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October 5, 2022
Due Diligence on NEQALS funding by Town of Webster in 2023
In the August 10, 2022 Webster Herald edition, my Supervisor's Corner article addressed Ambulance-Emergency Medical Services (EMS) in the Town of Webster. Specifically, it described the events at the July 7th, July 28th, and August 4th Town Board meetings/workshops related to EMS in Webster. On Tuesday September 27th, the Town of Webster government supplied Northeast Quadrant Advanced Life Support (NEQALS) with a list of due diligence documents/data requests. The purpose of those requests was to obtain tangible facts related to the financial history and Ambulance calls of NEQALS in the 2019-2022 timeframe. Armed with those facts, the Town Board will be in better position to discern what, if any additional financial support NEQALS will get from the Town in 2023. NEQALS leadership has been asked to supply this information by October 19th. It is tentatively scheduled that there will be a Town Board Workshop presentation on November 10th on this.
It is critical that the Town Board get tangible facts on this. Simply said, Ambulance service is an "emotional issue". I completely understand why it is emotional for both the dedicated Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT's) and the patients they attend to. Advanced Life Support (ALS) ambulances today are essentially "Mobile Hospitals with well-trained EMT's". This is a far cry from their roots 60+ years ago when they were "rides to the hospital from Volunteers". In my opinion, Ambulance /EMS is a First response component that Government MUST support. But how, and from which arm of government? To answer that question, you need to look at the current rules of engagement in the EMS industry with government and/or private Health insurers as it pertains to billing for their vital service.
For both private health insurance carriers, and federal Medicaid/Medicare, if the 911 Call for an ambulance does NOT result in a transport to the Hospital/urgent care/etc.... the EMS company has NO way to bill for that call. We're hoping that the due diligence documents/data the town has requested of NEQALS will quantify how many calls annually they get that are "Non transport" and therefore NON billable. The Federal government is coming up short in this support based on the manner in which they fund Medicare and Medicaid as it pertains to what they will pay for an ambulance call. New York State Government is coming up short in this support in the manner in which they currently don't support "Direct pay" from the Private insurance companies to the EMS provider. In many instances, the patient gets the insurance check and then does NOT pay the EMS company. To the best of my knowledge, County Government is essentially "not involved" in any direct financial support of EMS. That leaves Town government. Webster funded NEQALS with $50,000 from the 2022 Town Budget out of the general fund. In July 2022 the town awarded NEQALS a $205,000 grant from its ARPA funds. Therefore, in aggregate in 2022, NEQALS has received $255,000 in Town Government funding. The preliminary 2023 Town Budget has $50,000 ear marked from the General fund for NEQALS. Based on this due diligence process in the October-December 2022 timeframe, the Town Board will be an informed position to discuss if more town of Webster Funding should be awarded NEQALS in 2023. As always, please feel free to call me at 585-872-7068 or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
September 28, 2022
Town Justice Appointment in January 2023
Earlier this year, Town Justice David Corretore sent a letter to the editor of the Webster Herald wherein he announced his intention to retire at or around the end of 2022. Dave was re-elected to his Town Justice position in November 2019 and the 4-year term is from January 2020 through December 2023. With Dave's retirement, the Webster Town Board will be tasked with appointing someone to complete his term. It is a task the Town Board members and I will not take lightly. The tentative plan over the October- December 2022 timeframe within this process is as follows:
1st... Candidates who want to be considered for this appointment will have the opportunity to submit that intention from October 1-31st. A portal will be opened up on the Town's Website for this where the applicant can submit his or her formal application. We will also be publicizing this in various law journals, The Daily Record, etc. to cast the widest net possible for possible candidates to be made aware of the position, what the minimum credentials are, and how to apply if you are a Town/Village of Webster resident. 2nd.... A vetting committee is being formed of 3-5 people from professional designations including but not limited to; the District Attorney office, Public Defender office, Bar association, and law enforcement, etc. That committee will go through ALL received applications in the November 1-15th timeframe. They will then make recommendations to the Town Board as to either a) who to interview and/or b) who to appoint. 3rd... In the November 16-30th timeframe, the Town Board will review the recommendations of the Vetting committee and proceed within the process. It is hoped that at the December 1st or 15th regular town board meetings that this appointment will be announced/made. In my opinion, the earlier the better since there will be "devil in the details" transition issues between Dave Corretore, the court clerks and the newly appointed Town Justice.
As I tie up this article, I would be remiss if I did not say a few words about Judge Dave. Bottom line... the man is a "class act". As I've gotten to know him personally and professionally the past 3-years he has demonstrated a unique combination of professionalism, dedication to the bench, humanity, and humor. Dave was "raised right" and his moral compass shines through in all he does, whether or not people are watching. I wish Dave all the best in his retirement. The citizens of Webster are eternally grateful for the 35 years of service Dave gave as Town Justice. As always, please feel free to call me at 585-872-7068 or e-mail at email@example.com.
September 21, 2022
Updating the Town of Webster's 2008 Comprehensive Plan
I first got introduced to the Town of Webster's 2008 Comprehensive Plan in early 2019 while discerning whether to run for Webster Town Supervisor. My education on the plan started with reading the 140+ page document and 10-15 addendum maps that go with it. I appreciated the organization and structure that the plan had. It broke out approx. 120 initiatives the Town was going to attempt to do, and gave timeframes of execution on each of them. Those timeframes were broke down into the following major categories; immediate, within 2 years, 3-5 years, and within 10 years.
Over the past 3+ years, I have heard a lot of opinions on the 2008 Plan. Some think it is more "static" and should be definitive document that rules on ALL decisions made by the Town Board, Planning Board, and Zoning Board of Appeals. Some think it is more "dynamic" and a guidepost to key town items such as zoning a codes. One thing everyone seems to agree on is that as we approach 2023, it is time to start the process of updating the 15-year old 2008 plan. That process actually started back in early 2021. At that time, I asked ten "key" people who had been in department and/or political leadership positions in the Town of Webster for the past 20 years to look at the approx. 120 initiatives in the 2008 plan and state either "Yes or No" as to whether the initiative got accomplished as of 2021. Not surprisingly, several of the initiatives written into the 2008 plan did NOT get accomplished. That exercise helped us research "why" they did not get done, and give us lessons to make sure we don't repeat that in the updated plan in 2023 and beyond.
For a town the size of Webster, the formal process to update its Comprehensive Plan a) costs approx. $100,000-150,000, b) takes 2 years, and c) necessitates a consultant to guide the process. To address the cost issue, in mid 2021 the Town applied for a grant through New York State for the purpose of updating the 2008 plan. Unfortunately, in early 2022 we found out we did not get awarded that grant. Throughout the past 8 months of 2022 the Town Board has been presented options on how the funding of this plan update cost could be done. A combination of grants, 2023 and 2024 Town budgets, and ARPA funds was decided on as the best approach. As such, in mid 2022 the Town once again applied for a grant with New York State for the specific purpose of updating the plan. We hope that the lessons learned from getting turned down in 2021 helped us augment our grant proposal in 2022 and we'll get some award on this.
The 2-year process is tentatively scheduled for January 2023-December 2024, with the latter date when the update plan is completed and adopted. In the next 1-2 months, the Town Board will be authorizing the request for proposal from consulting firms on this. Once a firm is chosen, we hope to have them stating the "formal" process in January 2023. One of the main components of the "formal" process is Community engagement. Citizens will have all sorts of opportunities to chime in on this and/or be on sub committee. In July 2022 we decided to start the engagement of the community with a 6-question survey that was in the Webster Today magazine that goes out to all Webster homes and businesses. To date we have gotten approx. 600 survey responses. I'm hopeful that over the next few months we will get that number to over 1,000. The MORE respondents, the better guidance the consultant will have on what people in Webster want for their community today and the next 10-20 years. If you want to see the 2008 Comprehensive Plan, it is on the Town Website at: CI.WEBSTER.NY.US/207/COMPREHENSIVE-PLAN. If you would like to do the 6-question survey it is at: SURVEYMONKEY.COM/R/575C3XX. Please feel free to call me at 585-872-7068 or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
September 14, 2022
Income Limit increase on real estate exemptions for Seniors and Disabled
Recently, New York State (hereafter NYS) increased the income limits on two Real Estate Exemptions; 1. Limited Income Senior Exemption and 2. Disabled Persons with Limited Income. Within the change, NYS gave local governments the authority to either a) leave their limits where they are currently at, b) go to the new NYS maximum, or c) somewhere in between the current NYS minimum (in effect, a reduction) and the new max. As such local government/taxing agencies like the Village of Webster, Town of Webster, school districts, and Monroe County will "individually" make that decision.
Donna Komor, Webster's Assessor presented to the Town Board at the September 8, 2022 Town Board Workshop on this. She is also scheduled to present to the Village Board of Trustees on September 22nd. Donna's presentation to the Town Board can be accessed on the Town website at:
Bottom line.... anything assessment and real estate tax related can be "complicated and/or easy to misunderstand". As such I'll attempt to give a layman terms explanation of "the top 5 takeaways" I have on what this income limit change means.
1st... the earliest it will affect a Webster property owner's real estate tax bill is the September 2023 School tax bill (i.e. 1 year from now).
2nd... The Town of Webster's Assessment Office handles ALL Exemption applications and processing for the Town, Village, School and County. If you own property in the 35 square miles of Webster, including Town and Village, if you feel you may qualify for any exemption, you will be working with the Town’s Assessment Office.
3rd. .... If only one of the taxing entities changes their current income limits on one or both of these exemptions, and the other 2 or 3 do NOT, then the Town Assessment Office's volume of applications will increase. For example, if the County decides to increase the income limits on these exemptions and the Town, Village, and School decide to NOT change from their current limits, the property owners in Webster who previously did not qualify at the lower income limits will now apply. If they are awarded the County exemption, then that property owner will initially see it reflected on their Town and County January 2024 tax bill.
4th.... For every dollar less that a property owner pays on their County, School, Village and/or Town tax bills, that dollar is spread over the rest of the taxpayers.
Simply said, if these exemptions cut $1 million off the eligible people's County tax bill, then the rest of the tax base, including those receiving the discount, have that $1 million spread over their bills. The shift will be reflected in an increased tax RATE for all. This concept in and of itself is why the governing body leaders need to look long and hard at increasing the current income limits in the economy we are currently in.
5th.... The deadline to apply for these exemptions is March 1, 2023 to be eligible for the exemption on the School District September 2023 bill and the Town and County January 2024 bill. This "timing" will be problematic as March 1, 2023 is less than 7 months away and NO local governing agency has made a decision this yet as to whether they will be increasing their current income limits, having just been approved by the Governor. “Problematic” only in the sense that the Assessment Office cannot not definitively advise potential applicants at this point about the income limitations and has unknowingly discouraged other applicants before this option was made available.
As such, I plan on communicating with "key" School, Village, and County leaders on this in the next few weeks to determine where they are at in this process. The later we make a decision, especially if that decision is to increase their government entity's income limit, will cause challenges to both applicants for the exemption and the Town's Assessment Office ability to process all of them in a timely fashion. As always, feel free to call me at 585-872-7068 or e-mail at email@example.com
September 7, 2022
The Consolidated Drainage District in the Town of Webster
The Town of Webster encompasses 35 square miles. Lake Ontario is its northern border and Irondequoit Bay is its Western. In between are many creeks, streams and ponds. Bottom line... compared to other municipalities, Webster is a "wet" town. That wetness results in a lot of drainage issues. Drainage for the most part means that all storm water and other water from impervious areas needs to make its way to a final location. That location in Webster is Lake Ontario. The "means" by which all this water gets to Lake Ontario is complicated and needs constant maintenance. The Town's Highway Department maintains the various drainage mechanisms in the town. This includes but is not limited to; maintaining the over 200 retention ponds in town, keeping drainage easements clear, and installing new drainage mechanisms as the town's population has expanded over the past 50+ years.
Historically, the funding annually for the Highway Department's labor and materials for this drainage maintenance has come from a special Drainage district tax on resident January Town and County Real estate tax bills. The history of these Drainage districts started 50+ years ago. In 1969, the Town Board consolidated some of these districts and in 1995 the Town Board consolidated ALL drainage districts into ONE Consolidated Town Drainage district. As of 2022, approx. 11,800 Town residential properties were in this consolidated drainage district. They were each charged approx. $43 on their January 2022 Town and County Real estate tax bills. This resulted in over $500,000 be collected "specifically" for Drainage maintenance. The reality is that the cost of labor and materials to properly maintain drainage in Webster in 2022 is much greater than $500,000, and the drainage projects needing to be done has fallen behind.
At a February 2021 Town Board Workshop, retiring Highway Superintendent Joe Herbst presented to the town board that the "time was now" to expand the Consolidated Town Drainage district to ALL 15,000+ residential homes in Webster. He explained how when drainage districts started 50+ years ago the town board exempted/grandfather existing homes at that time to NOT be in these newly created drainage districts. Therefore, as of 2022 approx. 78% of all homes in Webster were in the district, and the other approx. 22% or 3,500 homes built prior circa 1965 were NOT in the district.
Over 5-6 town board meetings in 2022, Pat Stephens-Highway Superintendent, and Mary Herington- Town Engineer, and Paul Adams- Finance Director presented to the Town Board the following: 1. financially what adding the other 22% of homes in Webster to the drainage district would look like for 2023, and 2. the DEC requirements and other regulatory agencies that have exponentially put more mandates on the Town over the past 20-years as it pertains to drainage. These efforts culminated with approx. 3,500 homeowners getting a notice last week that a public hearing would be set for Thursday September 8th at 5:30PM at the Town board room to consider adding those homes to the current consolidated drainage district in 2023. The result would be that the 11,800 homeowners charged $43 in 2022 would be approx. 15,300 homeowners getting charged $40 on their January 2023 County and Town tax bill. The net effect would be approx. $125,000 additional revenue collected for the Highway department to utilize on Drainage projects in 2023. In summary, I do believe the "time is now" to remedy this unintended consequence of Town Board decision from 50+ years ago to exempt/grandfather existing homes when they created drainage districts. As always, please feel free to call me at 585-872-7068 or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
August 31, 2022
School Tax Time in Webster
By the time you are reading this article, you most likely have received your Webster Central School District Tax bill in the USPS mail. These are the two most common questions we get pertaining to this tax bill:
1. Why am I paying these taxes to the Town and not the School District? The Receiver of Taxes for the Webster Central School District in the Town of Webster is Dorothy Maguire. Dorothy, or "Dolly" as she goes by is the Webster Town Clerk and Tax Receiver. She is an employee of the Town government and not of the School District. The Town government and Dolly are acting as agent for the Webster Central School District. From what I have gleaned, this system was set up 60+ years ago when the Town government had more capacity and infrastructure than the School District and thus was in a better position to do this tax collection.
2. What are the options I have to pay this tax bill? Taxes will be received at Webster Town Hall, 1000 Ridge Road, Webster, NY, beginning September 1 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. None received Saturdays, Sundays or Holidays. Mailed full or first installment payments should be made payable and addressed to Dorothy M. Maguire, Receiver of Taxes at the above address.
From September 1, through October 1, no interest is due if the total is paid in full. From October 2, through October 31, a 2% interest penalty must be added to the entire amount of the bill. Taxes paid under the INSTALLMENT option are due September 15, October 15 and November 15, 2022. The FIRST payment is made to Dorothy M. Maguire, Receiver of Taxes, 1000 Ridge Road, Webster, NY 14580. Payment TWO and THREE are made to the Monroe County Treasurer, PO Box 14420, Rochester, NY 14614. If you elect to use the installment option, there is a service charge on ALL three payments. With the exception of residents of Walworth and Ontario, taxes may be paid in installments.
Taxpayers who pay by check (via the US Mail or by Drop Box) may consider their canceled check as proof of payment. However, receipts will be issued for full payment if specifically requested and/or both pages are sent with payment. The DROP BOX is located in the front vestibule of the Town Hall (open 24/7). No tax payments will be received by the Webster Receiver of Taxes after November 1, 2022, at which time the School Tax Rolls will be returned to the Monroe County and Wayne County Tax Offices.
If you do opt to come to Town Hall during business hours to pay your School tax bill at the counter or drop box, don't be surprised if you see one or more of the Town Board members and/or town staff manning tables outside the two entrances. With the plan to update the 2008 Comprehensive Plan tentatively scheduled to begin in early 2023, we are in the process of getting "citizen feedback" via a 5-6 question survey. Please consider taking the two minutes while you're at Town Hall to fill out this survey, either digitally on your phone, or on paper. The Town Board member and/or Town employee can assist you with this. Simply said... the MORE surveys we get filled out by Webster Citizens, the better prepared we will be in 2023 to produce a Comprehensive Plan that reflects the wants and needs of ALL Webster citizens! As always, please feel free to call me at 585-872-7068 or e-mail email@example.com
August 24, 2022
Progress on 600 Ridge Road- Webster Furniture Strippers
Over the past 3 years that I have either been campaigning for Webster Town Supervisor, or have been the Supervisor, I have heard from over 500 Webster citizens on 600 Ridge Road. The common denominator of those discussions were disgust at the condition of the building and why is something NOT being done to remedy it? This is my 4th Supervisor's Corner article since 2020 focused on 600 Ridge Road, the old Webster Furniture Strippers, and the West Webster Hamlet that is affected by it. In the past 3 articles I have chronicled the sad history of this property the past 20-years that have led to its decay. The 2 main factors to that history and why nothing has been done for 20 years are 1. lack of multi government agency cooperation to effectuate a remedy, and 2. the unknown environmental situation at the property.
Over the past 2+ years, the Town of Webster leadership and legal counsel have been researching various strategies to address 600 Ridge. Within that process, it became clear that Monroe County Government had the "direct" tie to this property via their Real Estate tax foreclosure process. Simply said, 600 Ridge is privately owned. If the owners don't pay their town, school, and county taxes for 3-4 years, the county will initiate the foreclosure process. That started back in the circa 2005 time-frame. However, when no one bought the property at auction, the county within their rights decided to "not take title" due to concerns with unknown environmental issues that may be on site. As such, the property went to auction every year for 10-15 straight years, and every year no one bought it, and every year the county decided to not take title and let the private owner retain the title.
The Town leadership and legal counsel have been working with Monroe County leadership and legal counsel to figure out a strategy that could both 1. take the unknown nature of environmental issue out of the equation and make it KNOWN, and 2. do so in a manner that minimizes or eliminates the Town and/or County government liability on any environmental issue remediation, should any be manifested. On August 4th at the Webster Town Board meeting, a resolution was passed that has the Town of Webster entering into an Intermunicipal Agreement (IMA) with the County of Monroe, wherein the Town will pay the approx. $22,000 for Phase 2 environmental testing at 600 Ridge Road, and the County will go through the legal process of getting "temporary control" of the property so that said testing can be done. Armed with the August 4th Town resolution, the Monroe County Legislature has started the process to approach the appropriate court to get the "temporary control" so that the Phase 2 environmental testing can be done. It is estimated the County Legislature process on this will be completed in mid to late September and testing will be done in October.
In summary, they say it is always darkest before dawn. As this pertains to 600 Ridge, the condition of the property in August 2022 looks as bad as it has ever looked in the past 20 years, with weeds and overgrowth encompassing the building. The milestone actions on this property in the next 1-2 months will go a long way to the final resolution on this property. That in turn could spawn redevelopment in the whole West Webster Hamlet that is centered at Ridge and Gravel intersection. As always, feel free to call me at 585-872-7068 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
August 17, 2022
August and September Events in Webster
Summer 2022 may be winding down, but here are 3 fun events that will be happening in Webster before we get to Autumn:
1. Webster Jazz Festival: Friday and Saturday August 19-20th in the Village right at the 4 corners of Main and 250. Go to www.websterbid.com/events/jazz-festival for the event details. The Business Improvement District (BID) in the Village are putting on this event. It runs Friday August 19th from 6:00PM to 11:00PM and Saturday August 20th from 4:00PM to 11:00PM.
2. Oktoberfest: Friday and Saturday September 16-17th at the Fireman's Field on Ridge Road. Go to www.rochestermiraclefield.org/event/oktoberfest/ for the event details and sponsorship opportunities. It runs both days, Friday September 16th and Saturday September 17th from 12 noon to 10:00PM. Proceeds to benefit the Challenger Miracle Field.
3. Webster Parks and Recreation Family Mud Run: Saturday, September 17th from 10:00AM to 12:00PM at the Rec center at 1350 Chiyoda. Go to www.ci.webster.ny.us/609/Upcoming-Events for more event details and to register.
As always, please feel free to call me at 585-872-7068 or e-mail at email@example.com
August 10, 2022
Ambulance Service in Webster- 2023 and Beyond
It seems at times in today's society that it is impossible to find something we ALL agree on. I think we can all agree that our "Hometown" First Responders: Ambulance, Fire, and Police are extremely important to the 35-square miles that make up the Town of Webster and its 46,000 citizens. Their world is one where "seconds matter" when it comes to saving lives. Often ALL 3 show up at a scene and perform their specific function in concert with the other 2 for the purpose of the optimal outcome. In many ways, it’s like the 3-legged stool. Remove ANY one leg and it topples over.
The genesis and evolution of each of the 3 arms of 1st responders is quite unique. For efficiency’s sake, I'll spare you the historical details and just give where each of those arms is at in 2022 in the Town Webster. The Webster Police Department is fully funded through the Town of Webster taxes. It is not a sperate line item/district but is reflected within the Town and County real estate tax bill in January. 90% of the expense of the Police Department is current and retired personnel payroll and benefits. Webster has 2 fire districts: West Webster fire and Webster Fire with the dividing line essentially being Hard Road. These fire districts are governmental taxing entities like the Town of Webster. They have a vote each year on their budgets. Their passed budgets are reflected on the Town and County real estate tax bill in January as a separate line item/district. Almost 100% of their expense is facility and equipment/firetrucks due to currently being "volunteer entities".
Ambulance or "Emergency Medical Services (EMS)" is covered by Northeast Quadrant Advanced Life Support (NEQALS)/Webster Emergency Medical Services (WEMS). Their funding comes from Medicare, Medicaid, Private Medical insurance, and private pay for the calls/patients they attend to. They also get monies from the Town of Webster annual budget ($50,000 in 2022) and fundraising. They are a "private business" NON-for-profit. As an industry, Ambulance is by far the youngest compared to Police and Fire. It is also the one that was born of volunteers at fire departments that over the years due to a myriad of factors, the fire departments divested themselves of the ambulance service and Private; Non-for-profits and For-profit ambulance companies filled that void. Simply said.... the ambulance industry has major challenges as we go into 2023, and NEQALS/WEMS is not immune from them. The past 5-6 weeks activities at the Town Board meetings reflects such: On July 7th, NEQALS was awarded $205,000 of the Town of Webster's ARPA monies from the $350,000 the town had made available for non-for-profit agencies in the town. 13 other non-for-profits were awarded in aggregate the other $145,000. On July 28th Ahmed Mustafa, the president of NEQALS, presented a PowerPoint proposing an Ambulance district in the Town of Webster as of January 2023 with initial funding of $800,000. On August 4th, 18 people took the podium for an aggregate 1 hour and 20 minutes with their support/plea to the town board to "fast track" this Ambulance district for January 2023.
The good news is that Ahmed, the NEQALS board, and the Town Board are aligned in their goal to set up the "Hometown" Ambulance company to be strong in 2023 and beyond. Currently what we don't agree on is the "means and timeframes" to achieve that goal. The Town Board and I will be seeking to work with NEQALS leadership over the next several months to figure out both a) the short-term solution to Ambulance/NEQALS financial challenges in 2023 and b) the long-term solution for 2024 and beyond. I envision "deep dive" research on this that will seek input from MANY sources so that we can make an "informed" decision on EMS in Webster for the next 20+ years. As always, feel free to call me at 585-872-7068 or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
August 3, 2022
Chapter 5 - Facts on the Town of Webster Budget
In my first article on the Town of Webster Budget in the Wednesday, June 29th Webster Herald, I described in Fact #1 how the current 2022 Town tax rate of $5.43 per $1,000 of assessed value resulted in a $1,086 annual real estate tax bill for a property assessed at $200,000. In the 4th article on the Town of Webster Budget in the Wednesday, July 20th Webster Herald, I described in Fact #6 that Webster's current equalization rate of 72% means the estimated market value (What you could sell the house for TODAY) is approx. $278,000 for a house assessed at $200,000. I received over a two dozen calls and e-mails from citizens after my July 20th article asking for more info on what Equalization rate means, and making comparisons of Webster's Town Tax rate of $5.43 per thousand versus other Monroe County town's tax rates that did not take into account the Equalization rate of those town's in the comparison. In layman terms.... comparing apples to oranges.
In my discussions with these people and/or e-mails I attempted to explain what Equalization means as it pertains to comparing apples to apples on different town's tax rates.
FACT #7: APPLES TO APPLES COMPARISON OF TOWN TAX RATE PER THOUSAND OF ASSESSED VALUE
The figures shown below attempt to show "like-kind" towns to Webster from the January 2022 Town/County Tax bills. Like-kind was based on Monroe County towns with Police departments.
--Town-- --2022 Town Tax Rate per $1,000 --2022 Equalization Rate -- Town Tax rate per $1,000 converted to Market rate
Greece $5.98 100% $5.98
Irondequoit $6.41 88% $5.64
Brighton $5.24 95% $4.98
Webster $5.43 72% $3.91
Simply said... if your home has a market value in 2022 of $300,000 (I.E. you could sell it for that amount) then your Town of Webster taxes would be $1,173 at the $3.91 "market rate". That same $300,000 house in Greece would have town taxes of $1,794 at the $5.98 "market rate"
FACT #8: APPLES TO APPLES SANITARY SEWER RATES/RENTAL FEES ANNUALLY:
The Town of Webster government decided 20+ years ago to not take their sanitary sewer plant "off line" and join in with the Monroe County Pure Waters sewer system. Since Webster has its own sanitary sewer plant, it makes an "apples to apples" comparison of annual sanitary sewer rates/rental fees with other towns difficult. Webster's is a "flat fee" regardless of the assessed value of your home. It assumes an average home will have 60,000 gallons a year of discharge into the sanitary sewer system. The other town's sanitary sewer fees are a combination of 1. a "variable" fee based on the prior year's water usage in gallons for the specific house, and 2. a "set/fixed fee" regardless of assessed value that is set by Monroe County Pure Waters
--Town-- --2022 Pure waters set fees-- --2022 Rate per 1,000 gallons-- -- 60,000 gallons-- --2022 Sanitary Sewer fee--
Greece $69 $1.74 $104 $173
Irondequoit $192 $1.48 $89 $281
Brighton $148 $1.48 $89 $237
Webster N/A N/A N/A $191
To give some perspective on the variable/water usage charge in other towns..... while doing research for this article, approx. 10-15 Town and County 2022 January tax bills were looked at for each of the comparison towns above. The lowest bill identified was a Greece resident who only used 23,000 gallons of water in 2021 so the total sewer rent/fee for 2022 was the pure waters set fee of $69 + variable of 23X$1.74 ($40) for a total of $109. Conversely, another residence in Greece used 186,000 gallons of water in 2021 so that total bill was $392. Variability of water usage in other towns includes but is not limited to # of people in the home, and yard sprinkler systems.
FACT #9 TOWN OF WEBSTER HISTORICAL RESIDENTIAL SANITARY SEWER RATES/RENTAL FEES: Webster has had the following history residential sewer rents/rates
-Year- Flat sewer rate/rental
The good news is that the Webster taxpayer saw their annual sewer fee/rental go DOWN over a 30-year period of 1990-2020. The bad news is that the annual sewer fee/rental revenue is used to both 1. operate the sewer plant and 2. reserve for repairs and/or new assets at the plant. Hindsight is 20/20, but keeping the annual sewer rate LOW for 30 years on a sewer plant that is now 50+ years old and has reached its useful life expectancy means we do not have enough reserves built up to self-fund the plant's renovations. This was proven in 2017-2021 when phase 1 of the plant upgrade cost $12 million, and the town had to bond/go into debt for $9 million of that, while paying the other $3 million via grants. The uptick from $167 in 2015 to $187 in 2020 (and $191 in 2022) reflects the annual debt financing of that phase 1 improvement. As always, feel free to call me at 585-872-7068 or email at email@example.com
July 20, 2022
Chapter 4- Facts on the Town of Webster Budget
In my first article on the Town of Webster Budget in the Wednesday, June 29th Webster Herald, I described in Fact #1 how the current town tax rate of $5.43 per $1,000 of assessed value resulted in a $1,086 annual real estate tax bill for a property assessed at $200,000. I received over a dozen calls and e-mails from citizens stating that their home was assessed for approx. $200,000 and that their real estate tax bill annually was MUCH higher than $1,086. They went on to state their real estate tax bill was in the $8,000 range or higher and that my math must have been wrong.
In my discussions with these people, I was able to let them know that I was just talking about the TOWN component of their annual real estate taxes, and was not factoring in their School, Fire, Special districts, and/or County taxes. I further found from my discussions that the majority of the people that reached out to me on this had their real estate taxes "escrowed" within their monthly mortgage payments. As such, their $8,000 of annual real estate taxes was paid at approx. $700 a month within their mortgage payment (i.e. 1/12th of their total annual real estate taxes. As such, they told me they never had looked at the individual real estate tax bills that are paid in January and September each year as to the breakdown of Town, county, fire, school, and special districts if applicable.
These conversations got me thinking that a breakdown of my own annual real estate tax bills may be a good " fact".
FACT #6: BREAKDOWN OF THE JANUARY AND SEPTEMBER REAL ESTATE TAX BILLS:
The figures shown below come right of my September 2021 and January 2022 Real estate tax bills. My home is currently assessed for $208,000 so at Webster's current equalization rate of 72% means the estimated market value is approx. $290,000.
--Tax Bill--- --Description-- --$$$$-- -- Tax rate per $1,000 assessed--
September 2021 School Taxes $4,989 $24.90
January 2022 Town of Webster $1,132 $5.43
January 2022 County of Monroe $2,493 $11.96
Annual Real Estate Tax Totals: $8,614 $42.29
There are other "details" on the actual tax bills that can run the gamut depending on your specific situation as a town of Webster Property owner. Some of those include but are not limited to; 1. If you live in the Village, your town tax rate is less, but you have a village tax, 2. West Webster or Northeast Fire District tax, 3. Special district charges such as drainage, lighting, etc. and 4. the Sewer Department "flat" rates for the year on O/M and Capital, and 5. The STAR exemption on School taxes. (Mine above reflects Basic STAR savings of School bill)
In future articles I will breakdown the services that each of these taxing entities supply to residents. As always, feel free to call me at 585-872-7068 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org
July 13, 2022
Chapter 3 - Facts on the Town of Webster Budget
As stated in the past two week's Supervisor's Corner articles, the overall theme of these facts will be 2-fold; 1. historical stats from 2022 and prior year budgets, and 2. trying to relate a Town's budget to what each of our families need to navigate in our own "home budgets". Those factors are 1. How much money we bring into our home annually from our jobs, pensions, etc. 2. How much money we spend annually as a family on housing, car, food, etc. 3. How much debt we have as a family in mortgages, car loans, credit cards, etc. and 4. How much savings do we have in bank accounts, 401ks, etc.
FACT #5 - ANNUAL REVENUE/MONEY THAT COMES IN TO PAY THE TOWN GOVERNMENT BILLS:
This figure is similar to what your family figures out comes in from their employment, or social security, pension, etc. This money "comes in" to the household and is used to pay the bills. If the bills exceed the money coming in, then decisions need to be made on how to make up that gap. Those decisions include but are not limited to; 1. take money out of savings, 2. reduce spending, and/or 3. go into further debt (i.e. buy things with credit cards)
The town budget has historically been comprised of four (4) revenue components to "bring money in" to be able to pay the bills; 1. Real estate taxes to property owners, 2. Revenue we control, 3. Revenue we don't control, and 4. Tapping into savings. Below is an explanation of each of these:
1. Real Estate Taxes: In fact #3, it was shown what the annual bills are for the town. Below are the last 8-year's budgets of the Real Estate taxes collected in millions, and the percentage each year that these taxes made up of the overall bills the Town had to pay (i.e. Net expenditures)
Real Estate Taxes % of ALL Town Expenditures
2015 $16.0 62.0%
2016 $17.2 63.5%
2017 $17.4 62.4%
2018 $17.9 61.7%
2019 $18.4 60.5%
2020 $19.0 61.1%
2021 $19.6 60.9%
2022 $20.2 61.7%
The statistics above reflect that historically the town budget gets approx. 60% of its funds to pay the bills from real estate taxes. The other 40% comes from a combination of controlled revenue, uncontrolled revenue, and tapping into savings.
2. Controlled Revenue: My description of this may be misleading. I call it "controlled" because the town government has influence on how much of it can be generated annually. Two examples of such revenue are 1. EDU sewer rental fee that is currently $191 in the 2022 budget, and 2. Recreation program revenue. The EDU sewer rental rate set each year takes into many factors. They include but are not limited to; are we just trying to set a rate to cover the sewer department annual expenses? Are we trying to build up a reserve? Are we giving back some of the reserve to citizens in that year by reducing the rate? Theoretically for each dollar of revenue they generate, it is one less dollar of real estate taxes we need to levy on our citizens
3. Uncontrolled Revenue: The biggest one is Sales tax. The town finds out every 3-months how much sales tax revenue we are getting from eligible sales from the Webster community. We have historical trends on the actual, but it is still a difficult figure to budget. There are other county, state and federal revenues in this category including but not limited to mortgage tax and CHIPS money from the state for the Highway Department. Once again.... theoretically for each dollar of this revenue, it is one less dollar of real estate taxes we need to levy on our citizens
4. Tapping into Savings: The town has several fund balances of which some are unrestricted and some restricted. There are also reserves. Regardless of what they are categorized as, they are essentially the "Savings" of the town government. Just like our families, savings are usually generated by having your annual expenses be LESS than the money you bring in. As the town board works to form a budget each year, they have the option to tap into these savings to "make ends meet" if the annual expenditures are not going to be covered by the aggregate of real estate taxes and controlled and uncontrolled revenues. This option often assists at staying under the State's 2% tax cap.
Below is the ACTUAL "end of year" for the past 7-years on the town savings in millions (i.e. ALL unrestricted and restricted fund balances)
Three milestone events have occurred in the past few years that have and will affect in the future these fund balances:
1. The 2019 and 2020 year-end reductions reflect the $12 million, Phase 1 Sewer plant improvement project that net of grants came in at $9 million. Some of the payments of principle and interest came from these fund balances.
2. In February 2020, Paul Adams, the town's Finance Director attended the annual Association of Town's meeting and the New York State Comptroller's Office made it clear that municipalities need to have a "formal" fund balance policy. Prior to that, Webster had not had one. In November 2020 the town board approved the new fund balance policy for the town. Such a formal policy will give guidance to the town board today and in the future so that less subjective decision making is made on money matters that affect fund balances.
3. The large increase in Fund balance from 2020 to 2021 was due to the fact that in July 2021 the town converted short term 1-year Bond Anticipation Notes (BAN) to $11,600,000 of serial bonds (i.e. Long term debt) When serial bonds are issued it creates revenue in the capital project fund. As such, it created net revenue of over $9M in 2021 to that fund. The capital projects fund had a deficit Fund balance at 12/31/20 of $(8,293,967) and a Fund balance of $916,826 at 12/31/21.
As always, feel free to call me at 585-872-7068 or e-mail me at email@example.com
July 6, 2022
Chapter 2- Facts on the Town of Webster Budget
As stated in last week's Supervisor's corner article, the overall theme of these facts will be 2-fold; 1. historical stats from 2022 and prior year budgets, and 2. trying to relate a Town's budget to what each of our families need to navigate in our own "home budgets". Those factors are 1. How much money we bring into our home annually from our jobs, pensions, etc. 2. How much money we spend annually as a family on housing, car, food, etc. 3. How much debt we have as a family in mortgages, car loans, credit cards, etc. and 4. How much savings do we have in bank accounts, 401ks, etc.
FACT #3- ANNUAL NET EXPENDITURES:
This figure is similar to what your family figures out what they pay annually on ALL of their expenses including but not limited to mortgage or rent payments for housing, car payments, health insurance, entertainment, taxes (income, sales, real estate) and food/clothing. However, for the town, these expenses include but are not limited to town employee payroll and benefits, town retiree benefits, materials at Highway Department, maintaining Police and Highway depts. fleet of vehicles, and other non-payroll services such parks, recreation, debt payments on bonds for infrastructure improvements, etc. Below are the last 8-year's budgets of these expenditures in millions of dollars, along with the correlating percentage increase from the prior year:
$$ % increase
2016 $27.1 +5.04%
2017 $27.9 +2.95%
2018 $29.0 +3.94%
2019 $30.4 +4.83%
2020 $31.1 +2.30%
2021 $32.2 +3.54%
2022 $32.8 +1.86%
FACT #4- TOWN EMPLOYEE PAYROLL, BENEFITS, AND RETIREE BENEFITS:
This is a component of the Annual net expenditures reflected above in fact 3. Almost 90% of the full-time employees at the town are in one of the following unions: 1. Blue Collar, 2. White Collar, and 3. Police. The Police union contract is in place as we approach the 2023 budget, but the Blue- and White-Collar contracts expire at the end of 2022. Historically over the past 15-20 years, these union contracts have been 3-year contracts and have had an approx. 2% cost of living (COLA) escalator of base pay year over year. These contracts also have had "steps" that give the employee an annual pay increase over and above the COLA increase. The challenge becomes that these COLA and "step" escalators year over year on base pay coupled with the 2% tax cap the State initiated makes it problematic to the budget process. Add in the escalating benefit costs to existing town employees and retirees of the town over the years, and the budget process becomes challenging to stay below the 2% tax cap. Below is the past 8-year's budget dollars on town employee base pay, employer paid benefits, and retiree benefits in millions, along with how those aggregate dollars in millions represent the percentage of overall net expenditures reflected in fact 3 above.
When your annual budget of expenditures has close to 70% being toward Employee payroll, benefits, and Retiree benefits, and much of that is from previously negotiated union contracts...... it leaves about 30% for non-employee/retiree items. The analogy to our family home budget is if 70% of our annual expenses were toward our mortgage payments/rent. We call this "house poor" since it does not leave a family much left to pay for the other things in their life. From my experience in the mortgage business, families that fall into the "house poor" category have a few options to remedy; 1. figure out how to bring more money into the home via a higher paying job, 2. sell or move and get into a lesser mortgage/rent payment, or 3. do nothing and suffer the consequences of having little money to spend on other things... or worse, go into more debt via credit cards to try and do those additional things that you can't do with the money that comes in from your job.
For the Town of Webster, some of the mechanisms that can be utilized to reduce the percentage of the annual budget that is for Employee/Retiree pay and benefits include but are not limited to; 1. Employee reductions through either cuts or attrition when people retire and not hiring someone new to that position, 2. Future Union contract negotiations being sensitive to the COLA and Benefits as to how they affect the tools the town can supply for their union members within doing their jobs. (i.e. that currently only 30% of the budget is available for things NOT employee/retiree pay and benefits) The problem with the former is that is short sighted and not reflective of the citizen's needs from its town government. The fact is that the Town of Webster's population per the 1990 census was 31,000 and by the 2020 census was 45,000. The annual budget process unfortunately is not geared to a "long term plan" that takes into account all the metrics including but not limited to; population, lane miles the Highway dept must service, and flow handled by the sewer plant and miles of mainlines and pump stations they service within that flow. I don't want to get ahead of myself, but maybe in the future we will tie the process of updating the 2008 Comprehensive Plan to the annual budget process, so they work in concert as to the long-term planning for the community. As always, please feel free to call me at 585-872-7068 or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
June 29, 2022
Town of Webster 2023 Budget Season
Arguably, the most important task of the elected Town Board members in Webster is the stewardship of the Resident's Tax money. The Town Supervisor is the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of the town, and along with the other 4-town board members needs to balance the services the Town supplies for its residents with the Tax money needed for said services. The town is on a calendar fiscal year so we will finalize our 2023 annual budget by approx. October 2022 so that the Town and County Real estate tax bill citizens receive in January 2023 is reflective of that budget. The 2023 budget process started in May/June 2022 with department heads submitting to the Director of Finance and Town Supervisor their "initial ask" for their department for 2023 expenses. Then the town board liaison to each department, the department head, the Director of Finance, and Town Supervisor have one on one meetings to discuss these "initial asks". Those meetings seek to determine if cuts need to be made from the initial asks so that in totality of the 14 departments, a budget can be produced that does not "break the bank!".
