In November of last year, when Donald Trump became our president-elect, most of the world felt as if it had shifted in an unprecedented way. Whether citizens supported Trump or did not, there was a common feeling of either joyous or defeated disbelief.
It wasn’t long after that a list of Trump’s initiatives appeared for his first 100 days in office. With the support of a Republican majority in Congress, Trump’s initiatives suddenly seemed plausible. I saw this as an opportunity to look more closely at the checks and balances that exist in local, state and federal government.
We jumped quickly into action, creating a google document (so that citizens could collaborate) that outlines Trump’s initiatives so to better explore their context and, to identify local and New York State policies and laws that could help guide us through this new administration. We hosted very small meetings with a couple dozen citizens to start this important work and realized shortly after that it needed to continue and be open to more citizen’s input.
VIEW: “Trump’s Initiatives: Local/State Policy and Laws”
The result is an educational series that will span 2017. Citizens can expect an array of subjects with expert panelists, a question and answer period, an interactive work session on KingstonCitizens.org’s document “Trump Initiatives and NYS Local/State Policy and Laws” and short tutorials to help navigate the City of Kingston’s municipal website.
Thanks to Peter Wetzler and Julie Hedrick of Church Des Artistes who have donated their beautiful space so that we are comfortable and supported in our efforts each month.
Please review the list of topics, dates, and details below. We are currently booking more guests and will make those announcements as they are confirmed. For now, put all of the following dates in your calendar!
We look forward to meeting more of our neighbors, making new connections and becoming more educated on a whole host of complicated topics.
Knowledge is power.
“Community Educational Forums: An Eight-Part Series”
at Church Des Artistes
79 Wurts Street
Historic Rondout section of Kingston, NY
1:00 pm – 4:00 pm.
Over the course of the series in 2017, citizens can expect an array of subjects with expert panelists, a question and answer period, an interactive work session on KingstonCitizens.org’s document “Trump Initiatives and NYS Local/State Policy and Laws” and short tutorials to help navigate the City of Kingston’s municipal website.
Moderated by KingstonCitizens.org Co-Founder Rebecca Martin.
Participants are encouraged to bring a dessert to share. Coffee and tea provided. We encourage citizens to bring along their personal computer laptop if they have one. All dates and topics subject to change.
Our lives are intimately impacted by the decisions made by our elected and appointed officials on all fronts. In this case, regarding water, by voting ‘YES’ to include the Common Council on all sales of water outside Kingston’s corporate limits, we have a real opportunity to assure better decisions to be made.
Please take note. The Water Sales Referendum will be on the BACK OF THE BALLOT on November 3rd.
It is the final step in the process that would include both “the Common Council and the Mayor of Kingston for any water sales outside of the City of Kingston’s corporate boundaries.” It is expected that the mayor will sign off on the legislation on Thursday, sending it to the ballot as a referendum in November for the public to decide.
It’s our water. We are INVOLVED.
As it is currently written, Water Powers in the City of Kingston’s charter excludes an elected body (although the Mayor of Kingston does sit on the water board of commissioners) in decision making on how the public’s water supply is sold outside of the city of Kingston. The public’s most valuable resource therefore is in the hands of about five-six people.
If the public votes in favor of the referendum this November, water sales outside of our corporate boundary will be made with the inclusion of Kingston’s common council. This action will allow the City of Kingston a ‘seat at the table’ in the case of a SEQR review, something that we did not have and that was terribly frustrating last year.
The inclusion of the common council for water sales would give our community a ‘discretionary decision’ to make as an involved agency in SEQR (we were only an ‘interested agency’ last fall and as you might recall, we had to fight tooth and nail for it. That hard won status still gave us little to no authority). As an ‘involved agency’ we would have a say in determining who the ‘lead agency‘ in SEQR would be, creating an important opportunity for the collective community voice.
Taken from the SEQR handbook:
As an ‘involved’ agency, the City of Kingston would be allowed to
Make certain the lead agency understands the extent of the involved agency’s jurisdiction; and
Provide the lead agency with observations and concerns about the proposed action and its potential environmental impact so the lead agency may consider them in making a determination of significance.
When a lead agency has made a negative determination of significance (negative declaration) each remaining involved agency may make its final decision on the action after completing any other required procedures.
When a lead agency has made a positive declaration each involved agency could:
Participate in scoping, making the lead agency aware of that agency’s concerns and technical requirements identify potential significant environmental impacts and suggest alternatives and mitigation;
Assist the lead agency in reviewing a draft EIS for adequacy, if requested;
Participate in any hearings, as appropriate;
Provide formal agency comments during the public review period;
Assist the lead agency in responding to substantive comments on the final EIS, if requested; and
Prepare the involved agency’s own separate SEQR findings before making its final decision.
An involved agency can also influence the determination of significance by the lead agency. All involved agencies are encouraged to submit comments during the coordination period. Comments that deal with an agency’s specific area of interest or jurisdiction are especially appropriate.
It’s an important safeguard, particularly when municipal water is involved.
Oversight and Transparency.
The City of Kingston is fortunate for many reasons – one of which is that it has its own water source. In amending the charter and including the common council as a determining body in water powers, some are concerned of political antics intruding upon their sales. But this inclusion isn’t about personalities, as council members and those in executive office come and go. This is about making certain that policy and the law are applied for decision making as it pertains to our water and water infrastructure.
In the spirit of community and in seeing our region prosper, with proper oversight, good science, climate change modeling and all other matters we can help to support sustainable economic development while placing the health of our watershed and the impacted communities first.
In less than a year from the time that we first heard and spoke out on our concerns of the Niagara Bottling Company’s proposal in the Town of Ulster, the public will have the opportunity to make itself ‘involved’ in water sales outside of our ever changing community, a voice in the protection of our water supply today and for future generations.
