Board Interviews Superintendent Final 3 In Next Week. Sules Runs.

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WPCNR Midnight Extra. April 9, 2002, 12:30 AM EDT: Donna McLaughlin, President of the White Plains Board of Education, reported to WPCNR Monday evening that the final three candidates for the position of Superintendent of Schools will be interviewed by the Board of Education within the next seven days.

In other Board of Education news, Stephen Sules told WPCNR Monday he will definitely seek reelection to his seat on the Board of Education in May. Lawrence Geiger, whose term is also expiring, was not present at Monday evening’s board meeting and he has not declared his candidacy.

One of Mr. Sule’s new opponents, Maria Valentin, of Battle Hill, was in attendance at the Board of Education meeting last night, while his other opponent, Robert Tuck was not.

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King Komments: No Give on Shuttle Buses to the Train

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King Komments:By White Plains Councilman, William King, April 8, 2002, 4 PM EDT: The councilman has been pursuing shuttle bus service to the White Plains Transit Center. Here is his report on where the County stands.
I met with County DOT Commissioner Larry Salley this morning in his office in Mt. Vernon along with County Director of Surface Transportation Richard Stiller. We had a pleasant meeting but it was basically left that the County cannot afford to tweak its tightly scheduled office park loop shuttlebus service to allow any kind of pickups or dropoffs of city residents in residential neighborhoods such as the Highlands/Soundview along the way.

They explained to me that a bus returning from delivering office workers from the train station to their offices along Westchester Ave. and elsewhere has a limited amount of time to get back to the station in time for its next run. A shuttle bus running on the “A” loop route might come back to the White Plains Train Station and then go back out on a “C” route run and then come back and go back out on an “H” route run, etc.. The County tries to have as many different office loop runs in the 4-hour a.m. and p.m. peak periods as possible, meeting the maximum number of arriving trains.

Most of the drivers work 8-hour shifts split into two 4-hour stints, one for the a.m, one for the p.m. and are off during the middle of the day. The most senior drivers get to work any overtime which the County tries to limit to contain costs.

The service is expensive. The County recoups less than 20 cents on the dollar for every dollar received in fares, compared to nearly 50 cents on the dollar for the entire system. The 50-cent figure is quite high by national standards for suburban bus systems.

Despite countywide budget pressures, County Executive Spano intends to keep the office bus service running indefinitely, although limited federal “CMAQ” (Congestion Mitigation Air Quality) 3-year funding of 1 or 2 routes is ending soon and one of the routes may not be continued. According to Larry, there is no more CMAQ funding out there for additional shuttle buses such as a bus specifically targeting residential neighborhoods. I was told that any CMAQ funding usually comes with a 3-year time limit after which the costs have to be picked up by local funding sources.

Larry and Rich feel they would have to add another driver to be able to provide residential train station service in White Plains. The cost of this would be $170,000 a year which includes the salary and benefits of the driver, fuel and maintenance of the bus, and overhead expenses for both the bus company that the County contracts with and the County itself. This cost does not include the cost of the bus itself or any amortization of the cost of a bus.

They indicated that in the past they have leased used shuttle buses to towns like New Castle (Chappaqua) for $1 a year and the municipality paid all the operating costs. They also mentioned that they are going to be replacing their fleet of 20-foot long shuttle buses (which are actually built on van chassis’s) with new 30-foot long buses later this year. (The standard length of a regular, non-articulated bus is 40 feet long.) The 30-foot long buses with more seats will be similar to what rental car agencies use at airports. This way, the County hopes to provide the same number of seat miles with less drivers.

I asked about the City of White Plains possibly leasing one of the used 20-foot long shuttlebuses for a $1 a year. They said we might be able to but these would be at least 5 years old and the federal gov’t guidelines are that buses like this (converted vans) really are only supposed to last 4 years. Therefore, they might not last that long or would be more expensive and problematic to maintain. They say they take a beating.

Maybe the bodies of these shuttle buses could be reused if a whole new engine, transmission and underbody was used. I don’t know if this would save the City any money but, if anybody would know, Bud Nicoletti would.