As we move through July and August 2022 the 2023 budget setting process will become quite active. There will be public presentations at Town Board meetings and Workshops by the various department heads where line item by line-item descriptions will be given of the proposed budget. The public will have a LOT of opportunity to chime in on this via attending these meetings or watching on TV/Live stream. There will be a setting of a preliminary budget by the town board. There will be a publishing of that preliminary budget in the Webster Herald that goes to ALL homes in Webster and/or in the October 2022 Webster Today. By the time a final 2023 budget is voted on by the Town Board, 4-5 months of activity will have occurred with many opportunities for public interaction in the process.
Similar to last year, over the next few Supervisor Corner articles, I plan on showing some "facts" about the town of Webster Budget. The overall theme of these facts will be 2-fold; 1. historical stats from 2022 and prior year budgets, and 2. trying to relate a Town's budget to what each of our families need to navigate in our own "home budgets". Those factors are 1. How much money we bring into our home annually from our jobs, pensions, etc. 2. How much money we spend annually as a family on housing, car, food, etc. 3. How much debt we have as a family in mortgages, car loans, credit cards, etc. and 4. How much savings do we have in bank accounts, 401ks, etc. So let's start with 2 FACTS:
FACT #1: THE TAX RATE: The 2022 budget for the town resulted in a Real estate tax rate of $5.43 per $1,000 assessed value. As such, if your home is assessed for $200,000 then your Town of Webster Real Estate taxes in 2022 are $1,086. Below is what the tax rate has been the past 8-years:
2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022
--------- ----------- ---------- ----------- --------- ---------- -------- --------
$4.61 $4.95 $5.00 $5.11 $5.17 $5.22 $5.30 $5.43
FACT #2: THE 2% NEW YORK STATE TAX CAP: Several years ago, the state rolled out the "tax cap" concept. This may be overly simplified, but it meant that if the municipality wanted to increase real estate taxes on their citizens by 2% or more from one year to the next, then the board vote would need to be a super majority of 4-1. To me, the unintended consequences of this tax cap are 2-fold: 1. it does not reflect if a governance is making the right decisions fiscally for their community, and 2. it has become politicized (I.e. don't break the 2% tax cap in an election year..... don't break the 2% tax cap or you'll be seen as NOT being fiscally conservative, etc) The 2% calculation is not a straightforward one. The State Comptroller office gives guidance on the equation used to determine if your tax rate is going up 2% or more. Below is the last 7-year history of the Town of Webster on whether their budget exceeded the 2% tax cap, and if it did, how much tax rate went up:
2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022
--------- ----------- ------------ ----------- --------- ---------- -------- --------
NO YES (7%) NO NO NO NO NO NO
Be on the lookout for more "facts" on the Town of Webster budget in upcoming Supervisor Corner articles. As always, feel free to call me at 585-872-7068 or e-mail at email@example.com.
June 22, 2022
What are those little colored flags in my yard?
The title of this article is a question that several Town of Webster government departments have been getting the past few months. The simple answer is that they mark where the underground utilities are. Those utilities include but are not limited to electric, water, gas, and sewer. A more robust answer is as follows:
1st... why are these flags being installed? If a utility is planning to "dig" within their installation of new infrastructure or repair of existing, they need to call 811 to report it. That dispatch goes out to all pertinent parties who may have underground lines in the area the utility plans to dig in. For instance, the Town of Webster Sewer Department has to go out and install the appropriate colored flag in the area when they get such dispatch.
2nd...Why are the flags in my front yard? When your street was initially put in and homes were being built, the municipality that owns the street actually was granted a right-of-way (hereafter ROW) that most likely extends into your yard 10-20 feet from the curb of the road. Within that ROW is where the infrastructure was installed such as water lines, electric, sewer, etc. that your home ties into for those services. So that ROW is on your land/deeded parcel, but the utilities have the right to install and work on their infrastructure in that ROW. Sometimes that work will dig up your lawn and for a temporary amount of time render your yard or end of your driveway a "construction zone". The good news.... the utility doing the work needs to put the lawn/driveaway back to its pre work condition via seeding or asphalt.
3rd...what do the various colors of the flags mean? A more "colorful" chart on this is at the Town of Webster website. Some of the more common ones are as follows:
White- Proposed excavation/digging (you may also see this painted on road or in lawn)
Blue- Water lines
Salmon-Communications (i.e. Frontier, Spectrum, Greenlight, etc.)
As always, feel free to call me at 872-7068 or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
To view Current Roadwork Projects, please visit:
June 15, 2022
What is being done at 600 Ridge Road?
The title of this article, "What is being done at 600 Ridge Road?” is a question I have gotten at least 2-3 times a week from Webster citizens via phone call, e-mail etc. since I became Town Supervisor 2 and 1/2 years ago. Unfortunately, the "tone" of the question is usually one of anger or frustration foundational in a belief the Town of Webster is doing NOTHING. That "feeling" that the town is doing nothing is not all together accurate. However, the reality that the property at 600 Ridge Road (The old Webster Furniture Strippers) has sat there "empty and rotting" for the past 15+ years warrants citizens being upset. We should ALL be upset at the current situation there. 600 Ridge Road is at the epicenter of the Hamlet known as West Webster. It is the lynchpin to development 100+ yards in each direction on Gravel and Ridge. As long as it continues to be vacant and rotting, the whole neighborhood suffers. So, has the town really just been sitting around doing nothing on this property? I'd like to think not, but I'll let you decide based on the following timeline of milestone events the past 2 years in the effort to remedy this building.
1st.... My Supervisor's Corner article on September 16, 2020 addressed the "strange" fact pattern on this property over the past 15+ years. Please feel free to go to the Town Website to re-read that article as it gives elaboration to the MAIN stumbling block from this property's remediation.... that being "Unknown Environmental issues". 2nd.. in the January - March 2021 timeframe the town worked with Lozier engineering to figure out the cost to do a phase 2 environmental test on the property. In layman terms, such testing would remove the "unknown" from whether there actually are environmental issues on the site, and if there are how severe. This process culminated with a Town Board workshop presentation and discussion that manifested the 2 following hurdles to the town paying for the Phase 2 testing; 1. The $12,000 cost would be paid by taxpayers on a privately owned property, and 2. if the results of the testing showed millions of dollars of cleanup needed.... the town taxpayers may be in the liability position of that cost due to the town taking lead on the Phase 2 testing. 3rd...in August- October 2021 I visited 300 residences that are within 1/2 mile of the property answer questions on what the town is trying to do on it. 4th.... in March 2022, Monroe County and the Town of Webster entered into discussions on a "joint effort" to be able to do the phase 2 testing on the property, and have any remediation manifested from that testing NOT be directly liable to the County or Town.
On Thursday June 23rd, the Town Board Workshop will have a presentation done by Town Attorney Charlie Genese about specifics of this "County-Town" partnership on this venture to get the phase 2 testing done, and the risk, if any the Town would have of remediation cost of any environmental issues found. Please feel free to attend that meeting, or watch live on the town website. As always, feel free to call me at 585-872-7068 or e-mail me at email@example.com.
June 1, 2022
Updating the Town of Webster Comprehensive Plan
I'm elated to announce that the Town will be officially entering the process to either update the 2008 Comprehensive Plan or create a completely new one. At the May 12, 2022 Town Board Workshop, the Town's Director of Community Development, Josh Artuso presented a PowerPoint to the Town Board on the history of Master plans/Comprehensive plans in the town going back to 1991. That 6-7 slide presentation can be accessed on the Town website, as can the actual audio/video of the presentation and the Q and A that ensued with the Town Board members after. If you are not a "computer person", feel free to contact my office to get a paper printout of that 6–7-page presentation. Bottom line.... the Town Board unanimously said at the end of the meeting that we need to forge ahead on this updating and/or new Comprehensive Plan. As such, over the next several months, the foundational aspects will be put in place so that we can "hit the ground running" by January 1, 2023 on this project, and target getting the plan done and adopted by the end of 2024.
The path to this May 12, 2022 meeting has been over two years now. Three things we investigated in that time: 1. History: 14 months ago, on April 7, 2021, my Supervisor's Corner article referenced the "means" by which the Town Board was taking as it approached the endeavor to update the 2008 Comprehensive Plan for the Town. In that article I stated we can't formally start a process of updating that Comprehensive Plan until we look at the initiatives that were stated in the 2008 version. Did those initiatives get accomplished, and if not, why? I didn't want the process of updating the Comprehensive Plan in the next few years to have a "history repeats itself" aspect. We need to learn from that history so we can produce a better future for Webster! In 2021 I asked eleven people who had 20+ years associated with Town Government to look at the 100+ initiatives in the 2008 Comprehensive Plan, and simply answer YES or NO as to whether that initiative had been accomplished over the past 12+ years. The ones that had a NO needed to be looked at as to "why they were in the plan, and why they did not get accomplished" so we can learn from that and NOT make the same mistake in the 2023-2024 Plan effort. 2. Cost: Funding for an updated plan was a factor. The cost estimate is $100,000-150,000 to do such a plan update. We needed to exhaust all options to pay for this, and the presentation on May 12th showed 3 options; 1. spread over 2023 and 2024 Town Budgets, 2. ARPA funds, and/or 3. Grant application. We will continue to maximize the grant efforts to see if the cost can be done without directly affecting Town resident real estate bills. 3.Public engagement. Simply said, if 1 adult from ALL 15,000+ residences in town participated in information gathering on "what is important to them for the town today and the next 20 years".... we would have an awesome blueprint for how to configure this 2023-2024 plan! Over the next 7-months leading into 2023, we will be trying to maximize public input on this. That will be done through several means including but not limited to; July 2022 Webster Today survey and paper surveys to fill out at heavily-trafficked Town facilities like the Library, Rec Center and Town Hall.
In summary, if this project is done correctly, it will secure the future of this great Town of Webster for the next 20 years! That alone should motivate every able-minded adult in town to give their opinion on what is important to them on the surveys to keep Webster "Where Life is Worth Living"! As always, feel free to call me at 585-872-7068 or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
May 26, 2022
Memorial Day Parade returns to Webster in 2022
One of my family's fondest traditions since moving to Webster in 1996 has been attending the Memorial Day Parade. COVID robbed us all of this great event in 2020 and 2021. It is another sign that "normalcy" is returning to our lives in that there will be a Memorial Day parade in Webster in 2022! The long-range weather forecast at the time I wrote this article predicted "sunny and 75" in Webster NY on Monday May 30th. The parade will start at 9:30AM as the people and vehicles in the parade will start streaming out of Spry middle school on South Ave and head north. They will then turn left and head west on Main Street. They will proceed down to the cemetery on the south side of the road near Holt. When all parade participants have filed into the cemetery there will be a memorial ceremony. When the memorial ceremony finishes at the Cemetery there will be refreshments at the American Legion on the corner of Five Mile Line and Ridge.
I want to thank ALL the people and agencies that make this parade, memorial cemetery ceremony and refreshments possible. Memorial Day is such an important day to reflect on the freedoms we enjoy as Americans, and the ultimate sacrifice so many have made to assure we have those freedoms. The history of the day started after the Civil War in the late 1860s. It was known as Decoration Day then. It's interesting that the day started in the wake of the Civil War to honor and remember ALL the soldiers who gave up their lives fighting fellow Americans in that war. Over the years since, the foreign threats to our freedoms have occurred in places including but not limited to Europe in World War 1, Europe, Africa and the south pacific in World War 2, Korea, Vietnam, Kuwait, Iraq, Afghanistan and many more. In 1971 Memorial Day as the last Monday in May was first observed as a federal holiday. At 3PM local time on that day, a National Moment of Remembrance takes place.
It's easy to have recency bias and think that "today's world is crazier than it has ever been". The reality is that the citizens of the United States have dealt with "crazy" things for the whole 250 years this country has been in existence. The sacrifices that Americans have had to make over those 250 years in different eras can be debated. For example, who sacrificed more? The colonists during the Revolutionary War or the citizens during the Civil War? One thing that cannot be debated is the ultimate sacrifice so many have made of their lives. Whether in the Revolutionary War in 1777 or Afghanistan in 2020, the ultimate sacrifice is constant and timeless. That is why it is so important for ALL Americans to honor these defenders of our freedoms on Memorial Day. As always, feel free to call me at 585-872-7068 or e-mail at email@example.com.
May 11, 2022
Tis the Season for Road Work in Webster
How nice has it been this week to have the sun shining and the temperatures in the 70's? All the splendor of Spring is upon us and it’s great to see the budding trees and flowers. Spring is also the season when the Town Highway department takes the snowplows off the trucks and starts road maintenance. Road maintenance and improvements in the town of Webster include some of the following variables: 1st there are Town, County and State roads in the 35 square miles that make up the town of Webster. Knowing which a road is will be the guide to "what government entity is responsible for its maintenance". It also gives a blueprint for what type of maintenance and/or improvements are going to be done.
Here is an example of each type of road, and the maintenance that is usually done:
Town: Most of the residential subdivision streets are town roads. Often, they are built by the developer and then the town takes dedication of the road when the development or certain phases of it are complete. Once the town owns the road, they will often due Oil and stone maintenance approximately every 7-8 years. This oil and stone (or sometimes referred to as chip seal) is a cost-effective way to keep "good roads" maintained so they last 50+ years. The Town Highway department will be sending out USPS mailers soon to let residents know if oil and stone will be done on their street in the summer of 2022.
County: An example of a county road is Lake Road. The County does not have a highway department per se, so they contract out for maintenance and/or improvements. This summer phase 2 of the Lake Road improvement project between Pellett and Bay Roads is being done.
State: the most dominant State road in Webster is the 104 expressway and the service roads, on and off ramps that feed to it. The State of New York does have their own trucks, staff etc. to do maintenance/improvements. In the winter you'll notice State plow trucks on 104. In the summer, hopefully you see State of New York trucks, or contracted out firms by NYS repaving or filling in potholes.
In summary, the Town of Webster government and Highway Department are in constant communication with the Monroe County Department of Transportation on County roads and the New York State Department of Transportation on State roads in the Town of Webster, within the effort to advocate for as best maintained roads in town as possible. As always, feel free to call me at 585-872-7068 or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
May 4, 2022
Town Board announces Preliminary plan for $4 million ARPA funds
13+ months ago, my March 24, 2021 Supervisor's Corner article's headline was "The stimulus check conundrum". An excerpt of what was said in that article is in italics:
A few weeks back, the United States Congress approved round 2 of the Federal stimulus packages pertaining to the COVID pandemic. This one is $1.9 Trillion and covers a myriad of items. The Town of Webster government is slotted to receive $4.95 million of which $600,000 of that is earmarked for the Village of Webster government. Furthermore, the first half of that money may be delivered to the town as early as May 2021. Over the next few weeks, the U.S Treasury department is planning on putting out guidance to state and local governments on "what the money can be used for/or not used for" and other considerations such as timing of the money usage etc. Other Monroe County towns may need the money coming to them to make up HUGE budget shortfalls due to aggressive budgeting of revenues and/or expenses. That is NOT the case for the Town of Webster. As such, I am proposing a "measured and patient" approach to the decision-making process on what to do with the Town's $4.35 million. Whenever money is involved, there will be MANY opinions on what it should be spent on! (LOL) More details need to be determined on this money from the U.S Treasury department and/or other governmental agencies. In summary.... let's do our due diligence so that a well thought out decision is made on what to use this money for.
Fast forward to May 2022. Over the past 13+ months the Town Board and Town Finance Director Paul Adams have tried to put into action, the comments and suggestions I made in the March 24, 2021 article. The biggest challenge to this was the "ever changing rules" on these funds. First off, the $4.35 million originally estimated for the town was revised to be $4.05 million. Half of that was received in July 2021 and the other half is estimated to be received by end of May 2022. 2nd was the U.S Treasury Department's amendments to "what the monies can be used for, and in what timeframes"? The final ruling on that was issued on April 1, 2022, and within it, a formal filing/reporting had to be submitted by the town on the fund usage by April 30th, 2022. Also, that final ruling stated the funds need to be "committed" by NO later than December 31, 2024, and "paid out" by NO later than December 31, 2026. Armed with that final ruling and short timeframe to report, the April 14th and 28th Town Board workshops had presentations by Paul Adams, and robust conversation of the Town Board on how to use the funds.
The decision was to use approx. $3.65 million for Town of Webster government services. Since we have until December 31, 2024 to "commit" said funds, we decided to not rush to give specificity of each item we will use it for. On the remaining $350,000 we decided to open it up for grants to be made available for non-for-profit organizations who both: 1. predominantly service Webster citizens and 2. were financially negatively affected during COVID. The application process for these grants opens on Monday May 2nd and will close on Tuesday May 31st with awards to be made in July 2022. The application package and FAQ's can be accessed on the Town of Webster website at:
As always, feel free to call me at 585-872-7078 or e-mail at email@example.com.
April 27, 2022
The ongoing pursuit of improving Communication between Town Government and its citizens
If you're a frequent reader of this column, you know I am emboldened in the pursuit of improving communication between the Webster Town Government and the 46,000 citizens we service. The ultimate goal is lofty, and most likely unattainable. However, I think its pursuit needs to be committed to by the Town Government leadership and the over 350 full and part time employees of the Town. That goal is 2 pronged; 1. We reply to ALL phone calls, e-mails (i.e. incoming inquiries) from our citizens within 24-48 business hours with as honest and complete answer to the question and/or concern they contacted us about; and 2. We try to get pertinent information to our citizens in a timely manner and attempt to have at least one adult in the home receive and absorb the communication.
The 1st prong is by far the easier of the 2 to make inroads on. To me, it is a basic customer service tenet. It also falls into the old adage of "treat people like you would like to be treated". Simply said, if the citizen took the time to call, e-mail, inquire on something... then it is important to them. The Town Government in turn should treat it as important and getting back to someone in a timely fashion is the best tangible way to show that. Don't get me wrong, it is not as easy as it sounds as often the "honest and complete" answer to the citizen's inquiry is not what they were hoping to hear. Often in those situations we find that the same inquiry is then scatter shot out to 3, 4+ departments in what appears to be an attempt to get one of them to give the answer that was sought. The 15 departments at the Town are getting better at not running as a silo from the other 14. As such, they are in tune when a citizen has inquired to other departments on the same issue, and we try to make sure the message coming out of the Town is a consistent one.
The 2nd prong is quite a challenge. There are approx. 15,000 households in Webster that house our 46,000 citizens. On average that makes 3 people per household. That includes households with 1 person, and also ones with 7 people comprised of 2 parents and 5 kids. Simply said, if 1 adult in each of those 15,000 households "received and absorbed" the message from the Town Government, our community would be exponentially better than it is now! There are 2 things that cause citizen negative perception of their Town Government; 1. the feeling that the government is not being honest with them, and 2. the feeling that the government is not being transparent and proactively communicating with them. I purposely underlined feeling in both above due to the fact that "feelings are real. Perception is reality for people". The only way to change feelings and perception is to make changes today and in the future. You cannot change feelings and perception by "fighting the past" or trying to defend your actions of the past. As such, the best way to change people's feelings in the future on their government being honest with them, is to attack the tangible means today and in the future on how the Government communicates with the citizens in a proactive and transparent manner.
In summary... we've made strides in the past 2+ years on this, but we have much more work to do. Any and all suggestions our citizens may have are welcome on this! As always, please feel free to call me at 585-872-7068 or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
April 20, 2022
The Charles E. Sexton Memorial Park
On Friday April 22nd, the Town of Webster will officially rename North Ponds Park to the Charles E. Sexton Memorial Park. I've tried over the last few days to write a fitting article to both honor Charlie Sexton and to articulate to our Webster citizens on why renaming North Ponds Park to the Charles E. Sexton Memorial Park is so fitting. However, as many times as I've started I've also kept erasing and re writing something new. So, after multiple attempts, here we go...
The reality is, I only met Mr. Sexton twice. Both times were in 2019, while I was campaigning for Town Supervisor and was introduced to him by a mutual friend. As such, I really did not know the man. However, it was even without knowing him that I got a glimpse of why Charlie was so universally beloved. At our second meeting, in particular, when I was able to meet him at his home for coffee, I saw his personality start to shine. He had an aura to him, one that combined strength with grace. He was and is a "class act". When I heard of his passing in June 2021 I was saddened. I remember reading his obituary, written by Victoria Freile in the Democrat and Chronicle, and thinking she, probably without having met him at all, had done an excellent job capturing the man. As such, as I "bumbled" the past few days to try and give Mr. Sexton the appropriate honor he deserves in this article, it dawned on me I am not a talented enough writer to do it. So here is Victoria Friele's obituary on Mr. Sexton from June 2021. Please take the time to read it and be sure to stop by the newly renamed park on or after Friday, April 22nd, to pay your tributes to a man who gave our Parks and Recreation Department a beautiful start for tremendous growth. Thank You, Mr. Charles Sexton. As always, please feel free to call me at 585-872-7068 or e-mail me at email@example.com
Charles Sexton, New York's first African American recreation director, dies
Victoria E. Freile
Rochester Democrat and Chronicle
Webster's first full-time recreation director was a beloved father and a well-respected and innovative leader. Charles Sexton of Webster, died last month. He was 89.
A York, Pennsylvania native, Mr. Sexton was the first African-American recreation director in New York, according to a 1962 article from The York Dispatch. He was hired in 1962 and retired from the job in 1996.
"He made things happen," said Ron Nesbitt, Webster's former town supervisor, who spent two dozen years as a member of Webster's Town Board between 1996 and 2020. "He didn't have a large budget to work with, but he'd take the budget and stretch that sucker."
Nesbitt said that Mr. Sexton was widely respected in the town, was innovative, but was also a kind, gentleman. "He was a quiet, kind and sincere man who never wanted recognition," Nesbitt said.
Mr. Sexton was predeceased by his wife of more than four decades, Deborah, and daughter Tanya. He is survived by his sons Adam and Jared, grandson Malcolm and numerous other relatives, according to his obituary. He died on June 18.
"He was a great dad, husband and proud community member," Adam Sexton said. "He cared about all three and it showed in how he lived his life."
Jared Sexton described his father as a constant guide and support. "He was a role model for us both, and for many of our friends as well," Jared Sexton said. "He counseled us to live with patience and perseverance."
Mr. Sexton, Nesbitt said, built Webster's recreation department from the ground up, initially overseeing a staff of 23 part-time employees. Today, the department employs 12 full-time workers and more than 150 part-time and seasonal employees, said Chris Bilow, Webster's Commissioner of Parks and Recreation.
Mr. Sexton introduced the town's first programs for senior citizens, launched the town's first summer youth camps and secured the department's headquarters within Webster Central's former Ridgecrest school. That community center operated for more than two decades within the former school before it closed for good in 2010.
Beverly Geier, who was hired by Mr. Sexton in 1970 to teach gymnastics classes, still works for the town as a part-time fitness instructor. One of the first programs Mr. Sexton launched was a gymnastics program for girls, and Geier was among the program's earliest instructors. A version of that activity is still offered by the town today, she said. "He was a forward-thinking man and realized early on that there were more recreational opportunities for boys and men than existed for girls and women," she said. "He saw that need and he filled it."
Mr. Sexton also met his wife on the job, as she led the town's Tiny Tots swimming program, which was a backyard program where classes were conducted in private pools with the space donated by property owners, Geier said.
In a 1996 Democrat and Chronicle article about his retirement, Mr. Sexton said: "I came here quietly, I worked quietly and I accomplished things. I'm one of those people who likes new challenges. I gave them everything I have with the resources at my disposal.'' He took pride in accomplishing things in his low-key style, and told the newspaper that he always treated his staff equally.
A graduate of Lincoln University in southeastern Pennsylvania, Mr. Sexton was a three-sport athlete who studied recreation and physical education, according to the Democrat and Chronicle archives. He was a state champion wrestler in both high school and college, according to his family. He also studied several martial arts and earned a black belt in judo.
Before moving to Webster, he was the director of the settlement house program in Altoona, Pennsylvania, where he also oversaw the city’s recreation programs. He previously worked as a recreation director in his hometown. He also worked as a social worker and a teacher. He loved gardening and movies.
Mr. Sexton was a U.S. Army veteran who also served in the military police. He was a longtime member of Holy Trinity Church in Webster, where he served as an usher for more than 50 years. Longtime family friend Sister Barbara Moore, a Sister of Mercy, described Mr. Sexton as a thoughtful, generous man who “was dearly loved.” "I considered him a brother in every sense of the word," she said. "Charles accepted you for who you were. Race, color, gender, religion. None of it made a difference."
His funeral Mass will be celebrated Sept. 11 at Holy Trinity Church, 1460 Ridge Road, Webster. His remains were buried beside his late wife last month.
April 13, 2022
Sandbar Park Update – Part 2
In last week's Supervisor's Corner article, I gave a glimpse of the "busy April 2022" we would have on this project. We have reached several milestones as we continue to move towards the revitalization of Sandbar Park.
On Thursday, April 7th, the Webster Town Board awarded the construction project to Keeler Construction. Based on that award by the Town, Keeler will soon begin work on the Lake Road improvements, REDI projects and core park upgrades. Keeler will also be performing phase 2 of the Monroe County Lake Road improvement project in spring/summer of 2022. The County project will run from Forest Lawn to Bay Road. The Town REDI project picks up where the County project leaves off at Bay and runs west through Sandbar Park. It is hoped that with one contractor, Keeler doing both the County and Town projects on Lake Road this spring/summer, that efficiencies will be attained that minimize the disruption to traffic. Preliminary construction work will begin as planned in mid-April; updates and progress on the improvements will be shared on the Town website. Please be aware the entire Sandbar Park location will be closed to the public starting Monday, April 18th for the foreseeable future.
On Friday April 8th, the open submission period for the Expressions of Interest (EOI) for restauranteurs closed. The EOI process was assisted with a community citizen committee that identified key attributes of a future restaurant to be constructed within Sandbar Park. The EOI was meant to be a first step in selecting a restauranteur who would assist in the design and potential construction of the building. The response to the EOI resulted with one submission prior to the 4:00 PM deadline on Friday, April 8.
The next step will be for the Town to review the submission and determine if there is sufficient substance to meet with this potential vendor. This meeting will be an opportunity for the restaurateur to expand on their vision, allow the Town to ask questions, to clearly envision the long-term operation and ensure the restaurateur meets the amenities identified by the citizen committee. The final step will be to formally require a Request for Proposal to the Town and begin negotiations on a licensing agreement. The Town is committed to the process in selecting a restaurateur who will enhance Sandbar Park and create an environment that is truly unique.
Tentative plan is to have a groundbreaking ceremony the week of April 25-29th at Sandbar Park that would be attended by Federal, State, County, Town, and Village elected officials and dignitaries. Stay tuned for more information on the specific date and time of this event.
Finally, I would like to thank those individuals and business who shared their feedback and interest in this process. We are fortunate in Webster to have an amazing public location providing the community with access to not only one BUT two bodies of water, the natural scenery at this location is truly spectacular. Once the renovations and upgrades are completed, Sandbar Park will become a destination for the community and something to pass along to future generations to enjoy. As always, feel free to call me at 585-872-7068 or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
April 6, 2022
Sandbar Park Update
April is going to be a very busy month for the Sandbar Park Project. A milestone event happened this past Tuesday, March 29th on the Sandbar Park Project. Three sealed bids were opened by Dolly Maguire, the Webster Town Clerk. Approx. 20 people attended this "bid opening" event at the Webster Town Board meeting room at 1PM that day. The people in attendance were comprised of representatives from the general contracting firms who submitted sealed bids, along with Town officials, engineers, architects, and construction management staff who have been involved with this project. What made this a milestone event was that the work that the general contractors were bidding on was a scope very different from when the Sandbar Park revitalization project started 6+ years ago. The citizen committee, Parks and Rec, and Town officials who started that process years ago could have never imagined the high-water levels of 2017 and 2019. Those high-water events prompted New York State to offer REDI grant opportunities to waterfront municipalities like Webster. Webster applied for those REDI grants and were awarded in aggregate just shy of $3 million. Those grants addressed Lake Road movement away from the Bay, lifting the road and area on the bayside of the road, and building a break wall to withstand water levels hitting 253 feet in the future. To give some perspective, the water levels in 2019 hit just over 249 feet.
The scope of what the general contractors were bidding on reflected the REDI grant work, along with Phase 1 of the Sandbar Park revitalization project. In the weeks leading up to the sealed bid opening date of March 29th, I for one had concerns about what the current economic climate in the United States would have on these bids. Simply said... when the cost estimates of this project were done, gas was at $2.25 a gallon and now it is at $4.25. The gas price comparison may be too oversimplified, but how were material costs of asphalt, supply chain, and other inflationary aspects going to affect these bids? Engineers, construction managers, and Town officials worked diligently in the past several weeks to try and create "alternatives" for potential general contractors to consider within their discerning what dollar bid to put in. The key to these alternatives was to balance cost savings with a quality product still being built for the citizens of Webster. Fortunately, the concerns we all had on what the bids would come it were alleviated when they were officially unveiled on March 29th. At the Thursday, March 31st Town Board workshop, Town Engineer Mary Herington presented to the Town Board a summary of those bids and the alternatives within them. Next up is the Thursday, April 7th Town Board meeting where it will be discerned whether to award the low bid and authorize the Town Supervisor to sign the contract with the winning bidder. Then on Friday, April 8th, the interested restauranteurs/bar owners have their deadline for formal submissions of "expression of Interest" for the new building that will be built that is intended to house a restaurant/bar. In mid-April, Sandbar Park will be closed for the summer as construction occurs. It is assumed at this point that groundbreaking for the road movement and break wall construction will occur by end of April. As always, please feel free to call me at 585-872-7068 or e-mail me at email@example.com.
March 30, 2022
New site for leaf mulch and wood chips pick-up
For the past several years, the Town of Webster Highway Department has made leaf mulch available to the citizens to pick-up at the Town Hall campus. This free benefit to our citizens has been made possible by the fact that our Highway Department picks up leaves in the autumn and stores them at the Highway garage campus. Those leaves ultimately turn into the mulch we provide at this site in the Spring. The Karpus Family Playground at Miracle Field (Town Hall) has become a very popular play destination for families and has increased the need for parking spots. By relocating the mulch / wood chips pick-up to the parking lot on Orchard Street between Holt Road and North Ave (250), it provides a safer area for Webster residents to load their vehicles.
This parking lot abuts the northside of North Ponds Park. The tentative dates the mulch will be available for pick up start on April 1st and will run through the end of May (or until we run out of product) This new site, and the access/egress that will be set up should make it more efficient for our citizens to get in, get their mulch and get back out.
A few years back the Highway Department started making mulch and wood chips available for home delivery. There is a delivery fee associated with this service and you must be a Webster citizen to be eligible for home delivery. The delivery request form is available to download on the Town website in the Highway Department Section under "Services" or at the Highway Department during their current seasonal hours; Mon - Thurs 6:30 am - 4:00 pm, Fri 6:30 am - 10:30 am. The home delivery service has already started and will run through the end of May (or until we run out of product). Please call the Highway Department at (585) 872-1443 with any delivery-related questions. I want to thank the leadership of the Highway Department and Parks Department for their team efforts on creating what we think will be a better customer experience for our citizens! As always, feel free to call me at 585-872-7068 or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
March 23, 2022
Webster Police Department - A Community Jewel
The past 2+ years have been both an active and challenging time for the Webster Police Department (WPD) and Law Enforcement in general in the Unites States. Just consider some of these recent events. We've seen the aftermath locally and nationally of George Floyd and Daniel Prude. We've seen the retirement of beloved Webster Police Chief Joe Rieger. We've seen the unceremonious firing of highly respected Rochester Police Chief La'Ron Singletary. We've seen the rampant increased murder rate in the city of Rochester. We've seen politicians scream to defund the police... only to see them later say we need to get more funds to the police when crime increased. All of this, and more has happened since January 2020 and concurrently we try to understand in New York State what new bail reform and discovery demands mean to the process of Law and Order. I could go on and on to the point where it would sound like the Billy Joel song "we didn't start the fire".
However, I'll focus the rest of this article on the happenings in the WPD in the past 2 years. As the microscope on law enforcement conduct intensified in the wake of George Floyd/Daniel Prude, the leadership of the WPD and the Town Board decided to take the "anti- defund the police" tact. As such, Body Cams were demo'd in late 2020 and by 2021 became standard operating procedure. We continue to work out the kinks of these cameras, but all in all, the footage has consistently shown the conduct of the WPD officers was professional and proper when a complainant has stated otherwise. That alone has been worth its weight in gold as society has shifted in the last several years from "giving the Police officer rendition of the interaction the benefit of the doubt over a conflicting rendition of the person taken into custody", to one where the person taken into custody's rendition is often given more credence. Bottom line... a picture may be worth a 1,000 words, but uncut video of a Police interaction can be worth an infinite amount of words to judge with one's own eyes and ears what actually occurred.
In early 2021 an exhaustive search and interview process was conducted to find and hire the next Police Chief. The candidates we met with were beyond impressive. Chief Dennis Kohlmeier was hired and over the past year, he has proven himself to be the "right person for the job, at the right time in history". Dennis has brought an accountability, teamwork, and customer service approach to the department that is so needed in Law enforcement in 2022. Last week, Chief convened a team to interview candidates for the open Lieutenant position created by Shaun Welch's recent retirement. I was fortunate enough to have been invited to be on that team. 4 current Sergeants in the WPD were interviewed. Each one was impressive which made the decision on who to promote all the harder. Ultimately Mark Read was promoted to Lieutenant. What struck me most about the 4 interviews were 2 things; 1. Accountability: The department culture is one where "holding ALL accountable" permeates. It is not just the Chief holding the Lieutenants who report to him directly accountable, but those Lieutenants holding the Chief accountable too. That same philosophy goes from Lieutenant to Sergeant, and Sergeant to Patrol Officers, and vice versa. 2.Listening and compassion/empathy: So many of the actual stories told in these interviews were about how important it is for a Law enforcement officer to listen to the victims of the crime, and also to the accused. They also told how often the people they interact with are going through one of the worst experiences of their life. As such, they try to act in a way they would want their own family to be treated if they were in the situation.
In summary, the job of a Law enforcement officer is difficult and take a special person to do it, and do it well. What I have seen the past 2+ years with the WPD is that its leaders and rank and file are "top notch" and that the Webster community is very fortunate to have them. As always, please feel free to call me at 595-872-7068 or e-mail me at email@example.com
March 16, 2022
The History and Future of Open Space in Webster
The constant in the Town of Webster over the past 100+ years is that it covers 35 square miles which equates to approx. 22,000 acres. 70 years ago, most of this acreage was farmland and the population of the town was around 7,000. Over the years, the farmers sold their land to developers who built houses on that land. The result is that Webster now has a population of 45,000. The downside of the town's population growth is the reduction in open space-undeveloped land. 20 years ago, a referendum was put out to town-wide vote to have the town purchase 3,000 acres for $21 million to keep that land "forever open-undeveloped". The vote did not pass. 2 years later, an amended referendum proposed the town purchase 1,000 acres for $7 million. That vote passed. In 2020 a citizen group approached me soon after I became Supervisor to propose getting another referendum on the ballot for a town wide vote to have the town purchase acreage to be kept forever open-undeveloped. This ad hoc Green Space Committee will hereafter be referenced as "the GC". Throughout 2020 we met, albeit virtually due to COVID. These meetings started to clarify specifics of the overall vision the GC had of "have a referendum to have town citizens vote on the town buying land to be kept forever open-undeveloped".
The consulting firm who the town contracted with 20 years ago on the last land referendum was brought into these meetings. By early 2021, we were ready to have a series of Town Board Workshops on this. Those workshops were on February 25, 2021, and June 24, 2021. The result of them was 2-fold; 1. the town cost would be approx. $250,000 just to get to a referendum on the ballot with NO guarantee the town citizens would vote yes, and 2. the timing of the referendum was not going to occur in November 2021 but would be targeted for November 2022. In mid-2021, we convened the GC with Friends of Webster Trails (FTW) and the Town Parks and Rec leadership. The purpose of the meetings was to try and leverage the effort of all 3 entities on the project to identify open space parcels that could be pursued to be on a November 2022 referendum. The FTW has worked with the town for years on maintaining trails throughout Town owned land. The FTW and GC had aligned goals in that they both would like to see the town obtain more open space land. The FTW looks for strategic land that abuts current town owned land/trails that could be incorporated into the current trail system. This consortium was hopefully going to do the leg work on a volunteer basis to avoid $250,000 cost per the 2020 Town Board Workshop presentations.
As such, it identified 85 parcels of land that aggregated to 2,300 acres and in August 2021 a letter was sent out to these parcel owners on Town letterhead and signed by the Supervisor that essentially said, "If you are interested in selling or donating your land to the town for the purpose of being forever green-undeveloped... let's talk". Over the past 6 months since that letter was sent, various members of the GC, FWT and the town have spoken or met with these property owners to vet both a) their interest and b) if a mutually agreed on price can be negotiated if they are interested. To date approx. 35 of those parcel owners have conveyed they are not interested or the price they would want for selling to the town was determined to be exorbitant to propose on a referendum. Unfortunately, about 20 of the remaining 50 parcel owners we have not heard from, even though efforts have been made since the letter sending in August 2021 to call, e-mail them etc. As such, over the next 4-6 weeks, we are trying to visit those property owners in person to gauge their interest. By early May 2022 it is assumed the GC, FWT and Town Parks dept. leadership we will be back at a Town Board Workshop to give the Town Board an update on the aforementioned efforts so we can determine if the process of getting a referendum on the November 2022 ballot makes sense. Stay tuned!!!
As always, feel free to call me at 585-872-7068 or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
March 9, 2022
How the current situation in Ukraine touches Webster
On Sunday March 6th a Ukrainian support rally was held at Webster Town Hall. Local Ukrainian leaders had reached out to Town Government officials to request Town Hall be the venue for this rally. In light of what is going on in the world currently, it was determined that it was the "right thing to do" to have Town Hall as the venue for this rally. Approximately 200-300 people attended this rally on "sunny and 70 degree" early March afternoon. All 5 members of the Webster Town Board were in attendance, and the Ukrainian leadership presented us with a Ukrainian flag. The wind was howling that day, so it was not until Monday morning March 7th that the Ukrainian flag was raised on the Town Hall flagpole. From what I can tell from my research, this is an unprecedented event in the history of Webster to have another country's flag flying on the Town hall flagpole with the United States flag. We made certain the manner in which this flag was presented with the United States flag was appropriate to our country's laws and customs. How long we will fly this Ukrainian flag is unknown at this time. However, I'd like to think that the combination of 1. How things continue to occur in the Ukraine, and 2. Webster Town leaders in concert with Ukrainian leaders in the Webster community will provide the answer to that.
I think it is very important to understand and respect the Ukrainian influence and presence in our great town of Webster. The Ukrainian Culture Center of Rochester is located in our town on Jackson Road. We have hundreds of Ukrainian American citizens in Webster. These and many other reasons were why Town leadership decided it was "appropriate" to raise the Ukrainian flag on our Town Hall flagpole and to allow Town Hall to be the venue for this rally. To me, it is surreal that we hosted 4 Ukrainian dignitaries at a Webster Town Board meeting in mid-2021 in celebration of the Ukraine's 30th anniversary of independence, and now less than 1 year later that independent country status of Ukraine is being threatened by an unprovoked military operation by Russia. Talking to several Ukrainian Americans at the rally was a heartbreaking experience as you heard stories and fears of their family members still in the Ukraine. I'm writing this article on Monday morning March 7th so by the time you are reading it, the situation in the Ukraine may be very different than it is now. Hopefully, the difference is better. Regardless, I hope that our Webster community can come together to support our Ukrainian brothers and sisters at this time. I hope we also respect our Russian American community too at this time. They should not be punished for the acts of ONE man who from all I can tell is taking action that is NOT supported by his own citizens. One last thing on this.... I have always loved Dr. Martin Luther King Jr's quote that 'injustice anywhere is a threat to Justice everywhere". To me, this current situation in the Ukraine is exactly what Dr. King was thinking. As always, feel free to call me at 585-872-7068 or e-mail me at email@example.com
March 2, 2022
Should we change Town Code on Fences and Sheds?
This past Thursday, February 24th at the Town Board Workshop, Town Director of Community Development, Josh Artuso presented a "past, present, and potential future" on the Town codes that govern fence heights and shed setbacks from property lines. I could not help to think while watching and listening to Josh' presentation and the Q and A that came after that this fence/shed issue is a microcosm of the Town of Webster's past, present, and potential future. From a global perspective, the challenge of the next update to the Town's 2008 Comprehensive Plan will be to create zoning, codes, and "vision" that is commensurate with what the Town of Webster citizens want in 2022 and beyond. So how do you respect and honor the rich history of the Town of Webster's farming and agricultural roots, and create a future that is representative of what the community is today? That "global" question may be guided by this "granular" fence and shed issue.