Last night, after many terrific citizen public speakers (see 1:44 – 15:35 in the video above), the Common Council did the first reading (at 44:15 – 45:00) of a charter amendment for Water Powers outside of Kingston’s Corporate boundaries.
Alderman-at-Large James Noble explains (at 15:48 – 16:26) stating that “the original resolution has been changed to another resolution. #134 is going to be a local law change, because it’s stronger legislation. This evening we will do the first reading without discussion. Next month, we will do the second reading and vote.”
After which, Mayor Shayne Gallo will have 10 days to organize a public hearing before signing off on the legislation. It would then be prepared and sent to the Board of Election to include on the November ballot.
All summer long, KingstonCitizens.org will focus its energies to inspire and to energize our community to vote like it has never done before. Which way that you do is a private matter – but to vote is a right that was hard earned. If this referendum is placed on the ballot – so was it. A lot of blood, sweat and tears. Please be responsible and do your part and vote. Place November 3rd (Election Day) on your calendar today.
Monday, June 1st, 2015
Kingston Common Council Caucus
Conference Room #1
Kingston City Hall
420 Broadway, Kingston
Tuesday, June 2nd, 2015
Kingston Common Council
Kingston City Hall
420 Broadway, Kingston
Both meetings will be filmed.
By Rebecca Martin
At last week’s Public Safety/General Government Committee meeting, a resolution for a referendum to be placed on the ballot in November passed unanimously through to the Common Council. The referendum, if approved by a full Council vote, would give the public the opportunity to vote on whether or not to amend the charter to include the Common Council for “Water Supply Outside of City”.
In Section C11-5C (Water Supply Outside of City), it says: (C) Such sales or sales must be approved by the New York State Water Power and Control Commission” (the NYS Water Power and Control Commission today is the Department of Environmental Conservation aka DEC). The referendum would ask the public to approve or not the inclusion of the Common Council, “and the common council.” That simple amendment would give the public a say as to water sales outside of Kingston’s city limits. Additionally, Kingston would automatically be an “Involved” agency in SEQR in the case one were ever triggered again.
In the meantime, the public’s water would have a layer of protection that would allow for thoughtful policy to be developed for sustainable growth and economic development using this precious public resource.
This is one of many steps that need to be taken in order to help protect Cooper Lake and our watershed as a whole. But by assuring that the sale of water outside of our small, local municipality includes our Common Council – it is a significant one.
WHAT TO EXPECT: June 1st
Caucus (Monday, 6/1), which is a public meeting of supporters and members of a specific political party (in Kingston, our nine alderpersons are made up of eight democrats and one republican), occurs each month the evening before the full Common Council meetings. Much discussion is generally had on all agenda items, as well as often, conclusions as to which way council members will cast their vote the following evening. There isn’t a sign-up for public comment during Caucus, however you may contact Matt Dunn, the Council Majority Leader (see email address below), if you wish to be added to the agenda. For those who can attend caucus, it is always enlightening and in this case, and if added to the agenda, will help you to better understand the dynamics that surround this issue.
WHAT TO EXPECT: June 2nd
It is very important that the public plan to attend the Kingston Common Council meeting on Tuesday, June 2nd to speak in support of the public referendum as described above if you are in favor of it. Please consider to thank the Public Safety/General Government Committee for their leadership role here and on passing the resolution for referendum through to Council. Request that the City take any necessary steps to make a referendum possible for the November, 2015 ballot. A public comment period begins shortly after 7:30pm. Please arrive 10 minutes early to sign-up to speak. Keep your comments succinct, respectful and no longer than 3 minutes in length.
If you cannot be in attendance next week but wish to share your thoughts with city officials regarding this matter, with “REFERENDUM: Water Supply Powers” in the subject.
Mayor Shayne Gallo
Alderman-at-Large James Noble
Matt Dunn, Ward 1 andMajority Leader email@example.com
Brian Seche, Ward 2
“Infrastructure must be maintained. People come to rely on that service. The general population doesn’t stop to think “If I didn’t have water, how would my life be affected? How valuable is that infrastructure to my quality of life that I have? How much am I paying for it vs. how important is it to my life?”
– Fred Testa, EFC
“Many municipalities say “I haven’t raised water rates. Re-elect me!” Not good. You need to continually keep pace with the cost of running your system. One of the ways you do that is by increasing your rates to recognize that things cost more as you move forward. You also recognize that things may not break next year, but may in five years – and you keep projecting future costs.”
– Candace Balmer, RCAP
Last evening, KingstonCitizens.org hosted a “Water & Waste Water Infrastructure 101” educational panel with guests Water Resource Specialist Candace Balmer of RCAP Solutions and Environmental Project Manager Fred Testa from NYS Environmental Facilities Corporation.
Close to 50 people were in attendance that included elected and appointed officials, representatives from many of our environmental organizations and citizens alike.
Thanks to our sponsors for this event that include the Woodstock Land Conservancy, Riverkeeper and Catskill Mountainkeeper and to Kingston News for providing a live stream of the event and the following video.
0:00 – 1:56: QUESTION, Dan Shapley ”If there is a water quality problem the community is aware of, but isn’t documented on the list it’s not helping getting funding for that project?”
“If the project is going to improve water quality (class b vs. class c) does that effect the score of the project?”
3:00 – 4:04: MODERATOR
MHI (Median Household Income) is $44,000 in Kingston, making us likely to be eligible for funding.
“How is the water supply changing based on growth and change in the landscape? The way we manage, monitor, maintain?”
4:06 – 5:58: Fred Testa, EFC
“State Department of Health has the role of regulating the quality of water.”
6:00 – 6:24:MODERATOR
“Would you say that there is an increasing burden on small communities in the way of managing infrastructure?”
6:26: Candace Balmer, RCAP
“Demographic changes and the financial impact from shrinking communities.”