So, I wasn’t too hopeful that going down to Mt. Vernon (35 minutes on the #40 bus) would yield positive results but, since the meeting was offered, through Larry Schwartz, I figured I better take advantage of the opportunity of meeting with the Commissioner and Richard Stiller with whom I have talked to over the phone and exchanged several emails over the years.

The only thing that I mentioned that possibly might be looked at further after I left is whether some buses could be routed on Bryant Ave. to/from Westchester Ave. (along with South Lex and Longview Ave./Martin Luther King Blvd.) as at least a quick passthrough through the Highlands that at least some residents might be able to take advantage of, without slowing the shuttlebuses down much. I’ll bring this up again with the County if I don’t hear anything back from them on this.

I said, with all the congestion on Westchester Ave. and in Downtown WP, the shuttlebuses may be able to get to/from the Westchester office parks faster and so having some kind of limited residential service wouldn’t slow them down much.

Such a bus would provide a service to the central and northeast Highlands as well as to Bryant Crescent, the Dales, the townhouse development at Bryant and North Street and down North St. to Havillands Manor if people want to walk up to Bryant to catch a shuttlebus.

I definitely did not get any agreement with possibly some shuttlebuses coming back from IBM or the Rennaisance Hotel area via the Hutch, North St. and Rosedale or Ridgeway.

– BK

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Free Bereavement Counseling to 9/11 Widows, Widowers, Children

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WPCNR Community Bulletin: Bereavement Support Groups for 9/11 widows and widowers and their children, ages three and up, are being offered free by Westchester Jewish Community Services. The two groups – the one for parents and the one for children — run concurrently on Wednesdays from 1:30-2:45 at 701 Westchester Avenue in White Plains. The groups are led by social workers specially trained in bereavement counseling.

For additional information about these programs or to register, call Elisabeth Gilbert at 949-7699, ext. 546 or Karen Dreher 949-7699, ext.313.
The WJCS also sponsors a series of other specialized need support groups at houses of worship in White Plains covering a series of critical concerns. The following is a description of the groups some which are getting underway this week:

With funding from UJA Federation, Westchester Jewish Community Services has begun offering support and counseling programs at several houses of worship in White Plains. These programs, which are free and open to all members of the community, include:

TEMPLE ISRAEL CENTER:
BEREAVEMENT COUNSELING
A support group for those trying to cope with the loss of a loved one.
Wednesdays – 12:30 – 1:30 PM

Contact: Lilly Singer, CC, at 949-7699, X 366.

RECENTLY SEPARATED/DIVORCED SUPPORT GROUP *
Wednesdays – 7:30 – 9:00 PM
Contact: Karen Dreher, CSW, at 946-8851, X316 or 949-7699, X313.
*Starting Wednesday, April 10. Six sessions. Pre-registration required.

BET AM SHALOM
SYNAGOGUE HELPLINE

Need quick assistance or information? Schedule a 15-minute consultation with Karen Dreher, CSW, at 946-8851, X316 or 949-7699, X313.
Leave your name, phone number and the best time for a call back.

CAREGIVER’S SUPPORT GROUP *

For primary caregivers of individuals who require constant care.

Tuesdays – 7:30 – 9:00 PM

Contact: Lilly Singer, CC, at 949-7699, X366.
*Starting Tuesday, April 9. Six sessions. Pre-registration required.

HEBREW INSTITUTE
AGING SUCCESSFULLY *

Thursdays – 10:30 – 11:30 AM
Contact: Lilly Singer, CC, at 949-7699, X366

*This group DOES NOT meet the first Thursday of each month.

CONGREGATION KOL AMI
INDIVIDUAL CONSULTATIONS

Contact: Karen Dreher, CSW, at 946-8851, X316 or 949-7699, X313.

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Private Day Treatments Seek First Medicaid Rate Increase in 20 Years from Assemb

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WPCNR Sunday Eagle. Special from Clear View School April 7, 2002. 2:00 PM EDT: Private Day Treatment Centers, the backbone of New York State programs for the mentally disabled are calling on citizens to write their assembly persons, urging they support passage of the first Medicaid increase in the amount paid to Day Treatment Programs in 20 years.
According to a Clear View School communication, the Senate in Albany supports such an increase, a $1.8 million appropriation, which when “leveraged” by local and federal matching funds, will grow to $7,200,000. Clear View, located in Scarborough, New York, has educated numerous disabled youth from White Plains and surrounding towns in Westchester County for 34 years.