The current codes for fence heights and shed setbacks off property lines were put in place between 1940 and 1950. The one constant in the last 70-80 years is that the town covers approx. 35 square miles. The biggest changes have been population and property owner lot sizes in that time. The 2020 census reflects the town has approx. 45,000 people or about 1,300 people per square mile. In the 1940-1950 time period the town population was approx. 6,000 people or 175 people per square mile. The current fence code states a 4-foot-high fence can be on the property line, but 6 foot high fences and higher have to be "inside" the property line. How many feet inside the property line gets greater as you go from 6 feet high to 8 foot high, etc. The current shed setback code states 15 feet from the property lines on the sides and back of the lot.
These current fence height and shed setbacks made a lot of sense when the average lot size may have been an acre or more back in the 1940's. However, with the development of subdivisions in the past 30 years in Webster, most of those lots are a half-acre or less and these current codes can be problematic. Smaller back yards mean that 15-foot setbacks for sheds and/or 6-foot fences being inside the property line can result in NO compliant place in the yard to put a shed. Property owners still have the remedy option of going to the Town's Zoning Board of Appeals to ask for a variance to have their 6-foot fence on the property line and/or their shed less than 15 feet set back. However, the smaller lots in subdivisions in recent years are causing more such applications for variances. Furthermore, only 3 other of the 19 Monroe County towns have current codes similar to Webster on fences and sheds and those 3 towns have significantly less population and "people per square mile" than Webster. Over the next few months, we most likely will be drafting new codes on these fences and shed setbacks. Within that process at least one public hearing will be held to get citizen feedback. In the meantime, I invite you to visit the town website and view Josh Artuso's presentation from the February 24th workshop. As always, feel free to call me at 585-872-7068 or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
February 23, 2022
Are All Politics Local?
This is a 2-chapter article. Chapter 1 is theory and philosophy. The old saying is "All Politics are Local". I have often wondered exactly what that means? First of all, I guess you have to define the difference between Politics and government. Government essentially has four levels: Federal, State, County, and City/Town/Village. So, which of those 4 do you consider "local"? I think we can all agree that the Town of Webster government is local. But do you also consider Monroe County's government local? One thing is for certain... we pay taxes to ALL four of those government levels.
There is another old saying/question... Does good politics lead to good government, or does good government lead to good politics? I for one am a proponent of the latter. This may be oversimplified, but to me if you govern with a compass of "doing the right thing for your constituents", you will have an end product that creates good politics regardless of the political party you are in. The "good government" compass cannot be based on the "I'm 100% right, and you're 100% wrong". Unfortunately, sometimes in the world we live in today, that 100% right/100% wrong dominates the narrative. To me, that is "purely politics" and that does NOT lead to good government.
Chapter 2 of this article has to do with actual events happening the past few months that will definitely affect ALL resident of Webster. The New York State Government has proposed legislation that at its core, is trying to promote more affordable housing options/opportunities in the state. However, when you peel back the onion on the details of this legislation, it erodes the local town government's Home Rule components of controlling its zoning. An example of the consequences of this legislation passing at the state level is that if you own a single family home in Webster in a subdivision, on a quarter acre lot, and have neighbors on each side of you that own the same..... those neighbors could build a second house on their quarter acre lot that could potentially be right up to your property line. Currently, local zoning in the town of Webster would never allow that, but that would be trumped if this state law passed.
Last week, Governor Hochul backed off this proposed legislation citing pushback from local governments. (i.e. there are over 900 towns in New York) However, she left the door open to bring it back in the future after further analysis. In the past 2-3 weeks leading up to the Governor's decision, the 19 Monroe County Town Supervisors comprised of Democrats and Republicans met on a few occasions to devise our unified approach to letting our State Assembly, State Senate and Governor know we oppose this. Within our discussions, all the town Supervisors agree that having more affordable housing is a good thing... we just think there are other incentive-based ways to go about creating that end goal. We also were very unified on the slippery slope it is when the State government does laws that minimize or eliminate our local ability to craft local laws, zoning, etc. in our communities in the manner our constituents want. As always, feel free to call me at 585-872-7068 or e-mail me at email@example.com
February 16, 2022
Energy Performance Contracting (EPC)- Town Sewer Plant upgrade
In last week's article, EPC was introduced. This part 2 will get into more detail on how EPC works, and why the Town of Webster decided to go this route in their $31 million phase 2 upgrade of the Phillips Road Sewer plant. An EPC is a contractual agreement between the Town and an energy service company for turn-key services, including project scope development, engineering design, construction, and post-construction services. In this arrangement, the energy service company is the prime contractor, with all companies needed for the project (engineers, contractors, consultants, etc.) being subcontractors to them. In the contract, the energy service company also provides a financial and performance guarantee that annual benefits and new revenue will be realized for an agreed upon length of time. This guarantee places responsibility on the energy service company to ensure there is a direct and beneficial connection between engineering design decisions and the post-construction performance of the facility.
Three Reasons to Consider Energy Performance Contracting:
#1 - Total Cost Predictability: During the engineering design, there is a continuous financial evaluation of design considerations — weighing the impact of each on construction price versus long-term operating cost. The goal is to ensure a small cost savings in construction doesn’t create a large cost increase in operations. In an EPC, the construction price is determined between the Town and the energy service company during the engineering phase before the EPC is approved. This minimizes the price uncertainty between the engineer’s price estimate and the actual contractor “municipal bid” price.
Improved anaerobic digesters and the biosolids dryer create the opportunity for the Town to obtain new sources of revenue from accepting outside waste. This revenue potential is established during engineering design, and the energy service company would provide a contractual guarantee on a minimum annual revenue that the Town could plan on for debt repayment or to cover operating costs.
#2 - Active Risk Management: Traditionally, the Town hires an engineer to create a complete set of engineered drawings and specifications, and next, the Town bid these drawings to contractors to obtain the “responsible municipal bidder’s” price. But when design errors are identified after construction begins, the Town is responsible for the error and the contractor gets the change order. This is how cost overruns occur in traditional construction. By contrast, in an EPC, the engineer is a subcontractor to the energy service company, and not the Town. This transfers design responsibility, and associated risk, from the Town to the energy service company. This minimizes the risk of costly change orders, beyond issues of unforeseen and subsurface conditions. The Town will negotiate a construction scope knowing the agreed-upon price will not increase because of design issues. In a traditional municipal bidding procurement, the Town has multiple contracts to manage Biosolids disposal management, organics support services, equipment maintenance, and staff training can be included in the contract. In a traditional municipal bidding procurement, the contractor has short-term start-up responsibilities for equipment and typically provides a one-year warranty. There are no guarantees on facility performance. In contrast, the long-term financial guarantee provided by the energy service company — up to 20 years — creates a direct connection between the construction price, long-term operating costs, expected benefits, and new revenue sources.
#3 - Cooperative Decision-Making Process and Timely Project Delivery: The traditional municipal bidding procurement process is inherently linear, can be slow to implement, and is not structured for collaboration. EPC is an adaptive and responsive process that removes the linearity of the traditional design/bid/build process. The Town will have flexibility to adjust the scope of work throughout the design process until a final scope and price are agreed upon. In addition, the construction contractors are early participants in the development process, improving a project’s constructability and therefore reducing costs. This collaboration allows the Town to consider numerous project scenarios to determine which will best meet their overall project technical goals and financial constraints. For projects where an aggressive construction schedule and timing of completion are critical, EPC is a flexible and smart choice. Techniques such as phased contracting, early equipment procurement, and construction shop drawings created during design can save months on the construction schedule and, ultimately, save the Town money. Regarding equipment selection, the Town may wish to standardize on certain products or systems for ease of operations and maintenance or because of positive past experiences. To accomplish that in a traditional design/bid/build procurement, they need to write a very detailed specification that only a certain product can meet, attempt to sole source it (often at a price premium), or hope it is provided by the contractor. In performance contracting, the Town meet their procurement obligation through the competitive selection of the energy service company. This allows for the Town to provide direction on preferred equipment brands and contractors that have done quality work for them.
As always, please feel free to call me at 585-857-1399 or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
February 9, 2022:
Open mindedness to something different
At the Thursday February 3rd Webster Town Board meeting, a resolution was passed to name Navitas as the company that the Town will enter into a contract with for Energy performance within the Town Sewer plant's phase 2 construction. As Town Supervisor I stated after this resolution that "it seemed almost anti-climactic that the motion and resolution took 90 seconds after months of due diligence on this decision". The fact is that Energy Performance Contracting (EPC) is something that heretofore the Town has never entertained within municipal construction projects. It's a phenomenon born out of New York State energy law Article 9. The purpose of that article is to obtain long term energy and cost savings for municipalities.
In the 2017 timeframe when the Town and its engineers were discerning phase 2 of the Phillips Road sewer plant upgrade, it was estimated that it would be a $20 million "asset replenishment" project. Such asset replenishment was similar to the phase 1 upgrade that cost $12 million and was completed in 2021. Simply said, asset replenishment is replacing old equipment with new, but with no real technological upgrades to create return on investment (ROI). In 2020 and 2021 the Town Sewer department's leaders, Art Petrone and Rick Kenealy toured some sewer facilities in New York and Pennsylvania that had incorporated ROI aspects to their upgrades and not just asset replenishment. The impetus for researching this was the skyrocketing annual costs of sludge disposal at the Webster Sewer plant. That cost had doubled in the past few years from approx. $250,000 to $500,000 annually due to the supply-demand challenges of landfills that take sewer sludge.
Art and Rick worked with Barton and Loguidice engineers and came up with a proposal in mid-2021 that would increase the cost of phase 2 at the Phillips Rd. plant from the $20 million in 2017 to $31 million now. The big difference was the addition of $11 million of ROI technology on top of the $20 million asset replenishment. Over the next 6+ months, the due diligence on this proposal was robust and was reflected in the fact that it was a topic at almost ALL Town Board meetings and workshops. It was determined that the $11 million in ROI technology "paid for itself day 1", in the revenue production and cost savings it created.
Those could be used to pay the annual bonding/debt on that $11 million and still created more cashflow to be used to cover the bonding/debt on the $20 million asset replenishment. A big part of this ROI was energy savings. As such, it qualified to be a candidate for EPC within Article 9. The biggest challenge to the Town actually considering EPC was its lack of knowledge and experience on it. Basically, it is a completely different methodology to a municipal construction project than the traditional "design by engineer and build by contractors". So, we "dug in" and did the research and due diligence to see if "different" was actually better.
This was not intuitive by ALL involved in this collaborative process and in fact some said initially "I've never heard of EPC so I can't get behind the Town doing it on the sewer project". To all's credit, professionalism won out over human frailty fears of "things different". The Town Board and several Department Heads met with many EPC firms and subject matter experts to get educated on the pros and cons of EPC as it pertained to our $31 million project. That culminated with the February 3rd Town Board resolution to do EPC. In next week's Webster Herald, I'll present part 2 to this article on just how EPC works. As always, please feel free to call me at 585-872-7068 or e-mail me at email@example.com
February 2, 2022:
Leadership of the Town of Webster Government Services
Leadership. Has there ever been one word more analyzed and debated as to "How to do it"? Autocratic or collaborative? Goal or means oriented? Those are just a few and believe me, there are many more. I guess the most simplistic end product created by good leadership is that the Organization being led, including its personnel and customers are in a better place at point B than they were at point A. To fully assess whether the leadership was good using the "end product" theory often takes years. For example, it is easy to say in 2022 that Winston Churchill was a great leader of England during World War II because we know the end product. However, during the 1940-1945 timeframe, Churchill was criticized by many. How would history judge Churchill as a leader had the allies not won?
That is the great challenge of leadership. While you are in the midst of it, you have NO guarantees of the end product. Herb Brooks coached the 1980 U.S. Hockey Team in a most "unconventional manner". Had the team finished 7th, he most likely would be judged as a quack for the tactics he used. So how is the Town of Webster Government, its employees, and the services it provides for its citizens led? A common misperception is that the leadership solely lies in the 5-person elected Town Board, including me as Town Supervisor. No doubt that the Town Board ultimately makes local laws and decides via majority vote within the Representative Republic that our government is. However, in my opinion the reality is that the elected Town Board's most important leadership role is the hiring and/or appointment of the fourteen (14) department heads. To me, it is tantamount to the President of the United States decision on a Supreme Court Justice.
If chosen correctly, these department heads will effectuate the culture of the over 350 full and part time employees of the Town. As such, the service level to the citizens of Webster will be affected on a day-to-day basis much more so than the local laws set by the Town Board. Since January 2020 the Town has welcomed nine new department heads: Josh Artuso- Director of Community Development, Mary Herington- Town Engineer, Chris Bilow- Parks and Rec Commissioner, Pat Stephens- Highway Superintendent, Dennis Kohlmeier- Police Chief, Brayton Connard- Director of Human Resources, Dolly Maguire- Town Clerk/Tax Receiver, Rick Kenealy- Chief Operator Sanitary Sewers, and Adam Traub- Library Director.
I've said it is bittersweet when a department head of 20+ years retires. The bitter part is the loss of institutional knowledge. The sweet part is the opportunity that comes with newness and change. By far the thing I am most proud of in my first 2+ years as Town Supervisor is the manner in which WE collaboratively went about searching, vetting, and ultimately hiring these new department heads. These new department heads will be here long after I am done as Town Supervisor. Their expertise, and Leadership will benefit the personnel in their departments and the Webster citizens they service for years to come! As always feel free to call me at 585-872-7068 or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
January 26, 2022:
Federal and State Supreme Court Rulings on Masking/Vaccination Proof
January 2022 has proven to be quite eventful on the legal front of the COVID "Masking or proof of Vaccination" mandates. These legal fronts affect both New York State and Federal mandates on Masking/Vaccination. On the federal level, on January 13th the United States Supreme Court ruled against the OSHA ETS mandate. So what does that all mean? First of all, OSHA is an acronym for U.S Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration. ETS is an acronym for Emergency Temporary Standard. On November 5, 2021, the OSHA ETS mandated that employers of over 100 people needed to set up policy to "Mask and weekly test if unvaccinated, or prove full vaccination and not have to wear a mask or be tested". Then, once that employer's policy was set up, a few weeks later it needed to be implemented. Not surprisingly, this was a controversial mandate that added to the COVID divisiveness already prevalent. Some employers decided to take a more stringent stand on this, and essentially mandated employees prove they are fully vaccinated by a certain date or lose their job. OSHA got pushback and a federal stay was put on the OSHA ETS. During this stay, the policy/execution dates were moved from December 6/January 4th to January 10th/February 6th. In early January 2022 the U.S. Supreme Court heard attorney oral arguments "for and against it" and ultimately decided against it. As such, on January 13, 2022, OSHA withdrew its ETS.
On the New York State level, Governor Kathy Hochul declared a State of Emergency on November 26, 2021. On December 10th the Governor announced that within that State of Emergency she was mandating that as of December 13, 2021 that ALL public places needed to have employees and visitors either mask, or prove full vaccination status. There could be no combining of this, so the employer had to choose "ALL employees and visitors mask, or ALL employees and visitors prove full vaccination to enter". Originally the Governor said this mandate would expire on January 15th, 2022, but subsequently extended it to February 1st. The Governor got pushback, and on January 24th State Supreme Court Judge Thomas Rademaker ruled that the State department of Health did not have the legal authority to implement a mandate and said in his ruling "it is therefore void and unenforceable". Governor Hochul responded to the ruling by stating "she will fight the decision".
In parallel to these federal and New York State mandates, and court rulings the past 30 days, we have seen the Omicron COVID variant increase the number of positive tests in Monroe County from 486 on December 22nd, to a high of over 2,000 on January 8th, to 450 on January 24th. Those 30-days stats of positive tests appear to mirror other communities where Omicron became present prior to it getting to Monroe County (High positivity rate over a very short period of time) Hospitalizations and ICU stats in Monroe County followed the trend of the positive COVID tests, with the overwhelming majority of them being Unvaccinated. In summary.... as we enter February 2022 hopefully both the legal wrangling on COVID and the positive test cases, hospitalizations and ICU continue to minimize or go away all together!!! As always, feel free to call me at 585-872-7068 or e-mail email@example.com
January 20, 2022
Electronic Town Meetings in 2022
How can the Town of Webster government communicate better with its citizens? If you have read my Supervisor’s Corner articles the past 2+ years, you know the answer is multi tentacled. A weekly Newspaper like the Webster Herald is just one of those tentacles. Several years ago, the Town devised a TV show called the "Electronic Town Meeting". It's mission has been to present pertinent town topics/issues, and have guests to help in the presentation and Q and A of those topics/issues. Often those guests were department heads such as the Highway Superintendent or Town Assessor. Phone calls often were taken from citizens watching it live and answers were given to the questions they had. It has historically been hosted by the President of the Webster Chamber of Commerce and the Webster Town Supervisor. Initially it aired on Cable channel 1303 in Webster, but over the years has grown to also be live streamed on the Town Website and other social media platforms. Citizens can also watch the taped episodes at later dates if they'd like.
In 2022, the first Electronic Town Meeting will be on Wednesday February 16th at 7PM. Barry Howard from the Chamber of Commerce and yours truly as Town Supervisor are the co-hosts this year. The plan is to do these live shows every 3rd Wednesday of the month at 7PM. They will run for 30-60 minutes depending on the # of guests and/or topics/issues that will be addressed. We hope to have citizen participation via phone calls in during the meeting. We are looking to change some things in 2022 and the future on this production. These changes are intended to "get more citizen participation" in both the live production and the subsequent taped segments. These changes include but are not limited to the following:
1. Branding change from the current Electronic Town Meeting name: We'd like the name of the "show" to be more representative of what it is. It is a live TV/streamed show that has topics/issues pertinent to the Webster Citizens. Heretofore, the citizen's involvement in this show has been via call ins during it. We'd like to have help from the citizens in ideas of what to rename it. To do that, the citizens need to see some other changes we seek to make in 2022 and the future. 2. Citizen input on topics/issues/guest for the show: We're hoping that future meeting topics/issues and guests can be suggested by our citizens. They often have the best "finger on the pulse" of what's important to them and what they want to hear about. 3. questions coming in LIVE during the show via e-mail and/or social media: Some of us like using the phone.... some like e-mail and/or social media to ask questions. 4. 10-30 second social media posts edited from the 30–60-minute show: It’s hoped that each show can produce 10-12 of these posts over the month following the show. For those who don't want to sit through the 30–60-minute live show, or watch all of it on tape, these 10-12 posts may appeal to them.
In summary, we really are excited for the future of this show and how it can fit into the overall communication system we have at the Town with its citizens. As always please feel free to call me at 585-872-7068 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
January 12, 2022:
Volunteer versus Employee-The future of the Special Police in Webster
Two weeks ago, my Supervisor's Corner article in the Webster Herald was about Volunteerism. If you have followed my 2-years+ of articles, you know I am a huge proponent of volunteerism. Simply said, organizations and communities are better when more people get involved. Because of my feelings on volunteerism, I've been troubled by the manifestation of the events of the last 20+ years, and specifically the last 2 years within the organization structure of the Special Police in the Town of Webster, and what it means for the future of this "jewel" volunteer organization in Webster in 2022 and beyond.
Much of this manifestation has been triggered by New York State government bail reform as of January 2020. Bail reform meant certain defendants who previously were escorted into town court by the Monroe County Sheriffs in handcuffs, now were walking into town court on appearance tickets. This made Special Police leadership concerned on the safety of their "unarmed" volunteer officers that have run the weapons screening for Webster Town Court. The Special Police volunteers have historically done court security, traffic control, and a uniformed presence for the Webster community events. The volunteers of that force did not feel safe doing court security without being additionally "armed" beyond their current pepper spray and batons. That feeling of "not being safe" could have been met with either the town leadership a) arming them or b) removing them. The town opted for the latter. As such, in the 2nd half of 2021 and going into 2022 court security is handled by paid, armed, 3rd party firm.
Traffic control and event security was also brought into this risk management in mid-2021 as Special Police leadership wanted more clarity on the insurance coverages for the volunteers when they were deployed. The answer was disturbing. Essentially, these citizens of the Webster community volunteering their time had only partial workers comp coverage and a small death benefit insurance coverage should something happen to them while volunteering for the town. The options for the town leadership were, a) putting them back out there or b) de-activating them from details until we could "figure this out". The town opted for the latter and since September 2021 the Special Police have not been present at events like the Turkey Trot and the Village Christmas parade.
On Tuesday January 4, 2022, Webster Police Chief Dennis Kohlmeier, Deputy Town Supervisor Patti Cataldi and myself met for 2 hours with the Special Police Chief Mike Charland and the 12 of the 18 officers on the roster at that time. At that meeting a summary of the last 6+ months of due diligence on these "risk management" issues was presented. The compass the town has had during the past 6+ months has been to "fix the risk issues so that the Special Police volunteers can get back to doing what they have a passion for.... serving the Webster Community". Unfortunately, the 6-month process became like "pealing an onion" and more issues arose. It appears that the Auxiliary Police that was formed in the mid 1950's was converted to Special Police in the late 1990’s when Monroe County disbanded the Auxiliary Police. This changed the legal structure of their organization and the authority they operated under. Sometime in the 2005 timeframe, the Webster Special Police pursued becoming Peace officers in New York State. That "action" of being a certified Peace Officer had the unintended consequence of muddying the waters on the Webster Special Police volunteer/unpaid status. I am not sure why it took until the last 2 years to find out between the Town Board, Webster Police Department, and Special Police the disconnect between being a certified Peace Officer and being an unpaid/volunteer of the Webster Special Police.
What I do know, is that NOW we know it and we need to do something about it for "all parties involved". At the Thursday January 6, 2022 Town Board meeting, over 1 hour was dedicated to this issue. I invite you to go to the town website to watch the video of it. On Thursday January 13, 2022, the Town Board Workshop will have time dedicated to this issue. I invite you to attend that meeting in person or to watch live on the town website or social media platforms. The two things I am emboldened on from the past 2 years as Town Supervisor and getting to see the incredible value the Special Police brings to the Webster community are 1) The current organizational structure of the Special Police is "broken/disconnected" and needs to be discontinued and 2) That certain representatives from the Town Board, Webster Police Department, current Special Police force and community need to be organized in an ad-hoc committee to ASAP come up with an organizational structure that MAKES SENSE for all parties in 2022 and beyond in the Webster community. As always, please feel free to call me at 585-872-7068 or e-mail at email@example.com
January 5, 2022:
The COVID Challenge in January 2022... Mask, Vaccinate, Test, etc.
Happy New Year Webster!!! I truly believe that 2022 will be the end of COVID. The Spanish flu in 1918-1920 essentially has followed the same path we've seen with COVID in 2020-2022. That alone should give us confidence that by Spring/Summer of this year the Pandemic will have run its course. The two (2) big differences between the Spanish Flu and COVID have been 1. the "flattening of the curve" we have achieved with COVID that has lengthened the time of the Pandemic, but has saved lives, and 2. Technological advances in the past 100 years that gave us a "shot" that reduces the risk of getting COVID, or of getting a lethal case of it.
Unfortunately, before the COVID pandemic "officially" runs its course, we will continue to deal with the "direct and indirect" challenges of it. The direct challenges are pretty straight forward; how to avoid getting COVID and the Omicron variant of it, and if you do get it, trying to minimize the symptoms and spread. The indirect challenges are more tricky as they are a mixture of human nature/interaction and government mandates. A lot of the human nature/interaction part of this spawns off the Government mandates. The "lines have been drawn" in many ways as to things like pro-mask versus anti-mask, and pro-vaccinate versus anti vaccinate. Often people reference the science they prescribe to as the reason they are adamant to the side they are on of masking and vaccinating. But what science is accurate? And is it possible that BOTH ends of the spectrum of these "sciences" have merit?
The Town of Webster government, its employees, and visitors to its 5-7 facilities have been dealing with these indirect challenges for the past 2+ months now. The federal OSHA ETS mandate of "employee prove vaccination or mask/test weekly" was discussed at the November 15th Town Board workshop. At that time, the policy adoption date was December 6th and execution as of January 3rd. However, the federal "stay" on the mandate and the New York State PESH aspect to this federal mandate muddied the water as to whether the Town of Webster had to move forward with the time deadlines on it. Ultimately, the Town Board decided to take "no action" while the federal stay was in place. However, while the Town Board was discerning this decision the human nature/interaction aspect came roaring in from the almost 400 full and permanent part-time employees of the town, and the 3 unions that represent them. In the end, some were happy we took no action and said it was the "right thing to do", and some thought we showed no backbone of leadership by NOT enforcing it.
Then, along comes New York State in late November with Governor Hochul's state of emergency declaration, and subsequent December 10th mandate that "as of December 13th, ALL public places have to have employees and visitors prove vaccination or they all need to mask while in the facility". The Town of Webster opted for the latter of masking and have been doing so for its employees and visitors since Monday, December 13th. Originally the Governor’s mandate was to expire on January 15, 2022 but she recently extended it to February 1, 2022. Now, OSHA ETS comes back into play as attorney oral arguments are scheduled on the federal stay for January 7th and the deadlines of adoption of policy and execution have been moved out to mid-January/early February. Are you confused yet? I know I am!!! In summary, at the Thursday, January 13th Town Board workshop, Human Resources Director Brayton Connard will be giving an update on OSHA ETS/PESH and the NYS emergency declaration. I invite ALL Webster citizens to attend this meeting or to watch it live on the various website and social media platforms it is played on. As always, please feel free to call me at 585-872-7068 or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
December 30, 2021
The challenges to Volunteerism going into 2022
The dictionary definition of volunteerism is "the act of an individual or group freely giving time and labor for community service". Why a person or group volunteers their time and talent is harder to define. There is a social aspect to volunteerism. In years past, it is why secular groups like the Elks and Kiwanis, and faith based groups like the Knights of Columbus thrived. There is a personal gratification aspect to it. As we mature we find that "giving" of ourselves is often the thing that gives one's life purpose. It seems like volunteerism is being challenged as we go into 2022. Why is that? I suppose there are a myriad of reasons, but I'll focus on three (3);
1. Perceived or real lack of time: When I was growing up in the late 1970's/early 1980's, my parents volunteered in a lot of organizations. There were a lot of things different in society back then as compared to today. For example, Parents usually did not go to any of their kid's sports practices. There were 3 channels on TV. Most jobs were 9-5 Monday- Friday. There was no internet, social media, or cell phones. Fast forward 40+ years later to 2022 and you can see how the 30-50 year old demographic that is busy raising kids and working to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table can be stressed for any free time to recreate much less volunteer. The result is that many of the volunteer organizations out there today are manned by the 60 or older population.
2. Socializing: In the past, Volunteering to an organization often became a key aspect of someone's social life. As stated prior in this article, 40+ years ago there were not the mechanisms available today to keep some one "connected" like the internet. As such, people's connections were "in person" and often included being a volunteer in an organization. Sadly, the mechanisms available today to "stay connected" may also contribute to the lack of "in person" connectivity that is foundational to volunteerism. I've heard several people say "I'm friends with that person on Facebook".... but have not actually seen that person in years, and in some cases have never met them. It has also fostered a sad by product that it is easier to be alone and type on a keyboard than it is to actually be with other human beings. COVID has certainly not helped on this.
3. Personal satisfaction: It is said that there is nothing we do for 100% altruistic reasons. I happen to believe that. In fact I think it is quite natural that when you do something for the greater good of your community you have a great sense of personal satisfaction from it. The erosion of this personal satisfaction that has historically come from volunteerism is difficult to attribute to one thing. However, I know from my own experiences in some volunteer groups that I have been associated with over the years, the demands and/or criticisms of the volunteers have become heightened. Many youth sports organizations find a high level of burnout by their volunteers due to this.
So as we go into 2022, I ask you to consider 2 things; 1. Consider volunteering in 2022! and 2. Be thankful to the volunteers you come across at various organizations. As always, feel free to call me at 585-872-7068 or e-mail at email@example.com
December 22, 2021
A Holiday Present for the Sandbar Park Project
Last week was quite an eventful one for the Sandbar Park project on two (2) fronts: 1. Financing the $9.5 million flood mitigation and park improvements On Wednesday December 15th, the Town of Webster was informed it has been awarded an additional $2.3 million in grants from the State of New York for the Sandbar Park project. Therefore, the Town has secured over $5.3 million in grants and dedicated funds for this $9.5 million project, reducing the use of local funds to a maximum of $4.2 million. The Town will continue to pursue other grants and funding sources to further reduce bonding/indebtedness. It should be noted that the Town is finalizing the design and construction plans on the initial phases of this important quality of life investment, totaling $9.5 million. On November 4th, the Town Board approved two (2) bond resolutions to authorize the required $9.5 million in spending to ensure the project has sufficient funding to be completed. These two (2) bond resolutions were comprised of $4 million for flood mitigation/roadway improvements, and $5.5 million for the Sandbar park improvements. It should be clarified that the action taken on November 4th authorized the Town Board to borrow up to $9.5 million, essentially creating a line of credit towards the use of the project. This most recent grant award means that at worst, the town will bond/go into debt $4.2 million on the flood mitigation/park improvements "pending" any future grants applied for and awarded.
2. The new Bar/Restaurant building: On Thursday December 16th the Town Board approved advertising for Expression of Interest by local bar/restaurant owners to run the bar/restaurant that will be in the new building that will be built on the foundation where the current Bayside Pub is. The parameters of this expression of interest were crafted by a volunteer citizen committee over the past 2-3 months. That citizen committee was unified in its desire to have a bar/restaurant that kept the genre and culture of the current Bayside Pub. The initial cost estimates of the new building are $1.5 million and are based on a 2,400 square foot 1-story structure. What we know is that $200,000 in REDI grants have been obtained by the town for this new building. However, the end cost of this building, and how much the town needs to bond/in debt for it will not be known until the following are determined including but not limited to; a) Awarded Bar/Restaurant owner vision including square foot and accouterments inside and outside, and b) negotiated upfront monies the awarded bar/Restaurant owner will be paying toward the construction of this building. (i.e. the more the restaurant/bar owner pays upfront as essentially leasehold improvements, the less their monthly rent will be, and the less the town will have to bond/in debt for the building).
As always, feel free to call me at 585-872-7068 or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
December 15, 2021:
Covid masking in Town of Webster facilities and COVID rapid test drive-thru event
Every action has a reaction, or multiple reactions. One thing we have learned in the almost two years that COVID has seemed to dominate our lives is that the "action" of COVID tests being positive, people in hospitals, and/or people in ICU has created "reactions" as to how we have to live our lives. As such, there are two major things occurring this week in the Town of Webster:
1. MANDATORY MASKING IN TOWN OF WEBSTER GOVERNMENT FACILITIES: With COVID cases increasing in the past few months, New York State Governor Kathy Hochul declared a state of emergency on November 26, 2021. On Friday, December 10th Governor Hochul announced within that state of emergency that all public facilities as of Monday, December 13th either have to have mandatory masking for employees and visitors/patrons, or that vaccination needs to be proven by all employees and visitors. Due to the issues that "checking/proving" vaccination presents, the town government of Webster has opted for mandatory masking in their facilities for ALL employees and visitors as of Monday, December 13th. As such, NO checking of vaccination status will be done. The state of emergency is through January 15, 2022. We will keep a watchful eye on any updates that come from New York State and the governor on this.
2. SATURDAY, DECEMBER 18TH RAPID COVID TEST DRIVE-THRU EVENT: The Town of Webster in partnership with Monroe County has obtained several thousand 2-packs of COVID rapid tests. On Saturday December 18th between 10AM and 2PM these test kits will be distributed at a drive-thru event at Xerox building 147 parking lot located off of Orchard St., near Phillips Road. Each car will be given ONE 2-pack of Rapid COVID tests. Residency of the Town/Village of Webster will be needed, by showing a Driver’s License or current utility bill. Several towns/municipalities did their drive-thru distribution events last Saturday, December 11th. Town leadership decided to hold off on the Webster drive-thru event until Saturday, December 18th so that we could get an accurate count of the 2-packs we received from the County on Thursday, December 9th. We wanted to make sure we assessed certain citizen groups in town that may need test packets that would be unable to come through the drive-thru event. Being able to supply these test packets the week of December 13-17th will better position us for the Saturday, December 18th event. Please visit our website for additional information on this event.
As always, please feel free to call me at 585-872-7068 or e-mail email@example.com
December 8, 2021:
80th Remembrance Anniversary of Pearl Harbor
This past Tuesday, December 7th, was the 80th remembrance anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. Most of the people who were alive back in 1941 and were old enough at the time to remember it have most likely passed away by now. If still with us, the actual military personnel and civilians who were at Pearl Harbor that day, would be close to or over 100 years old now. When it happened, President Roosevelt called it "a day that will live in infamy". The saying goes that "if you don't learn from history, you are doomed to repeat it". So, what does an event like Pearl Harbor mean to Americans 80 years after it occurred? First of all, it is hard for us in 2021 to relate to people who lived back in 1941. The United States was just coming out of the great depression. All of the late teen/early 20's military had grown up in the 1930’s with a perspective on life that we can't really grasp in 2021. Struggle, poverty, and being self-sufficient were the things that were overriding factors that formed them. In years to come, they would come to be known as the "Greatest Generation".
However, on December 7, 1941 on that early Sunday morning in Hawaii, they were just doing their duty as Americans. They may have been still in bed on the U.S.S. Arizona after a Saturday night in town. The attack was sudden, surprising, and devastating. When it was done most of the United States South Pacific naval fleet was in ruins. Over 2,400 people died and another 1,000 injured. It ushered the United States into World War II. Three and a half years later in 1945, the war would end with the Allies victorious in both Europe and the South Pacific. Victory came at a high cost. Over 400,000 Americans lost their lives fighting for freedom in that war. With the benefit of hindsight, we can see why the moxie Americans had back in 1941 forged from years of struggle in the Great Depression made them perfectly suited to rise up and win World War II. Pearl Harbor and the war did not build their character, it revealed it.
Whether your 10, 50, or 80 years old in 2021, there are lessons that can be learned from the Greatest Generation. They did not initiate the battle, but when called to react they stepped up, won our freedom, and sacrificed in ways we may not ever be able to comprehend. We should all be eternally grateful for them and honor them by trying to mimic their selfless ways. As always, feel free to call me at 585-872-7068 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
December 1, 2021:
Part 2- Decision 2022 for Webster - Opt in or out on legal recreational Marijuana dispensaries in Town
Part 1 of this story was 6 months ago in my Supervisor's Corner article in the June 9, 2021 Webster Herald edition. At that time, I stated that I had not really started my due diligence and/or "getting educated" on this issue but that the town board and I would do the work necessary to make sure this was a "fact based" decision and not an emotional one. I'm proud to say that to date, the Town Board has done everything it said it would do within that June 9th article on the due diligence needed on this decision.
Some highlights of what has been done in the past 6-months; 1. I toured a 40,000 square foot Hemp processing facility near the Rochester airport, 2. There were 2 town board workshops where we had guest presenters for both the "Pro" and "con" opinions of allowing legalized marijuana dispensaries in the town of Webster, 3. I attended several in person and zoom meetings put on by various agencies regarding this issue.
Back on June 9th, I stated that "opting out" seemed to make the most sense for the town. My reasoning was that "opting in" was forever. If it did not go well in 2022 and beyond, the town had no ability to opt out. However, if we opted out going into 2022, we could opt in at a future date if we saw how other municipalities were making out. I did state in that June 9th article that I still needed to get educated and do the due diligence. That process over the past 6-months manifested that there are two mutually exclusive decisions the town board needs to make on Legalized recreational marijuana in the town as of January 1, 2022; 1. Retail outlet(s) and 2. Lounge(s). Here is the analogy of both; the retail outlet is like a liquor store for alcohol. You can buy alcohol there but you cannot consume on site. The Lounge is like a Bar/Tavern/Pub for alcohol. You buy it there and consume it there in a social setting.
Based on those differentiations, I am advocating for "opting out" on the Lounges going into 2022, and "opting in" on the Retail outlet(s). There is a public hearing on this Legalized recreational marijuana issue on Thursday December 2nd at 7:30PM in the Town Board room. That public hearing is more "general" as to opt in versus opt out going into 2022 for all Recreational Marijuana dispensaries in the town. Over the next few weeks I will be working with the Town attorney to draft various resolutions/town laws on this issue as we go into 2022. My guess is that we will have another public hearing on December 16th at 7:30PM to get more granular on the "Opt in" of Retail outlet(s) as of January 2022. Within such an opt in, there needs to be factors considered such as zoning, feet from schools/churches, and the number of such retail outlets that will be allowed in the town.
At the end of the day, I am proud of the due diligence the town board has done on this issue, and feel confident a fact base decision and local law will be done to best serve the interests of the town and its citizens as we go into 2022. As always, please feel free to call me at 585-872-7068 or e-mail email@example.com
November 24, 2021
Part 3-The changing face of Emergency Medical Services (EMS) in Webster
This will conclude the 3-part series. Part 1 was on September 29th and part 2 was on November 17th. I will continue on with using the acronyms that were introduced in those previous articles to keep this as short as possible. At the Webster Town Board meeting on Thursday, November 18th, a resolution passed by a vote of 5-0 that had WEMS/NEQALS intended to be #1 in the 911 queue for ambulance calls in the town of Webster as of January 1, 2022. This decision by the Town board came after a thorough due diligence process that was intended to make sure the best decision on EMS was being made for the whole town as of January 1, 2022 and for the next 20+ years. That due diligence process will be ongoing. In fact, in the verbiage of the resolution it stated how the Town Attorney and Town Supervisor would be working with the leadership of WEMS/NEQALS and their legal representation on amended contract terms. Those terms have a tentative completion date of December 15, 2021 so as to be in effect as of January 1, 2022.
There has been a lot of information that has been put out there in the past few months on this issue. Some of it has made it difficult to separate "fact from fiction" for the people involved such as WWFD and the EMS agencies of PVA and WEMS/NEQALS. If those "in the trenches" had difficulty in this separation of "fact from fiction", I can only imagine how confusing this has been for the citizens of the town. As such I wanted to highlight three (3) facts that are important to consider within EMS in the Town of Webster as we go into 2022.
Fact 1: Government subsidy/reimburse to EMS agencies: In 2021 the Town of Penfield gave $75,000 of their budget to EMS. $50,000 to PVA and $25,000 to WEMS/NEQAL. The WEMS/NEQALS portion paid by Penfield was for the Advanced Life Support in the WWFD geographical area that included Northwest Penfield. In 2021 the Town of Webster gave $50,000 of their budget to EMS. All $50,000 was to WEMS/NEQAL. The 2022 adopted budgets of both Penfield and Webster have the same EMS monies in it as they had in 2021 (Penfield $75K and Webster $50K) Now that Penfield will be handled by PVA for the whole town as #1 in the 911 queue for ambulance calls as of January 1, 2022, it is assumed all $75K will go to PVA instead of the split it had in 2021. The town of Webster will be giving WEMS/NEQALS the same $50K in 2022 as it did in 2021
Fact 2: CON and the control they have: The WWFD CON that was transferred/awarded to PVA on October 27, 2021 results in PVA ultimately "owning" that CON going forward into 2022. PVA is a fantastic EMS agency and I have no doubt put in their bid to WWFD good faith assurances of items including but not limited to; how many ambulances would be at the WWFD Gravel road firehouse, staging an ambulance at various events like high school football games, etc. Those assurances were then put into a contract between WWFD and PVA. The problem is that a "contract" by definition means that if one of the parties does not perform, the other has remedies. Unfortunately, once the CON is transferred/awarded to PVA from WWFD, WWFD would have NO remedies if PVA does not perform as they bid, and/or what was contractually agreed on. The CON that the Town has is NOT being transferred/awarded to WEMS/NEQALS. The town is retaining that CON and entering into a contract with WEMS/NEQALS for EMS for the whole town of Webster where if terms of that contract are not met, the town would have remedies. That is also a major reason why the Town is amending contract terms with WEMS/NEQALS as we enter 2022. The past contract was for half the town of Webster east of hard road on both Basic and Advanced Life support EMS, and west of Hard Road for Advanced life support as WWFD handled Basic. Now that WESM/NEQALS will have the whole town on both Basic and Advanced life support, the town owes it to its citizens to make sure the contract going into 2022 is structured appropriately to assure the best EMS for the town of Webster today, and to position that to be for the next 20+ years.
