YORKTOWN, N.Y. – Yorktown is attempting to repurpose three quarters of a million dollars’ worth of grants obtained years ago for the now-shelved downtown revitalization project.
The repurposed grants would be used to improve the existing highway garage on the corner of Front Street and Underhill Avenue. As part of the plan, conceptualized by a previous administration more than a half-decade ago, the garage was to be demolished and rebuilt on Greenwood Street.
A $350,000 grant would be used to install a new ventilation and heating system in the highway garage and a $375,000 grant would be used to build an addition.
After some colorful debate, Town Board voted unanimously on Tuesday, Aug. 11, to authorize the town comptroller to write a letter to the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York. The letter informs DASNY that Yorktown has the funds available to spend on the project, which would be reimbursed. Highway Superintendent Dave Paganelli said this action only “starts the process.”
“We’re moving the ball downfield,” Paganelli said. “We’re certainly not achieving a touchdown, but at least we are assured that we’re in the queue. If the board decides further down the road, ‘Hey you know what, we don’t want to utilize those grants, so be it.’ But if we don’t get our foot in the door, we’ll never be in the room.”
Councilmen Ed Lachterman and Tom Diana expressed concern before the vote, citing a lack of transparency. Neither official said they were aware of the grant application before that evening’s meeting.
“So, I’m a little bothered about the transparency,” said Lachterman, who expected a community discussion on how best to utilize these funds. But, he said, that conversation never happened. “That’s not really the way we are supposed to operate.”
Paganelli, admittedly punchy after having spent the week leading up to the meeting responding to damage caused by Tropical Storm Isais, initially took offense to Lachterman’s criticism.
“This is a time-sensitive grant,” Paganelli said. “We’ve been working on it. It is time sensitive. If we lose this $725,000 grant, it’s not on me. Table away, if you’d like. But let’s be real clear about it…If you want to put it aside, you lose the grant. Just own it. That’s all I’m saying.”
Paganelli said the letter was actually due the Friday before the meeting, but the town was delayed in submitting it because of Isaias.
“We have a highway garage that is not, unfortunately, compliant in terms of its capability of taking care of the employees that work there,” Paganelli said. “So, I’ve been working on this grant to facilitate a) having proper airflow in the garage, so nobody suffocates, and b) would be to have a proper rest area when they’re working 30 hours straight with a four-hour break for rest. As an elected official, I was moving the grant along. Did I purposely hide it from anyone? I would resent that implication.”
Lachterman said he values the health and safety of the highway workers, but said decisions “aren’t made in a vacuum.” Specifically, he said, he wanted to ensure the town wasn’t throwing “good money after bad” in attempting to improve a building in poor condition.
“I’m not trying to stall this project,” Diana said. “I didn’t know that this was coming about, to be 100 percent honest with you.”
Paganelli, extending an olive branch, apologized for “earlier exuberance.”
“I haven’t slept in a few days, so I tend to be a little cranky,” the highway superintendent said. Lachterman said there was “no offense taken.”
“If you didn’t get the memo, and there was no memo, I apologize,” Paganelli added. “But I see it as a win-win, saving three-quarters of a million dollars.”
He said he’s been working with Supervisor Matt Slater and Planning Director John Tegeder on repurposing the grants.
“It’s been ongoing for quite some time, and it is now, unfortunately, time sensitive,” Paganelli said. “I apologize if everybody wasn’t kept in the loop. But there are a lot of pieces at play.”
The addition on the highway garage would add a rest area for his employees. The addition would also create one shower stall for the women, two shower stalls for the men, and some additional storage space.
The new ventilation system would improve the air quality in the garage, particularly when employees are working on the trucks inside during the winter.
“It has drop-downs, for instance, that hook onto the exhaust systems, so that the exhaust isn’t blowing directly into the garage and it’s ventilated out, and then make-up air is brought in,” Paganelli said. “But the makeup air has to be heated because you’re sucking hot air out of the garage.”
The grants were awarded through the State and Municipal Facilities Program.