The school is urging advocates for the disabled to write their assemblypersons, requesting they support this modest increase.

According to the school that has been in the forefront of persuading legislators to support educational and residential programs for the disabled, the Medicaid rate for children’s Day Treatment Programs has not been increased for over twenty years.

The school also feels that private programs should be supported on a scale more equal to what the state day treatment programs receive. Presently, according to Clear View, state-run agencies now receive twice the daily rate of the voluntary agencies ($100 a day vs. $47).

Clear View in its call for support for the increase in the Medicaid Rate, maintains that children’s Day Treatment Programs are “the first line of engagement” with children suffering from mental illness and “our best resource for maintaining mentally ill children in the community.”

The school also points out that current funding levels from the state, and what the school calls “an absence over the years of any cost of living adjustments (COLAS)…have made it extremely difficult to maintain qualified staff and ultimately threaten program survival.”

The organization in a statement said that low salaries are being additionally threatened by “enormous increases in the cost of medical insurance.” (The White Plains City School District had a similar problem in this year’s school budget where rising medical insurance costs and retirements combined to raise the cost of fringe benefits 15.5%.)

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Police,City Reach Agreement on New Contract Through 2004

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WPCNR FRIDAY GETAWAY GAZETTE, Special from City Hall April 5,2002, 6 PM EST: The White Plains Police and the City of White Plains have come to a tentative agreement on a new three year contract, calling for raises of 3.75%, 3.75% and 4% in 2002,2003, and 2004, respectively. George Gretsas, the Mayor’s Executive Officer said it was “the first time in memory that the city had reached an agreement with the police before expiration of a current contract.”
City Hall’s official announcement stated, “The City and Police Benevolent Association are pleased and delighted to announce that the parties have reached a tentative agreement on a new labor contract.

Three Year Pact

“The parties have agreed to raises of 3.75% for 2002, 3.75% for 2003 and 4% for 2004. In addition, the agreement provides other improvements to fringe benefits, including:

* An increase in the supervisor differential.
* An increase in the detective differential.
* Stipends for certain officers with specialties such as being bilingual, in return for a reduction in call back pay.
* Increases in longevity pay.
* A new night differential for members working certain shifts.
* Increases in the Welfare Fund.
* An increase in the uniform allowance.
* A new benefit allowing members to sell unused vacation days back to the Department, thereby making more work days available to the Department.
* A new sick leave bonus to encourage better attendance.

Contract Awaits Union Approval

The Mayor’s Office Official Statement reports, “the tentative settlement must be ratified by the PBA membership and the Common Council. Both Mayor Delfino and PBA President James Carrier are confident that the agreement will be approved.

Mayor pleased.

The statement said, “Mayor Delfino expressed pleasure that an agreement had been timely concluded. Mayor Delfino also praised the sincere and dedicated efforts of all parties to work to achieve a new contract before the existing contract expired for the first time in recent memory.

Three and Out

George Gretsas, the Mayor’s Executive Officer, in advising WPCNR of the agreement said, “It was especially satisfying that the cooperative effort enabled both parties to reach this settlement after only three bargaining sessions. ”
Agreement was concluded in the final negotiating session Thursday evening.

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BID’s Kathleen Gunn Looks to BID to Adjust to changing downtown.

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WPCNR MORNING SUN By John F. Bailey. UPDATED April 4, 2002. 10:30 AM EST: The Downtown Business Improvement District Wednesday appointed Kathleen Gunn, currently with the Mayor’s Office, to the recently vacated post of Executive Director. Ms. Gunn has been credited with spearheading the Mayor’s Digital Divide initiative, and prior to this was experienced in the writing of grants, and a community liaison officer for Congresswoman Nita Lowey. Ms. Gunn begins her new job April 22.