Fact 3: PVA and WEMS/NEQALS as mutual aid for both the towns of Penfield and Webster in 2022: PVA will be #1 on the 911 queue for the whole town of Penfield in 2022. WEMS/NEQALS will be #1 on the 911 queue for the whole town of Webster in 2022. When an EMS agency is out on calls that is utilizing all ambulances and/or staff scheduled at that time, and another 911 call comes in, mutual aid kicks in. Mutual aid essentially says that PVA covers for WEMS/NEQALS as #2 in the 911 queue for Webster, and vice versa. These 2 EMS agencies have worked harmoniously in the past several years in East Webster in the NEJFD on this mutual aid. Both have bases in the east side of their respective town going into 2022. This assures PVA can get to an East Webster call quickly if mutual aid is needed, and the same for WEMS/NEQALS in East Penfield. PVA will also have a base for the northwest side of Penfield calls due to the WWFD allowing PVA to use 1 or more of the 3 ambulances bays WWFD has at their WWFD Gravel road station. Now that WWFD has exited the EMS business going into 2022, it is possible that WEMS/NEQALS would be able to occupy 1 of those 3 bays at the Gravel Road WWF fire station like PVA is. If that ends up the case, the harmonious mutual aid based on PVA and WEMS/NEQALS bases in east Webster and Penfield in the NEJFD could be achieved in West Penfield and Webster in the WWFD. That would be a huge win for the Penfield and Webster citizens.
As always, please feel free to call me at 585-872-7068 or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
November 17, 2021
Part 2 - The changing face of Emergency Medical Services (EMS) in Webster
A lot has happened in Webster in the "Ambulance world" in the past 6+ weeks since I wrote Part 1 in the September 29th edition of the Webster Herald. I'll apologize in advance for the number of acronyms in this article. However, it is needed to keep this article short. On October 27th the West Webster Fire District (WWFD) officially announced they were exiting the Emergency Medical Services (i.e. EMS-Ambulance) business as of January 1, 2022. Within that decision the WWFD awarded/transferred their Certificate of Need (CON) to Penfield Volunteer Ambulance (PVA). By November 1st citizens in West Webster had gotten a post card in the USPS mail from WWFD letting them know PVA would be servicing them in 2022 as #1 on the 911 call queue. So what does this all mean as we dovetail to January 1, 2022 in the whole 35-square miles of the Town of Webster and EMS service? To answer that, you first need to consider the rules of engagement in 2021 and prior for EMS in Webster.
The WWFD geographical area consists of the town of Webster west of Hard Road and part of Northwest Penfield. The Northeast Joint Fire district (NEJFD) geographical area consists of the town of Webster east of Hard Road and part of Northeast Penfield. The NEJFD either was never in the EMS business or exited it long ago. As such, for the past several years, the manner in which EMS was handled in the town of Webster was that Webster Emergency Medical Services (WEMS) and Northeast Quadrant Advanced Life Support (NEQALS) was #1 on the 911 call queue in the NEJFD geographical area. In the WWFD geographical area, WWFD handled the "basic" portion of EMS and NEQALS assisted on "Advanced Life Support" calls. As such, citizens in Webster west of Hard Road paid for "Basic" EMS in their WWFD annual tax bill. For the past 10 years, WWFD leased staff from WEMS to cover the "Basic" calls in their geographical area and supplemented that with the Volunteer Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTS) from WWFD. These leased staff and volunteers would be on WWFD ambulances that staged out of 2-3 bays at the new Gravel Road WWFD station.
So now we know how it worked in 2021 and prior. Next week I will have Part 3 of this EMS article. Currently, the Town Board is going through a due diligence process to determine if the WWFD transfer/award of their CON to PVA will be in place January 1, 2022 or whether the Town Board will exercise their CON to have ONE (1) EMS agency cover the whole town. As always, feel free to call me at 585-872-7068 or e-mail me at email@example.com.
November 10, 2021
The Importance of Veterans Day
Veterans Day is Thursday, November 11, 2021. It's a federal holiday so kids will be happy because they will not have school, and some adults will have the day off of work. However, the "genesis and meaning" of Veterans Day is one that ALL Americans should think about. On November 11, 1918, at 11:00 am the guns on the western front of France fell silent and the “War to end all Wars” came to an end. After four years of brutal conflict and over 9 million military and 10 million civilians dead the world took a collective breath, paused, and began to count the cost of World War I. To give some perspective on the 19 million dead, the world population was under 2 billion in 1918 and in 2021 it is almost 8 billion. Imagine the loss of 80 million lives today?
After the war ended, the United States General of the Armies John Pershing said “We have had no national expression of any sort since the war ended that would give the people an opportunity to show their appreciation of the services over there of the young manhood of the nation and it seems to me it would be a very fine thing for Congress to make some provision for a ceremony that would give the people of the country an opportunity to do that.” As such, on November 19th, 1919 "Armistice" day was remembered. In 1926 Congress passed a resolution for an annual observance of November 11th and it became a national holiday in 1938.
Over the past 100 years since World War 1, millions of Americans have served our country to protect the freedoms we enjoy. Many of them have died for us to have this great country and we honor them on Memorial Day in May each year. Our living veterans of our military may have not sacrificed their life within their service, but many if not all of them have sacrificed their physical and/or mental health in ways us civilians will never fully understand. Remember that on November 11th. Thank our veterans for their service, but more importantly I implore you to take action within your thanks, and not just 1 day year, but every day!! As always, please feel free to call me at 585-872-7068 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
November 3, 2021
Let's make Webster a shining example for how Democracy should work
I experienced something wonderful on Saturday, October 30th at the Village's Trick or Treat Trail. For about 10 minutes several of the Democrat and Republican-Conservative party endorsed candidates met impromptu on the street and had a "human" discussion. The conversation may have started out a little awkward as we have been political combatants for the past few months as each seeks election on Tuesday, November 2nd. However, within a short period of time, the conversation became relaxed because we focused on the "human" aspects rather than partisan politics. Being Mothers, Fathers, sons, daughters, and Webster citizens reflected how we had more in common than we had different. I walked away from that discussion energized that "Webster will be OK post November 2nd no matter what the election results".
As I write this article, Tuesday, November 2nd election day has not happened yet. By the time you are reading it, the elections results will be in. Either Danielle Palermo-Jimenez will be the town's next Town Supervisor as of January 1, 2022, or I will enter my 2nd 2-year term as Supervisor. How do I plan on conducting myself in both scenarios? If Danielle wins, she can rest assured that I will do everything in my power to help in the transition for two main reasons; 1. Danielle is a great person who I have the utmost respect for her family and her, and 2. because the 45,000 citizens of Webster deserve their leaders to act accordingly. Having owned a business for 25+ years and raising 7 children, I thought I was prepared for the myriad of issues the Town Supervisor would need to juggle at any given time. However, I found that the position is more challenging than I estimated. Don't get me wrong.... I have loved the challenges, but for the good of the town, Danielle needs to be brought up to speed on them ASAP and not go into January 1, 2022 blind. She also deserves my counsel after January 1, 2022 if she seeks it.
If I win, I will try my best to conduct myself as Webster Town Supervisor in years 3 and 4 of my tenure in a manner that a) builds on the lessons I have learned from these first 2-years, and b) continues to have as the main compass that decisions for this town need to be looked at from the prism of "Webster Citizens FIRST".... both today and with a vision of how such decisions affect the next 20+ years. Within that prism, political partisanship has no place. As always, feel free to call me at 585-872-7068 or e-mail email@example.com
October 27, 2021
The value of 30+ years of Webster Highway Superintendents
In 1969, the Town of Webster built an approx. 15,000 square foot highway garage. Since then, additions have gone on to it including 4-bays in the mid-1990s that in aggregate are about 3,500 square feet and cost as much as 15,000 square foot building in 1969 to construct! How about that for inflation. The staff at the Highway department over the years have proven their skill by doing most of the additions in house and not going out to 3rd part contractors. Even with the best of efforts to maintain the facility, the growth of the town over the past 50 years and the aging of the facility manifested several years ago the need to build a new Highway garage. In the past year the town purchased approx. 8 acres across from the current highway garage on Picture Parkway. The tentative plan is to build the new facility on those 8 acres.
The Town Board will be discerning options in the near future on the proposed new Highway garage including but not limited to feasibility and concept studies, engineering bids, cost estimates, funding options and timelines. This past week I had a meeting with Pat Stephens, Joe Herbst, and Barry Deane. These 3 gentlemen represent the Webster Highway Department Superintendents for the past 30 years. Barry served from 1990-2008, Joe from 2008-2021 and Pat is the current Superintendent. I asked for this meeting in that I was hopeful these 3 generations of Highway Superintendents getting together to brainstorm and share info would be helpful to the process. What occurred over the 2 hours in the meeting was a "thing of beauty" that every functional organization should strive for. Elder Statesmen and Sage wisdom are always welcome by leaders. Pat Stephens may only be 6+ months into the new position but he has already demonstrated he is a leader. Barry Deane and Joe Herbst could not have bene more comfortable in their new roles as mentors and/or confidantes to Pat. The information that came out of that meeting will be invaluable to the Town board as they get further along in this process.
However, what is most important is that the town citizens benefit from such culture of current leaders having the past leaders in the organization to bounce things off of. It takes a certain grace to be both the recipient of the advice, and to tender it as the elder statemen. True leaders understand this. It is NOT about them. it is about the greater good of the organization and the people it serves. These 3 gentlemen inherently understand they "caretake" the Highway Superintendent position for the Town of Webster. As such, you do what's best of the organization while IN the position and also when your time is through. I want to thank Barry, Joe, and Pat for be shining examples of that and only hope I can demonstrate their same leadership when my time is done as Webster Town Supervisor. As always, please feel free to call me at 585-872-7068 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
October 20, 2021
How to stay informed as a Webster Citizen
In my first two years as Webster Town Supervisor, I have dedicated several of the Supervisor's Corner articles to the efforts being made to improve communication between the town government and its citizens. As with any relationship that requires good communication, both parties need to be "willing and able" to participate. For the town government, it means we need to maximize all forms of communication. For example, if we put all our efforts into communicating via the internet such as websites and social media platforms, we miss all the citizens who do not use computers. For citizens, it means that they want to get communication from the town. For example, many people have reached out to me and said "I was not aware of that" on an issue that is important to them. More often than not, in such situations I am able to show them how in the prior 2-6 weeks the communications that have come out on the issue from the town in the form of Webster Herald, Town website, Town social media platforms, and/or direct mailers.
One of the best ways for citizens to stay "proactively" informed is to sign up for alerts on the Town Website. You can access the site at ci.webster.ny.us. If you click on the Town Notification Sign Up tab in the upper right-hand corner of the home page it will take you to a sign-up page for these alerts. These alerts can be designated to come to you via e-mail and/or text. During the past 2 months, we have been handing out a flyer on this alert/news sign up feature to citizens visiting town hall. The good news is in September 2021 we saw a significant spike in subscriptions to these alerts from the flyers handed out to people who came into town hall to pay their school taxes. In fact, over 1,000 people are now subscribers to our Webster Police Department alerts/news updates. However, there is more work to be done on this effort as the majority of the 15,000 households in Webster have not signed up for these alerts/news.
As always, feel free to call me at 585-872-7068 or e-mail at email@example.com
October 13, 2021
Webster is better when people "get involved"
It's an old adage... you are either part of the problem or part of the solution. I don't agree 100% with that adage since many times people sit on the sidelines for a myriad of reasons. As such, I am not comfortable categorizing all the "sideliners" as part of the problem. On Monday October 11th, an online portal was opened on the Town of Webster website for citizens looking to get involved and be part of the solution. This portal will be open until November 12th so people can apply for the various board positions opening up as of January 1, 2022. These include Planning Board, Zoning Board of Appeals, Conservation Board, Assessment Review, Library, and PROSAR.
To access the portal, go to: ci.webster.ny.us/121/boards. The portal shows which boards have openings and descriptions on what each board does. It also shows the responsibilities, attendance, training, and time commitment to be on said board. It is easy to navigate the online application process to apply to be on one or more of these boards. Once all applications come in and the portal closes, they will be reviewed by the Town Board for the determination of who will be appointed to these boards as of January 1, 2022. Within that decision process, the Town Board along with the liaison for each of these boards needs to also discern if an existing board member is interested in serving another term on that board.
Ideally, we will receive significantly more applications for these board positions that what is available. That would be a good problem to have since there will be more opportunities going into 2022 for citizens to "get involved". Within the next 2 months we should find out if the town is awarded the grant applied for to assist in the updating of the 2008 Comprehensive Plan. The tentative plan is to have that updating process begin in 2022 and there will be the need for citizen involvement in that process. As always, please feel free to call me at 585-872-7068 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
October 6, 2021
The Future of the West Webster Hamlet (Corner of Gravel and Ridge)
If you live in Webster, you know the corner of Gravel and Ridge. It's where the Furniture Strippers and Jade Palace businesses used to reside. The former has been out of business for over fifteen years, and the latter went out of business recently. Over the past month I have been visiting residential neighborhoods closest in proximity to this corner. The two common threads I heard from people during those visits were 1. frustration at the corner looking like it does currently and 2. a desire to see the corner revitalized.
The story about how this main corner of the historic West Webster Hamlet got to this point is an incredible one. If I attempted to tell it all in this article, it would need the whole edition! Therefore, I'll let you know about a new section on the Town of Webster Website where you can go and "see the whole story". The direct link to this section is: http://ci.webster.ny.us/611/West-Webster-Hamlet
You can also get there by selecting the new blue tab on the main page titled "West Webster Hamlet". The website section contains but is not limited to the following;
• History of the Hamlet including subsections for the Furniture store and Jade Palace parcels
• Participation: Link to application form for the new committee, which will be active until Oct. 29th, as well as a comment/question form
• Link to meeting videos where the project was discussed
• News including press releases and past columns on this corner
I'm excited for the possibilities that this corner and the whole Hamlet could have in 2022 and beyond. The information reflected at this new website section is critical to Webster citizens getting the facts on this area. Please feel free to call me at 585-872-7068 or e-mail me at email@example.com
September 29, 2021:
The changing face of Emergency Medical Services (EMS) in Webster
In March 2018, two years before I became Town Supervisor, I had the experience of getting an ambulance ride from Webster to Rochester General Hospital. I had to spend the night in the hospital as they did tests, but everything worked out well and I was discharged the next day with no long-term ramifications. About a month after that experience, I got the bill in the mail for that ambulance ride. When I investigated the bill, I found that my high deductible/health saving account (HSA) private-based insurance policy had resulted in the bill being my responsibility to pay, due to the fact I had not hit my family’s max out of pocket for the year yet on the deductible. I paid the bill out of my HSA checking account and never thought about it again.
That is, until I became Webster Town Supervisor. Since then, I have had an almost 2-year education on the 3-prongs of First Responders; 1. Police, 2. Fire, and 3. EMS. For the most part, we all understand that Police and Fire Departments are paid through our real estate taxes. The Webster Police is paid via Webster Town taxes, and there are two fire districts in town: Northeast Joint and West Webster. Depending on where you live in Webster you are in one of those fire districts and it is reflected on your real estate tax bill. Ambulance service, or EMS has had an interesting path from when it started to where it is now. Years ago, most ambulance services were handled by the Fire Department, and you paid for that service within your fire district tax bill. As the years went on, the EMS business evolved beyond the basic transportation to the hospital, to medical treatment in the field at the scene. At the same time, fire districts started to get out of the EMS business and private EMS companies started filling the role.
From what I have been told, currently in Monroe County only three fire districts still provide EMS within their scope of services they perform, and for which is on the citizen’s real estate tax bill. One of those districts in West Webster and they are in the process of discerning whether to exit the EMS business. What effect will it have on the Webster citizens if West Webster Fire Department does exit EMS and a private company takes it over? If you live in the Northeast Joint fire district the answer is none. However, if you live in the West Webster fire district, then you will see a difference minimally on the manner in which you are billed for the service. 911 calls that necessitate ambulance vet through a series of questions to determine if the incident needs Basic EMS, or if it needs Advanced Life Support (ALS) too. If strictly a basic EMS call, currently that is covered through the West Webster fire district taxes and the patient, nor insurance company gets billed. If an ALS call, currently the basic part of the call is not billed, but the ALS is to the insurance company and/or patient. If West Webster Fire Department exits the EMS business, both basic and ALS calls will be billed to patient and/or insurance companies.
In summary, there are many more aspects to this, including but not limited to Medicaid, Medicare, private health insurance, etc. but to save you from me writing a "war and peace" article, I'll stop here. One last thing.... my ambulance experience 3+ years ago I referenced at the beginning.... it was a Basic and ALS related call. I needed the basic ambulance ride to the hospital, but I also needed medical treatment in the field and on the way to the hospital that ALS brings. I live in the Northeast Joint fire district so the bill I got was for both the basic and ALS parts of the service I got because my fire district is not in the EMS business. As always, please feel free to call me at 585-872-7068 or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
September 22, 2021
Town Government Communication to "non-computer using" citizens
Last week I was the guest presenter at one of the "Talks on Tuesdays" at the Senior Center on Chiyoda Dr. We decided to format the event as a Q and A for seniors, and I invited Deputy Supervisor Patti Cataldi to assist in answering the questions the attendees had. The first thing that caught my attention was the attendance number at the event. There were approximately 15 seniors there. Within the 1st few questions, it manifested itself as to why more seniors were not in attendance. Simply said... these events are advertised/promoted either via posters hung up at the Senior Center on Chiyoda, or via computer functionality driven measures such as website, social media, etc.
So, to be aware of such senior events, you either need to be a senior that goes the Senior Center on a recurring basis and would see the posters, or you need to be "online". Several of the seniors voiced that they and their friends are NOT "online". If you have read my previous columns, you know I am committed to getting the Town Government in the future to a position of better communication with citizens. Ideally, we will maximize ALL forms of communication with the goal that one of those forms will be seen and "absorbed" by one of the adults at the 15,000 residences in town. So much of the current forms of communication revolve around being "online" (i.e websites. social media, etc.) However, if a person has made the conscious decision to NOT be "online" we need to respect that at the Town and find other ways to communicate with them.
Direct USPS mail pieces that go to the citizens home is a great way to communicate with them. Things such as the Webster Herald that is a weekly production, and the Webster Today which is currently a quarterly production assist in that. However, we need to get creative and find other ways to communicate on a more recurring basis with these "NON online" citizens, of which many are Seniors. I have a database of Webster citizens from the Board of Elections that reflects approx. 33,000 registered voters. From what I can tell, approx. 8,000, or almost 25% of them are 70 years old and above. Where many of them are "online", it is safe to assume many are not. Patti Cataldi is working with Daphne Geoca, Senior Coordinator, with ways to get the monthly senior newsletter in the hands of more seniors in the future. I have no doubt they will succeed in that effort and that next time I am guest presenter at a "Talk on Tuesdays" with seniors at least 100 seniors will be in attendance!!!
As always, feel free to call me at 585-872-7068 or e-mail email@example.com
September 15, 2021
Identifying and remediating Abandoned properties in Webster
This past June I was going door to door in the neighborhoods where road maintenance was going to be done in the subsequent months. My purpose was to answer any questions residents had about the materials the highway department uses for maintenance. However, I made another discovery about in-person interactions with Webster citizens.
Knocking on the doors of town citizens ended up being a treasure trove for me as the Town Supervisor. Simply said, I discovered plenty of issues that I may not have been aware of in their neighborhoods and in town, in general. One such issue was that of vacant or abandoned properties. On four occasions, people pointed out to me an abandoned house on their street. Some of them you would not have known, at first glance, were abandoned.
Since July, I have been working with key Town Department Heads on a plan to identify and remediate these abandoned properties in town. On Wednesday September 15th, those efforts will go live to the citizens of Webster. The efforts are twofold: first, identify abandoned properties, and then second, determine the appropriate steps to remediate.
On the identification effort, if you suspect a home in your neighborhood is abandoned, please visit our website to complete the online reporting form: ci.webster.ny.us/606/Abandoned-Homes. Per Webster Town Code Section 225-3, an abandoned property is hereby defined as one that has not been occupied as a residence or a business for a period of one month and meets certain criteria spelled out in the code.
On the remediation effort, once the Town Code Enforcement office is made aware of a potential abandoned property, it will perform a series of due diligence items including but not limited to visiting the property to do a site assessment; checking to see if a public utility (gas, electric, or water) has been shut off by the utility company; and checking real estate tax records on the property to see who is owner of record and whether taxes are current.
Our goal is to facilitate the remediation of abandoned properties in Webster. What that remediation looks like will differ with each property, depending on the situation. On one end of the spectrum, the structure could be demolished and leave an empty lot. On the other end of the spectrum, the property could return to being occupied and cared for, inside and out. The Webster citizen's participation in this process is both needed and greatly appreciated.
As always, please feel free to call me at 585-872-7068 or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
September 8, 2021:
The $31 million future of the Webster Sewer Plant
At the June 24th Webster Town Board Meeting, engineering firm Barton & Loguidice presented the framework of Phase 2 at the Phillips Road Town sewer plant. The estimated cost was approximately $31 million. In all honesty, the number somewhat stunned me. Even though I had been involved in "the process" for the past year and half, seeing that $31 million figure on the presentation screen took me aback. I stated that night that a lot more due diligence needs to be done before the town board could commit to such an investment.
What has transpired over the past 2+ months since that initial presentation may be unprecedented in Webster. Every Town Board meeting and workshop since June 24th has had this phase 2- $31million sewer project as one of, or the main topics. To fully understand "the process", you must go back 4-5 years ago when the Town Board decided to commit to the $12 million phase 1 at the Phillips Road sewer plant. It also reflects the analogy that sewers are like referees in sports..... you don't notice them until something goes wrong!
Phase 1 centered on the secondary clarifiers at the plant. They were almost 50-years old, and it was becoming apparent that some parts needed to repair it were not made anymore. They had reached their "useful life expectancy" and something needed to be done. If something was NOT done, then it was possible that in the next few years the sewers in Webster would become "known" like a referee in sports when they make a bad call. Phase 1 was completed in 2021 and came in under budget! That is a testament to the team of engineers, contractors, and Art Petrone, Webster's Deputy DPW Commissioner and Sewer Plant Manager.
When I became Town Supervisor in January 2020, I became aware of the ongoing phase 1 project at the sewer plant, and the preliminary estimates of Phase 2. As I was being briefed on both, it became apparent that phase 1's $12 million was solely to replace 50-year-old equipment with new equipment. There was no real future revenue production or cost saving component to phase 1. The only real cost savings was stopping the band aid repairs on the aged-out equipment. The preliminary estimate on phase 2 that I saw in early 2020 was approximately $20 million. It seemed to have similarities to phase 1 in that it was replacing 50-year-old equipment with new equipment but was not really addressing revenue production or cost savings in the future.
When Rick Kenealy was hired as Chief Plant Operator in mid-2020, Art Petrone and he started working with the engineers to tweak the phase 2 design to bring future revenue production and cost savings to the plant. They visited state of the art innovative sewer plants throughout New York and Pennsylvania to get insights. They reported on how the sanitary sewage industry was changing from a "sewage treatment" model to a "Water Resource Recovery Facility (WRRF)" model in the 21st century. It may seem on the surface to not be much of a difference between the two, but the philosophy and infrastructure needed in the new model is significantly different from the old one.
The culmination of "the process" the past year and half came with the sobering $31 million estimate on June 24th. The initial reaction to that number could easily be "How can you go from a $20 million estimate a few years ago on phase 2 to $31 million"? To be honest.... that was MY initial reaction! The due diligence of the past 2+ months on this has manifested that the seeds of revenue production and cost savings that come from this phase 2 started before I became Supervisor. In mid-2019, Supervisor Nesbitt reported how the 2020 Town budget had to increase sludge hauling at the sewer plant from $250,000 to $500,000 a year. The reason for the increase? Landfills were closing and the ones still in operation that take "sewer sludge" were upping prices due to supply-demand. The technology in this new phase 2 design significantly decreases sludge hauling fees to the town, or possibly eliminates them all together!! That could be a $500,000 cost saving TODAY and possibly a lot larger in the future. This may be over simplified math... but if the cost annually to bond/indebt the town $10 million is $500,000, if the town is saving $500,000 on sludge hauling, is that bond payment/indebtedness a "budget neutral figure"? (i.e. does it pay for itself day one?) The difference of approximately $11 million from the $20 million estimate several years back to the $31 million today is the equipment and infrastructure now being added to the project that will not only help to pay for itself, but also help to pay down the bonding for the $20 million portion that didn't have that return on investment previously.
On September 9th, there is a public hearing at the Town Board meeting on this $31 million proposed Phase 2. The tentative plan is to do the town board resolutions at the September 16th meeting on the bonding of this project. The due diligence performed by engineers, Rick and Art at the sewer plant, Paul Adams the Town Finance Director, and the Town Board is too much to articulate in this article. Some include but are not limited to; revenue production components, cost saving components, the importance of getting a project "shovel ready" as to the 9/16/21 bonding resolution, and grant potential to offset $31 million in bonding.
I want the Webster citizens to be INFORMED on this phase 2 project. By law, we publish Town Board meetings in the newspaper. We also try to promote these meetings via website and social media. The Webster Today quarterly magazine that goes to all Webster homes has highlighted this project a few times in the past year. However, even with those efforts my guess is many Webster citizens don't even know about the $12 million phase 1 sewer project or the proposed $31 million phase 2. As such, we are looking to put together informational platforms the next few months so that citizens can ask questions, and get information needed on this project. As always, feel free to call me at 585-872-7068 or e-mail at email@example.com
September 1, 2021
September is School Tax payment time
Hard to believe we're approaching Labor Day weekend. The calendar turning to September means different things to all of us. For some, it brings sadness because it means summer is coming to an end. For others, it brings excitement for such things as the prospect the kids are going back to school and/or the colors of autumn are on the horizon. At the Town Hall in Webster, September means that 3,000-4,000 citizens will be entering the building during the month to pay their school tax bill.
September 2020 was the first chance as Town Supervisor to see the dynamic of people coming into Town Hall to pay their school tax bill. The first question I had for Town Clerk/Tax Collector Dolly Maguire was "why does the town collect the school taxes"? I wondered why the Webster School District offices on South Avenue at Spry was not the location to go pay these taxes. What Dolly showed me was that in 1953 (yes... 68 years ago) the Webster Town Board officially did a resolution changing the town from a 2nd class to a 1st class town. 1st class towns have over a 10,000-citizen population. As such, per Town Law 37, as a 1st class town, the town collects the school taxes on behalf of the school district unless the town board and the appropriate school authorities have agreed otherwise.
To be honest, I'm not sure I got a realistic view of citizen traffic at Town Hall in September 2020 due to COVID restrictions we had in place, and incentives the County made available to pay those taxes with credit card and NO transaction fee. Bottom line.... the goal in 2020 was to try and give as many options as possible to the citizens to pay their school tax bill without having to come into Town Hall to do so. Even with all those other payment mechanisms in place, over 3,000 property owners opted to come into Town Hall to pay their school taxes "in person".
In many ways, September 2021 will be similar to 2020 since COVID is not really 100% behind us yet. At the time I'm writing this article, the delta variant is still prevalent and public and private institutions are struggling to balance CDC recommendations on masking with their organization's employees and customers experience inside their facilities. If a citizen still wants to come into Town Hall to pay their school taxes in September 2021, I think it is important for them to understand the Town Hall's current policies on masking, "pending" any future changes from the CDC or State Government. If fully vaccinated, employees and visitors are not required to wear masks, although it is recommended. Non fully vaccinated employees and visitors are required to wear masks, but we do not check for vaccination card proof. There are plexiglass barriers between the Town Hall employees and the visitors, and we still recommend 6+ feet social distancing where such barriers are not present.
In summary.... we always welcome our citizens to visit Town Hall but based on the current COVID situation I invite you to go to ci.webster.ny.us/293/receiver-of-taxes to see ALL the other ways to pay your school taxes than coming into Town Hall and paying in person. As always, feel free to call me at 585-872-7068 or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
August 25, 2021
Communicating the Sandbar Park project, REDI resiliency grants and the Bayside Pub
It has been almost 3-months since the Thursday, May 27th Town Board Workshop where the proposed plans for Sandbar Park were unveiled. If you are a frequent reader of my columns the past 20 months, you know I am a "student of Communication". I've stated often that the Town of Webster has a communication challenge with its citizens. In many ways, the law on municipality communication to its citizens is antiquated. It has not been changed in 50+ years and mandates that timely publishing of Town Board meetings and/or public hearings needs to be done in the established newspaper of the municipality. As we all know, newspapers were the main median that citizens consumed their news 50 years ago but is not so much anymore. As such, where the law mandates newspaper, if a municipality really is dedicated to communicating with its citizens, it will commit itself to maximizing all the other means and modes of communication including but not limited to direct mail, websites, social media, television, phone, and e-mail.
The past 3-months experience with Sandbar Park has been very educational to me as it pertains to just how challenged the Town is at communicating with its citizens. Leading up to the Thursday, May 27th workshop, I worked closely with several key Town Department Heads, the engineers and architects on this proposed Sandbar Park project. We tried to develop a communication plan that went "far above and beyond" what the law requires. One of the main reasons we wanted to over communicate this proposed project was that in the middle of the 12+ acres that makes up Sandbar Park is the iconic establishment; the Bayside Pub, and the plan necessitates that building be taken down.
With that spirit in mind, the Town mailed out 9 by 12 inch postcards the week of May 24-28th to ALL Town of Webster residents promoting four open house presentations of the Sandbar Park proposed project on June 2, 8, 10, and 12th at the Rec Center and Joe Obbie Farmers’ Market. We also promoted these open houses on the town website, and social media platforms. We had large boards produced of the project that were placed on easels that were presented at these open houses. These boards and easels have been on display at the Library and Rec Center since mid-June and have elicited a lot of interest from those facility's visitors. We had handouts at the open houses that addressed the FAQs on the Bayside Pub, and also what the plan was for the building replacement was as it was apparent there was a lot of misinformation out there on this. The initial meeting of the 7-person volunteer committee for a "request for proposal" for the bar/restaurant at the new building was held two weeks ago. Their 2nd meeting is next week. I am very confident that this committee will come up with a wonderful option for the community that will keep the essence of the current Bayside Pub.
As we move into the Autumn of 2021, the Sandbar Park proposed project will pick up speed with the Town Board deciding on bonding, and contractor bids on the portions of the project that will be initiated in the spring of 2022. I guess the biggest lesson I learned from the past 3-months is that sometimes the facts aren't as good as a "good story". The facts unequivocally and irrefutably support that the current building that is the Bayside Pub must be taken down for the New York State REDI resiliency grants to be fully utilized. The flooding in 2017 and 2019 almost created a situation where the Town was going to have to condemn or take down the Bayside Pub building. One more such high-water spring and there is no doubt the current Bayside 80+ year old building would need to be taken down. Raising the Bay side of the park and putting in a break wall to withstand 252 ft. water level will assure that any new building that houses a bar/restaurant will never have the flooding issues of 2017 and 2019 when the water got to 249+ feet.
I've been surprised that the Town's attempts to communicate the facts have often been met with indignation or incredulity by people who want the current Bayside to remain. If I'm fortunate enough to be Supervisor in 2022 and beyond, this is a lesson I hope to remember and learn from as to how the Town communicates out in the future. As always, please feel free to call me at 585-872-7068 or e-mail me at email@example.com.
August 18, 2021
What characteristics do we want our government representatives to have?
Last week, Andrew Cuomo resigned his position as New York's Governor after 11 years. Depending on who you talk to, the state's situation improved, got worse, or stayed the same from the time when he entered the office in 2010 until he resigned in 2021. Cuomo's resignation is just the most recent occurrence in what has been an unprecedented few years of political divisiveness. It is not hard to understand why so many people are getting disillusioned with the "leadership" in the country, state, and locally. Too many politicians, Republican and Democrat in the past few years have left office in shame, and in some cases under investigation for things that may end in prison time. Throw in the skepticism we have with "news" and whether what we read or hear about is accurate, and the situation becomes even that much more dire on the surface as to the faith we have in our elected officials.
The past several years have manifested two very interesting phenomena's in the political arena; 1. the percentage growth of registered voters NOT affiliated with the Democrat or Republican parties, and 2. The shift of philosophy and/or main platforms of the Democrat and Republican parties. On the former, approximately 40% of the registered voters in the United States are independent or in parties other than the Democrat or Republican party. Why is that percentage growing, and will it ever grow to being over 50%? That question would need several articles to discern! On the latter, the key to any progress being made is when compromise is found. It's good to have two different parties/opinions on things. However, when the parties and the people in them start saying "100% of what I think is right, and 100% of what you think is wrong".... nothing good can come out that.
So what characteristics should we be looking for in the political candidates? Ultimately these are the people we vote for and put in positions that "should be leadership roles". By definition, they should be held to a higher standard. True leaders understand that. They know they are NOT above the law, and in fact need to lead by example within the law. As such, this is my opinion on two important things to research on the candidates you ultimately cast your vote for; 1. Honesty and 2. Work ethic. Neither the Democratic nor Republican parties have proprietary domain on these two. In fact, in my lifetime I have met a LOT of "Lyin and/or Lazy" people in BOTH parties. One of the biggest challenges we have in citizens doing true, unbiased research on candidates is "affiliation". Simply said, many people will vote party line, even if there are facts out there that support that their party's candidate is a liar and/or lazy. From what I can tell, the rationale for voting party line even if the candidate has warts is that "the philosophy of the party" is what they're truly voting for. I suppose that makes sense when considering what I stated earlier in this article on party platform and "I'm 100% right and you're 100% wrong".
One thing I know for certain is that we need more LEADERS in elected positions. The eternal optimist in me hopes that the recent tumult will result in a renaissance in the future of LEADERS seeking these positions. As always, feel free to call me at 585-872-7068 or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
August 11, 2021
Updating the 2008 Town of Webster Comprehensive Plan
In late July 2021, the Town of Webster applied for a $100,000 grant for the purpose of updating the 2008 Comprehensive Plan. Josh Artuso, the Town's Director of Community Development led the project of putting this application together. Josh started with the Town in January 2020 and has a background in "planning". From what I can tell, Josh may be the first person employed by the Town who has such a background. From how we interpret this grant, the approval would come around December 2021, and the Town would have three years (January 1, 2022- December 31, 2024) to execute the updating process and adoption of the new comprehensive plan that will supersede the 2008 plan.
So, what is a Comprehensive Plan? I was first introduced to the 2008 Comprehensive Plan while discerning whether to run for Webster Town Supervisor in early 2019. On the surface, it is 140+ page document with another 15 or so attached maps. However, I have learned over the past 2+ years that plan is lynchpin to the operation of the Town of Webster government. Depending on who you talk to, the plan is either an "absolute" to refer to unequivocally on how to handle ALL situations, or it is a "guidepost" for the various Town boards to look at within decisions they make.
The 2008 plan is an update from the 2000 Comprehensive Plan. That is an example of how these "long term" plans most likely need to be updated every 5-10 years to address the changes that are going on in a community. Another way to look at this is that a comprehensive plan in 1990 when the town population was 31,000 would be very difference from a plan in 2020 when the population is approx. 47,000. The 2008 plan lays out the zoning for all 35 square miles of the town. It also lays out approx. 120 initiatives the Town seeks to achieve in various timeframes (i.e. immediately, within 2 years, within 5 years, within 10 years).
A few months ago, I asked 10-12 people who have been involved in Webster government for at least the past 15-years to assess whether each of the 120 initiatives was accomplished between 2008 and 2021. The purpose of that exercise was to see if we could learn lessons from 2008 that would assist us as we update the plan in 2022 and beyond (i.e. if the initiative did NOT get accomplished, why? How can we make sure ALL initiatives laid out in an updated plan can be accomplished in the timeframes stated?).
Over the next 4+ months as we dovetail to December 2021 and the "hoped for" approval on this $100,000 grant, I will be working with Josh Artuso to determine the best course of action on this project going into 2022. Simply said, the manner in which comprehensive plans were produced 10-20 years ago may be very different now. If there is a different/better way to the process in 2022, we need to fully vet that. One thing I am pretty sure of is that the process in 2022-2024 will necessitate community stakeholder involvement. Be on the lookout for the volunteer opportunities that will be available!
As always, feel free to call me at 585-872-7068 or e-mail at email@example.com
August 3, 2021
Chapter 4 - Fun Facts on the Town of Webster Budget
In my first article on the Town of Webster Budget in the Wednesday, July 14th Webster Herald, I described in Fun Fact #1 how the current Town tax rate of $5.30 per $1,000 of assessed value resulted in a $1,060 annual real estate tax bill for a property assessed at $200,000. I received over a dozen calls and e-mails from citizens stating that their home was assessed for approx. $200,000 and that their real estate tax bill annually was MUCH higher than $1,060. They went on to state their real estate tax bill was in the $8,000 range or higher and that my math must have been wrong.
In my discussions with these people, I was able to let them know that I was just talking about the TOWN component of their annual real estate taxes, and was not factoring in their School, Fire, and/or County taxes. I further found from my discussions that the majority of the people that reached out to me on this had their real estate taxes "escrowed" within their monthly mortgage payments. As such, their $8,000 of annual real estate taxes was paid at approx. $700 a month within their mortgage payment (i.e. 1/12th of their total annual real estate taxes). As such, they told me they never had looked at the individual real estate tax bills that are paid in January and September each year as to the breakdown of Town, County, fire, school, and special districts if applicable.
These conversations got me thinking that a breakdown of my own annual real estate tax bills may be a good "fun fact".
FUN FACT #6: BREAKDOWN OF THE JANUARY AND SEPTEMBER REAL ESTATE TAX BILLS:
The figures shown below come right of my September 2020 and January 2021 real estate tax bills. My home is currently assessed for $208,000 so at Webster's current equalization rate means the estimated market value is approx. $280,000.
--Tax Bill-- --Description-- --$$$$-- --- Tax rate per $1,000 assessed---
September 2020 School Taxes $4,855 $23.29
January 2021 Town of Webster $1,104 $5.30
January 2021 County of Monroe $2,461 $11.81
Annual Real Estate Tax Totals: $8,420 $40.40
There are other "details" on the actual tax bills that can run the gamut depending on your specific situation as a town of Webster property owner. Some of those include but are not limited to; 1. If you live in the Village, your Town tax rate is less, but you have a Village tax, 2. West Webster or Northeast Fire District tax, 3. Special district charges such as drainage, lighting, etc. and 4. the Sewer Department "flat" rates for the year on O/M and Capital.
In future articles I will breakdown the services that each of these taxing entities supply to Residents. As always, feel free to call me at 585-872-7068 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
July 28, 2021
Chapter 3 - Fun Facts on the Town of Webster Budget
As stated in the past 2 week's Supervisor's Corner articles, the overall theme of these fun facts will be 2-fold; 1. historical stats from 2021 and prior year budgets, and 2. trying to relate a Town's budget to what each of our families need to navigate in our own "home budgets". Those factors are 1. How much money we bring into our home annually from our jobs, pensions, etc. 2. How much money we spend annually as a family on housing, car, food, etc. 3. How much debt we have as a family in mortgages, car loans, credit cards, etc. and 4. How much savings do we have in bank accounts, 401ks, etc.
FUN FACT #5 - ANNUAL REVENUE/MONEY THAT COMES IN TO PAY THE TOWN GOVERNMENT BILLS:
This figure is similar to what your family figures out comes in from their employment, or social security, pension, etc. This money "comes in" to the household and is used to pay the bills. If the bills exceed the money coming in, then decisions need to be made on how to make up that gap. Those decisions include but are not limited to; 1. take money out of savings, 2. reduce spending, and/or 3. go into further debt (i.e., buy things with credit cards).
The Town budget has historically been comprised of four revenue components to "bring money in" to be able to pay the bills; 1. Real estate taxes to property owners, 2. Revenue we control, 3. Revenue we don't control, and 4. Tapping into savings. Below is an explanation of each of these:
1. Real Estate Taxes: In fun fact #3, it was shown what the annual bills are for the Town. Below are the last seven year's budgets of the real estate taxes collected in millions, and the percentage each year that these taxes made up of the overall bills the Town had to pay (i.e., net expenditures)
2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021
------- ---------- --------- ---------- -------- -------- ---------
$16.0 $17.2 $17.4 $17.9 $18.4 $19.0 $19.6
62.0% 63.5% 62.4% 61.7% 60.5% 61.1% 60.9%
The statistics above reflect that historically the Town budget gets approx. 60% of its funds to pay the bills from real estate taxes. The other 40% comes from a combination of controlled revenue, uncontrolled revenue, and tapping into savings.
2. Controlled Revenue: My description of this may be misleading. I call it "controlled" because the Town government has influence on how much of it can be generated annually. Two examples of such revenue are 1. the EDU sewer rental fee that is currently $192 in the 2021 budget, and 2. Recreation program revenue.
