MAHOPAC, N.Y.— Another year has come and gone in Mahopac and it’s time to look back on 2016 and recap the most noteworthy stories of the past 12 months. Being memorable doesn’t necessarily mean a joyous occasion; this past year did have some heartbreaking moments. However, it was also a year of heroes, a year of triumph and a year of progress. So, in no particular order, here are some of the most notable stories from 2016:
Two teenage girls were rescued from Lake Mahopac in November after their car crashed and flipped into the water. The Good Samaritan who saved them, 19-year-old Cullen Malzo, was in his driveway when the crash occured. He sprang into action and dove into the frigid waters and pulled the girls to safety. The story gained attention from the area news networks on TV and went viral online. Malzo was later awarded the Liberty Medal by Sen. Terrence Murphy for his heroic actions.
Michael Klein, former treasurer of the Mahopac Fire Department was arrested and charged with stealing more than $5.7 million from the department’s treasury.
Putnam County Undersheriff Peter Convery, a Mahopac resident, died in November from an apparent heart attack. Convery was well-known throughout the community, not just for his police work, but as a member of the Lake Mahopac Rotary Club, the Mahopac Volunteer Fire Department, myriad charities such as Relay for Life and for his work with senior citizens. He was a parishioner of St. John’s the Evangelist Church in Mahopac.
After 15 years, the iconic Mahopac cystic fibrosis fundraiser, Freezin’ for a Reason, came to end. The event’s founder, Christine Stack, said her daughter, Jacqueline, was healthy once again and back playing sports. Christine wanted to return to the workforce and so she made the hard decision to end the annual fundraiser where hundreds of community members jumped into the frigid waters of the lake at Sycamore Park to raise money for cystic fibrosis. During its 15-year run, the event raised an astonishing $1.6 million for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.
A plan by the county to construct a cell phone tower on county property near Mahopac’s Airport Park soccer fields angered neighboring residents and some lawmakers, who insist that a new location should be found.
The project, known as the Emergency Services Network Improvement Plan, was the result of area law enforcement and EMS services’ concerns about poor cell service throughout the region. But neighbors say the tower is a health detriment and would lower property values. The plan is still pending.
After five years of working without a new collective bargaining agreement, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) Local 456, which represents members of the Carmel Highway Department, finally got a new contract. While the five-year pact will provide pay raises, workers will also now be required to contribute to their health benefits package.
Town officials unveiled plans for a community recreation center at Sycamore Park last week—an 18,000-square-foot facility which, along with some ancillary projects, would cost a little over $10 million. The blueprint calls for a great room that would double as a gymnasium/basketball court and have a stage at one end. Surrounding that main room would be a series of smaller rooms, including a senior meeting room, a teen meeting room, a game room, storage rooms and a kitchen. There is also a rock-climbing wall in the main room.
A referendum to repair school roofs and make energy improvements throughout the district’s buildings was turned down by voters by just 15 votes. The $8 million capital improvement project would have been done without borrowing money or raising the tax rate but was voted down nonetheless. It will be placed back on the ballot in May during the budget vote.
In the wake of the million-dollar embezzlement revelation at the Mahopac Volunteer Fire Department, the company agreed to hold meetings that are open to the public and report its expenditures to town officials on a regular basis, among other fiscal constraints, as part of a new contract agreement between the town and the department.
Other stipulations in the contract included that the board of directors must use its best efforts to ensure that vacancies in the offices of directors and commissioners occurring during the contract period are filled by district residents to create a super majority and each board members be required to undergo annual Fireman’s Association of the State of New York (FASNY) training and continuing education.