business bills about 15 percent in the New York City (NYC) capacity zone. The current northern edge of the zone is Yonkers. On May 1 the New York City capacity zone will be expanded to include Westchester, Putnam, Dutchess, and the southern edge of Columbia county, along with the corresponding counties on the western side of the Hudson River. With the change, the zone will include prime sites for electric power plant construction in Dutchess and Ulster county. There will also be a rate hike imposed by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), billed to all rate-payers. Different parties have estimated the fee at from $220 million per year up to $370 million per year. This fee will only be removed two years after the cost of electricity in the zone is equalized with the rate outside the zone. The FERC has the idea that electricity used in New York City—with high land costs, high labor costs, high transport costs—should have the same price as electricity used in Utica, New York, with low costs for land, labor and transportation.

Village Mayor Laura Hurley announced on Tuesday, April 1st that the village has come to a mutual agreement with Michael & Erica Downing principles of Thorne Project Ltd. to cancel the existing lease to the Thorne Building.  Both parties agreed to a monetary settlement in full satisfaction of work and improvements performed at the Thorne Building during the length of the lease. The settlement amounted to $20,000 which effectively revokes any Thorne Project Ltd. rights to the property. After five years of entering into the original lease with the Thorne Project Ltd. the village is released from all obligation to the property, but hopes to see the Thorne Building be revitalized into a cultural center for the community in an economically sound manner.

 

Not every day is the Millbrook High School Jazz band able to play alongside internationally known jazz musicians from Johannesburg, South Africa. Thanks to a grant from the Millbrook Arts Group (MAG), however, this unique opportunity was theirs Friday night. The South African jazz ensemble Uhadi includes saxophone player McCoy Mrubata, pianist Paul Hanmer, trumpet player Feya Faky, bassist Herbie Tsoaeli and drummer Justin Badenhorst. 

This year April 27 marks the twentieth anniversary of Freedom Day in South Africa, when the first post-apartheid elections were held. To celebrate this anniversary of South African democracy, Jazz at the Lincoln Center brought Uhadi to the United States. In collaboration with the Catskill Jazz Factory, the Hudson Valley is the first leg of their American tour. 

On Friday, March 27, MAG brought Uhadi to Millbrook to host two educational workshops, with students at Dutchess Day School and Millbrook High School. Students in the jazz band worked with Uhadi and learned to play their songs. The workshop was followed by a free concert, open to the public, at the Millbrook High School auditorium. 

Food Insecurity, as defined by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), is the limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods or the limited or uncertain ability to acquire such food without resorting to emergency food supplies, scavenging, or stealing. In 2012 Poughkeepsie Plenty Food Coalition completed a community food assessment of its own city and found that one in four households in Poughkeepsie is food insecure.  

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