BEDFORD, N.Y. - Some trees shading the Katonah hamlet’s streets are being threatened by the warm bricks that surround them, the Bedford Town Board heard last week.

Peter Nardone, a professional engineer and Katonah resident, urged a long-term look at “how we can make the trees look a little greener along the sidewalks, without disrupting sidewalks or utilities.” 

“I always felt the trees were a very important characteristic of the town,” he said, “to make it look charming and green and something that we enjoy.”
Nevertheless, Nardone noted, over the past year, he has “seen how much trees in the hamlet have become very stressed.”

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“The trees on Parkway and Katonah Avenue have been stressed...they’re not in good shape,” he said. “We have lost trees in front of KR Café” and another one “is really struggling.” 

Perhaps best known as an outspoken advocate of immediate repairs to a long-neglected local stretch of I-684, Nardone laid some of the blame for the trees’ condition on the bricks at their base as well as the wiring for holiday lights wrapped around their limbs.

Bricks, which can reach temperatures far higher than the ambient air, have been prized since ancient times for their excellent thermal-storage properties. But, Nardone noted, “Heat dehydrates the roots, preventing oxygen and water from getting to the tree base, “which is the critical part of the tree.”

And while tree lights may joyously herald our holidays, they remain a pernicious presence long after those cherished celebrations are only warm memories, he said. “Over time, those holiday lights choke the base of the tree,” he warned. “It restrains it from growing.”

Noting the sewer installation scheduled for this year and next, Nardone said, “Maybe after the conclusion of the project we can think of how to make the tree look greener and to add a few more trees. And to make sure that tree grates are used around the trees, minimize bricks on the base of the trees.”

Supervisor Chris Burdick said he will forward Nardone’s concerns to the Tree Advisory Board, which counsels Bedford’s elected officials and professional staff on ways to preserve, plant and remove trees.

Assessor reappointed

The board sent Harold Girdlestone back to work as the town’s sole assessor, a job he’s held since his initial appointment in 2011. 
Girdlestone thanked the board after its unanimous vote, saying, “It has been an honor and a privilege and a pleasure serving as town assessor and working with you for eight years.”

As the town’s $123,305-a-year assessor, he’s charged with determining the value of Bedford’s real properties. That provides the base from which, for example, a homeowner’s tax bill can be calculated. 

Some jurisdictions elect a single assessor; others appoint a three-member board; and a great number (45 percent by a recent state count) share their assessing manpower. Bedford, like many towns, appoints just one person to fix valuations, hence the term “sole assessor.” 

Girdlestone started his tenure on Dec. 19, 2011, succeeding the retired assessor, Thomas Polzella, who still had two years remaining on his six-year term. The board named Girdlestone to a full six-year run in 2013. His latest appointment takes effect Oct. 1 and runs till Sept. 30, 2025.

Burdick applauded what he called the “exemplary job” the veteran assessor has done.
Sewer bids coming

Expecting two state and county agencies—the final remaining oversight bodies—to issue speedy OKs of the plans for sewers in Katonah and elsewhere, Bedford’s Town Board voted last week to solicit bids for the project by the end of next month.

Ken Kohlbrenner, a professional engineer with Woodard & Curran (White Plains), the town’s sewer consultants, said New York City money has been cleared for release. “As a result,” he wrote the board in a memo earlier this month, “we are moving ahead with completion of remaining items for bidding to maintain progress on the overall project schedule.”

Bids were scheduled to be sought by the end of September and opened in mid-November. If all goes as planned, two years of construction—running lines from the Katonah and Bedford Hills business districts to the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility’s wastewater treatment plant—should be wrapped up by year’s end 2021.