MAHOPAC, N.Y. - It took a sometimes-heated debate among Town Board members, but school buses will now be able to enter the Baldwin Meadows subdivision and drop students off along Grand Meadow Drive and Noble Court.
A seemingly routine resolution to adopt the two private roads as official town roads, enabling school buses to travel on them, met some resistance from some Town Board members but was eventually resolved with a compromise.
When the resolution came up during the board’s Aug. 22 meeting, Councilman Jonathan Schneider initially proposed that the vote be tabled until additional documentation could be obtained. Schneider and Councilwoman Suzi McDonough said that there was still one of the development resident’s signature missing from the dedication agreement. However, Councilman Mike Barile and Supervisor Ken Schmitt argued that the signature was not necessary at this point in the dedication process and tabling the resolution would impact the school district’s bus routes with the first day of school looming on the horizon.
“I see no reason to table it. This is strictly to get the buses down that road. There is no liability on the town’s part at all,” Barile said. “It puts pressure on the developer to deliver the [signature]. Tabling is just going to screw up the school superintendent and his bus routes. There is absolutely no liability to the town by proceeding with this resolution.”
Schmitt also opposed tabling the resolution, noting that the town attorney prepared the resolution’s wording and gave his blessing to its adoption.
“Our town counsel, Greg Folchetti, prepared the resolution and he is comfortable with us voting on it tonight. He sees no reason why we can’t,” Schmitt said. “There is no negative exposure to the town. This is to get the buses off Baldwin Place Road and into the Baldwin Meadows subdivision. As you are all aware, the school district has had numerous complaints about safety concerns and the buses at that intersection. This gets them off that intersection and back into the subdivision where I think they belong. If town counsel had concerns, he would not have prepared this resolution.
“The item that is missing is the one person who is a holdout,” Schmitt continued. “It’s only one person and I think that can be resolved after the fact. We don’t have to wait on it.”
Barile noted that the resolution even contained the language “upon receipt of all remaining documentation.”
Schneider wondered if the school district needed the roads to be town roads by law in order to travel on them.
Folchetti said it wasn’t necessary, but the school district prefers it and has a policy that dictates it.
“I think what the school board is asking for is for the town to take the dedication of the roads in order to be in accordance with their policy of having their buses traverse state, county or town roads,” he said.
In a discussion with School Superintendent Anthony DiCarlo, he confirmed to Mahopac News that it was school policy to use buses only on dedicated roads.
“It would set a precedent. If they do it now, everybody else will ask,” Barille said. “I’ve built roads in this town and the school will not go on them until they’re dedicated. If they do it this one time, then every developer will ask for it.”
McDonough said that while she favored dedicating the roads, she was uncomfortable with a resolution that did not have a deadline for the missing signature.
“I am fine with [the resolution] if it [includes town counsel] getting the rest of the information. I was fine with that until yesterday when I received an email saying there was a holdout,” she said. “Usually we know when the rest of the documentation is going to come in. But what changed my mind is there is one homeowner who is holding out. What is the timeline for him to hold out? Do we give them another year? There is no guarantee that they will ever sign off. The onus should not be on the town of Carmel; it’s not our fault we cannot dedicate the road.”
Still, Barile stressed the importance of getting the roads dedicated before school opened on Sept. 5.
“Bottom line, school starts next week,” he said. “There is no reason to penalize the kids who live on that street or the school superintendent who has set up his bus routes already.”
Councilman John Lupinacci said a compromise could be reached if the resolution contained a specific deadline for the signature and/or any other documentation necessary. If the deadline was not made, the road could be taken via eminent domain.
“I am not going to do this for the school; I am going to this for the right reason and I think the right thing is to dedicate it,” he said. “If you are comfortable adding a certain number to the timeline, I’m comfortable with that.”
McDonough agreed, saying it would put more pressure on the developer to get the signature.
Barile said the dilemma was not the fault of the current owner of the development.
“He bought it from the developer who did not do it correctly when he sold the lots,” Barile said. “This developer was a local resident when he inherited it and, trust me, he is doing his due diligence to get it resolved. The school superintendent asked us to get it done, so let’s get it done. That we have spent over 30 minutes on this is mind-boggling.”
The board members then agreed to add a six-month deadline for the developer to provide the signature and then unanimously passed the resolution dedicating the roads, paving the way for school buses to traverse them this week.