By Edie Johnson
Like many other towns, Blooming Grove is facing an uncertain financial future due to the pandemic. After a meeting with County Comptroller along with other area town officials, Supervisor Rob Jeroloman summed up his impression of this year’s future of local finances. He said his impression is they are “trending forward but with a need for an abundance of caution”. Sales tax losses in the County range from being down 24% to 30% since April. But, with Woodbury Commons and the Galleria Mall now open for business they have the potential to provide significant contribution to the county’s sales tax coffers as a whole. However, the State has advised that it plans to help distressed hospitals in all counties with an extra $1.7M funding. Further, AIM monies for towns will come OUT of our share of the revenue stream share of sales tax, and municipalities will have a tax cap of 1.5. The hope is that Fall revenue will continue to increase significantly and help make up for the earlier losses.
Fortunately, for Blooming Grove, Jeroloman said that when the town did an alternative “COVID Budget Revision” several months ago it slashed $428,000 so Blooming Grove is prepared even if it takes a pretty significant financial hit. Also, because of the increasing number of city and suburb dwellers moving to our area, new property tax revenue will likely help make up for brick and mortar business sales losses over the year. This will be watched closely since standing contractual obligations will have to be met whether there is a sales tax boom coming or not. The county will be continuing to meet for monthly updates while they hope to see retail stores recover.
Roads – Councilman Steve Amante noted that an accident took out the north side of the bridge on Round Hill Road has a temporary fix. Highway Supt. Wayne Kirkpatrick added that the County has made a temporary fix with so-called “Jersey Barriers” made of concrete. They will be affixed later this week so another accident or winter plow can’t push them into the creek until a permanent replacement is made next year.
Kirkpatrick said that work on both Glenwood Road and White Tail Run is progressing. They plan to rehire Robert Wells, one of the Town’s retired heavy equipment operators for part-time assistance since paving is such a high priority right now, and the Highway team has to balance out the time spent on work that could not be done when the pandemic began. Deputy Supervisor, George Doering said he thinks that the addition of Wells through part of this Fall will be a big help, given his vast experience. They have still not heard from the water company that serves Mt. Lodge, despite numerous efforts, but have so far not run into any pipe issues. Kirkpatrick said the work on White Tail Run was helped significantly because of 450-500 Tons of additional millings leftover from Washingtonville. This allowed them to build that road up over a foot and a half. Paving there is expected to begin about August 3.
A COVID Code Maze
A property on Round Hill Road was given multiple warnings and stop work orders for exceeding fill limits, and operating construction equipment during the State of Emergency. But as each complaint was reviewed and the Town discussed the issues with state authorities, it found code changing due to COVID rules at each stage of the State of Emergency. At first there were Stop Work orders issued congruent with the Declaration. When the next phase began there were questions of whether a large number of dump truck deliveries moved around with big machinery would fall into the category of construction and whether the quantity of dirt exceeded code according to State Emergency Code. And then there was mud left on the main road which was not just unsightly but can degrade the surface. After an appeal was made by the owner to the State, he received exemption because the Empire Development Agency in Albany considered the movement of dirt as a landscape activity rather than construction use, and the Governor’s Office agreed.
The Town will review its related fill code when public meetings resume since the issue will require a Public Hearing.