The EDU sewer rental rate set each year takes into many factors. They include but are not limited to; are we just trying to set a rate to cover the Sewer Department’s annual expenses? Are we trying to build up a reserve? Are we giving back some of the reserve to citizens in that year by reducing the rate? The Recreation program revenue is one that I am very proud of what the department has done in the past 18+ months. Chris Bilow became the Parks and Rec Commissioner in March 2020. Within a few months of him being in the position he conveyed to me that there was a tremendous opportunity to provide MORE recreational and Senior programs out of the Rec center on Chiyoda Dr. than had historically been offered. He also said that these programs would produce revenue, and that revenue would at least break even to the costs of the new programs being added.
The result? In March 2021 the Recreation and Senior programs generated revenue 25% MORE than the nest March in the 5-year period of 2015-2019 (i.e., the last 5 NON-COVID years) Furthermore, Chris and his team accomplished this with a 30% reduction in gym memberships that had previously came from Xerox employees who worked at the campus across the street. When COVID hit, those Xerox employees were sent home to work and thus canceled their gym memberships. As of July 2021, Xerox has not called most of these people back to the Xerox campus to work. In summary on this "controlled revenue" component... I have made it a priority to work with and support the efforts of the Department Heads who can generate revenue. Theoretically for each dollar of revenue they generate, it is one less dollar of real estate taxes we need to levy on our citizens.
3. Uncontrolled Revenue: The biggest one is sales tax. The Town finds out every 3-months how much sales tax revenue we are getting from eligible sales from the Webster community. We have historical trends on the actual, but it is still a difficult figure to budget. There are other County, State and Federal revenues in this category including but not limited to mortgage tax and CHIPS money from the state for the Highway Department. Once again.... theoretically for each dollar of this revenue, it is one less dollar of real estate taxes we need to levy on our citizens
4. Tapping into Savings: The Town has several fund balances of which some are unrestricted and some restricted. There are also reserves. Regardless of what they are categorized as, they are essentially the "Savings" of the Town government. Just like our families, savings are usually generated by having your annual expenses be LESS than the money you bring in. As the Town Board works to form a budget each year, they have the option to tap into these savings to "make ends meet" if the annual expenditures are not going to be covered by the aggregate of real estate taxes and controlled and uncontrolled revenues. This option often assists at staying under the State's 2% tax cap.
Below is the ACTUAL "end of year" for the past 6-years on the Town savings in millions (i.e., ALL unrestricted and restricted fund balances):
2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020
--------- ---------- --------- ---------- --------- --------
$13.4 $13.9 $14.4 $15.1 $14.4 $13.3
Two milestone events have occurred in the past few years that have and will affect in the future these fund balances; 1. the 2019 and 2020 year-end reductions reflect the $12 million, Phase 1 sewer plant improvement project that net of grants came in at $9 million. Some of the payments of principal and interest came from these fund balances. 2. In February 2020, Paul Adams, the Town's Finance Director attended the annual Association of Town's meeting and the New York State Comptroller's Office made it clear that municipalities need to have a "formal" fund balance policy. Prior to that, Webster had not had one. In mid-2020 the Town Board approved the new fund balance policy for the Town. Such a formal policy will give guidance to the Town Board today and in the future so that less subjective decision making is made on money matters that affect fund balances.
As always, please feel free to call me at 585-872-7068 or e-mail me at email@example.com
July 21, 2021
Chapter 2 - Fun Facts on the Town of Webster Budget
As stated in last week's Supervisor's corner article, the overall theme of these fun facts will be 2-fold; 1. historical stats from 2021 and prior year budgets, and 2. trying to relate a Town's budget to what each of our families need to navigate in our own "home budgets". Those factors are 1. How much money we bring into our home annually from our jobs, pensions, etc. 2. How much money we spend annually as a family on housing, car, food, etc. 3. How much debt we have as a family in mortgages, car loans, credit cards, etc. and 4. How much savings do we have in bank accounts, 401ks, etc.
FUN FACT #3- ANNUAL NET EXPENDITURES: This figure is similar to what your family figures out what they pay annually on ALL of their expenses including but not limited to Mortgage or rent payments for housing, car payments, health insurance, entertainment, taxes (income, sales, real estate) and food/clothing. However, for the town, these expenses include but are not limited to Town employee payroll and benefits, town retiree benefits, Materials at Highway department, maintaining police and highway dept fleet of vehicles, and other non-payroll services such a parks, recreation, debt payments on bonds for infrastructure improvements, etc.
Below are the last 7-year's budgets of these expenditures in millions of dollars, along with the correlating percentage increase from the prior year:
2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021
------- ---------- --------- ---------- -------- -------- ---------
$25.8 $27.1 $27.9 $29.0 $30.4 $31.1 $32.2
+5.04% +2.95% +3.94% +4.83% +2.30% +3.54%
FUN FACT #4- TOWN EMPLOYEE PAYROLL, BENEFITS, AND RETIREE BENEFITS: This is a component of the Annual net expenditures reflected above in fun fact 3. Almost 90% of the full-time employees at the town are in one of the following unions; 1. Blue Collar, 2. White Collar, and 3. Police. The union contracts in place as we approach the 2022 budget have the following similarities: 1. they are 3 year contracts of which 2022 is the 2nd or 3rd year of each contact, and 2. They have 2%+ cost of living (COLA) escalators of base pay in 2022. These 2%+ COLA escalators to base pay for these union members is commensurate with the past contracts the town has negotiated with these unions over the past 10-20 years. The challenge becomes that these COLA escalators year over year on base pay coupled with the 2% tax cap the State initiated makes it problematic to the budget process. Add in the escalating benefit costs to existing town employees and retirees of the town over the years, and the budget process becomes challenging to stay below the 2% tax cap.
Below is the past 7-year's budget dollars on town employee base pay, employer paid benefits, and retiree benefits in millions, along with how those aggregate dollars in millions represent the percentage of overall net expenditures reflected in fun fact 3:
2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021
------- ---------- --------- ---------- -------- -------- ---------
Employee pay/benefits/retiree benefits $17.9 $18.8 $19.5 $20.2 $21.1 $21.4 $22.0
Percentage increase from prior year
of employee/retiree pay and benefits +5.0% +3.7% +3.6% +4.5% +1.4% +2.8%
Percent of employee/retiree
expenditures to total net expenditures: 69.4% 69.4% 69.9% 69.7% 69.4% 68.8% 68.3%
When your annual budget of expenditures has close to 70% being toward Employee payroll, benefits, and Retiree benefits, and much of that is from previously negotiated union contracts...... it leaves about 30% for non-employee/retiree items. The analogy to our family home budget is if 70% of our annual expenses were toward our mortgage payments/rent. We call this "house poor" since it does not leave a family much left to pay for the other things in their life. From my experience in the Mortgage business, Families that fall into the "house poor" category have a few options to remedy; 1. figure out how to bring more money into the home via a higher paying job, 2. sell or move and get into a lesser mortgage/rent payment, or 3. do nothing and suffer the consequences of having little money to spend on other things... or worse, go into more debt via credit cards to try and do those additional things that you can't do with the money that comes in from your job.
For the town of Webster, some of the mechanisms that can be utilized to reduce the percentage of the annual budget that is for Employee/Retiree pay and benefits include but are not limited to; 1. Employee reductions through either cuts or attrition when people retire and not hiring someone new to that position, 2. Future Union contract negotiations being sensitive to the COLA and Benefits as to how they affect the tools the town can supply for their union members within doing their jobs. (i.e. that currently only 30% of the budget is available for things NOT employee/retiree pay and benefits) The problem with the former is that is short sighted and not reflective of the citizen's needs from its town government. The fact is that the Town of Webster's population per the 1990 census was 31,000 and by the 2010 census was 42,000. In the coming weeks we will be getting the results of the 2020 census, and it is foreseeable that the Town's population is currently around 47,000. The annual budget process unfortunately is not geared to a "long term plan" that takes into account all the metrics including but not limited to; population, lane miles the Highway dept must service, and flow handled by the sewer plant and miles of mainlines and pump stations they service within that flow. I don't want to get ahead of myself, but maybe in the future we will tie the process of updating the 2008 Comprehensive plan to the annual budget process, so they work in concert as to the long-term planning for the community. As always, please feel free to call me at 585-872-7068 or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
July 14, 2021
Fun Facts on the Town of Webster Budget
One thing I have learned since becoming Town Supervisor 18 months ago is that " the budget season is year-round". The Town is on a calendar fiscal year, so we finalize our annual budget by approx. October 2021 so that the Town and County real estate tax bill citizens receive in January 2022 is reflective of that budget. The 2022 budget process started in May/June 2021 with Department Heads submitting to the Director of Finance and Town Supervisor their "initial ask" for their department for 2022 expenses. Then the Town Board liaison to each department, the Department Head, the Director of Finance, and Town Supervisor have one on one meetings to discuss these "initial asks". Those meetings seek to determine if cuts need to be made from the initial asks so that in totality of the 14 departments, a budget can be produced that does not "break the bank!".
As we move through July and August 2021 the 2022 budget setting process will become quite active. There will be public presentations at Town Board meetings and workshops by the various Department Heads where line item by line item descriptions will be given of the proposed budget. The public will have a LOT of opportunity to chime in on this via attending these meetings or watching on TV/live stream. There will be a setting of a preliminary budget by the town board. There will be a publishing of that preliminary budget in the Webster Herald that goes to ALL homes in Webster and/or in the October 2021 Webster Today. By the time a final 2022 budget is voted on by the Town Board, 4-5 months of activity will have occurred with many opportunities for public interaction in the process.
Over the next few Supervisor Corner articles, I plan on showing some "fun facts" about the town of Webster Budget. The overall theme of these fun facts will be 2-fold; 1. historical stats from 2021 and prior year budgets, and 2. trying to relate a Town's budget to what each of our families need to navigate in our own "home budgets". Those factors are 1. How much money we bring into our home annually from our jobs, pensions, etc. 2. How much money we spend annually as a family on housing, car, food, etc. 3. How much debt we have as a family in mortgages, car loans, credit cards, etc. and 4. How much savings do we have in bank accounts, 401ks, etc.
FUN FACT #1: THE TAX RATE: The 2021 budget for the town resulted in a Real estate tax rate of $5.30 per $1,000 assessed value. As such, if your home is assessed for $200,000 then your Town of Webster real estate taxes in 2021 are $1,060. Below is what the tax rate has been the past 7-years:
2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021
--------- ----------- ------------ ----------- --------- ---------- --------
$4.61 $4.95 $5.00 $5.11 $5.17 $5.22 $5.30
FUN FACT #2: THE 2% NEW YORK STATE TAX CAP: Several years ago the state rolled out the "tax cap" concept. This may be overly simplified, but it meant that if the municipality wanted to increase real estate taxes on their citizens by 2% or more from one year to the next, then the board vote would need to be a super majority of 4-1. To me, the unintended consequences of this tax cap are 2-fold: 1. it does not reflect if a governance is making the right decisions fiscally for their community, and 2. it has become politicized (i.e. don't break the 2% tax cap in an election year..... don't break the 2% tax cap or you'll be seen as NOT being fiscally conservative, etc.) The 2% calculation is not a straightforward one. The State Comptroller’s office gives guidance on the equation used to determine if your tax rate is going up 2% or more. Below is the last 7-year history of the Town of Webster on whether their budget exceeded the 2% tax cap, and if it did, how much tax rate went up:
2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021
--------- ----------- ------------ ----------- --------- ---------- --------
NO YES (7%) NO NO NO NO NO
Be on the lookout for more "fund facts" on the Town of Webster budget in upcoming Supervisor Corner articles. As always, feel free to call me at 585-872-7068 or e-mail at email@example.com.
July 7, 2021
Thoughts on Local Government on Independence Day Weekend
What a glorious 4th of July weekend we had in 2021! We may not be fully opened back up from the restrictions of COVID but we sure are getting close. This past weekend made me think about how local government should match the vision of the founding fathers back in 1776 on a federal government "for the people". So, if you'll indulge me, here are a few of my thoughts....
DEMOCRACY: No doubt the Town and Village of Webster governments have open elections so citizens can choose their representatives. "Having Choices" and "citizen involvement" are such important aspects of this. When I was elected in November 2019 there were "choices" on the ballot for Town Supervisor, and almost 14,000 Webster citizens cast their ballot, which was approx. 43% of all registered voters. Believe it or not, that was a high percentage turn out compared to the prior 5 - 6 Supervisor elections. Maybe that is because half of those elections had NO choices, and only ONE candidate to choose from for Town Supervisor. To me, having only ONE choice is NOT good for a community and I am glad to see that in November 2021 there will be choices besides just me for Town Supervisor. Last month, the Village of Webster held their election for Mayor and 2 trustee positions. approx. 100 people voted from the approx. 3,300 registered voters in the village so about 3% of the registered voters. The reason for the low turnout? Probably due to only ONE choice on the ballot of these positions. Now... I think the people who won are fine and upstanding people who will represent the Village citizens to the best of their ability.... but having NO other choice is NOT good for a community and frankly is NOT what the founding fathers envisioned in a Democracy.
CITIZEN INVOLVEMENT BEYOND VOTING: Last month, we held four open houses to show the community the proposed Sandbar Park project. We tried to promote these open houses via post cards to citizen homes, website, and social media. We were mindful to have them on different days and times to assure that people would have minimized schedule conflicts. I was SO hoping we'd get 1,500-2,000 attendees in aggregate at these 4 open houses. Ultimately, we ended up with about 400-500 attendees. Frankly I was disappointed in the attendance numbers. However, people associated with local government throughout Monroe County told me that 400-500 was pretty good. I guess I am just still a novice at this "government thing" after 30+ years in business because I just felt that with 46,000 citizens in Webster and the project being potentially $10 million if we move forward with all of it... that more people would come and be "involved". However, I am an "eternal optimist" and feel that we will get more involvement from the citizens in the coming months/years, especially with COVID restrictions lifting, and improvements we are making to communications at the Town of Webster with our citizens. There will be more opportunities for the citizens to come to public forums, open houses, etc. on a variety of issues imminently facing the Webster community. I have confidence that the Webster Community is a GREAT one, and its people are looking to be engaged if offered.
I'll leave you with this as part of my proof of how great the Webster people are......the past 2 weeks I have been walking door to door in neighborhoods that are scheduled to have road maintenance by our Highway Department this summer. Pat Stephens, our new Highway Superintendent is an innovative and customer service driven professional. He and I discussed how when the Highway Dept. has historically done "chip sealing" in July and August, that there is spike in citizen complaint emails, calls, etc. Pat and I agreed that maybe we should deploy our time and energies on "proactively" on this instead of "reactively" and thus the reason for me walking door to door to let citizens know this chip sealing will be done soon on their street and to answer and questions they may have on the process (i.e. laying down tar, laying little stones over it, picking up excess stones, etc.) Some said I was crazy going to people's doors to discuss this since people generally don't like when chip sealing is done on their street every 7-9 years (including yours truly who has lived in Webster 24 years and has had it done 3 times on my street). I saw it as an opportunity to talk face to face with people and not via phone, email, zoom etc. that we've been relegated to since COVID. Selfishly, I need the exercise!!!!! The results? The experience has been AWESOME! To date, I've visited about 150 homes and made face to face contact with about 100 of them. The discussions have proven to me that most Webster people are "rational and reasonable" as long as you tell them the truth and not try to "spin things". My guess is that the founding fathers would probably subscribe to that last sentence as a foundational tenet of good government. As always, please feel free to call me at 585-872-7068 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
June 30, 2021
Volume 2- What are the "numbers" on Village-Town Sewers... past, present, and future?
My Supervisor's Corner article in last week's June 23rd edition of the Webster Herald elicited a lot of great feedback. This feedback ran the gamut. Many reached out thanking me for giving "factual numbers" from the last 5 years Village and Town budgets and audited financial statements. Some reached out stating I was giving propaganda and there was no proof of the numbers I presented. I guess audited financial statements produced by an independent 3rd party accounting firm and remitted to the State Comptroller did not make the cut to those people as "factual".
Proving that "Webster Sewers are the issue du jour".... On June 24th, the Village Board meeting had 1 hour of the 1 hour and 25-minute meeting dedicated to public comment on whether the Village should partner up with the Town on a Consolidated Community Sewer system or invest capital into the Village plant on Wall Road and remain separate from the Town. The Village Board is tentatively scheduled to consider such a vote as soon as their next board meeting in early to mid-July. At the same time on June 24th, the Town Board was meeting and had the engineering firm of Barton & Loguidice present the details of phase 2 of the Town's sewer plant improvement project. By early to mid-July the Town Board is looking to discern the next steps in this process as it is critical to "get projects in line" to be shovel ready so as to maximize grant potential
So in the spirit of supplying the public with "More numbers", I figured I'd do a "part 2" edition of last week's article. Below are some more such "numbers" with analysis and explanation where needed on the following two (2) items:
ITEM 1: Several people noted to me that the 4,126 Xerox EDUs that make up 60% of Village's 6,911 EDUs from the chart below had the following italicized note; Residential EDUs at a flat rate bring guaranteed revenue. Commercial EDUs on a variable $$ per 1,000 gallons can fluctuate based on whether the business is expanding or contracting. as a point of reference, Xerox flows on their 800-acre campus were most likely higher 10+ years ago when more of the campus was being utilized. As such, these people wanted to know what the actual flows were from Xerox the last 10 years? Below is the same EDU chart that was in last week's article, and the breakdown of 2017-2020 actual flows from Xerox.
Current EDU configuration- Residential versus Commercial per August 2020 engineer presentation
Residential Xerox other Commercial Total
units % units % units % units %
Village 1,344 19% 4,126 60% 1,441 21% 6,911 100%
Town 15,711 88% 650 4% 1,540 8% 17,901 100%
Actual Flow/Billings- Xerox by Village
Year Gallons EDUs
2017 247,709,371 4,128
2018 241,073,908 4,018
2019 218,934,022 3,648
2020 212,072,364 3,534
In summary to this Xerox EDU item as it pertains to the Village: The 4,126 Xerox EDUs made up 60% of the 6,911 Village EDUs per the August 2020 presentation. Now it appears Xerox is at 3,534 EDUs based on 2020 actual flow/billings. Therefore, the actual total is approx. 6,317, which is 8.6% LESS than 6,911. When the Village leadership is discerning cost of the "Village ONLY plan- Asset replenishment option, they will need to determine if they spread the annual debt financing over 6,911 EDUs, 6,317 EDUs or some other figure. The approximate $8 million of bonding that will be needed by the Village in the phase 1 of the asset replenishment plan will be spread over these EDUs so the higher the number of these total EDUs, the less cost per EDU. Conversely, the less the number of EDUs this cost is spread over, the more cost per EDU.
ITEM 2: At the June 24th Village Board meeting, Village DPW Commissioner Jake Swingly gave the following "verbal" presentation as to the math he had done on a Town-only plant's phase 2, versus a consolidated community plant. He stated during his presentation to "take out your pencils", so I did😊. Here is what he presented:
TOWN ONLY: $20 million 25% grant. $15 million bond payment over 30 years equates to $37 per each of the town's approx.17,000 EDUs
CONSOLIDATED: $30 million 40% grant $18 million bond payment over 30 years equates to $32 per each of the approx. 24,000 village and town EDUs
Jake went on to state that the consolidated community is $5 less annually on EDU from his math but felt that "you had to take that into context". I agree with Jake that his analysis needs to be taken into context. One aspect of that context is what the math would be using Jake's logic on the "Village only-asset replenishment" option. That option results in approx. $8 million in VILLAGE bonding on phase 1 in 2023, and that the 30-year payment on that debt, even with 0% rate on $5 million of it, spread over approx. 7,000 VILLAGE EDUs is $45 per EDU. Then.... 7-10 years from now an additional $5-7 million would need to be bonded by the Village for phase 2 of this asset replenishment plan.
In this context, the $45 per EDU for the approx. 7,000 Village EDUs in asset replenishment seems to be $13 MORE than the Village taxpayers would pay in the consolidation example Jake presented at the meeting. That $13 means the Village resident and business would be paying 41% MORE on EDU on VILLAGE ONLY versus the math Jake presented on consolidation ($13 more than $32 is a 41% increase) Finally... based on the 4-year trend shown in item 1 above of Xerox flows/billings, I don't know if using 7,000 EDUs as the denominator is accurate to spread this $8 million in annual bonding payments over. It would be reasonable to lower that to 6,500 or less and then the $45 per EDU would go up commensurately.
In summary, as stated last week.....with the recent $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan from the Federal Government, local governments were slotted funds. The Town will be getting approx. $4.3 million and the Village approx. $600K. Based on the U.S. Treasury guidance to date, it appears these funds can be used for Broadband, water, and SEWER. That, along with the potential for a 40% grant on a consolidated community sewer versus 25% grants on "separate" sewers could drive down the amount needed to be bonded. The lower the debt on this project... the less the annual debt payment will be. The less the debt payments, the less $$ have to be included in annual EDU charges to citizens and businesses. As always, feel free to call me at 585-872-7068 or e-mail at email@example.com
June 23, 2021:
What are the "numbers" on Village-Town Sewers... past, present, and future?
At the June 10th presentation to the joint meeting of the Village Board of Trustees and the Town Board, a village citizen took the podium and asked the question "what are the numbers"? He went on to elaborate as to how it was difficult for the Village Board of Trustees to vote on a Consolidated Community Sewer system or a "Village-only" system going forward without these "numbers". Since then, no less than 10 times have Village and Town Board members and citizens said to me "we have not seen the numbers".
So, what are the "numbers" people want to see? I think it is a combination of two things; 1. Capital cost net of grants that will end up being debt to the municipality, and 2. The annual cost on a citizen or business owner tax bill for the sewer system. The latter will increase as annual debt payments on bonding for the project increase. On Capital cost, the town recently completed a $12 million phase 1 improvement at the Phillips Road sewer campus. 25% or $3 million in grants were obtained for that project so the net cost to town taxpayers was $9 million that either had to be bonded/go into debt or taken out of the Sewer fund balance/reserve. Also, at a public meeting in August 2020 held by ZOOM, the Village and Town engineers presented a 35+ slide deck that included how net of grants, a Consolidated Community system would cost approx. $10 million less than the Village and Town going forward with separate sewers. That figure was conservative, as it did not factor in the 40% consolidation incentive grants, and only factored traditional 25% EFC State grants.
An annual cost to citizens or businesses to be on the sewer system, the metric used is called an Equivalent Dwelling Unit (EDU). 1 EDU equals approx. 60,000 gallons a year. Residents are charged a flat rate EDU and businesses are charged a variable $$$ per 1,000 gallons of flow. As such, regardless of whether you flush your toilet one time a day or 20 times a day at your home, you will have that flat EDU rate annually. This makes estimating "residential" revenue to the system easy. However, at a business, since the flow is monitored and billed, if the business has two times the flow of another business, they will be charged two times as much in that year. EDU rates are set annually by municipality governance and take into account several variables including current fund balance/reserve levels, new debt taken on via bonding, and anticipated costs to run the plant. Below is the last 5 years of EDU rates at Village and Town, 4-year audited financial statement sewer numbers, along with some other analysis of EDUs between Village and Town currently:
EDU rate 5-year history:
2021 2020 2019 2018 2017
Village $195 $150 $120 $98 $98
Town $192 $187 $173 $168 $168
2021 EDU charge converted to tax rate per $1,000 on average assessed value of home in the municipality:
Village: Average assessed value $118,000. EDU charge of $195 equates to $1.65 per $1000
Town: Average assessed Value $176,000. EDU charge of $192 equates to $1.09 per $1000
Current EDU configuration- Residential versus Commercial
Residential Xerox other Commercial Total
units % units % Units % Units %
Village 1,344 19% 4,126 60% 1,441 21% 6,911 100%
Town 15,711 88% 650 4% 1,540 8% 17,901 100%
Note: Residential EDUs at a flat rate bring guaranteed revenue. Commercial EDUs on a variable $$ per 1,000 gallons can fluctuate based on whether the business is expanding or contracting. as a point of reference, Xerox flows on their 800-acre campus were most likely higher 10+ years ago when more of the campus was being utilized.
4 - year history per audited financial statements of Village and Town Enterprise/Sewer funds:
2020 2019 2018 2017
Town Village Town Village Town Village Town Village
Revenue $3.30 mil $947K $3.06 mil $781K $2.91 mil $741K $2.89 mil $800K
Expenses $2.07 mil $826K $2.15 mil $868K $1.71 mil $758K $1.54 mil $857K
Fund balance $6.14 mil $276K $7.21 mil ($55K) $7.09 mil $98K $7.68 mil $216K
4-year audited financials-Notes:
- Village increased EDU charge from $150 to $195 in 2021-2022 budget most likely for the purpose of building fund balance/reserve
- Town fund balance/reserve has decreased the past 4 years due to upgrades to pump stations and main sewer lines in town.
- Pump stations and mains are part of collection system and NOT part of treatment at the sewer plant
One last thing on the "numbers" past, present, and future..... With the recent $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan from the Federal Government, local governments were slotted funds. The town will be getting approx. $4.3 million and the Village approx. $600K. Based on the U.S. Treasury guidance to date, it appears these funds can be used for Broadband, water, and SEWER. That, along with the potential for a 40% grant on a consolidated- community sewer versus 25% grants on "separate" sewers could drive down the amount needed to be bonded. The lower the debt on this project... the less the annual debt payment will be. The less the debt payments, the less $$ have to be included in annual EDU charges to citizens and businesses. As always, feel free to call me at 585-872-7068 or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
June 16, 2021:
Webster Consolidated Community Sewer System Update
On June 10th at 7 p.m., a presentation was given at the Village of Webster's board room for a joint meeting of the Village of Webster Board of Trustees and the Webster Town Board. The presentation was done by Matt Chatfield. Matt is the Executive Director of Webster Economic Development Alliance (WEDA). Matt acted as the moderator of an ad hoc committee/working group that had been formed earlier this year for the purpose of discerning whether a fair and equitable Consolidated Community Sewer System could be done within the 35 square miles of Webster, and its approx. 46,000 citizens.
The ad hoc committee/working group was comprised of four Village and three Town representatives. Those representatives were vetted and chosen by Mayor Byerts, Deputy Mayor Ippolito, Deputy Supervisor Cataldi and me. We tried to use the "Noah's Ark" philosophy on creating this committee; 1 Citizen from the Village and Town, 1 Board member from Village and Town, 1 Sewer plant employee from Village and Town, and 1 business owner from the Village and Town. The main thing we were looking for out of these committee members were to be open-minded within their research of whether a Consolidated Community Sewer System in Webster could be done in a fair and equitable way going forward in 2022 and beyond.
Heretofore, the Village and Town have operated separate sewer systems. Both had opportunities to go offline 20-30 years ago when almost ALL Monroe County sewer plants at that time opted to do so and go to Monroe County's Pure Waters system. For a myriad of reasons, they did not go to Monroe County back then. Now in 2021, both Webster plants have most of their infrastructure at 40-50 years old. Simply said, they have "aged out" and millions of dollars of new infrastructure needs to be infused to both.
The path the Village and Town governances have taken the past few years on determining improvements to their separate plants or to consolidate are as follows:
VILLAGE: They are looking at an "asset replenishment" plan that addresses the most aged out infrastructure 1st at a cost of approx. $7-10 million to start in 2022-2023. Within that 1st phase would be additions to the plant on Wall Rd to achieve the Village getting their own SPEDES permit from the New York State DEC. Then, a 2nd phase in approx. 7-10 years for another $7-10 million would be done. The current engineering plans on the Village plan is to replace 1970’s infrastructure with 2020 parts, but with no real change to technology on how sewage is treated.
TOWN: A phase 1, $12 million improvement has been done over the past 2-3 years to their plant on Phillips Rd. This $12 million essentially updated 1970 infrastructure to 2020 with no real change to technology on treating sewage. The good news is that ALL of that improvement would support a consolidated community sewer system should the Village and Town governances agree to do so. The Town is working on their phase 2 plan currently and the cost will be approx. $20 million. Phase 2 will have NEW technology on treating sewage that will address the current future challenges being faced. For example, garnering the gases from treatment to power the plant instead of having to buy power from RGE, and 21st century drying technology so that sludge hauling costs can be minimized or eliminated. The result will be a dryer output that is great for fertilizer!! The Town is trying to work with the engineers to keep the option open to this phase 2 plan to have the consolidation with the Village supported.
So, a decision has to be made on whether to consolidate as a community sewer system at an aggregate "pre-grant" cost of approx. $35 million, or to have the Village and Town forge ahead with their individual plants in the future at an aggregate "pre-grant" cost of approx. $45 million. The Town was able to get a 25% grant on the $12 million phase 1 project, so the net cost was $9 million. Consolidation is incentivized when it comes to grants. Our community could obtain 40% of the project in grants. As such, the NET cost of a consolidation could end up being $15 million + LESS to the Webster taxpayers than the Village and Town going forward with their separate systems.
The presentation from the June 10th meeting is on the Village of Webster's Facebook page (https://fb.watch/677gtq-8w3/) if you would like to watch it. In my opinion, the ad hoc committee did a great job of putting together a blueprint of how the Village and Town governances could move forward with a "fair and equitable" model of consolidation on a community sewer system for the citizens/businesses and taxpayers of both the Village and Town. Such a "fair and equitable" plan needs to address both initial costs of the capital to build it, and the ongoing costs to run it. The Village citizens should NOT be subsidizing the Town within this model and vice versa. Stay tuned for more info on this in the next few weeks/months. As always, feel free to call me at 585-872-7068 or e-mail me at email@example.com
June 10, 2021:
Decision 2022 for Webster - Opt in or out on legal recreational marijuana dispensaries in town
It appears the New York State Assembly, Senate and/or Governor's office has, or is about to approve legalized recreational marijuana in New York State. All signs point to this being in effect as early as January 2022. If New York follows what other states have done like Colorado and Illinois, there will be an "Opt in or Out" decision for local governments within this. Simply said, if the Town of Webster wants to participate in the tax revenue from the sale of marijuana at a dispensary(s) in town, the Town Board will need to decide whether to "opt IN" to allowing such a dispensary(s) in the town. Should the Town Board decide to "opt OUT" initially going into 2022, there will be NO marijuana dispensaries allowed to operate in the Town.
Over the next several months, the Town Board will be getting educated on the various nuances of this decision. There will be Town Board workshops that seek to have presenters to show the pros and cons of all aspects of this. There will be at least one public hearing on this issue prior to the Town Board voting on the "Opt in or out". Some will say it is strictly a moral issue. Some will say it is strictly a financial issue with the tax revenue the town could get. Some will say it strictly a crime related issue and/or the difficulty in testing a driver at this point in time for being under the influence of marijuana. Some will say it is an issue directly affecting our children. The reality is that it is ALL of those things and more!
As I write this article, I have to admit I am just starting my research on this issue. I've stated in this column many times that "good decisions for today, and the future are based on being open minded and reviewing the FACTS.... and that bad decisions often are made based on emotion". At the risk of sounding like I am talking out of both sides of my mouth.... there is one FACT I do know about this issue that has me thinking I already know how I will be voting on this "Opt in versus Opt out" issue going into 2022. That FACT is simply this...… if a municipality decides going into 2022 they are OPTING IN to the tax revenue from the marijuana dispensary(s) in their town, they can NEVER in the future OPT OUT. That makes sense since it would be unfair to the business owners who would be getting licensed as a dispensary and putting capital into their business such a buying a building or long-term lease, etc. However, if the municipality decides to initially OPT OUT going into 2022, they can OPT IN in the future if they decide to.
As such, it seems the "logical" best move for Webster would be to OPT OUT going into 2022 and see what transpires in other municipalities in upstate that opt in as of 2022. I further think this will be the best course of action for the town due to preliminary financial estimates of the town's participatory tax revenue from the sale of marijuana would be minimal when compared against the town's overall annual budget of revenue and expenses. Bottom line, the town's finances are "solid" and therefore we will not be forced to consider opting in solely as a "money grab" due to sins of past budgets versus actual financial results of the town.
As stated prior in this article, we'll do our due diligence on this issue over the next several months and the public will have their opportunity to give input. However, it just seems like the "risk-return" on ALL aspects of this decision including but not limited to; moral, financial, law enforcement, health, our children, etc. make it a no-brainer that Webster should OPT OUT initially. If in the future we see that other municipalities are doing GREAT and there has been NO adverse effects to health, children, law enforcement etc. and that the municipality is making a LOT of tax revenue that helps lessen the burden on the citizen's real estate taxes...… we should then consider Opting in. Remember.... once you OPT IN.... you can NEVER Opt out. Kinda like the Hotel California! (LOL) As always, feel free to call me at 585-872-7068 or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
June 2, 2021
Making Sandbar Park the Waterfront Jewel of Webster
Sandbar Park. What a unique strip of land we have here in Webster. It runs west along Lake Road from Bay Road to the outlet bridge in the winter and a dead end in the summer. On the north side is Lake Ontario and on the south is Irondequoit Bay. Almost 20 years ago the Town of Webster obtained over 12 acres on this strip from a combination of purchasing parcels, and also a donation of parcels from town citizen John Casciani. Soon after obtaining this land, the town worked with New York State to turn into a town park.
Over the past 15+ years since then, not much has changed about the park layout. A few years back, a citizen committee was assembled to look at options for the town to make improvements to the Park. That committee was formed in parallel with the town retaining Passero Associates and Bayer Landscape Architecture to design some plans. A public presentation of that committee, and Passero/Bayer work was done in the Town Board room and approx. 80 citizens attended. Unfortunately, the second high-water event of 2019 (after the first in 2017) put the project on hold. The high-water event and flooding that occurred from it on Sandbar Park also resulted in New York State creating grant money for waterfront resiliency (REDI Grants) and the Town of Webster applied for and obtained almost $3 million in grant money to lift and move a section of Lake Road near Oklahoma Beach, and to build a break wall along the south/bay side.
In 2020 and 2021 the Town of Webster worked with the citizen committee, Passero and Bayer to start the Sandbar Park project back up and marry features of the Park design to the necessary waterfront resiliency that will be done with help from the REDI grants. On May 27, 2021 at the Town Board Workshop, Bayer and Passero presented to the Town Board the preliminary designs and costs of the proposed park improvement. If you'd like to see that presentation the link is: ci.webster.ny.us/CivicMedia.
Over the Memorial Day weekend, ALL Webster residents got a 9 by 11-inch postcard in the USPS mail that promoted four open houses on these proposed plans, costs, and timeline; Wednesday, June 2nd from 7 - 8:30 p.m. at the Rec Center on Chiyoda off Phillips, Tuesday, June 8th, and Thursday, June 10th from 7 - 8:30 p.m. at the Rec Center, and Saturday, June 12th at the Joe Obbie Farmer's Market at Towne Center between 9 a.m. - Noon. These open houses will give Webster citizens the chance to come and see the various aspects of the project including, the waterfront resiliency, park design, new building that will replace the current Bayside restaurant, and cost and funding options on the proposed project. As stated, prior in this article, the last time an open house was done on this project, approx. 80 citizens attended. I would LOVE to see 1,500+ citizens in total attend these four open houses!!! As you have heard me say "an informed community is a better community". Along those lines, government works BEST for the people when it HEARS the people. These open houses are the best way for citizens to give their input on this proposed project, and the best way for the elected leaders of the town to listen to them!
YOUR input in the next few weeks will help the project designers, citizen advisory committees, and the Town Board dovetail to the August - October 2021 timeframe. That is when the discerning of resolutions to finalize plans, bid out the project to contractors, and determine final costs and funding sources will most likely be done. The BEST way for the citizens to review this proposed project and give input is to attend these open houses. However there are other ways to track it such as visiting the Sandbar Park dedicated page on the Town website at: ci.webster.ny.us/522/Sandbar-Park-Project and following on Facebook at: facebook.com/Sandbarparkproject. You can also sign up for Sandbar Park alerts at: ci.webster.ny.us/list.aspx.
I TRULY hope to see and talk with thousands of Webster citizens at these open houses over the next week+! As always, feel free to call me at 585-872-7068 or e-mail at email@example.com
May 26, 2021
A mission we ALL can get behind in supporting
At 10 AM on Monday, May 3rd, I attended a press conference at Gates Town Hall. Several news outlets were in attendance as the topic was an update on the car jackings that had been going on in Monroe County, and on the investigation on the 71-year-old gentleman who had been shot and killed during one of these car jackings in Gates. I had been invited to the press conference by Gates Town Supervisor, Cosmo Giunta. Cosmo is the 2021 President of the Monroe County Supervisor's Association, and in his invite stated, "he really wanted to see as many Supervisors in attendance as possible to show solidarity on the issue". What immediately struck me when I entered the building that morning was the vast number of law enforcement and elected political leaders in attendance. They brought us all out to be a semi-circle behind the podium, and if you watched the press conference on TV, it showed just how many were there in support.
Gates Police Chief James Van Brederode led off at the podium. Chief is a "good man" who led off with the facts on where the carjacking and murder cases were at. However, he then gave an impassioned, layman’s term explanation of the unintended consequences that have come from the various New York State legislative changes in the past few years such as bail reform. He was in agreement that it is wrong to hold someone in jail because they are poor, while another person of means that perpetrated the same crime was able to get out on bail. However, he did a wonderful job describing how New York State may have "thrown the baby out with the bathwater" in an attempt to right a wrong on that. He described how it has resulted in essentially a "catch and release" situation the past year plus. Simply said, the criminal robs a store in Gates on Thursday, gets an appearance ticket for court in a month or two, and is back on the street on Friday to rob another store in Greece.
Several law enforcement and political leaders also spoke at this press conference. Some described how a confluence of events, social pressure and legislative actions in the past year have resulted in an emboldened criminal and a spike in violence. One person told me offline that there is a community of law abiding citizens who feel imprisoned in their own homes/neighborhoods for fear, real or perceived of the "wild west" that is going on outside on their streets. That leads me to the one speaker that day NOT from law enforcement or politics: Clay Harris. I had never heard of Clay before hearing him at the podium on that morning. What struck me immediately about Clay, was that he is an excellent public speaker. However, it was not so much HOW he spoke, but WHAT he was saying that had me bobbing my head in agreement. Clay is the founder of United Healing through Hope - Monroe County. He is a Christian man who was motivated to start this organization in the past year in the aftermath and social unrest since George Floyd's death while in law enforcement custody in Minneapolis. He stated that morning on the podium that it is his mission... his vocation to STOP THE VIOLENCE in our community. I told him at the end of the press conference that "Webster is IN" on this effort, and that we should get together to soon to see how he envisioned utilizing me within his mission.
Clay and I met for coffee the next week and immediately hit it off. He is a pioneer as far as I am concerned to the RIGHT way to solve societal problems, especially the one of violence. He knows it is too easy to "broad brush" and blame law enforcement, or Donald Trump, etc. for those ills. He knows it is multi-tentacled and knows that it will take years to remedy... but you gotta start somewhere. He preaches that coalescing the leaders of the faith-based community, law enforcement, the judicial system, elected officials and the citizens is the only way to put a dent in the problem today, and eventually remedy it.
I have attended three of his organization's meetings since I first met Clay earlier this month as they are busy organizing a STOP THE VIOLENCE march and rally for Saturday, June 5th between 10 AM and 3 PM. This is Clay's "creation”, and it is a bold endeavor given a short time to organize and execute. At the time I wrote this article, the logistic details were not yet decided on for the march routes and rallying point. As soon as they are known, I will then be executing my marching orders Clay has given me. That is to simply promote and let as many Webster citizens know of this march and rally as possible with the hopes that we get great attendance. Stay tuned for more details as they arise on this Saturday, June 5th event. Let's show the world that the Monroe County community is united in our mission to STOP THE VIOLENCE. As always, please feel free to call me at 585-872-7068 or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
May 19, 2021:
Transparency in your Webster Town Government
If you are a weekly reader of this column, you have heard me say several times, "An informed community is a better community". There are approximately 15,000 residences in Webster that encompass 45,000+ citizens. Those residences are single family homes, apartments, etc. The citizens include adults and children. When I became Supervisor in 2020, I found that the Town Government mechanisms to communicate to its citizens were comprised of the Webster Herald, social media, Town website, Thursday Town Board meetings open to in-person attendance, and aired on cable channel 1303, Electronic Town Meetings, Town Times that went out 3 times a year, and posting boards at Town facilities like Town Hall, Rec Center, and Library.