7:02 – 7:16: MODERATOR
“H0w is the role of the government changed to met that gap? Is it doing so?
7:17: Candace Balmer, RCAP
“Water is free, but the pipes that are bringing it to you are not. It costs more than what they want to deal with.”
8:28 – 12:20: MODERATOR
“In the Kingston system, rates might have to go up to provide for infrastructure needs. In the present, we are struggling to meet that demand. Can we talk for a moment about different rate structures, and what you’re seeing as best practice? Kingston has a descending rate structure today.”
9:25: Candace Balmer, RCAP
“We advocate a level rate structure and per gallon charge so that there isn’t any base usage. It’s called FULL COST PRICING.”
“How does that play out in the community?”
10:18: Candace Balmer, RCAP
“You have fixed costs. If people decide to use less to save money, the department still has to meet those costs.”
11:24: Fred Testa, EFC
“Some small communities have a simple, flat rate. In the old days, things were more simple and it’s not as simple today. In waste water, sometimes the expense on the property owner is based in part on property values.”
12:21 – 13:38: MODERATOR
“You brought asset management which the City of Kingston is undergoing for its waste water infrastructure. Can you tell us more about it and how you might be involved? By the way, it’s the most expensive piece of infrastructure for the COK to run. It was found in our climate action plan that the municipality is responsible for that, and the cost of repairs would be 3 x more than we thought given it’s in the flood plain. Instead of it being $2 million dollars it’s more like $6 million in longterm costs.”
13:40 – 18:56: Candace Balmer, RCAP
“People don’t always understand where their dollars are going, (chemicals, transmission, admin, debt repayment, etc.). It’s about getting the most value for your equipment. It costs more to fix something once it’s broken than when it was planned for so to be replaced in a timely manner. Assets are pipes, buildings, tanks, equipment, security, tools, office/lab. These are things that you have invested in and you recognize that they have a life span and when they break, you want to make sure that you have access to the things that you need to replace them efficiently and think of about financing for these replacements beforehand. The first thing you do is an inventory. You want to identify what your assets are and prioritize your critical assets. Those that you’ll be really in trouble if you don’t have a back-up or money in the kitty for replacement. Many communities don’t have maps. It’s very important to know what and where these assets are. What’s the expected use for life of an asset and how much does it cost? You’ve got to be saving money and setting it aside in dedicated accounts.”
18:29 – 18:56: Candace Balmer, RCAP
“Many municipalities say “I haven’t raised water rates. Re-elect me!” Not good. You need to continually keep pace with the cost of running your system. One of the ways you do that is by increasing your rates to recognize that things cost more as you move forward. You also recognize that things may not break next year, but may in five years – and you keep projecting future costs.”
19:11 – 19:52: Candace Balmer, RCAP
“Long term vs. short plan terming – you want to have the name of what you are replacing in that account so that extra money in water budgets are not transferred. You need dedicated reserve accounts.”
19:57 – 22:58: MODERATOR
“The EFC brought a list of what Kingston has borrowed from the revolving funds since 1994/1998. How does EFC Work with a city like Kingston on Asset Management?
20:56 – 22:58:Fred Testa, ECF
“We would mostly be urging them to do that. Asset Management plans are a growing phenomenon. It wasn’t done in the past. There is a growing interest to do this and the DEC is starting to work on a plan making it required. What will the rates be? How will they need to be raised in order to avoid crisis? Asset Management will take communities a long way to know what will be happening. They are a live plan. They do no good to put them up on the shelf and not revisited and updated consistently.”
22:59 – 24:06MODERATOR
“The State is trying to incorporate best practices for rating and in awarding funding. Communities should invest where they already exist vs. sprawling. Invest in existing communities instead of newer projects.”
“Can you speak to New Paltz regarding waste water? You spoke about Smart Growth. What does that mean environmentally?”
25:18 – 26:35Fred Testa, EFC
We are looking at a project with new infrastructure or expand new service area. Has the municipality planned for growth in that area? Does it add properties that local growth hasn’t thought about. We are looking to see if the local gov have considered impacts on the communities. Was it planned for? Is a comp plan available to avoid uncontrolled sprawl that have adverse effects.
27:06 – 27:26QUESTION: Rebecca Martin (Kingston)
“Can you speak a little bit to inter-municipal partnerships and how funding increase, or the benefits?”
27:28 – 29:56Fred Testa, EFC
“We want to see that there is capacity at a treatment plant for both, that the communities have already talked. We want to see an inter-municipal agreement. A legal contract drawn up by the parties. Tying in smart growth, the idea is if there is a treatment plant nearby it may be best for everyone to make use of it.”
29:57 – 30:40: MODERATOR
“There was a discussion in Kingston and Ulster in looking at that sort of collaboration in the past. I don’t know where those discussions are today. Also Comprehensive Plans can engage in other communities under municipal law to generate inter-municipal agreements.”
30:41 – 43:04:QUESTION: Ward 3 Alderman Brad Will (Kingston)
“I think this should be mandatory attendance for all muniapl leaders. Looking at the revolving fund loans for Kingston and noticing out of 14 there are 3 that originated from the Kingston water dept, all happening in 2012 under 1/2 million – 6.2 million. In the dealings with the KWD are you in close contact or are there ongoing communications with KWD since 2012?
32:32:Fred Testa, EFC
“I myself haven’t worked with Kingston, but the water district is referenced here – but the COK was the borrower here, not the Water Department.”
QUESTION: Ward 3 Alderman Brad Will
“We have a flooding task force that looked at conditions in the Rondout, historically it’s been very industrial. Are there funding mechanisms to assist with businesses and private property owners to help mitigate flooding problems?”
34:49:Fred Testa, EFC
“Not through EFC. There may be funding through the Consolidated Funding Application.”
