Appointment Process for City Council Vacancy
There will be a vacancy on the Rye City Council this summer with the announcement that Suzanna Keith and her family will be moving to Houston, Tx. Based on our charter, any vacancy prior to September 20th requires the Council to fill the vacancy for the balance of the year with a separate election to be held in November of that year to complete the term which in this case expires December of 2013. The Council will make the appointment at our June 13th meeting. Anyone interested should contact me or members of the Council.
Bowman Avenue Dam Sluice Gate
With the final agreements in place with Rye Brook and Harrison, the City has put out for bid the sluice gate project at Bowman Dam which will help regulate water flow downstream in Blind Brook. This is a complex project that has included inter-municipal agreements, multiple regulatory approvals, and several funding sources, and so the City is very pleased the first phase of its flood mitigation plan is underway. The Council hopes to award the contract at its second meeting in March.
Flood Mitigation Committee
The City's Newly appointed flood mitigation held its first meeting with an impressive group of talented individuals whose collective experience includes planning, zoning, engineering, financial, public safety, legal, communications and real estate. Chaired by Rafael Elias-Linero, members are Vice Chair Lawrence Lehman, Bernie Althoff, Richard Mecca, Annette Guarino, Dean Neely, and Holly Kennedy. The committee’s focus will be on flood mitigation project coordination and outreach, oversight of surrounding development and regulatory actions, and pre/post storm preparedness.
The Council asked the Finance Committee for an update on their report from last year on the rising cost of healthcare as the City manages these costs for long term financial sustainability. Over the last 5 years, wages and salaries in total have declined 3.6% to $13.8M while employee benefits and payroll taxes have grown 72.4% to $9.5M. Employee healthcare costs have risen 85% during this period and retiree healthcare has risen 76%. Healthcare benefits are negotiated as part of the collective bargaining process and expenses are paid out of each year's operating budget. There is no separate fund established to cover these expenses, but the total unfunded future liability is approximately $60M according to some estimates.
Public Sculpture Exhibition on Purchase Street
The Council was pleased to approve a sculpture exhibition in May along Purchase Street as part of a program the Rye Arts Center is conducting. The human sculptures are made of a red/orange translucent resin and will sit atop poles in 5 to 10 locations in the downtown for the month.
New York Conference of Mayors
I attended the annual conference of New York State Mayors to discuss the challenges facing local governments. Rye is not alone as all municipalities are managing through the tough economic times with declining infrastructures, a tapped-out taxpayer, increasing labor costs, and heavy regulatory burdens. Last year the Mayors supported a tax cap with mandate relief -- and got one out of two. The common mandate reforms being sought this year include: Make the pension system predictable and affordable, redefine compulsory arbitration, reduce costs of construction on public/private projects, establish minimum health insurance contributions for employees and retirees, and no new mandates. The session ended with a visit to meet the Governor at the Governor's mansion.
Council Approves Changes to the Rye Fire Department
Last week the City Council approved to amend the City Charter, article 13 which establishes a direct reporting relationship to the City Manager. Now, both the volunteer and career Fire Department personnel will align under the auspices of the City Manager as opposed to two separate reporting structures. The Board of Wardens, who also approved this measure, will work in conjunction the City Manager in the management and operation of the Fire Department. For the past year, the City Manager and I have met with key stakeholders to include the Fire Chiefs, volunteers, career personnel and Board of Wardens as well as have held 3 public sessions. This is an important change that will allow for better coordination of fire services.
For more information on these matters, visit the City of Rye Website at www.ryeny.gov or contact me, your City Council members or the City Manager. Mayor Doug French, firstname.lastname@example.org