Even with all those various means of communication, it was estimated that approx. 15-20% of the adults in Webster actually see and "absorb" the communications the town sends out. That is why one of the biggest initiatives we are trying to accomplish at the Town is to improve the communication to Webster Citizens and get that "see and absorb" rate up over 50%. That effort is not something that can be achieved over night. COVID has hurt the effort. In February 2020, prior COVID, we had a public information forum at Webster Thomas on the water levels on Lake Ontario and Irondequoit Bay. Over 200 citizens attended. I was ecstatic and thought we'd have 5-6 such public forums a year on various topics of interest to Webster citizens and have 200+ citizens attend. COVID hits in March 2020 and that put that effort on the shelf. Hopefully we can come back to it soon!
The reality is that in our society in 2021, many people feel that if they are not seeing and "absorbing" communications from an organization, that the organization is NOT TRANSPARENT. Unfortunately, if your organization is accused of being "Non-transparent", it often is interpreted that the organization is hiding things, or worse yet, has nefarious intentions. Social Media makes it easy to type in the allegation that an organization is not being transparent. People read it, and many will accept that as fact.
A few things to consider as you discern the Town of Webster Government's transparency: 1. Customer Service: We've made it a priority in the past year+ at all the Town departments. Responding to citizen calls, e-mails, etc. in a timely fashion, and with facts on what they inquired about it imperative. 2. When I have been informed of a citizen comment that the Town government is "not transparent", I have sent that person a note in the USPS mail with my business card and a note stating," I would welcome meeting with you at a venue, day and time of your choosing to discuss your concerns on the Town's transparency and hear your ideas of how we can improve it". To date, I have sent over 30 such notes in the past year plus and have had NO response on any of them. I find that sad, but also predictable in the society we live in today. Much easier to hide behind a keyboard and accuse an organization of being non-transparent than to actually meet with that organization's leadership to be "part of the solution process" if indeed what they are accusing us of is true.
The good news, I believe the majority of Webster Citizens will appreciate the Town government's efforts to improve its communication. Any citizens who want to assist in this effort, I would love to hear from you! As always, please feel free to call me at 585-872-7068 or e-mail me at email@example.com.
May 12, 2021:
2022 and Beyond Changes at the Highway Department
There may be no more Customer facing department in Webster Government than the Highway Department. Their big yellow trucks can be seen everywhere in Webster. In the winter, they plow the roads and have historically been one of the at it compared to other Upstate New York municipalities. In the Spring and Summer, you will see them out there on various drainage projects in town, delivering mulch, and chip sealing roads amongst other things. In the Autumn, they are out there picking up the leaves. These are just a few of the many things the Highway Department does for the Webster Citizens.
The Webster Highway Department is a great source of pride in this community. One thing I have learned since I became Town Supervisor is that the department is very respected amongst other Highway Department Superintendents in Monroe County. The department has historically gotten work from the county and other municipalities to do road work such asphalt, etc. because of their expertise. That work has brought revenue to the department that helps lessen the need to tax the Webster citizens. I personally think that one of the main reasons the Highway Department is a top-notch unit is the continuity of leadership it has had for the past 50-years. If you're a football fan, you know that the Pittsburgh Steelers have had three head coaches in the past 50-years. That consistency in organization is why they have historically been a winning team during that timeframe. The Highway Department has had three Superintendents in the past 50 years: Cliff Jones, Barry Deane, and Joe Herbst. Joe just retired in February 2021 after 13+ years as Superintendent. After an exhaustive and collaborative search, application, and interview process, the Town hired Pat Stephens as its new Highway Superintendent in April 2021. Pat's engineering and construction background have me very excited for what he will bring to that department for the next several years!!
Another source of pride in the department is the multi-skilled tradesmen employed there. The current Highway garage and admin offices sit on a 20+ acre parcel at the end of Picture Parkway off Hard Road. It was originally built 50+ years ago and 1. is starting to show its age, and 2. has been expanded over the years by construction of additions done mostly by the department staff. They say necessity is the mother of invention and the Highway Department is a living embodiment of that! The town's population is DOUBLE what it was when that facility was originally built and the lane miles of road they have to service is most likely more than double. My predecessor, Supervisor Ron Nesbitt recently wrote that there is a need for a new Highway garage, and I could not agree with him more on that. In April 2021, the Town acquired eight acres across the parking lot to the north of the current Highway garage. This land was purchased from Monroe County after they had perfected a real estate tax foreclosure on it. The town paid approx. $58,000 for those eight acres. To me, this land purchase was "step 1" of the process of building a new Highway garage. Step 2 most likely is looking at other newly built Highway facilities in upstate NY in the past 10-years to get an idea of design and cost on those so we can start discussing what size, design, cost is appropriate for Webster today and for the next 20-30 years.
As always, feel free to call me at 585-872-7068, or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
May 5, 2021:
The "Job Duties" of Town Government
What are the job duties of the Town Supervisor and the four Town Board members that make up the Town of Webster government? Seems like a simple enough question. However, I found that while campaigning in 2019, and during my 16 months as Town Supervisor, you can ask 100 Webster citizens that questions and get 100 different answers! Since there seems to be no succinct job description I have found of Town Supervisor, I would propose it has some tangible and intangible aspects. The most tangible aspects to it are the Town Board meetings where annual budgets, codes, and laws are voted on by the 5-person board. Many of those voted on items are preceded by a public hearing so the governance can get feedback from the citizens on what they are about to vote on. In my opinion, board meetings and public hearings as they are "advertised" in 2021 show a fundamental flaw in the system between "what is legal and what is right way to do things for the overall benefit of the community".
Legally, the law of publishing a board meeting, its agenda items, a public hearing, etc. is based on laws done at the State level 50+ years ago. As such, they are predicated on publishing in a newspaper within a certain number of days of the meeting. The Town of Webster's identified newspaper for such meeting notices is voted on each year at the organizational meeting on or about January 1st. The Webster Herald is the Town of Webster's newspaper for these notices. However, where that fulfills the Town's "legal" responsibility of these notices, I think we all know that newspapers for citizen news consumption is drastically lower in 2021 than it was 50 years ago when the law was made. The result.... few people in Webster know about our board meetings, agendas, and/or public hearings. As such, few people come to our board meetings which are open to the public, nor do they watch them live on Spectrum channel 1303 or at the Town’s website. As you have heard me say many times, "an informed community is a better community". As such, we continue to try and advertise/promote these board meetings in mediums over and above the legal requirement of the newspaper. They are on the Town website, and social media platforms currently. We continue to strive to improve the Town government communication mechanisms to our citizens with the end goal that at least one adult in each household gets the communication and "absorbs it". As we make progress on that goal, I hope to see more attendance at board meetings/public hearings in the future, and viewership of those meetings on TV and website.
The intangibles of the job are too many to write in this article, but a few that I have found the most fascinating are as follows;
1. Are you a leader or someone looking to be liked? I admit, with the benefit of hindsight in my early years owning my company, I made decisions (or avoided them) with a compass more geared toward being liked/not causing confrontation, then what was best for the organization today and the future. As a business owner if you don't evolve from that you will go out of business. However, government almost promotes and incentivizes its elected officials to make decisions based on being liked. At least ten times in the past few months I have been in various meetings of town officials, citizens, etc. where we are discussing decisions that need to be made for the BEST of the community today and the future, and someone says "Tom, you may not want to pursue that right now cuz its an election year". I can't tell you how odd that seems to me. If I'm voted out due to pushing for agendas I think are right for the community during an election year, then it was not meant to be for me being Webster Town Supervisor for more than two years.
2. What is your management and/or change agent style? This is one of those "soft" skill items that is so hard to quantify, but you know it when you start to get to know someone. Do you campaign and/or come into a new position "guns a slinging" and making first 100-day promises of what you're going to change? Another way to look at this is the person who wants to overthrow the government and once they do, has no idea on how to actually govern! If you understand the Town Supervisor position and that you ultimately are just 1 of 5 votes, that would be a colossal mistake. Some people are so interested in winning the battle, they give up any chance of winning the overall war.
Bottom line... in 2021 you need people swimming in the same direction if you are to achieve anything at the town government level. Does that mean those people are all "Yes men and women"? Absolutely NOT!! I've learned so much in the past 16 months from robust conversations and debates with the Town Board members, Town Department Heads, and citizens where we disagreed on MANY things!! However, I'd like to think foundationally there was a mutual respect to those debates that forged trust so we could move to a position of swimming all in the same direction for the greater good. Was there risk to me as Town Supervisor in being more collaborative that autocratic? Absolutely! One of my favorite sayings is "Don't let my congeniality be confused for weakness". Some people ONLY respond to autocratic so they will see my style as weak. I usually have a lot of fun with those type of people in the long run! (LOL) As always, please feel free to call me at 585-872-7068 or e-mail me at email@example.com
April 22, 2021
799 Holt Road- 70 acres that is the old lumber yard
In the past few months, I have written articles, had Town Board discussions, and highlighted on the Electronic Town Meeting the West Webster Hamlet, specifically 600 Ridge Road, Webster Furniture Strippers. Over the past 15+ years, a lot of attention from the Webster community has been on 600 Ridge Road due to the condition the property is in, and people wanting to know "what the end game is going to be on that property" as we go forward into 2022 and beyond?
That attention on 600 Ridge Road spurred many people reaching out to me about the property at 799 Holt Road. That property is a 70-acre parcel on the west side of Holt Road north of 104, and just south of the Hojack Trail. It has approx. 500 feet of frontage along Holt Road. Strewn along this frontage are several vacant, dilapidated buildings within 200 feet depth off Holt Road. As such, these buildings are VERY visible from Holt Road, and to Hojack Trail walkers/bikers. For many Webster citizens these buildings are seen as an "eyesore", and that is the main reason I have had many people reach out to me on this property. They want to know "what is the end game on this property going forward into 2022 and beyond"?
The fact pattern on this 70-acre parcel at 799 Holt Road is VERY different to the one at 600 Ridge Road, the Webster Furniture Strippers. For example, the property is privately owned and been listed for sale for over two years. It is current on its real estate tax payments to the County, Town, and School. There is nothing to indicate the 70-acre site has any environmental issues. Where it has approx. 500 foot of frontage on Holt Road, it has significantly more feet depth going west that comprises the 70-acre site. Allegedly some of the 70-acres has wetland aspects. Such wetlands will have an effect to any potential buyer, and what such a buyer will want to propose as future use on the site. Obviously, the current zoning of the site will affect a buyer's future use too.
Over the 16 months I have been Supervisor, I have been in contact with the current owner and their representation of these 70-acres. They have been very cooperative to any town requests to remedy code issues. Most recently the Town Code Enforcement Officer met them in November 2020 at the site to discuss overgrowth of brush. Within two weeks the owner cleaned it up. The big issue is the buildings. The owner and their representation were working in early 2020 to obtain demolition permits and asbestos assessment on them. Their plan was to have a fire department use the buildings in 2020 as their testing and as such they would be burned to the ground. COVID hit and permits got delayed. By the time they were able to navigate the process, the fire departments moved on to other sites as their testing in 2020.
Within my most recent discussions with the owner and their representatives they have conveyed they are looking to demolish the buildings at some point in 2021. They think that the buildings being gone may assist in finding a viable buyer. Based on my previous interactions with them, I have NO reason at this point to doubt them and their conveyed intentions. They have made good on all previous interactions I have had with them. I'm scheduled to talk with them in late June/early July to see where they are in the process of demolishing the buildings. In summary.... if these buildings are gone, my guess is that most Webster citizens will have NO issues with seeing 500 feet of frontage along Holt Road that is foliage/woods. At some point in the future, a buyer will manifest themselves. Then, that buyer's desired usage of the 70-acres will be where attention is turned to as I can only assume they would not be buying it to remain wooded land. As always, please feel free to call me at 585-872-7068 or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
April 14, 2021:
A "Vision" of the Webster Community in 2041
Vision has more than one definition. If your optometrist determines you are far or near sighted, you know what your "vision" is like when not assisted by glasses or contact lenses. It's hard to see tangible things clearly right in front of your face! Those tangible things we see in real time, today are for the most part universally agreed on. Stand 100 people from all walks of life side by side and put a glass of water on a table and ask them what they see... and they will all say they see a glass of water! Now the "intangible" aspect of how those 100 people perceive that glass of water can run the gamut from "I'm thirsty, I want to drink it", to "that water is for plants to grow", and everything in between.
But what about the definition of vision when it pertains to "seeing something that is currently NOT there tangibly for your eyes to see"? Steve Jobs at Apple had such vision when it came to people in the future having computers at their homes, or in their hands in the form of cell phones. With the benefit of hindsight, we now know Jobs was "visionary" and that those things he "saw in the future" came to be. However, 40 years ago when he was pitching that vision, not ALL were on board. Some thought he was crazy! It’s easier to criticize and shoot down a "vision of something in the future" than to get behind it. Maybe easier is not the right word. Maybe the right word is "safer". There is risk in getting on board to a future vision. What if it fails? The "safer, in the moment" move is to keep the status quo, unless that status quo is universally agreed on to being untenable and change must occur. FDR and Churchill experienced that in the late 1930’s as the status quo of their citizenship was "stay out of any altercation with Germany/Japan", but by 1940/1941 the actions of those foes made the status quo untenable and England and the U.S entered World War 2.
Privately held companies are forced to have vision and take risks on future visions or they run the bigger risk of going out of business. It's a bit of a "salt in the wound" for us Rochester people, but Kodak decided to keep the status quo several years ago and NOT move forward with digital. I think we know how that "in the moment safer" move panned out. Government has two things working against "taking visionary moves"; 1. They can't go out of business like a private entity, and 2. Being an elected official does not mean you are a leader, and often you can be motivated in your decisions by not what is best for your community in the future, but what is best for you to get re-elected. On that latter point, putting your neck out there like Steve Jobs is NOT something most elected officials will do!
So, what will the Webster community look like 20 years from now in 2041? If you'll indulge me for a few more paragraphs, here is one man's opinion on how it could be. It's 2041. The 800-acre industrial campus that used to be ALL Xerox and as recently as 2021 had six million square feet of building space of which approx. Four million was EMPTY has been revitalized either by Xerox and/or by new developer(s). There is 21st century industry(s) that are set up on that campus and 10,000+ "good jobs" are there. One of the determining factors for those companies to come to that campus back in the 2020’s and 2030’s was the "state of the art" community sanitary sewer treatment plant that was built in the early 2020’s by a partnership of the Village of Webster and Town of Webster governments. That sewer plant was built in the early 2020’s with an "eye to the future" and is a Water Resource Recovery Facility (WRRF) and not your "traditional sewer plant". In layman terms, it has the capacity to break down the industrial discharge of certain industries into clean water.
The Village of Webster Board of Trustees and the Town Board parlayed their partnership on the community/consolidated WRRF built in the early 2020’s into partnering on an action plan on the 800-acre Xerox campus. That plan included moving village/town lines to make the campus easier to parcel out. It also included improving Xerox owned and maintained roads with federal and state grants and getting them dedicated over to the town and/or village for further ease of parceling out. As business started to come to that campus in the mid to late 2020’s from these partnership efforts, property values in the community increased as good jobs were on the campus.
The Village Board of Trustees saw that the four corners/village was the "nucleus" of the Webster community. That Webster community had 40,000+ people in the town that were a different socio-economic make up than what they were in the 1970’s. That community wanted to walk, bike, or drive 1-2 miles to the nucleus to spend their entertainment and goods and services money and NOT have to go 10+ miles away to do it. The Village Board of Trustees saw that and acted on that. They redirected their focus on the "nucleus" of the Webster community; the four corners of Main St. and 250 and the businesses that spawn east and west down Main Street from there. The result by 2030 was NO cars on Main Street from 250 running east for about 100 yards and from 250 running west for about 100 yards. 250 running north and south continued to have car traffic. This "walking mall" had the proper off street public parking to support it. It created a "community center" where many events occurred throughout the year such as the jazz festival that occurred in the late 2010’s when they would close down the street for the weekend. It also brought small, boutique type businesses to that area that prior would not have come. The economic result to the village? In the early 2020’s 50%+ of the Village's budget revenue came from sales tax from the businesses in the village. Much of the other revenue came from real estate taxes to Village residents and businesses. The revitalization of the Village's four corners in the late 2020’s resulted in increase in sales tax revenue to the point where "all other factors being equal" the Village government could reduce or possibly no longer charge Village real estate taxes to the Village citizens and businesses.
In summary..... I am NO Steve Jobs!! (LOL) I also concede that the "vision" I described above for 2041 in Webster may NOT be what the citizens would like to see. However, I have seen the value of "having a vision" and getting people on board to start the foundational work of turning it into a reality. I don't have all the answers, and that is why any efforts done in the next 1-2 years that will effectuate how this community looks in 2041 needs "partnership and cooperation". Is it risk? Do we need to leave our "comfort zone"? Absolutely!! However, change is inevitable, and we can either let our fate be dealt to us as passive observers and complain about it..... or we can drive our fate. I for one am a proponent of the latter. As always, please feel free to call me at 585-872-7068 or e-mail me at email@example.com
April 7, 2021:
Separating Fact from Myth about Development/Green Space in Webster
My wife and I moved to Webster 24 years ago. What attracted us to the community was the "rural-suburban" feel it had and the 10 – 20-minute driving proximity it had to the rest of Monroe County for our jobs, services, etc. As the years went on and we grew our family, what has kept us in Webster was the GREAT people who live here. The feel I described of "rural-suburban" was something I had no empirical data on back in 1997... it was just a "feel" for my wife and me. We had grown up in Irondequoit, so I suppose that was our point of reference.
Since I became Supervisor, I have been able to obtain factual data on Webster's "rural-suburban feel". For example, Irondequoit covers 17 square miles and has approx. 51,000 residents. That equates to 3,000 people per square mile. In comparison, Webster covers 35 square miles and has approx. 46,000 residents. That equates to 1,300 people per square mile. When I was campaigning in 2019 and going "door to door", I was introduced to how passionate people are about over-development and maintaining Green Space in Webster. The good news from that experience was that ALL Webster Citizens seem to be aligned on these issues. We love our hometown and the "rural-suburban" feel it has! The bad news was the disparity of people's opinions on them. If you are a habitual reader of my weekly column, you know I'm a self-proclaimed "data geek". Data to me are FACTS, and facts are foundational to making good decisions, and/or forming an opinion on a subject that is an educated one. You also know I feel an informed community is a better community. So, without further ado, here are some myth/fact aspects of development and green space in Webster.
DEVELOPMENT: Many Webster citizens reach out to me with concerns that Town Board, Planning Board, and/or Zoning Board of Appeals approve a developer's plan to build with a "magic wand" and do not have to adhere to any guidelines. The reality is that the 2008 Comprehensive Plan, and current zoning laws, and town codes/laws are the guideposts on any and ALL development in town. The process that needs to be followed for a developer to get approval on building a housing track or commercial building is extensive. Public hearings are part of the process. Those hearings, by law are published several days in advance in the Webster Herald, and other Town websites, and social media pages. Unfortunately, where the zoning, codes, laws are specific... there remains a subjectivity to people's opinions as to whether that specificity is enough. For example, the difference between R2 and R3 zoning is that the minimum lot size for the home is 22,000 feet versus 28,000 feet. In each case, the minimum lot width is 100 feet, but the depth minimum differs from 220 to 280 feet between R2 and R3. Those are "specifics/facts" of the zoning, but some people feel that those minimum square feet lots are too BIG (if you want more houses built) ... or too SMALL (if you want less houses built).
GREEN SPACE: Many Webster residents reach out to me with their concerns about over development and the loss of green space in the town. Some have said that the town has not invested in purchasing any land for green space since the referendum back in 2005 that resulted in approx. 1,000 acres purchased at approx. $7 million. The reality is that in the past 15-months since I became Supervisor, the town has purchased or is contract for approx. 60 acres of green space. Furthermore, in the years between 2006-2019, the town obtained several parcels of land that are green space. Currently between Town and County parks, and other land currently designated "green space/no development" approx. 12% of ALL of the 35 square miles in Webster are undeveloped/green space. Furthermore, there is another approx. 20% of acreage in Webster that currently owned by private citizens that is NOT developed. This makes Webster currently one of the most "green space friendly" towns in Monroe County!
In summary, the current zoning, codes, and laws have specificity in them to promote green space. For example, in certain residential zonings, there is "cluster" potential for a developer when building a housing tract where if they can preserve natural features of the land, they can apply to the Planning Board for such a configuration. In the past few months, we have started the process of discerning the current town codes and laws in place. Within that process we are looking to identify obsolete codes and laws and see if there are new ones that need to be proposed. We've also started looking at the 2008 Comprehensive Plan. Bottom line.... we can't formally start a process of updating that Comprehensive Plan until we look at the initiatives that were stated in the 2008 version. Did those initiatives get accomplished, and if not, why? I don't want the process of updating the Comprehensive Plan in the next few years to have a "history repeats itself" aspect. We need to learn from that history so we can produce a better future for Webster! As always, feel free to call me at 585-872-7068 or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
March 31, 2021
Town Board Meetings opening back up to public in person attendance in April
One thing I heard consistently when I was on the campaign trail in 2019 was that Webster Citizens felt that the Town government did not communicate well with the public. As we know, people's perception becomes their reality. When I became Supervisor in January 2020, I wanted to take action to change that perception. You've heard me say many times, "an informed community is a better one". In the first 2 months I was Supervisor we had a public meeting at Webster Thomas' auditorium for Lake Ontario and Irondequoit Bay property owners to discuss the potential rising water levels in the Spring of 2020. Over 200 people attended. I was hopeful that we could parlay that into having more public attendance at Town Board meetings in the future. Then.... COVID hit in March 2020 and we had to close Town Board meetings to public in person attendance.
We've made attempts to have these board meetings in the last year as accessible to the public as possible. Some of those methods had always been in place such as showing live on Spectrum channel 1303. Other things we did was to make sure board meetings could have call-ins, and live stream on the town website. With the world starting to open back up due to COVID vaccine, we will be opening Town Board meetings for public in person attendance in April 2021. The first of these will be the Town Board meeting on Thursday April 1st at 7:30 pm. Regular Town Board meetings occur at 7:30 pm on the 1st and 3rd Thursday of each month. At these meetings there are things like resolutions voted on and public hearings. On the 2nd and 4th Thursday of each month at 5:30 pm we have Town Board workshops. At these meetings we have agenda topics for presentations and discussion. We publish these meeting agendas in the Webster Herald eight calendar days prior to the meeting. We also post these agendas on the Town's Website and social media platforms.
The Planning Board and Zoning Board of Appeals meetings will also re-open for in person public attendance in April 2021. The Planning Board meetings are at 7 pm on the 1st and 3rd Tuesdays of each month. The Zoning Board of Appeals meetings are at 7 pm on the 2nd and 4th Tuesdays of each month. In May 2021 the Assessment Board of Appeals hearings will return to being open to in person attendance. All these board meetings will initially have COVID appropriate procedures in affect. There will be check in procedures, masking, social distancing, and hand sanitizing in place. The foyer outside the board room will be utilized for overflow if needed. There will be a television in the foyer for those to watch the meeting as they wait for their agenda item to come up and they enter the board room.
In summary, as we come out of COVID we need to make baby steps on these town board meetings having in person public attendance. Hopefully we can continue to get public participation in these meetings by either in person attendance, call ins, e-mails in, and watching live on TV or on website. As always, feel free to call me at 585-872-7068 or e-mail me at email@example.com
March 24, 2021
The Stimulus Check Conundrum
A few weeks back, the United States Congress approved round 2 of the Federal stimulus packages pertaining to the COVID pandemic. This one is $1.9 Trillion and covers a myriad of items. Two of them are: 1. $1,400 check to each person who qualifies, and 2. State and local government monies. Within the latter, the preliminary numbers reflect the Town of Webster government is slotted to receive $4.95 million, of which $600,000 of that is earmarked for the Village of Webster government. Furthermore, the first half of that money may be delivered to the Town as early as May 2021. Over the next few weeks, the U.S Treasury Department is planning on putting out guidance to state and local governments on "what the money can be used for/or not used for" and other considerations such as timing of the money usage etc.
Conundrum. Some synonyms of that word are "a difficult question" and "dilemma". Each person/family will have their own "conundrum". They may use the money to buy something, payoff debt, or put away for a rainy day in savings. Foundational to each person/family's decision on this stimulus money will be how COVID affected them the past year. For instance, did the person/family lose their job or not.... or did they get overtime and make more money during COVID? Did the small business owner suffer or did COVID actually increase their business's revenue and profit? Finally... as it pertains to a person/family, a lot goes to how they "think about money". Are they more prone to spend all the money that comes into their home (and sometimes due to credit cards MORE than comes in), or are they "savers"?
The reality is that the same decision-making challenges a family has on "what to do with their $1,400 per qualified person", pertain to the Town and Village of Webster governments on the $4.95 million. One thing I like about how the Town Board of Webster has historically approached the annual budget process is to "underestimate revenues and overestimate expenses". That fiscally responsible philosophy was intact long before I became Town Supervisor. There are MANY pros and cons associated with that philosophy that affect the short and long term.... but I'll keep this article topic isolated to how that past budget to actual revenues and expenses will influence how the town uses its $4.35 million from this stimulus package. The 2020 Town budget was done before I became Supervisor. Prior Supervisor Ron Nesbitt and the Town Board approved that 2020 budget before they knew COVID would be present. Their fiscal responsibility within setting that budget resulted in the actual revenues and expenses in 2020 being very close to the 2020 budget. Bottom line.... The Town of Webster government did not suffer "overall" financial hardship in 2020 due to 2 factors: 1. fiscally conservative budgeting and 2. $1.05 million received from Monroe County from the $130 million the County received from the 1st round of the stimulus.
Other Monroe County towns may need the round 2 money coming to them to make up HUGE budget shortfalls due to aggressive budgeting of revenues and/or expenses. That is NOT the case for the Town of Webster. As such, I am proposing a "measured and patient" approach to the decision-making process on what to do with the Town's $4.35 million. Whenever money is involved, there will be MANY opinions on what it should be spent on! (LOL) More details need to be determined on this money from the U.S Treasury Department and/or other governmental agencies. In summary.... let's do our due diligence so that a well thought out decision is made on what to use this money for. As always, please feel free to call me at 585-872-7068 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
March 17, 2021
Webster Sanitary Sewer Plant(s)- 2021 and beyond
Let me start by saying that the decisions made in the next 6 - 9 months on the sanitary sewer plant(s) in Webster will have profound effect on taxpayers for the next 20+ years. Before I get into "what those decisions are", a little background on this. My guess is that most citizens are like I was prior to taking office in January 2020 as Webster Town Supervisor. Simply said, I had little to no knowledge of the Sanitary Sewer systems in my hometown. I was happy if the sanitary waste from my home went OUT and did not come back IN! Ask anyone who has had a sewer line back up into their basement and they'll know what I mean on this.
I've learned a LOT in the last 15 months about Webster's sanitary sewer systems. 1st of all, there are two components to the system; 1. Collection, and 2. Treatment. The collection component is the sewer main lines that are strewn throughout the town and village, and the pump stations utilized to get that sewage from the "source" (i.e. your home) to the sewer plants for treatment. Pump stations are needed when flow must be moved uphill, and pitched gravity can't be utilized. If we all lived on top of a hill and the sewer plant was at the bottom of the hill, pump stations would not be needed. There are approx. 400 miles in the town of these mains lines and 20 miles in the village. The town has 20+ pump stations and the village has 3. These mains usually run parallel to your street and each of our homes has sewer lines on our property that feed into those mains.
The treatment is done at two sewer plants in the community: the Village's on Wall Road and 250, and the Town's on Phillips Road north of Klem. Prior to 2018, both plants have not been significantly upgraded in over 40 years. The Town just completed phase 1, a $12 million upgrade to its plant and is in the process of discerning the configuration and cost of phase 2 of those upgrades. The Village is still discerning what upgrades to put into their plant. In layman terms "treatment" at these plant entails raw sewage coming into the plant and leaving the plant as water clean enough to be emptied into Lake Ontario. The details of how they accomplish that is nothing less than an "engineering and scientific miracle"! Both the Village and Town's finished product from treatment empties into Lake Ontario from a common effluent pipe at the Town's Phillips Road plant. That discharge into the lake is governed by a SPEDES permit owned by the town and for which the Village is an "authorized user" of.
So what is the BIG decision that must be made in the next 6 - 9 months? Answer... Do the Village and Town consolidate their treatment into a Regional Sewer plant and invest taxpayer money accordingly on that effort.... or do the Village and Town pursue "separately" upgrades and modernization of their respective individual plants? The reality is that the Village and Town governance has been assessing that question for over 5 years. Over that time, the Village and Town each have had their own outside engineering firms laying out plans and cost estimates for the individual plant upgrades/modernization. At some point a few years back, it was discussed how this is a "unique opportunity" to discern before investing in two sewer plants in the 35 square mile Webster community, the concept of consolidating into ONE regional sewer plant. The Village and Town engineering firms worked together on that effort and in August 2020 a public presentation was done of their findings. Unfortunately, being COVID, that public presentation was a ZOOM meeting and was only attended by less than 40 people.
On September 10, 2020, the Village of Webster Board of Trustees passed two resolutions; 1. approve the forming of a Regional Sewer Plant working group equally represented by Village and Town, and 2. Apply for a separate SPEDES permit from the DEC. This week, that 8-person working group had their initial meeting. It is estimated that the information they discern will put them in a position by no later than June 2021 to present their findings and/or recommendations to the Village Board of Trustees, and the Town Board. If the decision is to go regional, then the 2nd resolution by the Village of a separate SPEDES permit becomes moot. If the decision is to go forward with two separate sewer plants and invest taxpayer monies into each of them, then the separate SPEDES permit for the Village Plant by the DEC will be important. The Village leadership would need to analyze any additional costs they will need to consider within their plant upgrade to be able to get this permit from the DEC.
In summary.... a LOT happening on this "regionalize... or go forward separate" sewer plant issue by the end of 2021! As the information comes in from the Working group and is presented to Village and Town governance, the public will have a front row seat to this. The decision is NOT a referendum voted on by the public, but I would hope that the input and comments from the public are many. Net of any grants obtained, it's OUR taxpayer money that will be invested in this regional plant or 2 separate plants, so the public deserves to be heard on it. As always, feel free to call me at 585-872-7068 or e-mail at email@example.com
March 10, 2021:
COVID turns 1 year old. What's next? Vaccines, etc.
Well, it is officially 1-year. On Saturday March 7, 2020, my wife and I were in Knoxville, TN visiting our daughter who is a student at the University of Tennessee. We went to the Auburn- Tennessee basketball game that day in a "packed" 20,000 seat arena. Flying home to Rochester the next day, I could not fathom what the next 2 weeks was to bring. The weeks of March 9-13th and 16-20th, 2020 were as chaotic as any we have ever seen. Announcements of professional sports leagues shutting down, then schools, then sending workers home as Governor Cuomo's executive orders were coming fast and furious and changing the rules of engagement by the day! Couple all of that with the FEAR of the unknown that pervaded at that time about COVID. How was it contracted? Is it a death warrant if you get it? What is the best way to protect oneself from getting it?
The reality is that we humans are not wired to absorb and accept "the rules changing daily". Change is both inevitable and fought against by all of us to some degree or another. Some of us are more open to change, where others are very thrown off by it and it causes anxiety. The change that has come "fast and furious" in the last year has challenged everyone! I've said since the beginning of this pandemic that I don't know what is worse, the actual virus being contracted, or the anxiety and effect on everyone's mental health on both fear and the lack of human interaction. On the latter point, it pains me that our elderly and most vulnerable have sat in nursing homes alone and isolated from loved ones.
So now we're one year into this "circus" that has been COVID. Quick recap of that year.... mask or not mask... or 2 masks? 6-feet social distance... but is that with masks or not with masks? Mask when standing at a restaurant.... but unmask when seated. Essential or non essential? Is COVID noncompliance per Governor executive orders a crime? Full test or rapid test? Orange and yellow zones. Finger Lakes region versus rest of New York. Positivity rates. Quarantine if you came in contact.... Isolation if you contracted COVID. And finally.... throughout the year, what was alleged as "universally accepted FACT" last week has a different set of FACTS this week, depending on who you talk to or reference.
So what's next? I think the key word as we enter year 2 of COVID is VACCINATION. What spring, summer, and autumn 2021 look like in society will most likely depend on how quickly ALL of us get vaccinated. Whether you believe in Vaccination or not.... whether you choose to get vaccinated or not.... one thing you will most definitely be subjected to in the immediate future is how open society will be for YOU based on whether you have been vaccinated. We have already seen a glimpse of this with the Buffalo Bills Playoff game where they let in 6,000 fans. They had to PROVE negative COVID test within a certain time prior to entering the event. It seems logical the next progression of that as we open venues to 20%, 50%, 100% capacity is that you will need to prove a negative test, or a vaccination.
I along with 100+ other people were on a Zoom meeting/Teleconference this past week with Monroe County Health Commissioner Dr. Michael Mendoza. He reported to date 17% of ALL Monroe County citizens have received at least their first vaccination dose. He also stated that the Johnson and Johnson "1 dose" vaccine appears very effective. Finally, he said that based on the supply of vaccine that will be available soon due to FDA approvals of other manufacturers, that it is reasonable to think by JULY 2021 everyone in Monroe County could be vaccinated!!!!!!!! I love his optimism! I also know the logistical challenge that at will be to get 500,000-600,000 people in Monroe County vaccinated in a 5-month period of March-July 2021. Be on the lookout for more info coming from the county on venues that vaccine will be available at, and how to sign up to get vaccinated. Who knows..... by March 2022 maybe I'll be back in Knoxville TN at a basketball game with 20,000 other fans!!! As always, please feel free to call me at 585-872-7068 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
March 3, 2021
Saying Goodbye to Joe Herbst.... Saying Hello to Dennis Kohlmeier
One of the biggest differences I've noted from private industry to government in the past year is the relatively young age that government employees retire compared to private. I turn 56 in March and feel like I have a good 15-20+ years left in my tank to work in some capacity full time! (LOL) The reality is that in government, if you have worked for 20, 25, 30+ years, the New York State pension system that was in place when you started in the 1990’s makes it very enticing to retire. As such, people who started working for the Town of Webster in their 20's will retire in their 50's. What they do next in their life? I suppose it runs the gamut from never working again to starting a 2nd career.
In the past 12 months, we've seen this at the Town of Webster with several employees, including Department Heads like Mark Yeager at Parks and Rec, Barbara Ottenschot Town Clerk/Tax Collector, and Chief Joe Rieger in the Police Department. On Friday, February 26th, Joe Herbst, Superintendent of the Highway Department joined these ranks. It's not my place to tell you Joe's age, but I can tell you, he is YOUNG to me! His energy is "off the charts" and I have no doubt that his next chapter in life will NOT entail sitting still. Joe will be missed by ALL of Webster; from the citizens who benefitted from his leadership of the department and the services it supplies, to the people who worked with him. On a personal note... I'll miss him. He was very helpful to me as the "rookie" Supervisor over the past year+. He also brought a sense of humor that made working with him fun. I won't even try to be coy on this one..... unless Joe permanently moves out of state, I got my eye on him for future endeavors that will have benefits to the Town of Webster!
As I've stated, the retirement of these people is "bittersweet". The bitter being the institutional knowledge we lose when they retire along with the GREAT human beings they are. How do you quantify that latter point as a loss to an organization? The sweet part is the opportunity that come with newness. On Monday, March 1st, Dennis Kohlmeier took over as the Webster Police Department Chief. If you watched the Town Board meeting on Thursday, February 18th, you saw Dennis, his wife, and 4 children as Dennis was sworn in as Chief. A more "pomp and circumstance" type of swearing in will occur when COVID restrictions are relaxed. The process that the Town carried out in vetting and multiple interviews of candidates for this position was extensive. To me, that process not only gave me a chance to get to know Dennis but made me think him being chosen as the next leader of the Webster Police Department was BEST for today, and hopefully 10+ years from now. Simply said.... this man's personal, academic, law enforcement, military, and private industry experience is impressive beyond words. He embodies the leadership qualities that the WPD needs today, especially considering fairly or not, the focus society has put on law enforcement in the past year. Personally, I am looking forward to working with Dennis. I foresee he will challenge me, and I mean that as a compliment. The best relationships are when both parties learn from each other. Not sure what I can teach Dennis, but I'll try! (LOL) I also foresee Dennis challenging the WPD officers and civilian staff to be the best they can be. He is a devout believer in training and education and that will permeate throughout the department. Please join me in welcoming Dennis back to the WPD as it next Chief! As always, feel free to call me at 585-872-7068 or e-mail email@example.com
February 24, 2021
Bright Future for Lake Road and Sandbar Park
The next few years will be quite active on Lake Road from Pellett road heading west. Three following major projects will be initiated in the order they will be conducted.
PROJECT 1: A Monroe County project that looks to start in the Spring of 2021. It entails the rehabilitation and widening of approximately 2.3 miles of Lake Road between Bay Road and Pellett Road. The proposed work consists of milling and resurfacing the existing pavement, full depth shoulder widening, drainage improvements, removal of an abandoned railroad overpass and replacement of the Shipbuilder’s Creek culvert. Isolated areas of full depth reconstruction will be needed to correct horizontal curvature and ensure the pavement section is adequate for the life of the project. Widening the shoulders will require the relocation and redesign of the storm water system. Drainage inlets will be located along the roadway curb or gutter. A combination of closed systems and a few open ditches will be used. The abandoned railroad bridge currently carries the Hojack Trail over Lake Road. As part of this project, the bridge will be removed, and a new at-grade posted crosswalk for the Hojack Trail crossing Lake Road will be established. The existing Shipbuilder’s Creek culvert will be replaced with a similar 3-sided precast concrete structure founded on rock. The new structure will be slightly wider to accommodate the proposed shoulders.
PROJECT 2: The Town of Webster has obtained approximately $3 million in New York State REDI grants for shoreline resiliency. Two of the main uses of this grant money are for: 1. moving a portion of Lake Road near Oklahoma Beach to the north to create space on the south for a walkway, and 2. building a resiliency type break wall along the bay at Sandbar Park. 60% of the engineering has been accomplished on these REDI grant projects and it is hoped in Spring 2022 they will be initiated.
PROJECT 3: Restructuring of Sandbar Park. This Town project was first discussed 3 - 4 years ago. A citizen committee was formed to come up with some ideas and a public presentation of the various architect renditions was done in late 2018. Then in the spring of 2019 the water levels rose and flooded Sandbar Park and portions of Lake Road. That resulted in both a) the Town Sandbar Park project being put on hold and b) the State offering REDI grants for shoreline resiliency. The citizen committee has been reconvened and is trying to marry architectural plans for Sandbar Park with the road movement and break wall of the REDI grant projects. The rest of 2021 will be an "active and exciting time" for the plans for Sandbar Park. If everything goes well, it is very possible the final plans will have construction initiated in parallel with the REDI granted projects in 2022.
As always, please feel free to call me at 585-872-7068 or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
Supervisor’s Column for February 17, 2021:
Continued efforts for the Town to communicate better to its citizens.
When I entered office in January 2020, I assumed the first few months would be a discovery phase for me. I needed to ask a lot of questions and LISTEN to the Town Board members, Department Heads, and employees on what they thought were the strengths and weaknesses of how the Town Government operated. The reality is, how could I know what needed to be changed, if anything, if I did not have 1st hand knowledge from the people in the trenches carrying out the Town government's mission.
One thing I heard about early on was the Electronic Town Meetings that had been conducted monthly for the past several years. If you are not familiar with them, they were monthly LIVE 1-hour television shows aired on the Town’s cable channel. Most recently in 2019, they were moderated by Barry Howard, the Webster Chamber of Commerce CEO, along with prior Town Supervisor, Ron Nesbitt. Think of them as Johnny Carson and Ed McMahon! (LOL) They would have 1-3 guests on each show that usually consisted of Town Department Heads or other pertinent non-town government entity leaders in Webster. These shows were intended to be both informative and entertaining to the viewers. After watching a few tapes of the shows, I was so excited to get them started up in 2020! Then... COVID hit in mid-March and that was the end of any plans to start production again of these televised/videotaped meetings. Masks, social distancing, etc. does not play well for the production staff, the hosts of the show, the ability to have guests, and the viewing audience.