THE BID’S NEW GUNN: Kathleen Gunn, newly appointed Executive Director.
File Photo by WPCNR

Applied on her Own.

Ms. Gunn, speaking to WPCNR Thursday morning said she decided to apply for the Executive Director position on her own because she felt her credentials were a good fit. She cited her experience in the Mayor’s economic development office, her liaison work with Congresswoman Lowey, and her experience in seeking government grants.

Asked what she felt she would bring to the BID and what direction she might take, she said she would be meeting with the BID Board, the Common Council, the Mayor’s office and other interested parties after she begins work April 22 to define that direction.

BID Role Must Fit the Changing City

“The City of White Plains is changing. It is changing into a very different downtown with different needs,” Ms. Gunn said. “You’re going to have many new residents in the downtown with different needs. I’m looking forward to helping the BID evolve to meet those needs.”

Gunn said she hoped to bring her experience in acquiring grants for the SelfHelp Community Services to play in her new job. She planned no increase in staff.

Vogt confident in Gunn’s Familiarity with Economic Development

Harold Vogt told WPCNR this morning that Ms. Gunn was selected based on “her own skills, competence and her past involvement in programs of interest to the BID. All bode well,” he said. “She will be an integral part of policy development, as we move ahead.”

Voght said that he looked forward to Gunn improving BID’s communications and profile.

In the official news release announcing Gunn’s appointment, Voght said, “I am delighted that Kathleen Gunn will be the new Executive Director of the BID, and I am confident that she will bring much to the successful operation of the BID as it plays a key role in the downtown. Gunn said, “I am very honored to have been selected by the Board of Directors and look forward to working with the community on the continuing effort to revitalize downtown White Plains.”

Gunn was unanimously voted to the position by the BID’s Board of Directors. Vogt, in the official release, thanked the Search Committee which was chaired by WP Board Director, Ted Peluso, with BID Board Members, Jeff Stillman, Hal Masback, John Martin, Mark Ellman and Leon Silverman participating.

The Gunn Resume

Gunn has a Masters Degree in Public Administration/Non-Profit Management, and a Bachelors Degree in Political Schience from Pace University. She was Grant Manager at SelfHelp Community Services, responsible for securing funding for that organization’s programs and services. She was a District Representative for Congresswoman Nita Lowey, handling constitutent cases for the Congresswoman’s district office in White Plains.

Digital Divide Dynamo

Ms. Gunn in the last two years has organized, coordinated and brought together community interests to open three Digital Divide Labs in White Plains at Slater Center, the White Plains Youth Bureau and Mercy College to address the lack of computer access affecting underprivileged youth and adults. A fourth lab is being contemplated for a location at Centro Hispano.

Gunn has a businesslike way of getting things done with a very pleasant attitude, and she focuses on the long term objective, putting aside personal ego and preconceived notions to achieve tangible results.

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WP Hospital Hosts Drug/Alchohol Family Info Series Tomorrow

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WPCNR NEWSREEL. Special to WPCNR April 3, 2002. 3:15 PM: The White Plains Hospital Medical Center will host the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence famed Family Information Series beginning tomorrow, Thursday, April 4, and continuing April 11, 18, and 25 at 7:30 PM.
The Family Information Series is designed to educate and inform those who need more information regarding alcohol and drug addiction.

Joan Bonsignore, the NCADD/Westchester, Inc. President, said, “We are so proud to be offering this program at The White Plains Hospital Medical Center because the needs of family members are so great. They are desparate for solutions to the problems with addictions.”

The first program will be given Thursday evening at 7:30 PM at the White Plains Hospital Center, Maple and Davis Avenues, White Plains.

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Paulin and Matusow to Split White Plains in Half Under Proposed New Districts

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WPCNR Afternoon Tribune. By John F. Bailey. April 3, 2002. 2:15 PM EST: Assemblywoman Amy Paulin of the 88th Assembly District, brought WPCNR up-to-the-minute today on the latest redrawing of the Assembly District Guidelines. She reports that instead of losing most of White Plains, she will still have 50% of the White Plains voters in her newly redrawn District, should it be adopted.



