Washingtonville “State of the Village”
An interview with Mayor Joe Bucco and Trustees, Paul Lang, Val Laudato, Diane Mack and Rich Calore
By Eugenia Moskowitz
EM: Good afternoon Mayor Bucco and Trustee Lang. Thank you for meeting me at Village Hall. Trustees Calore, Laudato, and Mack, thank you for being able to take part in this interview via telephone. Mayor Bucco, you’re running for re-election on Mar. 19. I’d like for our readers to be able to glance back at the past two years, take a look at the next two years, and I’d like for you to assess the current state of the village for them.
Joe Bucco: I would say the current state of the village is one of economic health. The main reason I ran for election two years ago was the indecipherable budget under the old board, and the increasing village taxes. Under the current board, the multi, water, and sewer funds are all finally working independently. There’s no more borrowing from one fund to the other. Everything is running smoothly because of how we as a board work together. We don’t always all agree on everything, but we do agree on how to tackle the “cleanup,” if you will, of the last two decades of mismanagement here in the village. And there is a lot to clean up. We started with our vital infrastructure, which was in a serious state of neglect. A DEC audit performed last September claimed to be the worst audit ever they have seen. They found violations dating back to 2008 that now have to be addressed.
EM: By infrastructure you mean roads, etc.
Bucco: The roads are finally being addressed. Sidewalks and curbing were started in the fall on Decker and its side streets. In the spring we’ll start paving Decker from Ahern to Toleman, some side streets, and continue sidewalks and curbs. The board has given the authorization to go for bonding.We will complete as many roads and sidewalks as we can. We received a $100,000 road grant from Senator James Skoufis which will be going to road repair. Doesn’t sound like much, but we’ll gladly take it. I am presently working on grants for clean water distribution.
EM: And sewer?
Rich Calore: Road runoff goes right into sewer manholes. The DEC audit revealed decades of debris clogging the outfalls and catch basins, which caused a lot of the flooding issues we had in the village. Our new street-sweeper, which is also a vacuum, is working to clear debris from the catch basins, which are also in need of repair from decades of neglect. The wastewater (sewer) plant is on budget, we’re now outsourcing our wastewater and domestic water, which has freed up our DPW to concentrate on fixing the storm drains and cleaning the outflows. This in turn saves money and allows the village to keep water rates the same instead of increasing them.
Paul Lang: The bottom line is that now that all the neglect is being addressed, we find we’re saving money by being more efficient, on top of our $3.2 million grant for the wastewater treatment plant. We also addressed the malfunctioning water meter and billing issues from lack of oversight for years, so the village is getting more of the money due to it. Which has an effect on the multi fund as there was no increase to village taxes the past two years we’ve been in office. I’m not talking about assessed house values, home improvements, or Town and School taxes. Village of Washingtonville taxes have stayed the same because of the current board’s good financial management. Everything is in order after many years of sloppiness which crippled the village’s finances. And that’s money which we can turn around and make improvements with.
EM: Talk about some of these improvements.
Val Laudato: Parks, for one. The dog park at Vern Allen will be completed in the spring. The $135,000 Skoufis grant will go towards ripping up the old roller hockey rink and laying down a new surface for pickleball, adding handball, a pavilion, bocce ball courts, and a splash pad for small children. The two ponds along Ahern will have fountains to circulate the water and reduce algae as per DEC recommendation. There’s a group of residents dedicated to the planning and execution of the Vern Allen renovations, and the plans are all at Village Hall for anyone who’s curious to see.
EM: What’s happening with the new Sewell Park across from the Middle School?
Diane Mack: I’m excited to start on the Naomi Sewell Park. We met with the surveyor and my number one priority in spring is to clean it up, level it, and seed it so that we have a clean canvas to create a passive park with paver paths, memorial benches, some temporary lighting until we purchase proper lampposts. Because it’s a flood zone, there can be no structures which can catch flood debris and create hazards, but we can put in a gazebo. Taking it bit by bit and getting it done. Now that we’re outsourcing our water and sewer, we have the DPW manpower to concentrate on DEC regulations and our parks. From the grassroots Placemaking movement which began just over two years ago, so much good has come, and volunteers are always welcome.
Laudato: We welcome improvements to the village in any way they present themselves. When Sandra Heintz wanted to do the dog parade Woofingtonville, we eagerly said yes. When Celina Rofer made her detailed presentation on the Lion’s Den Inclusive Playground expansion at Memorial Park, we unanimously said yes and said we’d do anything we could to make it a reality. We’re impressed with the talents and professional skills of our resident’s, and we welcome citizen participation and make it easy for residents and anyone that calls Washingtonville home to get involved.
Bucco: The Washingtonville Events Committee, which branched off from Placemaking, has been incredible in creating three major events our village is now known for in the Hudson Valley and beyond: Witchingtonville at Halloween, Whoville (at our huge Christmas Parade which the Blooming Grove/Washingtonville Chamber of Commerce started a decade ago), and the Easter Egg Hunt and Bonnet Parade. Each of these events bring thousands of people into our village and showcase everything wholesome we have to offer when people look to relocate from the city. In addition, the events committee informed me that the Farmers Market is taking a fresh approach this year with monthly themed events, which should bring in more people.
Mack: The point is, we have the kind of village board under which residents’ creativity flourishes. We eagerly support everything that increases the quality of life for the people living here.
Calore: I would like to mention some new businesses as well: The Chickenorthe Egg restaurant and the Mystic Cafe, both in center square, Shaker Smoothie coming by the NYPAC dance studio’s expansion, and La Villa Mexican Restaurant in Fulton Square. Assemblyman Colin Schmitt will be locating his office at Fulton Square starting May 1. We don’t say no to anything that will improve living here. Previous boards used to say no to everything and the village seemed dead, no improvements, just decay. Now, the village is alive again.
EM: It is certainly lively. I’ve heard young parents moving into the area speak positively of these developments.
Bucco: We still have some carry-over effects from old negligence which play a present role, such as the wells at Memorial Park and Patricia Lane which were drilled but never put online. The village is still paying off the bonds taken out for those in the early 2000s. It’s past mismanagement like that that which has set us back on the improvements throughout the village. But I keep concentrating on making vital improvements, such as appointing Brian Zaccaro as Washingtonville Police Chief. Under his direction our police department has a whole new life. We have the best police department that this village has ever had. One of the many projects this coming year is to relocate the police department into the village hall, a move that the PD, village board, and residents are looking forward to.
EM: All good things, sounds like. As of now you are running unopposed.
Bucco: A healthy democracy works only if people get into the habit of voting at every election. Local elections like village, town, and school often matter more to our daily life than national ones. And write-ins are always a threat. If you like the renaissance the village has been experiencing the last two years, and you like our videotaping every meeting for home viewing, get out and vote for the board members running for re-election: myself, Paul Lang, and Rich Calore. And thank you for taking the time to interview us.
EM: Thank you for speaking with me.
CAPTION: Mayor Joe Bucco, Trustees Paul Lang, and Rich Calore, shown here at a recent village hall meeting, are running for re-election on Mar. 19. (Val Laudato and Diane Mack will be running for re-election next year). Voting takes place at Village Hall on Fairlawn Drive off East Main Street from 12 noon. to 9 pm. (Photo provided)