After a lot of discussion and planning during COVID, the Electronic Town Meetings will be returning to television on Wednesday, February 24th with Host Barry Howard and yours truly, Supervisor Tom Flaherty. While the show will look a little different due to COVID, the show will still offer residents the latest Town news and information each month. At the onset while COVID is still prevalent, the shows will have NO guests and only Barry and I will be on the dais. We will be at least 6-feet apart and have a clear polyurethane barrier between us, as we will NOT be wearing masks, so the viewing audience has a better visual and auditory experience. The shows will initially be pre-taped and 30 minutes in length instead of the 1-hour LIVE they were in the past. This will help us work out any "bugs" that may come up so that once again, the end production is the best quality for the viewer. The show will air on Wednesdays at 7 p.m. on Spectrum channel 1303 and will also be available on the Town’s website: ci.webster.ny.us under Watch Town Meetings. We're also hoping to use some 5-20 second snippets from these shows to put on social media. If there are topics or questions you would like to see discussed on our upcoming shows, please email your ideas to: Communications@ci.webster.ny.us
As always, please feel free to call me at 585-872-7068 or e-mail me at email@example.com
Supervisor’s Column for February 10, 2021:
New Town Newsletter Coming Next Week:
Over the past 13+ months since I became Webster Town Supervisor, you have heard me say many times "an informed community is a better community". Our goal as a team at Town Government was to figure out the optimal way to get communications out to the 15,000 residences in Webster that house our 45,000 citizens. Within that effort, we knew that multiple communication means would be needed. Bottom line.... some people like reading newspapers.... some people like Facebook, etc. The trick is to "maximize" all means of communications in a fiscally responsible manner to have the BEST chance that the communication will be "absorbed" by the citizens.
So, what do I mean by "absorbed"? Well, we can send out the Webster Today (the new Town Times) to ALL 15,000 residences with critical communication on town news. ALL of you got it, but did ALL of you actually read it and "absorb" the message? Probably not, because many people may prefer their "news" be from Twitter or Facebook, etc. This effort is a "tall task”, and baby steps are needed to accomplish the end goal. I figure that between the Webster Herald, social media, and the Town Website that the Town government was getting through to about 15-20% of our citizens when I entered office in January 2020.
The next step in the process of improving Town Communication with its residents starts next week. Citizens will be able to receive the latest Town news and information each week in our new Town Newsletter called “Webster This Week". Published every Monday beginning February 15th, the newsletter will offer a variety of town news, events, and community information. The newsletter will be published on our Town website and residents can also sign up to receive it via email.
The newsletter will feature the following weekly topics:
- Going on Around Town – latest information on construction projects and new businesses
- Town Meetings – listing the Board meetings for the week, along with how to participate
- Webster Cares – recognizing our Webster citizens and business owners for their community service
- Town Department News
- Senior Center News & Events
- Community Outreach – news and information from the non-profit organizations in Webster
- Community Events
- Monroe County News
For more information including email sign-up and how to submit community events, please visit our website: ci.webster.ny.us/585/Town-Newsletter
Please direct any questions to: Communications@ci.webster.ny.us
As always, please feel free to call me at 585-872-7068 or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
Supervisor’s Column for February 3, 2021:
The only constant in life is change- Retiring Town of Webster Personnel
COVID-19 has "changed" us all. It has changed our day-to-day lives in ways we could have never imagined. Things we took for granted were taken away like eating out at a restaurant, working out at a gym, or visiting a grandparent. It has also made all of us rethink our life priorities. For many Town of Webster dedicated employees this meant deciding to retire in the past year. At the time this article was written, approx. 15-20 employees had officially retired since January 1, 2020, and another 5-10 are considering it. God bless em! When they made the decision years ago to be a government employee and not go into the private sector, they most likely discerned the pros and cons of each. A big "pro" of government employment at that time was the "time in service" escalator at various milestone years as it pertains to your pension. Simply said, the longer you work, the bigger your pension is.
Now I don't portend to know the "personal" reasons each of these people decided to retire. Some of them back in 2019 had officially stated they were retiring in 2020 due to hitting a milestone of 20 or 25 years in service. What all of them have in common is that they are "young"... at least my perception of what "young" is! (LOL) They all seem to be in that 55-65 year old range. They all have 20-30+ years in and had an attractive pension system in place when they were hired. Some have told me that they did not want the call at 1:30 AM anymore to "get out there and plow the roads". Some have told me that their children and/or grandchildren situation makes them want to spend more time with them. Some have told me that COVID made them question their priorities going forward.
To me, and the Town of Webster, ALL of these retirees have a bittersweet aspect. The "bitter" part is the institutional knowledge these people take with them that the town is losing. Also, as I got to know many of them in the past year plus, the fine human beings they are will be sorely missed. Some of that "bitter" has been assuaged by bringing them back in a part time status to help with certain projects. I've found that structure to be a "win-win" for the town and the retiree! The "sweet" part is that there is opportunity in change. This opportunity manifests itself most at the top of the Organizational chart with the 14 Department Heads. In the past 13 months since I became Town Supervisor, there have been seven of these Department Heads who are different now, or soon to be based on official retirements. These changes at the top were due to four retirements, one resignation due to what I perceived as "Covid-related", and two Management driven changes. If Organizational Structure is "solid", transition of leadership in these departments is much easier. Solid Organizational Structure assures policies, procedures and job duties are well documented. It also means that the people IN the department have a say in how the department is structured and run day to day. It also means that professional development within the department had been committed to, and very possibly the next Department Head/leader comes from within. Finally, a change at the top gives the opportunity to "assess what works, and what needs to change". Simply said... what worked in 1990 and was implemented then, may not make sense in 2021 and needs to change.
In conclusion, there is one thing that has really bothered me about "how we have sent off" the 15-20 retirees. Simply said.... they got VERY little pomp and circumstance and I don't like that. In one case back in June 2020, I felt like it was an act of Congress to get an "outside in open air, 20-person mid-day coffee and cake" for a retiree on her last day. These people have given 20-30+ years of service to the town. They deserve better. As such, we are committed to holding a BIG retirement gala for ALL retirees since March 2020 once the "world opens back up". Preliminary plan is to have it "outside with open wing tents at the Rec Center". Stay tuned for more info on this since we can't really set a date until the world opening back up supports an event this size. In the meantime, ENJOY your new life recent Town of Webster retirees! As always, feel free to call me at 585-872-7068 or e-mail me at email@example.com
Supervisor’s Column for January 27, 2021:
Our ever-changing perspectives during COVID
It's been almost 11 months since the term "socially distancing" entered our vocabulary with the onset of COVID 19. Doesn't it seem like 11-years!!!!??? It is hard enough dealing with the tangible medical realities of contracting COVID-19. Throw in the intangibles such as "Mask wearers versus NON-mask wearers" and we've had a tough 11 months on our psyches. Truth be told, my wife, three kids still living at home, and myself got COVID back in mid-November 2020. The good news, we all had either NO discernable symptoms, or very mild ones and by Thanksgiving we were all fine. The bad news... 1. trying to counsel my 12-year-old that he won't be seen as a leper by his classmates when he goes back to school. 2. navigating the calls, e-mails, and texts from the Health Department on isolation and/or quarantine times five of us necessitated a master’s degree! (LOL). 3. trying to figure out the most appropriate way to communicate that I had COVID-19 to Town employees and/or citizens when balancing HIPAA privacy laws and my position as Webster Town Supervisor.
"Time and relatable experiences" during COVID-19 the past 11 months has played out differently for all of us. The process our brains utilize to absorb information and make determinations on things has been seriously challenged. One day you THINK you know how COVID is contracted and how you feel about people who got it.... the next you think differently on it as more information becomes available, or your family is touched by it. For example, a mid-20's aged young lady our family knows got COVID in early November 2020. She had minor symptoms and was able to fully perform her job functions from home, albeit not optimally. By mid-November she was officially released from isolation by the Monroe County Health Department. She just assumed she would be able to go back into the office she worked at with 10 other people. However, the owner informed her that the other nine people in the office did NOT want her back in the office! Worst of all, it seemed as though it was a punitive punishment being administered by people 40+ years old on a younger person due to their impression "her going to a Halloween party was irresponsible and she deserved to get COVID". She was essentially labeled as a "pariah". Fast forward to mid-January 2021, ALL the nine people in her office in the past two months have been out of work either due to contracting COVID or one of their immediate family members contracting it. Based on the timing of them getting it, there was NO way it was due to the young lady we know. Wonder if those nine people still see people who got COVID as "pariahs" or "deserved to get it based on their lifestyle"?
Facial masks during COVID, and WHY people wear them may be a great thesis topic for some master’s degree candidate in Psychology in the next few years. Full disclosure.... I am an advocate for wearing a mask and try to make sure I do "when appropriate based on CDC and Monroe County Health Department issued guidelines". I don't wear one when I am on the dais and conducting Town Board meetings. I have been criticized for that. My reason for not wearing the mask at that time is that I am more than six feet apart from anyone else, and I want to make sure my voice inflection can be heard by ALL in the room and those watching on Spectrum cable channel 1303 or livestream on the Town Website since our meetings during COVID are closed to the public from attending in person. What has amazed me are the wide varying reasons people either wear a mask or why they defiantly DON'T wear a mask. Some of these reasons are pure (i.e. health)... some of these reasons are image (i.e. fear of backlash from people if they don't) Some could be perceived as hypochondria (i.e. wearing a mask outside on a walk in a park, or while driving alone in a car..... but I concede that it may be "pure" due to health specifics of that person) Then, you have the "non-mask wearers". I find these people interesting and that thesis I mentioned earlier may take a deeper dive on "why they don't wear masks"? I've heard reasons including but not limited to: a) the government is trying to control us, b) COVID is a hoax, and c) masks don't work on keeping us safe from contracting COVID.
In summary.... by the time we all get a chance to sit back and REALLY assess "why we feel the way we do" on all these COVID related issues, we'll most likely be coming out of it!! That to me is the BEST news. With vaccines already being given to health care workers, and now to the 65+ aged citizens, it is very reasonable to assume that Summer of 2021 will be opening the world back up. God willing, Autumn of 2021 will return schools to normalcy as students will hopefully be able to attend ALL day, every day, in person, and maybe with NO masks! I'll bet my friend, Webster School Superintendent Carmen Gumina would like that! Makes me think this one final thought.... remember pre-COVID when you used to see a person in public with a mask on and wonder "what's their gig?". I wonder when we'll have that feeling again when mask wearers post-COVID become the minority? As always, feel free to call me at 585-872-7068 or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Supervisor’s Column for January 20, 2021:
The need for open mindedness in 2021
This edition of the Webster Herald is dated Wednesday January 20, 2021. By the time you are reading this article, the Inauguration of the forty-sixth President of the United States, Joe Biden has occurred. God willing, it occurred with civility and no repeat of the disturbing events at the Capitol two weeks prior. There's old adage that at family events or other social gatherings "Don't talk about politics or religion". I don't know the genesis of the saying, but I can only imagine some wise person saw the combustible aspect to such topics if the participants in the discussion were a) from polar opposite viewpoints and/or b) impassioned enough in their view to cause an argument or worse! Bottom line.... not a great thing to occur at Thanksgiving or Christmas with family or a get together of friends.
So why do some people get so agitated if they encounter another person who doesn't agree with their point of view? I don't purport to have the answer to that question, but I think some of it may have to do with "open mindedness". When I was campaigning in 2019, I met a gentleman who was a registered Independent. During our conversation I asked how he came to be an Independent. His answer made me a lot of sense to me then, but it really has resonated with me in the past few months as we saw the divisiveness of the country that was on full display during the Presidential Election. Essentially, he described how he did not like the "labels" that were on people when they were in teenagers in high school. You were a jock, or artsy, etc. Then you go to college, into the military, or work and in your early twenties those labels go away, and you become enlightened to the reality that "People are more complex than a ONE label". You can be a jock AND be artsy at the same time. However, then as you enter your late twenties/early thirties and you started to get interested in voting for our government leaders, your options to party affiliation make you revert to the "Label" issue of high school and he just did not want to do that. He wanted to be "open minded" and thus avoided registering in one of the two dominant political parties in the United States.
I don't think we all need to register as Independents to achieve open mindedness. However, I do think you can be Democrat or Republican and NOT identify yourself as that first and foremost as you approach your fellow human being. If we are going to put labels on ourselves or others we encounter, it seems to me some better ones that would promote open mindedness in our dealings are as follows; Mother, Father, Daughter, Son, Sister, Brother, Friend.... fellow human being. See yourself and others as those labels and NOT "Republican or Democrat" and we will go a long way in 2021 to the open mindedness we so desperately need. As always, feel free to call me at 585-872-7068 or e-mail me at email@example.com
January 13, 2021
The 2021 Political Process for Webster Candidates
Hard to believe it has been over two months since the November 2020 election. In many ways, election day 2020 started earlier than Tuesday, November 3rd due to early voting venues and mail in votes due to COVID 19... and it feels like it is still going on to some extent with disputes over the results. Since January 1, 2021, and over the next few weeks, positions elected in November 2020 will have already been sworn in (i.e., new House of Representatives and Senators) or will be such as the POTUS on Inauguration day.
The election season for positions that will be on the ballot in November 2021 has already started. If you have heard the old saying "All politics are local", you will definitely be interested in how candidates get on the ballot for Town of Webster positions such as County Legislatures, Town Board, and Town Supervisor. Let's start with the foundational tenet that to be a "viable" candidate on the ballot in November 2021, you most likely need the designation of the Webster Democratic Committee (WDC) or the Webster Republican Committee (WRC). There are other paths to getting on the ballot but based on the size of Webster and number of registered voters, obtaining the number of petition signatures you would need to be "independent or unaffiliated, etc." would be very challenging especially during COVID, where going door to door to get such signatures would most likely not be met well. Currently the number of signatures/petitions needed would be approximately five hundred (500) based on the number of registered voters in the various parties or unaffiliated. There is talk at the State level to reduce that number for 2021 due to COVID challenges of "door to door" signature/petition gathering but as of now there has been no formal approval of that.
The WDC and WRC are currently comprised of 20-50 members each. Considering that there currently are approximately 10,000 registered Democrats and 11,000 registered Republicans in Webster, there is a GREAT opportunity for them to get involved by joining these committees. If you go by the adage, "you are either part of the problem or part of the solution", getting on these committees is one of the best ways to be involved in what "choices" are put forth for the citizens of Webster. The WDC and WRC go through a process in January and February of vetting potential candidates (i.e., Nomination), and ultimately voting at the committee level on who will be the party's candidate (i.e., Designation). Once that candidate is designated it does not mean they go straight to the November 2021 election being on the ballot as that party's candidate. There are two scenarios that occur: 1. Another person in the party can force a primary in June 2021 if they obtain enough signatures/petitions from citizens registered in the party. 2. Primary or not, the designated candidate needs to obtain enough signatures/petitions to be validated to be the party's candidate on the November 2021 ballot.
In summary, the WDC and WRC have a lot of influence on the "choices" the Webster citizens will ultimately have to vote for in November 2021. Our democracy is founded in "choices". Please consider joining the WDC or WRC. The more people on those committees in the future will assure that Webster will always have choices, and that the choices they have will not be determined by too small a number of people. As always, feel free to call me at 585-872-7068 or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
January 6, 2021
A different take on New Year's resolutions and the Town of Webster Government
The dictionary meaning of the word "resolution” is a firm decision to do or not do something. A New Year's tradition has been that this is the time when we make resolutions in our personal lives. Often, they are to get in shape, or lose weight. They also tend to fade by February! As such, were they truly "firm decisions to do or not to do something"? Fact is, New Year's resolutions are usually verbal, and a contract made with one's self. Ever try enforcing a verbal contract... and worse yet one you made with yourself? (LOL)
At the Webster Town Board meetings each 1st and 3rd Thursday of the month, we vote on "written resolutions". They are not to be taken lightly since if the motion being voted on is approved by at least three of the five Town Board members, that becomes part of the Town code and/or law. Bottom line.... these truly are the dictionary meanings of "Firm decisions to do or to not do something".
Recently I have been quoted in press releases, the Webster Today (The new Town Times) and social media postings my realization in my first year as Town Supervisor that "Governing in the Town of Webster is a TEAM effort". To accomplish anything for the greater good of the community, you need the team effort of the Town's Department Heads, employees, various citizen volunteer boards, and the Town Board.
During my candidacy for Town Supervisor in 2019, a competing candidate verbally and in writing stated what he/she would do in their "1st 100-days as Town Supervisor" and the wide scale changes he/she would make happen in town. I can only speculate that this candidate for Town Supervisor did not understand that the position is NOT an executive position such as President, Governor, County Executive, or Mayor. Simply said, the Town Supervisor position is a "hybrid" of executive and legislative. The executive part comes in the form of being who the Department Heads report to. The legislative part is that they are only one of the five-person Town Board, and as previously stated.... you need a majority vote of this board to pass resolutions that become Town code/law.
Make no mistake... the Town Supervisor has a LOT of influence. As with any organization, it is a "top-down" culture. If the leader of an organization is committed to Organizational Structure and Customer Service.... it will eventually permeate down through the organization. If a leader does NOT set the tone on culture and what the organization is committed to.... it will be created for them from within and often will be one that is not good.
I knew all this one year ago when I was sworn in as Town Supervisor. As such, I approached my 1st year as Supervisor with two simple mantras that had served me well in my personal and business life..... The 1st was that NOTHING changes day 1. I was in discovery mode and needed to work with the Department Heads to determine what the strengths and weaknesses of the organization were before discussing what changes need to be discussed. The 2nd was that I would "Work hard, tell the truth, and take my chances on how I would be ultimately received and accepted.” I remember many of my initial meetings with Department Heads and board members where I said, "I appreciate you don't know me, so why would you trust me day 1?” Trust and respect are not garnered by having the title "Town Supervisor." They are earned through experiences you encounter with people. They all needed to encounter experiences with me, and me with them to form that trust and respect.
So now I enter year two of being Webster Town Supervisor. My "day to day" learning curve is much less now than it was one year ago... but every day I am learning something new. I'm excited for the opportunities 2021 will bring for the Town. I truly feel that people are "rowing in the same direction" and when that organically occurs.... the TEAM can achieve a LOT. I am "resolved" to lead the Town in a pragmatic manner that makes sure no one feels disenfranchised. Decisions need to be made for the "greater good" and with an eye to the future. Over the next several months, I look forward to articulating some details of that for the Town in this column. As always, feel free to call me at 585-872-7068 or e-mail me at email@example.com
December 30, 2020
The Christmas Carol and my 1st year at Town Supervisor
I admit it. My favorite holiday tradition the past 20+ years has been going with my family to GEVA Theatre to see the Christmas Carol. At first it was my parents and mother and father-in-law and my wife Molly, but as time went on and my children got older, they all joined in. It was always great to see how the children interpreted the production differently from the time they were 5, 15, 25 etc. My father passed in July 2019, so we missed him last Christmas for the show, and with COVID in 2020, we ALL missed the show and have been relegated to watching various versions on TV.
Simply said, the Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens is a "classic" that has stood the test of time. Based in the mid 1840's, the lessons it teaches are still prevalent almost 200 years later. One major aspect of the story that resonates with me as I think back on completing my first year as Webster Town Supervisor is the interaction between Ebenezer Scrooge and the ghost of his 7-years dead partner, Jacob Marley. Marley is bemoaning his links of chains he has to carry in the afterlife that he forged during his despicable life. Scrooge says "Jacob, you were always a good man of business" for which Marley ROARS back at him.... "Business?..... Mankind should have been my business!!!!!" Besides being a GREAT line..... it is something all of us can relate to in one way or another.
No doubt our deeds are part of what determines if we have made mankind our business. However, it can be as subtle as smiling and being kind to people that affect it. Some of us are naturally better at making mankind our business. These people seem to "brighten the room" when they walk into it, and also consistently perform deeds to make the world a better place. Others of us have to work harder at it, but we are conscious of it and our shortcomings on it. That is good because you can't work on bettering yourself unless you admit that you have faults. Finally.... some of us it would appear are heading down the path of Jacob Marley! Yikes!!
So, what does that all have to do with being Town Supervisor? For me, this year has been rewarding beyond anything I could have imagined coming into it. To do the job of Town Supervisor the right way and for the right reasons, I believe that "Mankind needs to be your business". After 25 years owning my business, being Town Supervisor this year gave me the opportunity to REALLY make a difference in people's lives, whether the citizens or employees of the Town. I have always been a disciple of "Servant Leadership". At its core, it means YOU as leader are there for the people and NOT the other way around. In my opinion, to do the job right it is far more than a 9 - 5/40 hours week. Fortunately, having been self-employed for most of my adult life where "there is no clock to punch" so this was not culture shock to me, and frankly, if you like what you do, are you really ever working? I also appreciate that after surveying the situation/culture I walked into in January 2020, the initiatives started this year by the dedicated team of Department Heads and Town Board members, and the time it will take to see those initiatives come to fruition, to do the job the right way for the people of Webster, and assuming no major health issues come up for my family or me....I feel it is a 6 - 8 year position for me. My gut tells me after that amount of time the position would start to become about the Supervisor / done for the wrong reasons, and NOT about the people he or she serves. I also appreciate in November of 2021 the citizens of Webster could vote to end my time as Town Supervisor at 2 years if they vote me out. That is a reality every 2 years currently.
In summary, as Tiny Tim says... "God Bless us all, everyone". Merry Christmas everyone!!! As always, feel free to call me at 585-872-7068 or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
December 16, 2020
2020- The year in review. Glass half empty or half full?
I got the December 14th Time Magazine at my house this past weekend. The cover said "2020- The worst year ever". At the time of my writing this article, I had not read the article yet by Stephanie Zacharek who cited those cover words, but I did see that she is a film critic by trade so that may bias her as to 2020 and her experiences with it.
Fact is.... 2020 has been a tough year, but has it been the worst year ever? The answer is so individually subjective based on where you are at in your life. For my 3 children still in high school and middle school, 2020 has been the worst year ever in their lives. Between losing the sports they love to play and losing the human interaction of in-school learning and socializing, their "less than 20 years on this earth" qualifies 2020 as legitimately being their worst. However, the 70-year-old who served two tours in Vietnam and has beaten cancer may not view 2020 as "the worst year".
"Worst year ever" also calls into play our individual perspective on life. Do you inherently lean optimism, or do you lean pessimism? If you are of the latter persuasion, 2020 could easily be considered by you as being the "worst ever". However, I find pessimistic people to suffer from recency bias. Simply said.... whatever is going on NOW is the "worst" to them. Now I admit, I am a self-proclaimed "eternal optimist". People have said to me what a terrible year to be the new Town Supervisor when 2+ months into my term COVID hit. Frankly, I have never felt that way. Quite the opposite, I feel that my personal and professional experience leading up to March 2020 prepared me to lead during the crisis that was unfolding before our eyes back during the 1st half of March 2020. Also, 2020 has brought me much closer to my two brothers, and we were already pretty close to begin with! We committed to getting together either in person or by zoom every week, and that has been a GREAT experience.
At the risk of sounding like a "glass half empty person"......The biggest challenge I have had as Town Supervisor in 2020 with COVID is the inability to "meet people face to face". In early January 2021 the next edition of Webster Today (The New Town Times) will be mailed out to ALL businesses and residences in Webster. Within it will be a recap of what the Town Government either accomplished in 2020 or started the process on. Those accomplishments are a "WE thing". It takes a team of Department Heads and the Town Board to achieve things. You'll notice in that edition that in January and February 2020 I was "out and about" as Town Supervisor meeting with people. I really thought and continue to think that what I want most to accomplish as Webster Town Supervisor is to be "present and accessible". I don't want to sit behind my desk at Town Hall. I would rather be out at various community events meeting with people. That is how I get the best gauge on what people's thoughts, questions, concerns etc. are. The COVID shutdown in March 2020 put an end to being "out and about" in the community. Even as we started re-opening in June 2020, the challenges of social distancing and mask wearing made me as Town Supervisor have to avoid meeting people face to face and getting out there in the community. The bottom line is that if you are a Webster citizen who does not get the Webster Herald or is not on Facebook, it would be easy to think that Town Supervisor Flaherty has been MIA in 2020. As previously stated in past Supervisor Corner columns, we are working diligently to shore up that "Communication gap" the Town of Webster government currently has with its citizens.
In summary, 2020 has certainly not been a "great year", but I personally and professionally don't feel it has been the "worst ever". I'm proud of the manner in which the Town Government Department Heads, various citizen boards, and the Town Board took a "failure is NOT an option" attitude to accomplishing things in 2020 when it would have been very easy to give the excuse of COVID as to why things were not getting done. A major lesson I learned owning a business for 25 years is that how you handle adversity will ultimately determine your success or lack thereof. No doubt, COVID is a big adversity item, but we made a decision at Town government in 2020 to not let it define us and make us victims. We did our best to address this adversity and adapt to the realities that COVID presented to put us in the best position for success. As always, feel free to call me at 585-872-7068 or e-mail email@example.com
December 10, 2020
Remembering Pearl Harbor as we enter 2021
This past Monday, December 7th marked the 79th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack in 1941 that ushered the United States into World War 2. The vast majority of us were not alive when President Roosevelt addressed the nation with those words that will live on forever.... "Today, December 7th, 1941, a day that will live in infamy”. Most, if not all the women and men that were there in Hawaii on that fateful morning are no longer with us. For these reasons it is more important than ever that we remember and honor that "greatest generation" who rose from the gut punch of the Pearl Harbor attack and coalesced to protect the freedoms we enjoy in the United States today.
Why do I underline we? 2 reasons...... 1. because the passing of almost 80-years means the greatest generation is no longer part of "we", and 2. "we", the living in 2020, whether 20, 50, or 80 years old owe the greatest generation for all they did. We as Americans need more than ever to coalesce and galvanize as we enter 2021. If we don't, we do a great disservice to those women and men of the greatest generation who sacrificed so much during World War 2 to make sure the United States could remain the land of the free. Many of them made the ultimate sacrifice. ALL of them had just come out of the Great Depression. That must have hardened them to the point that when "duty called" to defend this country's liberties from the threats of fascism, dictatorship, and genocide.... they answered the call with no complaint. Most were so young, still in their teens, or just into their early twenties, that maybe they did not completely understand the gravity of what they were doing and the consequences if they were not successful.
If you have not figured out yet, I am in awe of the greatest generation. We owe them a debt we can never repay. One way we can honor them is to take the baton from them and strive to make the United States the best country in the World in 2021 and beyond through our deeds and how we treat each other. They were "selfless" and did things for the greater good. We need more of that from Americans in 2021. The reality is that America is "flawed". It has been since the day the Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776! It's "flawed" because human beings are "flawed" and unfortunately our human flaws translate to the flaws in the country. However, even with all its flaws (and ours as humans) we should not throw the baby out with the bath water. Too many people have sacrificed to give us the opportunity to make this country even greater than it is. But to do so, we need to coalesce as a country. We need to recognize we have more in common that we have differences.
I know a united country can feel like an impossibility when you see the divisiveness that is going on in the country currently with events like the presidential election and COVID. However, I remember how the people of this country coalesced in the aftermath of the 9-11 attacks in 2001. For as awful an experience that was, looking back now it was great to see the country come together. For several months, if not a year after those attacks, Democrat or Republican did not matter...... black or white did not matter..... what mattered was that we were Americans.
So, thank you Greatest generation. We will fly flags at half-mast this week in commemoration of Pearl Harbor. Hopefully, we can honor you properly and into perpetuity with our deeds in 2021 and beyond to caretake the liberties in the United States you fought to retain for us. Those liberties should be for ALL Americans. We have work to do, but I have faith in the human spirit of Americans that it can be achieved. As always feel free to call me at 585-872-7068 or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
December 2, 2020:
Continuing an Annual Webster Tradition – With a Twist
What started as a simple question from 8-year-old Blake Richey has turned into one of the biggest events to be held in the Town of Webster this year. The 2020 Webster Holiday Parade of Lights – with a Twist, will be held this Saturday, December 5th, from 3 to 8 pm on the Xerox Campus. Webster’s Holiday Parade of Lights is normally hosted each year by the Webster Fire Department. The very popular parade normally features dozens of first responder vehicles, floats from community agencies and local businesses, marching bands and more, all wrapped in twinkling holiday lights. Originally scheduled for early December, it was cancelled due to COVID restrictions.
In its place a new re-imagined 2020 Webster Holiday Parade of Lights will be held on Saturday Dec. 5 from 3 to 8 p.m. Community members will be invited to this COVID-safe “reverse parade” where emergency vehicles, area businesses and community groups will be parked in a Xerox parking lot, and spectators will drive past them, enjoying the lights and music from the safety and warmth of their cars. I am grateful for Syed Ahmed Mustafa, President/CEO of Northeast Quadrant Advanced Life Support and Chairman of the Webster Emergency Responder Council, taking the reins and pulling a team of people together to hold this event this year. I think that this is something our citizens and businesses really need this year.
As a long-term resident of Webster, my family and I have enjoyed the Holiday Parade for years, and I know this parade is something the community looks forward to every year, as do the first responders and community groups that march in it, and local businesses that benefit from the foot traffic. For many in our community the Holiday Parade is a cherished tradition and I am glad the Town was able to help put on this meaningful community event. The event is being planned in collaboration with the Town of Webster Parks and Recreation, Webster Economic Development Alliance, Webster Chamber of Commerce and the Webster Village Business Improvement District. Local businesses and civic organizations are encouraged to participate in what will be a safe and creative way to reach out to their customers and remind community members that their shops are open for business.
Webster’s Holiday Parade of Lights will be held Saturday Dec. 5 from 4 to 8 p.m. in the Xerox parking lot on San Jose Drive. A pre-event viewing time from 3 to 4 p.m. will be reserved for those with special needs and those living in our senior living communities. Spectators will be directed to approach the event via Salt Rd., turning west on to San Jose Drive and then into a staging parking lot from where they’ll be directed to the parade site. To help manage the traffic flow, visitors are asked to sign up online for one of the eight 30-minute time slots. Visitors can register on www.EventBrite.com website searching 2020 Webster Holiday Parade of Lights or by clicking this link: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/2020-webster-holiday- parade-of-lights-guests-tickets-127079737917
As of Wednesday, 12/2, more than 2,600 cars have registered to attend the parade, which will
feature more than 60 first responders, town and village vehicles, area businesses and community
Special thanks to the following organizations for their donations:
- Reliant Credit Union for providing us the VIP Gift bags
- Xerox Corporation for giving us the space to hold the event
- ADMAR Construction Equipment & Supplies for providing us the generators and lights
- McMahon LaRue Associates P.C. for mapping the parade route for us
- The local media that helped us spread the word about this event
- The First Responders, Businesses & Community Organizations participating in the “parade”
As we all know, having an idea is easy, the hard part is the execution. So many have donated their time, expertise and contacts to put on this free event that it is impossible to list them all in this article.
I believe this special event will serve as a bright spot as we wind down a very unique 2020 and
will serve as one more reminder that Webster is indeed the Place Where Life is Worth Living. I
look forward to seeing you there. As always, feel free to call me at 585-872-7068 or e-mail me at email@example.com
November 25, 2020:
A special Thanksgiving to Webster's First Responders
Being positive and thankful can be challenging at times. I love the phrase "Have an attitude of gratitude”, but sometimes it seems easier to focus on the negatives in life and fall prey to them. COVID has challenged even the most positive dispositions in us. On Thursday, November 19th at the Webster Town Board meeting, the most poignant presentation occurred that I have witnessed in my first year as Town Supervisor.
We are fortunate to have an incredible first responder network here in Webster. There aren't many other towns where the police department, fire departments and emergency medical services work as well together as they do in Webster. On November 17, 2019, a team came together and were able to save a life. A few days, ago, the patient's wife emailed the President of Northeast Quadrant Advanced Life Support the following email the following with redactions to protect privacy:
Hello-my husband and I live in Webster. Tomorrow, 11/17/20 will mark one year to the day when my husband went into cardiac arrest around 4 pm. The EMT who responded worked on him for 25 minutes before they got a pulse. No one thought he would survive but after two weeks on life support, to the amazement of all of us and the doctors, he woke up. This year certainly has taken its toll on so so many families during this pandemic and we are sure the EMT workers have seen many heartbreaking events. So we wanted to share some good news and with all of you. Due to the heroic efforts of your team my husband's life was saved! He certainly has had many hurdles to overcome but continues to make progress. So thank you so much!!! All of you!!! For all you do for the community and families in need. During these stressful times we thought some good news would put a smile on some of your faces!
It is not very often that first responders get to meet their patients, and there is probably no meeting more significant than meeting a patient whose life you saved from cardiac arrest. At the November 19th, 2020 Town Board meeting, the very grateful patient and his family got to meet the amazing team of first responders who are responsible for him being alive today. They included the following; Webster Police Officer Sam States who was first on scene and, recognizing the patient was in cardiac arrest, applied an AED which delivered a shock. CPR was promptly initiated. NEQALS Deputy Chief and Paramedic Matt Lloyd arrived on scene 2nd , closely followed by NEQ EMT Chris Devlin and West Webster Fire Department EMT Caleb Stammler. Shortly thereafter West Webster firefighter Cameron Antonelli, Lt James Kommeth and Capt Brian Zimmer arrived, as did NEQALS Deputy Chief and Paramedic Julie Jordan.
In summary, I want to wish everyone in Webster a happy and safe Thanksgiving. I hope that ALL Webster citizens give thanks this time of year for the job our first responders do. These women and men embody all that is good in our society. I've always said you need to be cut from a different cloth to be a first responder. It is not a profession as much as it is a vocation for these amazing people. As always, please feel free to call me at 585-872-7068 or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
To view the presentation at the Town Board meeting, please visit: http://ci.webster.ny.us/CivicMedia?VID=Town-Board-Mtg-November-19-2020-295
November 18, 2020:
Interested in helping out your hometown?
I always loved that John Kennedy phrase, "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country”. Another phrase I am quite fond of is, "think globally, but act locally". Not exactly sure who coined that one! The more active involvement by people in any organization by definition makes for a better organization! That goes for the Town of Webster government too. Did you know there are several citizen boards you could serve on? Here is a rundown of them, along with some key aspects to each.
Planning Board: In accordance with the provisions of § 274-a of the New York State Town Law, this board shall have the authority to review and approve site development plans for the following uses; 1. All principal uses permitted in the Town of Webster Zoning Ordinance, with the exception of single-family detached dwelling units, 2. A change of use in any preexisting structure involving any permitted principal use, provided that the change in use is not to a single-family detached dwelling, 3. Site plan modifications, additions, or structural alterations to any of the permitted principal uses, with the exception of single-family detached dwelling units., 4. Accessory uses: outdoor, in-ground community swimming pools for multifamily dwellings, apartment buildings or townhouses. Members are appointed to a seven-year term by the Town Board.
Zoning Board of Appeals: is granted two appellate functions: the review of applications for use and area variances, and the power to render interpretations of the zoning regulations. Members are appointed to a five-year term by the Town Board.
Board of Assessment Review: Your home is assessed at $200,000 for real estate tax purposes and you think that is too high. If you pursue your assessment being lowered, you will most likely have this board hear your case. The BAR constitutes what is known as a quasi-judicial body and the members of the board are charged with judicial responsibility to get all the facts, and apply appropriate laws and reasoning to the facts in a fair and judicious manner. Members are appointed to a five-year term by the Town Board.
Conservation Board: serves to advise the Town in the development, management, and protection of its natural resources. Board members will review proposed development applications for environmental impacts and advise the various Town Boards on their findings, including the Town Board, Planning Board and Zoning Board. Responsibilities include conducting site visits and staying current on the Town Comprehensive Plan, the Town Code and SEQR guidelines. Members are appointed to a two-year term by the Town Board
Library Board: A library trustee's commitment is to both the physical property and resources of the library and the services it provides. The library board has the responsibility to see that its library provides the best possible service to its community. The responsibilities of trustees include; 1. Create and develop the mission of the library, 2. Regularly plan and evaluate the library's service program based on community needs, 3. Exercise fiduciary responsibility for the use of public and private funds, 4. Adopt policies and rules regarding library governance and use. Trustees are appointed to a five-year term by the Town Board.
Parks, Recreation, Open Space and Athletic Review Board (PROSAR): serves to advise and assist in the preparation of plans and programs for carrying out the functions of the Department of Parks and Recreation. Such Board shall also review such plans and proposals for the acquisition and development of parks and recreation lands and facilities as may from time to time be referred to it by the Town Board or the Planning Board, and make such recommendations to the Town Board and Planning Board in connection therewith as it deems appropriate. This Board consists of 11 members and members are appointed to a three-year term by the Town Board.
We've made great strides in 2020 to make these boards both a) more transparent to potential interested candidates as to the description of what these boards do and what the responsibilities are, and b) ease to apply. If you're interested in becoming a member of one of our Webster citizen boards, please do the following:
1. Review the responsibilities for the Board you are interested in, on the Town’s website: https://www.ci.webster.ny.us/121/Boards
2. Review the attendance commitments for board meetings and training.
3. Upon review, interested residents can complete the online application form to submit their resume for consideration.
Application link: https://www.ci.webster.ny.us/FormCenter/Boards-10/Citizen-Board-Application-Form-59
4. The application form will be open until Friday, December 11, 2020.
5. Applicants must be 18 years or older, and a Webster resident.
6. At the end of December, the Town Board will appoint new members to fill any vacancies.
7. Applications will be kept on file for one year, as mid-year vacancies can occur
As always, feel free to call me at 585-872-7068 or e-mail me at email@example.com
November 11, 2020:
A Veteran's day message from General David Petraeus
With all the turmoil we have encountered in 2020, I feel this Veteran's Day is more special than any one in my lifetime. Frankly, I don't have the skill or background to write an article that does Veteran's day justice. Therefore, I hope you enjoy an excerpt from General David Petraeus' "The 0.45%"............
I remember the day I found out I got into West Point.
My mom actually showed up in the hallway of my high school and waited for me to get out of class. She was bawling her eyes out and apologizing that she had opened up my admission letter. She wasn’t crying because it had been her dream for me to go there. She was crying because she knew how hard I’d worked to get in, how much I wanted to attend, and how much I wanted to be an infantry officer. I was going to get that opportunity.
That same day two of my teachers took me aside and essentially told me the following: “David, you’re a smart guy. You don’t have to join the military. You should go to college, instead.”
I could easily write a tome defending West Point and the military as I did that day, explaining that USMA is an elite institution, that separate from that it is actually statistically much harder to enlist in the military than it is to get admitted to college, that serving the nation is a challenge that all able-bodied men and women should at least consider for a host of reasons, but I won’t.
What I will say is that when a 16 year-old kid is being told that attending West Point is going to be bad for his or her future then there is a dangerous disconnect in America, and entirely too many Americans have no idea what kind of burdens our military is bearing.
In World War II, 11.2% of the nation served in four years. In Vietnam, 4.3% served in 12 years. Since 2001, only 0.45% of our population has served in the Global War on Terror. These are unbelievable statistics.
Over time, fewer and fewer people have shouldered more and more of the burden and it is only getting worse. Our troops were sent to war in Iraq by a Congress consisting of 10% veterans with only one person having a child in the military. Taxes did not increase to pay for the war. War bonds were not sold. Gas was not regulated. In fact, the average citizen was asked to sacrifice nothing, and has sacrificed nothing unless they have chosen to out of the goodness of their hearts.
The only people who have sacrificed are the veterans and their families. The volunteers. The people who swore an oath to defend this nation. You.
You stand there, deployment after deployment and fight on. You’ve lost relationships, spent years of your lives in extreme conditions, years apart from kids you’ll never get back, and beaten your body in a way that even professional athletes don’t understand. And you come home to a nation that doesn’t understand. They don’t understand suffering. They don’t understand sacrifice. They don’t understand that bad people exist. They look at you like you’re a machine — like something is wrong with you. You are the misguided one — not them. When you get out, you sit in the college classrooms with political science teachers that discount your opinions on Iraq and Afghanistan because YOU WERE THERE and can’t understand the “macro” issues they gathered from books with your bias. You watch TV shows where every vet has PTSD and the violent strain at that. Your Congress is debating your benefits, your retirement, and your pay, while they ask you to do more.
But the amazing thing about you is that you all know this. You know your country will never pay back what you’ve given up. You know that the populace at large will never truly understand or appreciate what you have done for them. Hell, you know that in some circles, you will be thought as less than normal for having worn the uniform. But you do it anyway. You do what the greatest men and women of this country have done since 1775 — YOU SERVED. Just that decision alone makes you part of an elite group.
Never in the field of human conflict has so much been owed by so many to so few.
You are the 0.45%.
General David Petraeus West Point Class 1974
As always, please feel free to call me at 585-872-7068 or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
November 4, 2020:
The importance of Organizational Structure and Customer Service
When I first met my fellow Town Board members, and the Town of Webster Department Heads back in December 2019, I felt it was important to let them know that "nothing would change" when I took the office of Town Supervisor on January 1, 2020. There were two reasons why I felt this was important for them to know; 1. My years of experience owning my own company and having been on several non-profit boards had shown me that "I don't know what I don't know" and I would really need the first few months in my new position to be in "discovery" of the Town of Webster Government's current strengths and weaknesses, and 2. The best way to have people work with you when you are NEW is to not come in and immediately rock the boat with "change for the sake of change."