35:43: Candace Balmer, RCAP
“There may be funding through Community Development Block Grant for these things.”
35:59 – 38:13MODERATOR and Fred Testa, EFC
“Kingston is going through it’s brownfield area opportunity, a GEIS of great magnitude that will allow business and property owners to move through the SEQR process more quickly. Through the DOS. The program, unfortunately, has sun setted but hopefully there will be more opportunities.” (more on the CFA Program, Green Innovations grant, all happen in June). “Kingston has been on the ball and have qualified for a great number of grants. As have the county. We have a green infrastructure project for Sophie Finn School.”
38:19 – 40:22 Candace Balmer, RCAP
“I want to answer your question, Brad. The CDBG program, one is public infrastructure, planning, public facilities and economic development of small business and enterprise. I don’t know if the economic development section would apply, but it’s worth looking that up. For joint applications, there are strict requirements, but if you were a join applications you could apply for more funding.”
“Kingston is an entitlement city, not entitlement county. Kingston’s CDBG goes through HUD (Housing and Urban Development).”
40:44:QUESTION: Ward 3 Alderman Brad Will
“What is the percentage of applications that are approved through the EFC?”
40:54 – 41:00:Fred Testa, EFC
“Last year we financed every application.”
“The window is closing for the hardship applications. If Kingston wanted to apply for the round that moves forward in 2016 and are not listed this year how would that work?”
41:24: 43:04Fred Testa, EFC
I think Kingston has projects listed in the drinking water plant, but not waste water. The City received funding last September for a study 30,000 to study the engineering planning grant WW treatment plant for improvements. They can then give us a listing form, get on the intended use plan and get a score to hopefully be high enough to apply for hardship financing. Projects can apply for up to $25 million, $18 million at 0% The city is not in a position to apply because they are not on the list. Step one. Get on the list.“
“Troubled that we are talking about conventional waste water treatment plants. They don’t include pharmaceuticals, heavy metals, hormones. However newer technologies methods do. Those plants require less maintenance impacting costs. Who do we get to help us to be directed towards innovative approaches, especially considering NYS watershed?”
44:42: Candace Balmer, RCAP
“Most don’t describe technology requirements, though must be technically approvable. In that way, it’s all fundable.”
45:18:Fred Testa, EFC
“If there are new technologies being considered, the DEC which permits waste water treatment plants allows them to discharge treated wastewater as long as it meets cleanliness regulations. If they are presented with new technologies, they are going to want to see proven technical evidence.”
Candace Balmer, RCAP
“If it breaks, they want to see that you can get the pieces easily for repair. That don’t want you to put in something that is problematic in that way.”
Kathy Nolan CM
“What you’re describing is a system that doesn’t have a way to perhaps get started in communities that use better technology. With the Green Innovation funding stream, can we can get a plant funded to be used as a pilot to see how it functions and if it’s possible to create more of them. We keep coming to the same point in the conversation. We need to do something that gets us into the better technology.”
Candace Balmer, RCAP
“Get with your regulator. Have them come with you and chat about concerns. Sometimes it’s an individual look at concerns.”
48:27 – 50: 04QUESTION: Joanne Steel, Mid-Hudson Sierra Club
“Town of Lloyd had a rebed system that was doing very well. Are you familiar with it?”
49:06 Fred Testa, EFC
“That was a wetland. It’s not a rebed for sludge.”
49:17Candace Balmer, EFC
“Though it’s an example of their working with the DEC to get that project off the ground.”
50:11 – 53:53: QUESTION: Mary McNamara (Saugerties)
“In our region there are often neighborhoods where Septic Systems have failed. To accommodate, water districts have been created. It’s to o expense to bring in a clean water program. The nearby surface waters are impacted. I see it more and more. What funding programs exist for individuals?”
51:25:Candace Balmer, RCAP
“Looking at it from a community perspective, what EPA has promoted is decentralized water management concept with responsible management entity. Pay the bills. You can have a management district that manage onsite. Woodstock has a management area where they inspect and repair individual septic systems. There’s a variety of ways. For individuals, there are not a lot of programs. If you are poor or elderly you can get up to 7500 in a lifetime and septic systems are one of them that you can use it for.”
53:34: Fred Testa, EFC
“There is Housing Improvement in CDBG to improve septic systems for private drinking water wells.”
53:54 – 58:05: MODERATOR
“Kingston represents a community that has experienced it all. Now we are dealing with the burdens in dealing with infrastructure. How do we look down the road to address this challenge?”
56:11 – 57:16: Fred Testa, EFC
“You need people to sit down and focus. Asset management approach forces people to look at specific elements of infrastructure and plan accordingly. Infrastructure must be maintained. People come to rely on that service. The general population doesn’t stop to think “If I didn’t have water, how would my life be affected? How valuable is that infrastructure to my quality of life that I have? How much am I paying for it vs. how important is it to my life?”
57:19 – 58:05: Candace Balmer, RCAP
“It takes the community. When we do project planning we get everyone at the table. The regulators, the public, the board. Lets all sit down at what we’re looking at and what it costs.”
To be considered as a Commissioner of the Kingston Water Board:
Please submit your resume/CV (Curriculum Vitae) to Carly Williams, City of Kingston Clerk: firstname.lastname@example.org by April 30th, 2015 (because we were not given a date by the Mayor’s office, this date is arbitrary. However, we presume that it gives the city time to collect interest and make a decision).
On May 31st 2015, Water Board Commissioner Al Radel’s term will expire. Radel has served as a Commissioner on the Water Board now for 15 years, which is three terms. We appreciate his service.
That means, that a spot is opening up – and we are hoping that citizens who are interested in serving will step up.
The Mayor of Kingston appoints citizens (and business persons) to most Commissions/Boards/Councils in Kingston. Recently, we reached out to the Mayor’s office to find out what the process was. You know how fast we move around here, and after the second request without getting information, we decided to lay out our questions in a PETITION to give the public a chance to weigh in. That petition is live now, so have a look, consider signing it and leave a comment.