Ms. Paulin contacted WPCNR to give us the latest on where the Assembly “lines” stand.

“There was some disagreement over the lines, “ Ms. Paulin told us. “The State Senate will take up the redistricting next week. We are in recess this week. We will be back in Albany Monday. We have been focusing on the budget negotiations.”

She said that currently she represents 39,000 of the 52,000 White Plains voters. The new redrawing of the 89th and 88th Assembly Districts, would have Naomi Matusow, who now represents the other 12,000 White Plains residents in her 89th district, representing 26,000 White Plains voters and Ms. Paulin the remaining 26,000. The new line, according to Ms. Paulin gives her “most of the White Plains downtown and all of the South End of White Plains. It splits it in half.”

Ms. Paulin reports the map she has seen is “hard to read” but the demarcation appears to run through the middle of the White Plains downtown. Asked if “horsetrading” of district lines in relation to budget concessions was going on, she said, “not that I’ve heard.”

Paulin said the Senate, Assembly and Governor have to agree soon on the new districts, or stay with the present boundaries, because she and Ms. Matusow, (and all candidates) have only from June 1st to July 11th to get their petitions for reelection in to the Board of Elections. Petitions are due July 8.

The new information from Ms. Paulin indicates she will have more of White Plains than originally was indicated by persons reporting on the new guidelines to us, and she will have all of Scarsdale.

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School Board Adopts $126.9MM Budget for 02-03, Offers $3.6MM Referendum

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WPCNR AFTERNOON TRIBUNE, by John F. Bailey. April 2, 2002, 3 PM EST: The School Board adopted a $126.9MM budget for the 2002-03 school year, and voted to bring a $3.6MM referendum before the city residents for the repair and renovation of the district’s aging schools on May 21, the day of the School District Election.
At the annual public hearing on the school budget Monday evening, held before three citizens attending, the Board of Education unanimously passed the budget which results in an 8.6% increase in the tax rate, which means an extra $337 a year ($3,348) for the average homeowner, less than a dollar a day more in taxes for the average homeowner (average assessment $15,000).

Aching boilers need repair

In a separate funding request, the Board voted unanimously to hold a referendum on the same ballot as the May 21 budget vote. The referendum authorizing the district to bond $3.6 Million dollars is needed to execute physical improvements at six schools.

The improvements will be executed over the next two and a half years with the bonding not taking place until May 2003, allowing the school district to delay payment on the debt service until 2004.

The Referendum Details

According to Assistant Superintendent for Business, Richard Lasselle, the proposed bonded funds will be targeted for replacement boilers at Eastview School, Post Road School, Highlands Middle School and Ridgeway School.

A portion of the money is also earmarked for a new bus loop and parking renovations at Church Street and repair of a roof section at Ridgeway School. Another portion will replace the original lockerooms and their bathrooms at Highlands School (which date from 1930 )will be modernized. At the high school, Pool Building windows will be replaced, lockers renovated, and a video surveillance system installed. The high school baseball field is planned to be raised and drainage improved.

McLaughlin, Schere, Kirkpatrick balk at $3.9 million request

School Board President Donna McLaughlin, and Board Members Dorothy Schere and Susan Kirkpatrick were uncomfortable with Mr. Lasselle’s request to raise the referendum amount requested to $3.9 million.

Lasselle advised that estimates received just Monday from heating and air conditioning engineers indicated that the first estimates for boiler repairs were falling far short of what the boiler repairs would cost. Eastview boiler replacement is now estimated to be $750,000 dollars instead of $450,000 as originally estimated. Lasselle wanted to referendum for an extra $300,000 just to be on the safe side.

Kirkpatrick was troubled that the costs of the physical improvements continued to rise (“creep up” were her words), from when the board first considered it. (In early February, the referendum was described as a $2.5MM referendum.)

Dorothy Schere felt that because the financial circumstances surrounding the money from the high school bonding were not clear yet that the district should hold the line at just $3.6MM for the referendum amount.

Donna McLaughlin, Board President agreed, saying she felt $3.9 million was psychologically more troubling than $3.6MM. “Id rather be conservative,” she said.

