The snowstorm that passed through our area on Feb. 1-2 was fresh in the memory as the Village of Westbury Board of Trustees met for its monthly meeting.
Mayor Peter Cavallaro said the heavy downfall “necessitated us having to suspend sanitation both Monday and Tuesday. Generally speaking, we don’t like to do two days of suspension, but the storm was particularly difficult [given its] duration and the amount of snow that we received. In order to do the proper job and clean the streets, the crews were working basically all day on Monday—starting very early, I think at 3 a.m. on Monday—and working all day. And even though basically all of the base snow had been removed, we had them doing clean up on Tuesday.”
He added, “I have to say that I thought they did a tremendous job in terms of keeping on top of the storm and we’ve received a good number of compliments from residents about the way DPW handled that. I passed [the compliments] on to DPW to share with the workers.”
On Monday, Feb. 1 at 7:25 p.m., the mayor wrote on the village’s Facebook page:
I want to thank our DPW staff for the tremendous effort they made today and last night dealing with this very difficult storm. I just completed a drive through every section of the village and found every road the be nearly to pavement and all roads easily passable. Since it is still snowing and the wind is blowing snow onto the roads, there is some snow cover, but the roads are generally in great shape. There are a few trouble spots and the typical problem areas where cars are left on roads, but again, the staff has done a terrific job. I did send crews back to several spots that should be in the process of being addressed now or soon.”
Trustee Steven Corte noted that, being newly retired, he spent a couple of days at the DPW “just to watch the operation as it unfolds. These guys did a tremendous job and I would say that the plan to suspend sanitation pick-up for the second day was probably the smartest thing to do, because they went back and tidied up the places that needed it.”
He added, “Unfortunately, our biggest problem is the residents, because they insist on throwing snow back out in the street. And they don’t get cars off the road, making it more difficult for us to do the job we have to do. But beyond that, from the leadership on down, I think it was tremendous.”
The mayor told resident Chester McGibbon, who asked about the costs of snow clean-up, that “we budget every year enough for several storms. We do a five-year rolling average. We’re well within the budget. This was a storm where we used a material portion of it because the workers were out on overtime for a good portion of the storm. But that’s what [the money] is there for.”
The village has yet to calculate the cost of the storm, the mayor noted. If the 2020-21 storm budget of $97,500 isn’t fully used up, the money is transferred elsewhere or becomes part of the surplus.
Cavallaro said he and Old Westbury Mayor Ed Novick sent a joint letter to the state regarding road and pothole repairs on Jericho Turnpike, which splits the villages.
He also sent a letter to the state Department of Transportation (DOT) regarding their failure to maintain the right-of-way on two spots, Asbury Avenue and Baldwin Drive. Both roads adjoin the Northern State Parkway, operated by the state.
“We got increasing concerns and complaints from residents about the overgrown nature of those places and broken fences and trees that have come down,” Cavallaro said. “Unfortunately, the state DOT when it comes to those issues is not very responsive. The first step in the process of trying to get them addressed is sending them those letters and we did that. We will be asking our state representatives in the Senate and Assembly to follow-up and try to get some action on that.”
He mentioned that the village was going to fix fencing on Baldwin Drive after the DOT failed to act, but got a stern letter warning about encroaching on state property.
“Some of these conditions really need to be fixed. We have a spot in particular where there is a breach in the fence and a kid or a dog could wander onto the parkway through the brush,” the mayor said. “That really needs to be addressed, so we’ve got to stay on top of it. The state, obviously, is not in the greatest financial shape, so they are not willing to do extra work.”
Resident Alex Nuñez observed of the gap in the fence pictured above: “I live on Asbury Avenue and walk my dog by that fence everyday. My dog always wants to go into that breach to ‘investigate,’ [but] luckily, he is always on a leash. I do know that across the street there is a family with a 7-year-old child that I remember always seeing playing in front of the house during the warmer months and always thought what a danger to have that breach right in front of their house. Luckily one of the parents are always with her when she is outside.”
Nuñez also supplied a photo of a tree that fell during Superstorm Sandy and was still leaning on a wall adjoining the Northern State.
Stephen Canzoneri, a spokesperson for the DOT, told the Westbury Times, “In the coming weeks, the fences will be repaired and the tree will be removed from the sound wall.”
Piercing the Cap
As it does annually, the village passed a resolution allowing it to pierce the state-mandated tax cap. Its fiscal year begins June 1, 2021. The budget is generally unveiled in March.
“We’ve had this hearing every year and we’ve adapted this local law every year, and then we’ve always rescinded it before we got to our budget,” Cavallaro observed. “We’ve never exceeded the tax cap.”
Under state law, municipalities and school districts are limited to a tax levy increase to the lesser of 2 percent or the rate of inflation.
“This past year has been tremendously difficult in terms of the fiscal [impact] to the village. We’ve had a lot of loss of revenue due to COVID, and we had extra expenses,” Cavallaro said. “That doesn’t necessarily carry over to next year. But it may, and the tax cap this year is under 2 percent with the rate of inflation.”
Clerk/Treasurer Robert Juliano said the inflation rate was 1.31 percent.
Cavallaro pointed out that the village’s contract with its employees union has a built-in increase of 1.5 percent per year, complicating efforts to stay under the limit.
“The board is always committed to adapting a budget that’s responsible, and always committed to adapting a budget with the lowest impact on our residents,” Cavallaro said. “As I’ve said in the last couple of budget messages that I’ve issued, even though we’ve been able to stay under the tax cap—and I think we’ve had three 0 percent budgets in the last five or six years, and negligible increases in the other years—there may come a day in enacting a responsible budget that we might have to consider breaching the tax cap.”
He added, “I don’t know if it’s this coming year, but this allows us the flexibility to do it if required to.”