The questions were simple.
KingstonCitizens.org requests that Mayor Shayne Gallo require Water Department Superintendent Judith Hansen to:
Make both the description of the Board of Water Commissioner’s role and length of term visible and public on the City of Kingston’s Water Department web page.
Make all of the current members of the Board of Water Commissioners biographies and length of service to date visible and public on the City of Kingston’s Water Department web page.
The City of Kingston’s Mayor, who appoints Board of Water Commissioners, publish a public notice in a timely fashion announcing its search for new candidates for the upcoming term. This announcement should include a description of the Board of Water Commissioner’s expected role; preferred experience / qualifications for candidates; contact info and deadline for submissions; and the term length.
Yesterday, we heard from Water Department Superintendent Judith Hansen who responded:
“The Mayor asked that I contact you to let you know that appointments to the Board of Water Commissioners are made by the Mayor and that if you have anyone that would like to be considered for the position, they should submit their CV to him via the City Clerk’s Office. Neither the Board nor any employee of the Water Department, including the Superintendent has any role in or input into the selection process.”
Not much in the way of answering our questions. Then later, we heard directly from Mayor Gallo’s office:
“This is in reply to your inquiry about how vacancies and/or appointments are made to the Board of Water Commissioners or any other City board or Commission. Be advised the following process has been used since the City Charter has been adopted: Any interested City resident and/or business person may apply for consideration to any City Board and/or Commission by providing a letter of interest with a resume and background information and/or curriculum vitae of said individual. The interested party should submit the above to the City Clerk’s Office. Upon receipt, the letter of interest shall will forwarded to my office for review and consideration. If you know of an interested City resident who would like to be considered for appointment to the Board of Water Commissioners and/or other City boards and commissions, please share the above information with them. Thank you for your interest.”
The points unanswered at least expose something critical. We have some information on the process, but nothing that we didn’t already know.
So why can’t the City of Kingston provide a description of a Water Board Commissioner? Or nail down their term? Or share their biographies and experience so that we know who is at the helm of our water supply? Or put out a notice in the papers to residents with a deadline for their response?
As we are entering into an election cycle, we will take these things up again at an appropriate time. We intend to advocate for Kingston to overhaul it’s city charter at a future date.
To be considered as a new Commissioner of the Kingston Water Board:
Please submit your resume/CV (Curriculum Vitae) to Carly Williams, City of Kingston Clerk: email@example.com by April 3oth, 2015 (because we were not given a date by the Mayor’s office, this date is arbitrary. However, we presume that it gives the city time to collect interest and make a decision).
KingstonCitizens.org creates timeline of the withdrawn Niagara Bottling Company proposal. The group has created a survey to capture the impressions of their partners and citizens to make a historical document.
Kingston, NY – KingstonCitizens.org is working on a timeline about the Niagara Bottling Project and wants to hear from the public.
On February 13, 2015, Niagara withdrew its plans to occupy the proposed site in the Town of Ulster. The proposed project would have included the purchase of 1.75 million gallons of water from the Kingston Water Department from our reservoir (Cooper Lake) located in the Town of Woodstock.
The group wishes to document citizens’ impressions of the events that occurred over the past six months. The group is working to create a historical document noting each critical event that can also offer insight, information and inspiration to other communities facing similar concerns that this proposal has brought to light.
TAKE THE SURVEY or visit www.KingstonCitizens.org for more information. Survey responses are due Monday, March 2, 2015.
For questions or more information, contact Debra Bresnan at firstname.lastname@example.org
“As John Adams said, we are “a government of laws, and not of men.” This is the ethic we hope to preserve through our work at Kingston Citizens, and we resolve – in this New Year – to continue to ask our leaders to be role models of citizenship.” – KingstonCitizens.org
On December 29th, 2014 SUNY Ulster President Donald Katt RESPONDED to the hundreds of letters generated by KingstonCitizens.org from concerned citizens regarding the possible acceptance of the Niagara Bottling Company into the Start-Up NY program.
The long awaited ANNOUNCEMENT from Governor Cuomo was issued on that same day with two of the five proposals submitted to Start-Up NY by SUNY Ulster selected. Neither of them were Niagara Bottling Company. Good work everyone!
However, Start-Up NY is a new program, and we’ve seen multiple announcements made over the last 6 months at participating campuses. Until we hear otherwise, SUNY Ulster’s three other proposed businesses at Ulster (that includes Niagara) could be ON THE TABLE AT A LATER DATE.
We are committed to seeing this through to the very end with you.
Thank you for your LETTER dated December 29, 2014 in response to Kingston Citizens regarding Start-Up New York. We are dedicated to promoting transparency in government through civic engagement and public education. While we are interested in understanding the decisions that led to your support of the Niagara Bottling Company for Start-Up New York at SUNY Ulster, our focus is broader. For the past decade, we have engaged the community and our leaders in meaningful dialogue about governance and community development. We believe that the public has the right and the obligation to understand how decisions are made in the public interest.
In your letter, you suggest that Ulster County citizens and groups are engaged in a ‘robust debate’ regarding the Niagara Bottling Company proposal. However, so much of the information about the proposal has not been made available to the public. While we recognize the importance of confidentiality in certain aspects of business, the basis for decisions in the public interest must be clear. The public cannot engage in an open, fact-based debate where the decision-making criteria and process are not transparent.
As John Adams said, we are “a government of laws, and not of men.” This is the ethic we hope to preserve through our work at Kingston Citizens, and we resolve – in this New Year – to continue to ask our leaders to be role models of citizenship. It is in this spirit that we invite you to meet with representatives of the SUNY Ulster Environmental Club and Kingston Citizens in the next two weeks to share information regarding the Niagara Bottling Company proposal and to engage in – as you called it – “an important and welcome part of that discussion.”
