BEDFORD HILLS, N.Y. – Bedford is asking Westchester County to provide some $53 million in financing to complete sewer installations in Katonah and Bedford Hills.
The Town Board voted unanimously last week to seek the funding, even as Supervisor Chris Burdick acknowledged that the likelihood of ever seeing those dollars was a long shot. For one thing, Bedford will almost certainly have to compete with neighboring municipalities for a slice of the dwindling amount of county cash set aside for water-quality-improvement projects.
Moreover, the two-decade-old fund, once topping $50 million, is down to $31 million, or a shortfall of some $22 million in Bedford’s application alone.
“I recognize that this [request] is a fairly heavy lift,” Burdick said, but “I do think it is worthwhile for the town to pursue it.”
New York City, which supplied most of the money in the county fund through the East of Hudson Water Quality Investment Program in 1997, will be asked to dig deeper to bankroll the latest water safeguards. With its drinking water drawn from the Croton and Kensico reservoirs, the city has a major stake in ensuring the quality of Westchester’s wastewater-disposal efforts. Other stakeholders in the program are the state and federal environmental agencies and the 12 municipalities, Bedford among them, that make up the Northern Westchester Watershed Committee.
The town has already embarked on a major sewer project, linking businesses in Katonah and Bedford Hills to sewers. Estimated to cost about $21million—with $19 million coming from East of Hudson and other outside funding—Phase I would replace the hamlets’ septic systems, which have handled wastewater disposal for decades.
Over those years, septic systems have been challenged by ever-denser land use. They have, officials say, been prone to failure. In the case of businesses with heavy water use like restaurants, they have also constrained expansion.
An estimated 18-month construction project is expected to begin this year to install the sewer line that will transport commercial wastewater from the two hamlets to the onetime Bedford Hills Correctional Facility’s underutilized treatment plant. Bedford bought the treatment facility from the state for $1.
In a work session last Thursday (Jan. 3), town officials met with Ken Kohlbrenner, a project manager for Woodard & Curran (White Plains), to discuss the engineering firm’s report on relatively modest options for Phase II.
But the supervisor began the 5:30 p.m. work session by announcing that the county, in an email last week, had set a firm deadline of Monday (Jan. 14) for submitting proposals for East of Hudson funding.
“So, we had a number of very quick phone calls and meetings and such with Woodard & Curran,” Burdick said. “And what we’ll get to [at the board’s regular meeting Thursday] is what we might set forth in the proposal, a request for funds from the county.”
Burdick said that County Executive George Latimer, in a November meeting, had advised “municipalities that are interested in pursuing other water-quality projects” to submit proposals.
County Planning Commissioner Norma Drummond will oversee the applications. Burdick told the board he had spoken with Drummond by phone last week, trying to assess the town’s chances with a comprehensive submission.
“We’re talking about sewering the remainder of the densely populated areas of Bedford Hills and Katonah,” he recalled telling Drummond.
“And she said, ‘Yes, that’s fine.’”
To roughly estimate the proposal’s price tag, Burdick said, Drummond suggested dusting off a 2011 town study evaluating wastewater treatment. Use that “as the baseline,” he quoted Drummond as saying, “and apply some reasonable inflation factors that are accepted in the industry, and then deduct from it whatever Phase I would [cost].”
In the board’s regular 7 p.m. meeting, it voted to seek $52,350,000 in East-of-Hudson money for Phase II construction costs and another $650,000 for mapping, planning and related expenses. Burdick said it would provide “for sewering the balance of the more-densely populated areas of Bedford Hills and Katonah not presently covered by the existing project.”
“Obviously, $52,350,000 is a lot of money,” Burdick said after the vote, adding, “And it exceeds what’s in the balance...of East-of-Hudson funds of $31 million.”
To overcome that shortfall, he said, Westchester will ask New York City to pony up additional cash to protect the quality of its water supply. At the November meeting with town officials, Burdick said, the county executive had urged them to submit their proposals “for going forward with sorely needed water-quality-improvement projects.”
The supervisor quoted Latimer as saying he would “discuss with Mayor [Bill] de Blasio getting further funding from New York City’s Department of Environmental Protection since all of this is aimed at protecting water quality in the New York City watershed.”
Councilwoman Lee Roberts supported the funding request but worried about the stiff competition for county dollars. “There are 12 members of the Northern Westchester Watershed Committee,” the onetime Bedford supervisor noted. “It’s every man for himself in that committee. I know; I was there for many years.”
Board approves new PBA contract
For Bedford’s men and women in blue, the New Year brings with it a new deal for better pay and changes in some working conditions.
The Town Board three weeks ago approved the three-year collective bargaining agreement, reached with the Police Benevolent Association (PBA) of Bedford. Under the contract, police officers will see pay hikes of 2.75 percent this year and 2.5 percent in each of the deal’s remaining two years.
Bedford Comptroller Abraham J. Zambrano described the pact, hammered out by the town’s negotiating team, as “consistent with the guidelines” provided by the Town Board. Calling the contract “fiscally responsible,” he recommended that the board ratify it.
The police union’s rank and file had earlier backed the contract in a ratification vote.
“Based on the proposed agreement...the net financial impact for 2019, 2020 and 2021 will be $213,760, $272,350 and $213,457, respectively,” Zambrano told the board in a memorandum. “These amounts are the net of changes in wages, longevity, holiday pay and employee health insurance contributions. The total financial impact on the budget over the three years of the contract is $699,568.”
Zambrano was part of the town’s four-member negotiating team, which also included Personnel Director Joan Gallagher, Police Chief Melvin Padilla and Stephanie M. Roebuck, the town’s labor counsel.
While the contract increased police pay, it also hiked the individual officers’ share of health-insurance premiums.
Contributions by veteran PBA members—those hired before July 1, 2015—will go from 2 percent of a first-grade patrolman’s salary for family coverage to 2.5 percent and from 1 percent of a first-grade patrolman’s salary for individual coverage to 1.5 percent, Roebuck said. PBA members hired on or after July 1, 2015, she told the board, will contribute 15 percent of the applicable premium, a jump from the 13 percent they now pay.
In other news from the new police headquarters:
• Erik J. LeFevre, a decorated police officer with 11 years on the job—his last half-dozen on patrol in Bedford after starting his career in Mount Vernon—has been promoted to sergeant, replacing Sgt. Jon Evans, who retired last October. The promotion carries with it a pay raise to $122,841.
• George Soros has donated $2,400 and Susan Weber $500 to the police department, money that is expected to be used to buy equipment.
The Town Board moved quickly through its final meeting of 2018. Still, the Dec. 18 session had time to:
• Increase pool and camp fees. Acting on recommendations from William F. Heidepriem, the town’s superintendent of recreation and parks, the board boosted fees for the use of pools in Katonah and Bedford’s other two hamlets by about 5 percent, with discounts for early signups. Early registrations would also lessen the bite of a 2.5 percent hike in fees for Day Camp and Tiny Tot Camp and 4.5 percent or $50, from $1,100 to $1,150, for the Teen Get Away Travel Camp. Most other rec fees were expected to remain unchanged in 2019.
• Enact updated guidelines governing the installation of latest-generation wireless technologies. Called the Wireless Telecommunication Facility Law, it addresses newer, more-compact telecom technology. Existing town code had focused primarily on cell-phone towers.