Editors Note: This letter was written before the Board released its cost estimate (see spreadsheet below). The $752,000 estimate will consume the remainder of the trust fund and does not include funds for renovation of the house or for upgraded water and sewerage, if that proves to be necessary. Renovation of the house will certainly be well up in six figures. Where does the board propose to get those funds?
The following letter was published in this week’s issue of the Gazette.
To the editor:
Our Village Board seems hell-bent to sweep the Recreation Department out of the Municipal Building as quickly as possible and deposit it in the wilds of Gouveia Park. The very cogent arguments against such a move have been stated in these pages and elsewhere, and need not be repeated. But what about the cost?
At present, we have absolutely no idea what it will cost to make this move. In what has become standard procedure for this board, the process has been to make a commitment now and worry about the costs later. After all, it will be done with other peoples’ money.
As the board was warned by Village Manager Janine King, the relocation will be more complicated and more costly than it appears. Most importantly, because the facility will have to be made compliant with the Americans With Disabilities Act. And there is a serious question regarding whether the water and sewerage facilities on the property will be adequate for the large number of people the board tells us will be using the renovated property. In addition, the operating costs will soar since the house will have to be heated and cooled twelve months a year.
So I am issuing a challenge to the board. Before you make a commitment, tell us what it will cost. Tell us what it will cost to renovate the house, upstairs and down, and make it ADA compliant. Tell us what it will cost to extend the driveway and parking area. Tell us whether the water and sanitary facilities are adequate and, if not, what it will cost to upgrade them. Tell us what it will cost each year to heat, cool, and otherwise maintain the renovated facility. Tell us whatever other capital and operating costs are associated with the move.
Board members publish letters in these pages every week. So instead of announcing essay contests for eighth graders, tell us what you plan to spend on our behalf. And this time, give us accurate information. Not the fake news that was included in the 2015 economic analysis prepared by Mayor Pugh, Trustee Gallelli, and their colleagues on the then-village board when they voted to accept the property.
It is my understanding that the upcoming budget will include a return to the massive borrowing that was routine in past years and that the borrowing guidelines established some years ago will be violated. So we can expect that the Gouveia renovations will be funded by what’s left in the trust fund, assuming it will be adequate.
The aforementioned economic analysis stated that it would require $110,000 to bring the house up to ADA standards. But every estimate made in that analysis has been off by a factor of at least three or four. So it is likely that the renovations will significantly deplete the remaining funds or even clean them out completely.
When the property was accepted, we were promised that the trust fund would not be spent, but would be used to generate interest to offset the expenses of the property. According to the analysis, we should be receiving $40,000 per year at this time. What ever happened to that?
Mayor Greg Schmidt established a Financial Sustainability Committee, comprised of financial professionals, to provide guidance to the board and keep village finances on an even keel. Has the FSC been consulted on whether this move makes financial sense and what its future implications will be? Has the FSC been consulted on anything by this board? I think not. Despite the fact that no one currently on the board has a financial background, and this incredibly valuable resource is readily available, the board, as always, is convinced it knows better than everyone else.
So, c’mon folks. Accept my challenge. Tell us what you’re planning to spend. Remember, you work for us. The taxpayers and citizens of the Village of Croton. And as our employees, we demand that you keep us informed—with truthful data.
Joel E. Gingold