In what follows, I respond to the points in your letter (showing your text in bold italics) with the hope that we can continue a fact-based dialogue in our proposed meeting:
Thank you for copying me on the email you sent to the Commissioner of Economic Development and the Chancellor of the State University of New York. New York has a history of robust debate when it comes to environmental and economic development issues and input from concerned citizens and groups is an important and welcome part of that discussion. […] Reviewing the process and the credentials that were considered in the case of Niagara Bottling, I cannot imagine an outcome other than that which we reached given the defined role that the College performs.
We welcome “robust debate.” Your letter states that you cannot imagine another outcome than the one reached by the College. However, debate and discussion are dependent upon a shared review of all available information. We would like to learn more about the scientific, economic and educational aspects of your decision making process. The Start-Up New York regulations require the college to describe, in its application, how the proposed businesses would generate positive community and economic benefits, including:
diversification of the local economy,
environmental sustainability, and
opportunities as a magnet for economic and social growth.
These required criteria are not discussed in the proposal. We are concerned about how or whether the Niagara Bottling plant can meet these and the other criteria of the Start Up New York program.
I want to clarify the role of SUNY Ulster within the context of the Start-Up NY program with which we, along with many other components of SUNY have chosen to become actively engaged. The steps defined by the SUNY Chancellor’s office are clear and concise and include filing a plan for participation, which we did, being one of the first few in the state to receive approval.
As a part of that defined process, we named a committee to meet with and review proposed projects to determine if the prospective company was eligible to complete a proposal to be forwarded to New York’s Empire State Development Corporation (ESD) for consideration. At that point, if recommended, the campus president forwards the project to ESD.
Given the great need for economic development in our area and the importance of environmental sustainability – a responsibility we all bear, but which should be of particular importance to an educational institution that sets an example for its students and community – we ask that you share more information about the decision making process that led to the approval of Niagara Bottling Company’s application to participate in Start Up New York. The environmental ramifications, local, regional and beyond, are important in any enterprise. As such, opening questions for our dialogue with you and the Start-Up New York committee would include:
What was the analysis that led to your decision to support the Niagara Bottling plant project?
Was there a cost/benefit analysis as part of your evaluation? What were the results?
What were the environmental considerations reviewed by the committee?
As for the jobs and links to the educational mission of SUNY Ulster, what were the criteria used to determine whether these would provide meaningful educational opportunities for the students and link to SUNY Ulster’s mission?
In addition, did the committee evaluate the proposed wages in connection with the living wage standards in Ulster County?
What other proposals received by SUNY Ulster (you mention that about 20 businesses applied) and how were they evaluated? Is this evaluation ongoing?
We understand that the Start-Up New York application review process requires the college to provide certification of its notification of and any written responses to the proposal by the municipality or municipalities surrounding the proposed off-campus site, as well as responses by the college faculty senate, union representatives and the campus student government. We appreciate the college’s esteemed tradition in the environmental management field and your awareness of this issue. Therefore, since the source of water from Kingston’s reservoir is in Woodstock, we question why these two municipalities were not participants in the notification process and why this documentation was omitted from the 39 PAGE AMENDED PLAN DATED AUGUST 29th, 2014 FROM SUNY ULSTER.
It is now up to other agencies with different clearly defined processes to analyze and make determinations about the viability and value of the project. Being an educator and one with a strong belief in informed decision-making based upon factual information, I look forward to the process unfolding. However, I am not a party to, nor a decision maker within those systems.
As the leader of SUNY Ulster, you are the key participant in this process. Although the final decisions are made in Albany, the Start-Up New York Regulations make you “a party to,” and “a decision maker” for our community. In addition, the PROGRAM REGULATIONS and STATUTE do not exclude SUNY Ulster Board of Trustees from the process. Given the size, complexity, and potentially regional impacts of the Niagara Bottling plant proposal, the planning process that you oversaw is nothing less than a critical step in the decision making process. If the SUNY Ulster President’s Office has been entrusted with the responsibility of recommending a project with so many implications for our community, we believe that you have an equal responsibility to help the public understand how and why you assessed the whole of this Niagara project as worthy of funding. Furthermore, as the SUNY Ulster Trustees have a fiduciary responsibility to the college, we believe that their role, even if voluntary according to Start-Up New York’s guidelines, is crucial in the decision making process. They are important leaders in Ulster County with deep ties in our community.
We have had about 20 inquiries, from a variety of companies. Companies seek us out, we do not recruit companies. To this date we have submitted three applications to ESD for final approval into StartUp. All three are manufacturing-related. I support Start-Up NY, because it is a new program that looks to address the need for jobs in upstate NY. I also support it, because it allows unique learning experiences for students with participating partners. It is my hope that residents of Ulster County understand that I pursued the Niagara/StartUp only for the benefit of our students and the improvement of our local economy.
We do not see economic development and environmental protection as an “either/or” scenario. We believe that there are better alternatives to the Niagara Bottling plant proposal. In our presentation to the SUNY Trustees, we outlined reasons for concern on both fronts. In 2007, Ulster County adopted a sustainable economic development plan, “Ulster Tomorrow,” that identified core competencies that would generate innovative clusters to build our economy. The plan was completed and approved with the help of a renowned economic consultant and input from scores of leaders in every sector in our county, including Trustees and members of the SUNY Ulster community. Although we do not have the details of the two companies that have been approved for Start-Up New York at SUNY Ulster, their business models appear to be more in keeping with the concepts of sustainable development. As you noted, there were about 20 inquiries for the program. We are interested in their proposals and the potential they offer for innovation and clusters that may truly lead to job growth in our area.