Lasselle reasoned to the Board that the debt service was very low and that the district “could handle “ the extra $300,000 in bonding without a problem at this time.

Larry Geiger and Stephen Sules were very supportive of going for the $3.9 MM now, since in their opinions, it would not make a great deal of difference in the debt service.

The board voted 4 to 3 with McLaughlin, Schere, and Kirkpatrick voting against the $3.9 figure, and Mr. Sules, Mr. Geiger, Richard Bernstein, and Michelle Trataros voting for the $3.9MM level of bonding.

This is the only public meeting this year that this reporter has seen the Board split on an issue.

Not good enough, Lasselle says.

Mr. Lasselle pointed out that the Board needed to be more behind the referendum, because the state statutes require a 3/5 voting majority behind a referendum.

Mr. Sules attempted to reason with the three dissenters, who were in favor of bonding but not in favor of adding the extra $300,000 bringing the bonding request to $3.9MM.

Mr. Lasselle advised that perhaps some monies would be left over from the high school bond to make up the short fall, but he could not tell at this time what would be left over after the high school is finally finished.

Still McLaughlin and Schere held firm.

Schere said, “3.6MM is a better fit. We have more flexibility. There’s enough ambiguity at the moment about our capital plans to support it. We should play on the ambiguity of the moment. I don’t think this is the time to do it at all. It’s not appropriate to ask for even more money.”

McLaughlin held the line, too: “No doubt. I don’t think it’s necessary to go to the $3.9MM. I think we can get it done for $3.6MM.”

At this point, seeing he was not going to change their minds, Sules introduced a resolution to lower the referendum to $3.6MM, which passed unanimously, 7-0.

The referendum will appear in three parts on the May 21 School District Budget Election, and details on it will appear along with the school budget in a forthcoming newsletter.

Budget Bits

Mr. Lasselle, commenting on the budget noted that the district is assuming the same state aid as last year. He said that any additional state aid would most likely be targeted to“needy” school districts, so he was not expecting any additional state largesse for White Plains.

He stated that the final city assessment roll came to $320,598, 834, and that “we’re already receiving all kinds of petitions regarding tax certioraris.”

No one commented during open forum.

The School Board made no statements on either the status of the superintendent search, the White Plains High School Principal search, or the release of the District 2001 test scores by the Department of Education.

City Tax Increase and School Tax Increase Combined:$419

In a related development, City Budget Director Eileen Earl is calling for a city tax increase of 6% in her new 2002-03 city budget just released.

Ms. Earl is reported to peg the cost to the average White Plains homeowner as an extra $82.80 for a home assessed at $15,000. Add this to the property tax increase of $337 projected by the school budget increase, and the average homeowner will pay a combined increase of $410.80 in 02-03.

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Roach:Council to Evaluate Electronic Voting Machines

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WPCNR White Plains Week Highlights. By John F. Bailey. Filed 4/1/02, 9:45 AM EST: Tom Roach, White Plains Common Councilman reports that the Council will review two electronic voting machine systems within the next month. It is an effort to be what he calls “the beachead” for reforming the way New York State casts its votes. Roach made the announcment in an interview on White Plains Week which can be seen Friday evening at 7:30 PM on Public Access Channel 71


THREE MONTHS IN THE SADDLE: Tom Roach talks about his first three months on the Common Council Friday night on White Plains Week at 7:30 PM on Channel 71. Jim Benerofe, left and John Bailey get the new Councilman’s progress report on his effort with the Mayor’s Office to bring new voting machines to White Plains.WPCNR Photo by Lyn Storey
Roach said that after taking his councilseat in January he has been working closely with the Mayor’s Office, coordinating with the two companies in New York that manufacture computerized voting machines. He praised the Mayor’s office for their cooperation in evaluating and arranging for a demonstration of the two voting procedures which he said would be showcased at a work session within a few weeks.

Roach made the remarks during an interview with James Benerofe, Editor of SuburbanStreet.com and John Bailey of WPCNR on White Plains Week which can be seen Friday evening at 7:30 PM on Public Access Channel 71. The program is cablecast Mondays at 7 and Fridays at 7:30 PM.

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