A water bottling plant is not a sustainable business. So far, 90 colleges in the United States have officially banned bottled water and your students are now proposing that you make a similar commitment to sustainability in college management and curriculum. Also, as we noted in our presentation, this particular industry does not align with the well-accepted principles of clustering and sustainable development adopted in the County and the Mid-Hudson Regional Economic Development Council’s (MHREDC) plans. It is an economically isolated activity that will rely on plastics manufacturing, an industry widely acknowledged to generate major pollutants in its extraction, production, and disposal processes. The use of a publically-financed infrastructure and our municipal water supply, a natural resource with finite possibilities, to support further economic development and growth in our area is inconsistent with the goals set forth in “Ulster Tomorrow,” the MHREDC plans, and the Regional “Cleaner, Greener” Sustainability Plan supported by Governor Cuomo. Finally, this proposal is inconsistent with the “Public Trust Doctrine,” which maintains that water and other natural resources belong to the public and it is the government’s obligation to preserve them for public use.
As participants in Ulster County’s diverse, educated workforce, the constituents of Kingston Citizens support SUNY Ulster and its mission: “SUNY Ulster is a vibrant community of learners distinguished by academic excellence, collaboration, innovation, service, and responsible use of resources.” We respect SUNY Ulster’s tradition of excellence in environmental and economic fields of endeavor. Your mission, including “responsible use of resources,” must be aligned with regional goals that have been defined, collaboratively, with other thought leaders who are likewise committed to define, preserve and develop our assets. Our regional assets are intertwined: our valuable natural resources have a shared and equal impact upon our quality of life as humans and on our potential for future economic development. The goals of benefitting SUNY Ulster students and improving our local economy must live in harmony with our region, its valuable natural and human resources, and its economic future.
We therefore ask you to have an open and productive dialogue with us, the college community, and our leaders in economic development and environmental resource management. Given the potentially imminent decisions regarding Start Up New York, we request you meet with us as soon as possible.
Jennifer Schwartz Berky
Planning & Policy Advisor
The attached letter was written by Town of Woodstock Supervisor Jeremy Wilber who shares solid arguments as to why the DEC should be Lead Agency in SEQR for the proposed Niagara Water Bottling project. In contrast for me, it raises more concerns as to Kingston Corporation Council Andy Zweben’s recent letter also to the DEC. Where are his loyalties placed?
Luckily, Kingston’s Common Council are asking the same questions and will vote on a Memoralizing resolution in support of the COK being an ‘Involved Agency’ in SEQR on Tuesday, November 4th.
Recently, we reached out to the DEC (Department of Environmental Conservation) to see if we could receive a copy of the most recent Water Supply Permit by the City of Kingston. They asked that we FOIL (NYS’s Freedom of Information Law) for their records, which we did.
VIEW the post on KingstonCitizens.org VIEW the event invitation on Facebook
Kingston Common Council Meeting
WHEN Tuesday, October 7th at 7:30pm
WHERE Kingston City Hall
Council Chambers (top floor)
420 Broadway (across from the Kingston High School)
By Rebecca Martin
It’s great to see so many residents and neighbors planning to attend the Common Council meeting on Tuesday, October 7th to speak or to simply be present on the proposed Niagara Bottling Co. project.
As you know, the Niagara Bottling Co. project came out of the blue for most everyone with an early article in the Times Herald Record (September 10th) and shortly after, making front page news in both the Daily Freeman and Kingston Times. From the proposal presented by Peter Romano of the Chazen Company to the Town of Ulster Planning Board on September 16th, Niagara Bottling Co. expressed their desire to begin their build in 2015. In doing so, they would be using the City of Kingston’s Cooper Lake to bottle and to sell as well as scouting out other ‘spring’ sources in Ulster County and beyond. The project was approved to be sent for a SEQRA review with the Town of Ulster Town Board taking the lead. A resolution was granted on 9/18/14 – just about the time the public became aware by the media. Romano’s presentations were not on either agendas posted by the Town of Ulster.
Because of the swiftness of it all, KingstonCitizens.org prepared a Facebook event so that the public could go in front of the Common Council as soon as possible. Although our passion for the subject is a no-brainer, this effort also illustrates how important it is to the people for transparent processes to be a priority for all local municipalities. Local officials, take note.
(It may be necessary to do the very same thing at the next Town of Ulster Town Board meeting, too. Their next Town Board meeting is on Thursday, October 16th at 7:00pm. Public comment appears to occur later in the meeting. Stay tuned).
WHAT TO EXPECT. WHAT TO DO
1. ARRIVAL: We expect a very large turnout. The meeting begins at 7:30pm, so please plan to arrive early (7:00pm) so to find parking, to sign-up to speak when the list becomes available and to get a seat. It’ll be standing room only.
2. KINGSTON COMMON COUNCIL: It appears that the Common Council were caught off guard as much as we were. Many, if not most, are as concerned too. As a first step, lets work with the council in finding a solution by including an action that you wish the Council to take that is well within their jurisdiction and abilities. We want them to come back to the table with an action in response to the public’s requests.
In Kingston, those that issued the ‘will share’ was City of Kingston Superintendent Judy Hansen of the Kingston Water Department. As an independent board, The Mayor of Kingston is the only public official who is a member. Ward 2 Alderman Brian Seche was given the role as council liaison, though it is unclear if he ever attended a meeting. The council, unfortunately, was never alerted.
Suggested Actions to request:
– For the Common Council to organize a public hearing/debate with city officials and guest speakers (such as Food & Water Watch).
– That a resolution be drafted to protect groundwater and Kingston’s surface water (Cooper Lake) from being being sold to private companies to bottle and to sell.
3. PUBLIC COMMENT: The public is taking advantage of the council meeting “public comment” period where anyone is able to speak. On his evening, we will be discussing Niagara, the use of Cooper Lake, and other items. As per council rules, council members “are not allowed to engage in debate during this period.” If the project gets any further, there will be time for debate and more. That’s a promise.
3. COMMENT LENGTH: Because of the number of people who will want to speak on the 7th, we ask that you come prepared with a statement. What is typical is that a speaker is given 3 minutes each. Try to keep it to that length and as noted above, consider ending with an action that you wish the Kingston Common Council to make that is in their jurisdiction.
4. THOSE IN FAVOR…: Jobs will be the argument made by those who attend in favor of the Niagara Bottling Co. project. For those who wish to, please prepare facts to counter.
5. FILMING: The public comment period will be filmed.
If you have further questions, please send them along to Rebecca Martin: email@example.com
Niagara Bottling Co. wants to come to the area (tax free) to bottle and to sell 1.75 million gallons of Kingston City Water (Cooper Lake) per day. The Water may be tax free too. It is unclear whether or not that to be the case at this time.
The City of Kingston’s Water Department has provided a ‘will share’ letter to the project, but has not yet negotiated a rate (probably because they can’t without the Common Council’s permission).
With an estimated 260 trucks per day coming and going out of the site! That’s a lot of trucks.
According to their proposal, ALL FOR 160 JOBS when the facility is working at full capacity.
LOOK HERE. Based on an Urban Agriculture study that was created specifically for Kingston, the City of Kingston has approximately 800 acres of zoned ‘vacant’ land in Kingston. With just 35 acres working for us inside the city, we would create approximately 156 jobs. Kingston is way ahead of the curve on the Urban Ag front in the Hudson Valley, too.
KingstonCitizens.org will host a public educational forum and discussion on “City Administrator and City Manager Forms of Government” on Tuesday, March 25th at the Kingston Public Library 55 Franklin Street, in Kingston NY from 6:00pm – 8:00pm. Panel guests include Meredith Robson, City Administrator of the City of Beacon, NY and Chuck Strome, City Manager of New Rochelle, NY.
Kingston, NY – For the past twenty years, the city of Kingston, NY has what is known as a ‘Strong Mayor’ form of government, where a mayor is elected into office based on popular vote to manage the city’s $36+ million dollar budget, departments, committees, commissions and an aging citywide infrastructure.
KingstonCitizens.org is pleased to present a public educational forum and discussion on two alternative forms of government titled “City Administrator and City Manager Forms of Government” on Tuesday, March 25th from 6:00pm – 8:00pm at the Kingston Public Library located at 55 Franklin Street in Kingston, NY. All are welcome to attend.
Guest panelists include Meredith Robson, City Administrator of the City of Beacon and Chuck Strome, City Manager of New Rochelle, NY to discuss their roles and relationships with the public and elected officials.
The evening will be co-moderated by Rebecca Martin, founder of KingstonCitizens.org and former Executive Director of the Kingston Land Trust and Jennifer Schwartz Berky, Principal at Hone Strategic, LLC and the former Deputy Director of Planning at Ulster County.
Meredith Robson, City of Beacon Administrator: Meredith Robson has served in a variety of governmental positions for over 26 years. She has served in all levels of government, except County government, and her career has spanned three states. She is currently the City Administrator for the City of Beacon. Ms. Robson has been very active in professional associations throughout her career, including serving on the New York State Conference of Mayors and Municipal Officials Executive Committee and in her current roles as President of the New York City/County Management Association and Northeast Regional Vice President for the International City/County Management Association. Ms. Robson is an ICMA Credentialed Manager and has a Bachelor of Science from Southern Illinois University and a Master of Public Administration from John Jay College of Criminal Justice. She has participated in numerous professional development programs, including the following leadership training opportunities: Wallkill Valley Community Leadership Alliance, Leadership Greater Waterbury and Pace University Land Use Leadership Alliance Training Program.
Chuck Strome, New Rochelle, NY City Manager: On November 12, 2002, the City Council unanimously approved the appointment of Charles B. “Chuck” Strome, III as City Manager. Mr. Strome served as Acting City Manager since March 2002 and as Deputy City Manager since 1995. Prior to that, he served as Director of Emergency Services from 1989 through 1992, and then became Assistant City Manager / City Coordinator. Mr. Strome has a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and Communications from Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia, and a Masters of Public Administration-Government from Pace University. Before joining government, Mr. Strome held positions at Hudson Westchester Radio where he was News Director, Vice President, and Program Director. Mr. Strome is a member of the International City Managers’ Association, and former president of the New York State City / County Managers Association. He is also past President, Vice President, and Secretary of the Municipal Administrators Association of Metropolitan New York.
About KingstonCitizens.org: KingstonCitizens.org is a non-partisan, citizen-run organization focused on relevant and current issues about Kingston, N.Y and working to foster transparent communication by encouraging growing citizen participation. The founder of KC.org and evening co-moderator Rebecca Martin is a world renowned and critically acclaimed musician who has 25 years of experience as a manager, community organizer and activist.
About Jennifer Schwartz Berky, Principal at Hone Strategic, LLC: Berky, the evening’s co-moderator, has over 25 twenty years of experience in the fields of architecture, conservation, economic development, and urban planning in the non-profit, government, academic and private sectors. Prior to launching Hone Strategic, she served as Deputy Director of Ulster County Planning for over seven years, where she was the lead researcher and liaison to the Ulster County Charter Commission. Before moving to Ulster County, she worked in Washington, DC at the World Bank and Urban Institute, at the University of Rome (Italy) and as a project manager of design and construction for New York City’s major cultural institutions. Berky has lived for extended periods in Argentina, Chile, France, Israel, Italy, and Spain. She earned a B.A. in Art History from SUNY Stony Brook and Masters’ degrees in Urban Planning (M.Phil.) and Real Estate Development (M.S.) at Columbia University, where she is also currently completing a Ph.D. in Urban Planning on the subject of environmental economics.