By late January/early February 2020, I had enough individual interaction with the Department Heads to request that we have a meeting with their respective staffs under their management to go over two foundational tenets I feel very strongly about; 1. Organizational Structure and 2. Customer Service. Since it was going to be my first "formal" meeting with the Department Head and his or her staff, I wanted to make sure it was "short and sweet". I said at each of these meetings that as time goes on, they would see me constantly coming back to Organizational Structure and Customer Service as the most important things we commit to in ALL we do. I further told them at that meeting I would NOT get into the "nitty gritty" detail of those two things because we would be in the meeting ALL day! (LOL) I figured those details would come in time as we crossed bridges of experience where I could further elaborate to them on how they pertain to that specific experience.
Since I have limited space to write this article, and I do not want to put you all to sleep, here are my readers' digest descriptions of why Organizational Structure and Customer Service are so important to ANY and ALL organizations.
Organizational Structure: On the surface, it seems pretty basic. You may have seen the visual Org Chart where the position on top is the CEO in a private business, and then the positions that report to the CEO under that, and the positions that report to that 2nd level position under that, and so on. However, that just scratches the surface. Defining each position's duties and responsibilities so they are unequivocal in their interpretation is extremely important. Often organizations fall into the trap of depending on "the person" that is in the position and fail to document these duties and responsibilities. The person leaves the organization and out the door walks all their institutional knowledge with NO documentation of what he or she does. Often that is when you find out that the "person" was actually doing duties and taking on responsibilities of other positions. They just "filled the void" when the person(s) in those other position(s) was NOT doing their job. That's a sign of a GREAT person.... but not of a good organization that allowed that to occur. Also, properly constructed duties and responsibilities of a position should take into account "checks and balances" to assure that NO position has isolated, unchecked authority that could minimally cause errors to go undetected, and more seriously allow malfeasance to occur and not be detected. Finally, a well-defined Organizational Structure assures continuity of the organization as individual people come in, and also leave positions. At the end of the day, we all are "caretaking" our position and eventually someday someone else will be caretaking it. If we don't look at it that way, it can go off the tracks and have the person think they are bigger or more important than the position.
Customer Service: Simply said.... the 46,000 citizens of Webster are the Town of Webster Government's customers. That is a fact that needs to permeate documented policies and procedures of the Town.... but even more important it needs to be in the philosophy of the employees of the Town that is demonstrated in how they approach their job, and their interaction with the community. As in any organization, this philosophy needs to come from the top down. It is incumbent on me as the Town Supervisor to set that tone. I could write 10,000+ words on why I feel customer service is so important, but to keep it short, I'll focus on these 2 aspects: 1. The customer is NOT always right.... but they deserve the respect of being given timely and honest responses to their inquiries and/or complaints. I've found that often the thing a citizen may be contacting me to complain about ends up being an opportunity for me to talk with them and give facts of the situation. More often than not, the person ends up staying "I was not aware of that" and their initial angst is assuaged by getting facts about the situation. 2. an organization's customer service philosophy and system should be built to make things EASIER for the customer, and NOT be driven by what makes things easier for the employee/organization. You would think this would be common sense... but I can't tell you how many times I have asked over the years "why do we do it that way"? and the answer comes back either "we've always done it that way and/or because it is easier". My follow up question is "easier for the customer or easier for US as the organization?????" More often than not as we proceed forward on those items, we end up changing a policy/procedure due to it having previously been NOT Customer friendly.
In summary, I am very encouraged by the progress we have made this year on Organizational Structure and Customer Service. The biggest reason for that is the people we have at the Town. They genuinely want to do a good job and that makes it so much easier to forge ahead when things need to change. As always, feel free to call me at 585-872-7068 or e-mail me at email@example.com
October 28, 2020:
How our decision making is influenced in 2020
One thing I think we all can agree on is that 2020 has been a unique year. It's hard to compare crisis times against each other due to the recency bias we as humans have. That recency bias makes us feel like the current thing we are going through is the WORST thing we have ever had to endure. For me personally, I felt that after 9-11 as a young father concerned about whether the world was about to end, and also again in 2008 when the financial world collapsed, and I owned a mortgage company. For people a few years older than me, I can't imagine what it was like for you in the late 1960's with Vietnam, and Martin Luther King Jr. and Bobby Kennedy being assassinated. Finally, for any of the greatest generation who may still be with us, the depression and World War II must have been incredibly stressful times to live through.
So how do "the times we live in" affect our decision making? To me, decision making is broken down into two categories; 1. overt, and 2. opinion forming. An example of each is that when you are driving in your car and come to a T in the road, you have to make an overt decision (i.e. action) to turn left or right. Conversely, opinion forming by each of us is much more complicated based on the factors of influence we encounter each day. Interestingly enough, you would think opinion forming by definition does NOT mean an overt action needs to be made such as the turning left or right at the T in the road example. The fact is opinion forming often is the predecessor to overt actions we each do. Bottom line.... in the next few days several governmental positions will be determined by the election and each of our individual opinion forming led to the overt action of who we vote for.
There are so many factors that go into our individual opinion forming, that ultimately drive our overt-action item decisions. Three that I see having great influence in 2020 are as follows:
1.TANGIBLE FACTS/DATA: This is something I really try to gather, question, and absorb on my path to opinion forming and decision making. I find it interesting that in business, if you do NOT subscribe to this process, you ultimately will go out of business from making uninformed decisions. However, it seems in politics, certain politicians are rewarded with getting elected and re-elected by skirting the facts/data, or outright just stating things as facts that are not supported by tangible data. One thing I experienced as a business owner and in my first year as Supervisor is that a high-level person such as a CFO or Department Head has said to me individually, or in meetings with other high-level people in the organization "We've had a LOT of this occurring lately/the past year and we need to do something about it". I always answer that comment with "define a LOT?" Out of 100 transactions has it happened on 5, 10, 50, etc.? Often, once we go out and gather the data/facts, the desired "do something about it/make an overt decision" is rendered moot since it does not happen as much as the person thought it did.
2. TRADITIONAL NEWS MEDIA AND SOCIAL MEDIA: We all know that the traditional media of newspapers, TV, etc. is changing before our eyes in the past 10+ years. I am not talking so much about whether or not the traditional media has become more or less biased in the last 10+ years... I am talking about how people GET their news, and what news they determine is credible. Social Media has changed the landscape. Has it changed it for the better as to people's opinion forming, and subsequent overt action decisions? I'm going to stay away from answering that, but suggest that if you have not watched the 90-minute documentary on Netflix called "The Social Dilemma", that you do and make your own determination on it. One thing social media has definitely changed is the concept of slander and libel. Slander is when you SAY something untrue about someone and libel is when you WRITE something untrue about someone. In the past slander and libel were often tied to news media outlets and/or civil lawsuits if one or both could be proven, and if proven it harmed the person or organization the untrue statements were made on. social media allows ANYONE to go on and "say or write anything" on a person or organization, regardless of whether factual or not and do so with impunity from liability for being sued for libel/slander.. Worse yet, often the biggest spreaders on social media of lies are anonymous in that they can set up accounts on Facebook, Twitter, etc. with alias names. Unfortunately, some people read this stuff on social media and accept it as fact... even though it is NOT. That in and of itself will lead to bad opinion forming and/or overt action on certain issues
3.INDIVIDUAL PERSONALITIES: Human beings are complex. Some are more averse to change than others, and let's face it... "change is inevitable". Some fear what they don't know or understand and will shy away from trying to get to know and/or understand something. They will just jump to the final conclusion it is WRONG in their mind. Others will be open minded and try to get educated on what they don't know or understand before making a conclusion on how they feel about it. Some want the safety of tribalism. That can lead to the unintended consequence of "100% of my tribe is RIGHT, and 100% of your tribe is WRONG". As humans, we have the amazing ability to "justify" even if logic dictates otherwise. A great example of this it is that some people can be pro-life and pro-death penalty... while other people are pro-choice and against the death penalty.
At the end of the day, how we are each "wired" within our individual personalities will have an effect on how we assess our opinion forming, and ultimately decision making/overt actions. This is influenced by how we as individuals look at tangible facts/data, and traditional news media/social media as we form those opinions and ultimately make decisions/take overt action. As always, please feel free to call me at 585-872-7068 or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
October 21, 2020
Please exercise your RIGHT to Vote
If you have read my previous 40+ Supervisor Corner articles this year, you know I am a self-admitted "stats geek". To me, data is foundational to facts, and facts assist so much in good decision making for today and the future. My first introduction to registered voter stats in Webster was while I was campaigning for Town Supervisor in 2019. I found that there were approximately 31,000 registered voters in Webster and that approx. 30% of them registered as Democrat, 30% Republican, and 40% as unaffiliated, Conservative, Independent, or other party.
I also found that historically in the 5-year period of 2014 - 2018, approximately 35% of those registered voters voted in the "non presidential" Town Supervisor years of 2015 and 2017 (i.e. about 11,000) and in presidential or governor/senator/congress years of 2016 and 2018, about 55% voted (i.e. about 17,000) I was very happy to see in the 2019 Town Supervisor election I was in, 13,800 voted or about 44% of the registered voters in Webster. 2019 was also the first year New York State offered "early voting". In Monroe County there were eight locations in October - November 2019 where you could vote early. About 1,200 Webster citizens early voted in 2019 which is about 9% of the total 13,800 voters that year.
So now that I have put you to sleep with these historical stats...... I would be remiss if I didn't say that it boggles my mind that ONLY 35 - 55% of registered voters in Webster ACTUALLY exercise their right to vote!!!! I appreciate there are things that come up last minute that may make a registered voter unable to get to the polls on Tuesday, November 3rd. However, now that early voting is available, I hope that we see a big spike in people actually voting over the next few years, starting with 2020!! Here is some info on the early voting venues, days, and times for October - November 2020. As always, feel free to call me at 585-872-7068 or e-mail me at email@example.com.
Early Voting Dates & Times for the November 3, General Election:
• Saturday, October 24, 2020 - 9am-3pm
• Sunday, October 25, 2020 - 9am-3pm
• Monday, October 26, 2020 - 9am-5pm
• Tuesday, October 27, 2020 - 11am-8pm
• Wednesday, October 28, 2020 - 9am-5pm
• Thursday, October 29, 2020 - 11am-8pm
• Friday, October 30, 2020 - 9am-5pm
• Saturday, October 31, 2020 - 9am-3pm
• Sunday, November 1, 2020 - 9am-3pm
Early Voting Locations that will be open each date and time listed above:
• David F. Gantt Community Center - 700 North St, Rochester, NY 14605
• City of Rochester Recreation Bureau - 2nd Floor, 57 St Paul St, Rochester, NY 14604
• Genesee Valley Field House - 1316 Genesee St, Rochester, NY 14611
• Edgerton Recreation Center - 41 Backus St, Rochester, NY 14608
• SUNY Empire State College - 680 Westfall Rd, Rochester, NY 14620
• Town of Chili Senior Center - 3235 Chili Ave, Rochester, NY 14624
• North Greece Road Church of Christ - 1039 N Greece Rd, Rochester, NY 14626
• Marketplace Mall (North Entrance) - 1 Miracle Mile Dr, Rochester, NY 14623
• Irondequoit Public Library - 1290 Titus Ave, Rochester, NY 14617
• Harris-Whalen Park Lodge - 2126 Penfield Rd, Penfield, NY 14526
• Perinton Square Mall - 6720 Pittsford Palmyra Rd, Fairport, NY 14450
• Webster Recreation Center - 1350 Chiyoda Dr, Webster, NY 14580
October 14, 2020:
FAQ's on the Ash trees being cut down in Webster
The Emerald Ash Borer, better known as the EAB, is native to South-eastern Asia. Unfortunately it has made its way to North America and has wreaked havoc on our beautiful Ash trees in Monroe County. The infestation is moving west to east and we noticed it in Webster in the spring of 2020 when several Ash trees did not bud with new leaves. Over the past several months, the Town of Webster government has been working diligently to address the situation. Below are the most commonly asked questions we have been getting from our residents:
Why is the Town cutting down these Ash trees? These dead and dying ash trees were brought to the Town government's attention by concerned Webster citizens who were near a tree that was threatening their home or grounds. Out of concern for the safety of our residents, the Town Board made this a priority and took quick action to address the problem. In our research we discovered that it could cost an individual homeowner between $400 - $2,200 to take down one of these trees. Although the cost would be prohibitive for the Town to cut down every dead Ash tree, we are focusing on addressing the threat located within Park Districts or Town-owned land.
How many trees are being cut down? Approximately 420 trees have been identified to be cut down between September and November 2020. Not all of these trees are being cut down to the stump and some will only have the top canopy cut that is causing the risk to residents' homes and grounds.What is this costing the Town? The winning bid was for $86,000 for 280 trees. Within the bid specs and the subsequent contract, there was a provision to have additional trees added. Residents have identified an additional 140 trees that will cost another $56,000. In such, a total of approx. 420 trees will be cut down or canopies cut at a cost of approx. $142,000. Trees on Park District land will have the cost passed on to the Park District.
Will the wood from these cut down trees be removed? In an effort to keep the cost to taxpayers down, we are having the tree contractor leave the cut logs "felled in place". In such, these pieces of cut wood will be left on the Town-owned land or Park District land the tree was on.Will stumps be taken out/grinded? No. In an effort to keep the cost to taxpayers down we are not have the firm cutting down these trees remove or grind stumps
How do residents let the Town government know about a possible tree that needs to be addressed? There are 2 ways; 1. If you are aware of a tree that needs to be brought to Town government attention, visit the Town website at http://ci.webster.ny.us/568/Tree-Maintenance and complete the form. 2. If you just have a general question, please call 585-872-7037.
Will these 420 trees be the last of the ones cut down in Webster Town-owned land or Park District land? No. Most likely we will have a 2nd round in 2021. The trees are dying fast from the EAB and once the leaves bloom again in the spring of 2021, it will manifest some additional dead ash trees on Park District land or Town-owned land.
I want to thank the residents and the key Town of Webster employees who have worked in concert to make the best of a troubling situation. Bottom line.... NO one likes to see trees die and be cut down. As always, feel free to call me at 585-872-7068 or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
October 7, 2020:
Peaceful Protest.... or Harassment challenging the right of quiet enjoyment?
This past Friday night, October 2nd, over 100 people, and the cars they came in, converged on a residential neighborhood street here in Webster. Their target was the Monroe County District Attorney, Sandra Doorley, and in such, they set up right in front of her family's home. They banged drums, chanted for Ms. Doorley to resign her position as D.A., and used a lot of loud profanity in doing so. They came across the Bay Bridge in cars, set up around 9:15 p.m., and left by 10 p.m. My guess is that few if any of the attendees live in Webster.... and frankly I'm not sure how many actually live in Monroe County.
So.... was this a peaceful protest exercising the right of free speech? Or was it a show of force in numbers, representative of more gangland rules of intimidation and threats? Ask 100 people that question in society today and you might get a 50/50 answer. However, from my perspective as a Webster citizen the past 23 years and now its Town Supervisor, I did NOT like that this "event" occurred. Now, before I go on, out of full disclosure, I grew up across the street from Sandra Doorley's husband and have known his family and him my whole life. I consider Sandra and her husband personal friends the past 30 years, and our daughters went to school together and Irish danced together.
With that being said, I admit in my bias that I did NOT like that happening to my friends. I further did NOT like that experience having to happen to their neighbors. It is easy now that the event is over to say that there was NO property damage or people that got hurt. But as the event was unfolding, the anxiety and fear created for the people in that neighborhood must have been terrifying. In the aftermath on Saturday morning October 3rd, I visited the neighborhood to talk with Sandra, her husband, and neighbors. Sandra and her husband were not home but I got a chance to talk with some of the neighbors. Bottom line.... they were shaken up by this experience and wanted to know a) how it could be allowed in the 1st place, and b) how "law and order" could prevent it from happening again.
One interaction I had that has "stuck with me" and motivated me to write this article was with a young woman who lives in the neighborhood who has a 3 and 2-year-old and is expecting her 3rd child in a week. Simply said, her husband and her did not move to Webster to endure things like this in front of their home. She went on to describe how she tried to sooth the two children through the noise going on outside. I have seven children and the youngest is now 12... but I couldn't help but think of when my wife and I had "4 under 3 years of age" and how such an event in our Webster neighborhood would have upset us.
So, what is the answer to avoiding having such events in Webster in the future? I have been in communication with Webster's Police Department leadership team on this since Saturday. At the time I sent this article to print, they were scheduled to meet with other law enforcement agencies to devise a strategy on "how to handle these things in the future". The answer is NOT as simple as you would think. On one end of the spectrum, if Webster's current laws and codes warrant us arresting the attendees of these events in the future, is that something the attendees WANT to get more exposure and thus spawn on MORE of them? On the other end of the spectrum, I don't want a repeat of last Friday night in our town and am hopeful that the Webster Police and other law enforcement agencies will help in figuring out the best way to assure it does not.
In summary, make NO mistake, a daytime, planned "protest/march" at the Webster Village park just north of 250 and Main St. a few months ago is a far different "event" than a surprise, unpublicized, in the dark on a residential street event that occurred last Friday night. I completely understand that some reading this article will be 100% against what I am saying. To those people I would propose the old adage "Two wrongs don't make a right". If you truly believe there is a "wrong" that needs to be fixed, don't undermine your efforts and go out and do another wrong. You can talk to me till you're blue in the face and you'll never convince me otherwise. If that upsets you, we’ll just have to "agree to disagree". As always, feel free to call me at 585-872-7068 or e-mail me at email@example.com
September 30, 2020:
Shared Services amongst Government Entities - Saving Taxpayer’s money
As the saying goes "a penny saved is a penny earned". We often think of this as being isolated to our home/family budgets, or to private businesses. Unfortunately, we don't think of it as much as we should in government spending. To some extent, we all are a little cynical when it comes to government and taxes, especially living in New York State. Some of that cynicism is based on sayings like "death and taxes... the only certainties in life". However, some of that cynicism is based in fact and we in government need to "own that". For instance, COVID-19 hits and closes down businesses, and puts people out of work wondering where the money will come from to feed their family. However, in government, it is somewhat "business as usual" with real estate taxes, income taxes, sales taxes etc. that citizens pay staying at their current rates or going up!
In the nine months I have been Supervisor, I have become very aware of the Town of Webster's approx. $30 million annual budget, of which about half is collected from real estate taxes and half from other sources such as state aid, sales tax, etc. Within that awareness, there are factors in play that make it challenging to keep the next year's budget, 2021 at less than a 2% rise from the current years. As with any financial model, the only way you can save money or push more to the bottom line is to increase revenues, and/or decrease expenses. The former is one we are looking at ways to do without increasing the real estate taxes to our citizens such as increasing our sales tax base. The latter is more challenging when a large percentage of the budget is personnel and union contracts have COLA built in for annual raises.
So how do you cut expenses without cutting services... or better yet improving services to the citizens? One answer is maximizing the New York State Shared services program. The program was launched in 2017 and its two core principles are 1. two or more government entities join together to save money on a particular service, and 2. he annual savings produced are matched by the State dollar for dollar. As an example, if the Town of Webster joined with another town (or several towns, villages, etc.) to form a consortium of cyber security and/or IT hardware, software, etc. purchase and/or annual subscription discounts, if the savings to the Town of Webster was calculated at $5,000 annually, the state of New York would pay the Town an additional $5,000 that year for the savings!!!
In 2018, the program was expanded to include fire districts and school districts giving the Town of Webster even more potential "partners" to team up with within the effort to SAVE money and get "dollar for dollar" monies from the State on the annual savings. Besides the program being relatively new, the reason it most likely has not been pursued as much as it should be is that the Council of Governments (COG) ceased being active in the past several years. Why has it stopped? I am not sure since it is intended to be NON-partisan. I commend County Executive Adam Bello for reconvening the COG in 2020. It gives a forum where Town Supervisors, Village Mayors, City of Rochester, Monroe County, and school district officials can meet and collaborate for the betterment of the community as a whole. A recent COG meeting was the forum the County Executive utilized to have a person from the Department of State present and do a Q and A on the shared services program. It was obvious that the attendees were both a) excited for the possibilities and b) thankful that the COG was the impetus for educating all of us on this and hopefully spearheading us to maximize its benefits for our constituents.
The Town of Webster getting benefit from the shared services program in 2021 is remote. The plan is "County led". By November 10, 2020, the County Legislature needs to vote on the preliminary shared service plans proposed for calendar year 2021. Then three public hearings will occur after culminating with adoption by end of December 2020 by the County Legislature. That gives us approx. 40 days to identify a partner (or multiple) on a specific project, services, etc. to write up a proposal for 2021 savings from the shared service. However, I see a LOT of potential for identifying various partners in 2021 to work on proposals with that will hopefully result in savings in 2022 and matched dollars from the State. The Village of Webster government is the most logical partner for the Town government to work with to identify such opportunities. Also, the two fire districts in town and the school district are viable partners. I'll leave you will one last old saying.... "failure to plan, is planning to fail". If we want to maximize 2022 savings and state matching, we need to get on this ASAP in early 2021 with potential partners and projects. As always, feel free to call me at 585-872-7068 or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
September 23, 2020:
WEDA, the best organization you've never heard of
While campaigning in September 2019, I met Pete Chatfield while going door to door. Pete told me that if I really wanted to get an idea of ALL that was going on in Webster, I should meet his son Matt. One week later, Matt Chatfield and I met for coffee at the Village Bakery. At that meeting, I found out Matt was the Executive Director of an organization called WEDA, which is an acronym for Webster Economic Development Alliance. Matt described to me how the organization was formed several years ago and has five board members: Town Supervisor, Village Mayor, Superintendent of Schools, CEO of the Chamber of Commerce, and the President of the Business Improvement District (BID).
Matt showed me a brochure that highlighted what WEDA's mission is, and what it had accomplished in the past five years as to securing state and federal grants for Webster projects. As our meeting culminated, I stated to Matt "WEDA is awesome! Why haven't I heard of it prior and that I speculate that most of the Webster citizens do NOT know about the organization and what it does and has accomplished!"
When I became Town Supervisor in January 2020, I became one of the five board members of WEDA. I've attended the monthly meetings of WEDA, and it has helped me immensely in getting to know the Village Mayor, Darrell Byerts, School Superintendent, Carmen Gumina, BID president Elena Bernardi and Chamber of Commerce CEO, Barry Howard. How did it end up that WEDA would put these five people in the same room at least once a month? I found out that years ago while finalizing the by-laws of this organization, Chamber of Commerce CEO, Barry Howard, had the foresight to assure that the five entities that made up the governance of WEDA would ONLY have their "top person" representing this. The initial draft of the by-laws stated the top person of each of these entities, "or a designated representative". Barry was VERY smart to demand the top person be the representative.
WEDA is a unique organization that none of the other 900+ towns in New York has. In fact, many Town Supervisors I have talked to said they can't believe that organization exists that unites government, school, and businesses for the purpose to do what is "Best for Webster" and use that united force to drive projects, and the grants and funding needed for them. To get five entities to share in the funding of WEDA is foundational to the unique nature of it. WEDA's annual budget is under $80,000, yet the organization has brought in grants to Webster 15 times the annual budget on average the past six years.
Since 2014, WEDA has secured $7,465,000 for the following projects in Webster:
• $815,000 for bicycle, pedestrian and beautification enhancements on North Avenue in the Village of Webster;
• $1,480,000 for sidewalks on Ridge Road from Jackson Road to Five Mile Line Road;
• $118,000 for design and engineering of a new public park on Webster’s Sandbar waterfront;
• $1,425,000 for the realignment of Lake Road and construction of waterfront promenade at Sandbar Park;
• $711,000 for shoreline protection and flood prevention at Sandbar Park/Bayside Restaurant;
• $73,000 towards the construction of a permanent dock for a West Webster Fire Boat on Irondequoit Bay;
• $476,000 for sanitary pump station flood resilience improvements on Lake Road;
• $350,000 for East Main Street revitalization efforts in the Village of Webster;
• $1,838,000 for roadway improvement within the Xerox industrial zone;
• $50,000 for the development of a Community Revitalization Strategy;
• $87,000 for the Study of a Chilled Water System in Webster’s Industrial Zone;
• $42,000 towards reactivation of a vacant former Xerox facility on Salt Road
In the next 15 months as we go into 2022, the governance of WEDA is looking to produce a strategic plan to have WEDA utilized even more in the future for the "Best for Webster". There may be volunteer opportunities opening up within that effort on various committees. Stay tuned for more details on this AWESOME organization! As always, feel free to call me at 585-872-7068 or e-mail me at email@example.com
September 16, 2020:
The facts on Webster Furniture Strippers- 600 Ridge Road
As a resident of Webster for the past 23 years I had been surprised to see how the corner of Gravel and Ridge had not been developed, and frankly has eroded over the years. When I was campaigning in 2019 for Town Supervisor, several citizens voiced to me their concerns about this corner. I also read in the 2008 Town Comprehensive plan that there were big plans for the development of this corner.
So why has that corner fallen into disrepair over the past 15-20 years? When I entered office in January 2020 it was one of the first issues I sought to tackle. From my research, the answer lies in the strange story of 600 Ridge Road, which previously housed the business Webster Furniture Strippers. I say it is a "strange story" because it something that could not and would not happen at our homes or in private business. It is a story that shows how the government can at times not be smart on getting resolutions on issues.
600 Ridge Road's owners ceased paying their town, county, and school real estate taxes about 15 years ago. The law requires the County of Monroe to reimburse the Town of Webster and the Webster School District for those unpaid taxes. After three years of not paying taxes, the building goes to a Monroe County tax foreclosure auction. At that auction, the County is asking for a "minimum bid" of the unpaid taxes. If no 3rd party makes that minimum bid, the County takes title/ownership to the property and can market it for sale in any way they deem proper and at any price.
Here's where the story gets "strange". Within this process, the County does a basic review of the property before they take title to see if there are any potential environmental issues. That "basic review" is foundational in looking at what the most recent use of the building was. The County saw that the building was used for furniture stripping with various chemicals used and determined they did NOT want to take title to it. In such, the property stays in the ownership/title of the current owner who has essentially abandoned the property by demonstrating they have not paid the taxes on it the past three years. Then, for the next 10-12 years, the town, county and school district send tax bills to the owner, and the owner continues to NOT pay them, and the county reimburses the town and school for their unpaid taxes.
Simply said.... the situation will go on like this into perpetuity or until the building falls down and someone or some municipality is forced to do something to get to "final resolution". This goes into the category of "you can't make this stuff up!!". So how does this situation get remedied and NOT have the can kicked down the road for 10+ more years? I have been working with the Webster Town Attorney, the DEC, and the real estate division at Monroe County to resolve this. The first part of the plan is to get the DEC reports on the building in the last 30 years and if they show that the environmental issues at the site are "minimal or non-existent", the County may take title to the property and market it for sale. At that point, a developer most likely would want to buy it if they saw the cost to take down the building was NOT going to have hundreds of thousands of dollars of environmental remediation. If the DEC reports are not definitive enough to have Monroe County take title, we will move on to plan B which most likely entails a phase 1 or 2 environmental study of the property to determine the true environmental risk and what needs remediation.
Bottom line.... I am not comfortable just throwing my hands up and saying "oh well... nothing we can do. It's Monroe County's decision". Fact is, the property is IN Webster. It is an eyesore at best, and a safety risk at worst. It also is impeding the development of that corner and all neighborhoods that spawn off of it. I am emboldened in the effort to get this situation resolved. Stay tuned for more details on this as they arise. As always, feel free to call me at 585-872-7068 or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
September 10, 2020:
We should all learn from Nelson Mandela and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
I'm into my ninth month as Webster Town Supervisor and have tried to use this Supervisor's corner forum to focus on Webster-centric topics. Back in early June I deviated from that in the wake of the events in Minneapolis with George Floyd and the aftermath of protests nationwide including here in our county. My article then was focused on "walking a mile in someone's shoes" and understanding that as a 55-year-old white male, it is difficult for me to understand what it is like to be black, and what our black brothers and sisters in the human race encounter in everyday situations compared to what I encounter.
Last week, it hit closer to home for all of us with the news coverage of the events surrounding Daniel Prude's death back in March 2020 here in Rochester. In such, I am going to deviate again from Webster-centric topics to discuss this global issue with the preface of "I do NOT have the answers, but I do know what won't work in the effort to move society along". The bothersome thing I have seen is that it feels like we are being forced to "choose sides". Either you are FOR Black Lives Matter, or you are FOR the police. I for one am not comfortable in that since I have friends and family of color and it sickens me to think they experience a different America than I do.... but I also have friends and family in law enforcement who are phenomenal human beings doing probably the most difficult job in society in 2020 and being spit on.
History is a great indicator of what works and what does not work in moving society along. I have no greater admiration for any historical leaders than that of Nelson Mandela in South Africa and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr in the United States. Simply said, these men had a grace that transcended the experiences they had encountered. Frankly, I do not think I have 1/100th of the courage and leadership mettle these men had. For all they had experienced, and with all the pressures on them to do otherwise, they chose and embodied "togetherness and peace" as the path to healing and making the future better for the human race. If you read one or two biographies in the next few months, I suggest you read about these two amazing human beings.
Choosing sides of Black Lives Matter or Blue Lives Matter is NOT the answer. It is too simplistic to stereotype every Police Officer as racist and abusive, and frankly it is NOT accurate. Far from it in my experiences. The vast majority of law enforcement are dedicated to "serve and protect" regardless of whether the people they encounter in that mission are men, women, tall, short, black, white, etc. However, it is ignorant as a white person to not see tangible evidence that systemic racism has been out there as recently as 50 years ago with deed restrictions on Monroe County properties stating "no African Americans can own or live there". I'm sure there is more recent evidence of this too. Bottom line.... we can do better as the human race than to "pick sides" and think the side picked is 100% RIGHT and the other side is 100% WRONG. Dr. King and President Mandela knew that. Let's follow their example if we really want to see positive change in the future. As always, feel free to call me at 585-872-7068 or e-mail me at email@example.com.
September 2, 2020:
Webster Sanitary Sewers.. a decision for the next 20-30 years
In the 25 years I owned my business, I became comfortable making decisions on a daily basis. Some of those decisions I knew had more at stake than the average run of the mill ones. Those with more at stake usually had ramifications for years to come. After eight months as Town Supervisor, I can see that the Town Board makes decisions at every board meeting. These decisions are called resolutions, ordinances and laws and are voted on by the five of us. Some are housekeeping (i.e. run of the mill) where others have major implications to the future of our community.
On September 10th, the Village of Webster's five trustees will have such a major decision to make/vote on. Simply said.... the Village sewer plant will either have $10+ million invested in it in the next 2-3 years, with another $5+ million in 7-8 years after that, or the Village and the Town will "regionalize" into ONE sewer plant and the Village and Town governments will work as a TEAM to invest in that regional plant in the next 2-3 years.
A few frequently asked questions I have encountered in the last eight months on this, and the answers as I see them:
1. Why is this the Village government's decision? That is because the Town wants a regional plant. Based on the Village's vote, the Town will either move forward with phase 2 of their plant or move forward with a phase 2 that supports the regional model.
2. Why does the Town government want regional? The cost to the Town residents and businesses will be less annually, and long term as to bonding/grants in a regional model. It is important to remember that Village residents and businesses ARE TOWN RESIDENTS AND BUSINESSES and I truly believe that the regional plant will benefit ALL Town residents and businesses, including those that live and operate in the Village
3. Is this decision being "rushed"? The discussion and engineering analyses paid for individually by the Town and Village and an engineering analysis of a regional plant jointly paid by the Village and Town started in 2016. That is five years. Within this process, the Town invested $12 million on phase 1 of their sewer plant update and did so with a) $3 million of grant money, and b) with a structure that supported the regional plant should the Village decide to go regional. That phase 1 will be completed in December 2020 so as we look in 2021 to phase 2, it is incumbent that we know if that phase 2 will be configured for Town-only or regional.
4. What are the main objections to regionalization? From what I have seen, people in the Village have concerns that the regional plant will actually save money annually and in the long run for Village residents and businesses. Those objections may be genuine in the person's mind because "there are a lot of #s flying around out there". However, the accountant in me has felt from the beginning when I first met on January 20, 2020 with Mayor Byerts, Deputy Mayor Ippolito and Deputy Supervisor Cataldi that the law of economies of scale would prove that a regional plant was more cost effective to the citizens of Webster than two individual plants that the Village was about to invest over $10 million in theirs and the Town just invested $12 million in theirs. Over the last seven months, nothing I have seen changes my mind on that, and in fact the more data I got from engineers, state funding and grants just cemented my opinion on this more.
I also saw over the past seven months that some intangible factors were in play on the objections to a regional plant. Some of it has to do with nostalgia and trying to keep the status quo. Some of it has to do with fear of the unknown. Some of that has to do with generations going back 50+ years on how the Village government sees the Town government and vice versa. It certainly does not appear that the two governments have worked as a TEAM in the past for the greater good of the community. A regional plant has to have at its foundation a "trust" level between the Town and Village governments and the past has not fostered that. I'm realistic that in my eight months as Town Supervisor no matter how hard I try to foster trust, it is not going to get people to a point of totally divorcing themselves from emotions of distrust that were cultivated for 30+ years.
If the Village board of trustees does vote for regional on September 10th, the immediate next move would be to form a regional plant steering committee that to me MUST be equally represented by the Town and Village. To put it more succinctly... the Village may only have 1/4 of the volume of a regional plant, but they will be 1/2 of the steering committee. As that steering committee figures out the details of the final configuration and cost splits, it is important to understand that this regional plant will be a "separate entity" from the Town or Village governments. I have heard the question "will Village employees at the Village plant be hired by the Town at the regional plant? The answer is actually that the regional plant will need to hire the employees currently at the Town plant and the Village plant. This is NOT the Town running this regional plant. It is the governance/board of the regional plant that is ultimately decided on by the equally represented Town and Village steering committee. I would not be surprised if the end result is that the regional plant is a utility. I will not bore you all in this article with the details on the pros and cons of operating as an Enterprise fund-based utility.
In summary.... I don't envy the five Village board trustees. I know they are getting pressure from several sides on this. I've gotten a chance to get to know them the past eight months and they are wonderful people. Fact is, they were elected to lead, and leadership is not easy. It's having the ability to put your human emotions in check to do what is right for the community today, and 20+ years from now. This is one of those defining decisions to their legacy. I have told each and every one of the Village trustees that I want the Town government to work as a TEAM with them in the future and break the cycle of the historical petty, Hatfield/McCoy rivalry between the two governments. The loser in those battles is the Webster citizen and business. Those past battles also "cloud vision" and Webster needs vision now in 2020 more than ever.
Moves made by a TEAM effort of the Town and Village governments in the next few years could lay the foundation to what the 770+ acres Xerox campus looks like in the future, and what "the hub/nucleus of Webster".... our Village will look like in the future. The Village should be a thriving center to this 46,000-person town. Town residents want to walk, bike or drive 1-2 miles to the Village to spend their discretionary money more than they want to cross the Bay Bridge and go 10+ miles to do so. Town residents in 2020 are a different socioeconomic make-up than the population in 1990 before all the $300,000 houses were built. The Village needs to take advantage of that so they "win" and so does the Town resident with the goods and services of a robust hub. Currently, the Village government budget revenue is made up of 60% sales tax. A focus on revitalizing downtown will bring more sales tax revenue. If all things are equal.....each dollar increase to sales tax is one dollar less taxed to the Village citizens in their real estate taxes. I'll bet the Village Board of Trustees in the future will have a lot more fun spearheading initiatives to downtown revitalization than running a sewer plant. And as I said prior... it won't be the Town government running that regional plant, it will be the separate entity regional plant governance. The future of Webster looks bright... all ya gotta do is imagine what it could be and take the proper proactive steps to make it happen. As always, feel free to call me at 585-872-7068 or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
August 26, 2020:
COVID 19 and Paying your Webster School Taxes in September 2020
Hard to believe we are coming up on six months since "all of our worlds changed" and terms like social distancing, masks, etc. started dominating our lives. COVID-19 has been challenging for all of us and those challenges are very individualized based on your personal and professional life.
One thing I have struggled with as Town Supervisor during COVID-19 is the "lack of being able to be out there amongst the people". In February prior to the home quarantining, I was enjoying going to different events and getting to meet and know more Webster citizens. I felt that was helping me get a pulse on what topics and issues were really amongst the majority and not just the echo chamber rantings of social media "keyboard warriors".
With Town hall opening to the public "without the need for an appointment" as of July 20th, we have seen the daily visits by citizens go up from approximately 50 a day to 60 in 5 weeks. The good news... people are feeling more comfortable getting out. The bad news.... 60+ visitors a day to town hall and the interaction with the 40+ employees who work there causes challenges in COVID-19. Sanitizing, social distancing, plexiglass barriers, masks and answering health questions are mandatory. Some citizens completely understand and comply with NO question.... some are annoyed by it but comply, albeit begrudgingly .... and some overtly fight it by saying they won't wear a mask, sanitize their hands and/or answer the health questions. Simply said... the receptionist position is a LOT more complex today than it was prior COVID-19.
September historically is the month where many Webster citizens go into town hall to pay their school taxes in person. Based on the math I have done, it averages about 100-150 people a day coming into town hall in past Septembers to pay their taxes. As such, I cannot stress this enough...... putting an additional 100-150 citizens a day into town hall over the current average of 60 will put stress on the safety system in place, to the point where it most likely is NOT manageable for either the town staff or citizens. So it pains me to say this... but for our citizens and town staff physical and mental health and safety, PLEASE PAY YOUR SEPTEMBER SCHOOL TAXES IN ANY MANNER AVAILABLE OTHER THAN COMING INTO TOWN HALL TO DO IT IN PERSON!!!!!!
The means made available in COVID-19 are "unique" from past years and include the following: USPS mail, online via credit card with the 3% fee waived by County Executive Bello, drop box in vestibule of Ridge Road entrance to town hall, and at the M+T branch at 935 Hard Road. For more details on these payment options, please visit the town website at www.ci.webster.ny.us and hit the "department" link on the homepage and then "Receiver of Taxes".
As always, feel free to call me at 585-872-7068 or e-mail email@example.com.
August 19, 2020:
Unions and the Town of Webster Government employees
Prior to becoming Webster Town Supervisor, I had been in "private industry" for 30+ years. For the first eight years out of college, I was an "employee". The next 25 years I was in "management/ownership". The common denominator of my private industry experience was that there were no labor unions at the companies I worked for or owned.
The Town of Webster government has 14 departments that encompass over 100 full time W-2 employees and another 100+ part time W-2 employees. Many of the full-time employees are in a labor union. The three labor unions are white-collar, blue-collar, and Police. For example, the white-collar union encompasses administrative employees, the blue-collar union encompasses Highway Department and Sewer Department employees, and the Police union encompasses the Police Officers. For the most part, Department Heads are considered "management" and are not in the union.
When I became Supervisor in January 2020, the blue-collar and white-collar union contracts for the 3-year period of January 2020 - December 2022 were already in place, as they had been negotiated in 2019. The current Police union contract expires on December 2020, so I have recently entered into negotiations with the Police union reps on the contract for January 2021 and beyond. Assisting me on this negotiation are various members of Human Resources, Finance Department, and the Town Board liaison to Police.
A few things I have noted in my first eight months as Supervisor as it pertains to unions: 1st... I'm a habit-based person. It has not been my habit in the past to have to "bounce things off the union" before I move forward on management decisions that affect employees. I've apologized to the various union reps on this and have asked them to be patient with me as I "build that habit" of including them in communications early in the process.
2nd.... COVID-19 is something that is "challenging" the Town Board on both the 2020 budget to actual, and on budgeting for 2021. This is due to the "unknowns" created by the pandemic on both lost revenues and added expenses due to COVID-19. Labor union contracts need to be referred to, prior to any moves the Town Board seeks to make to react or better yet be "proactive" to COVID-19 created issues if the Board ever seeks to reduce expenses/taxes to the town citizens via payroll and/or benefits moves toward the Town government employees.
3rd.... This may be my "first rodeo" on union negotiations, but it certainly is NOT my first foray into negotiating "win-wins" between ownership/management and employees. The KEY is the "win-win" aspect of this. In layman terms.... Every dollar that the Town "wins" is a dollar the employee is conceding in pay and/or benefits. Conversely, every dollar the employee "wins" in pay and benefits is a dollar the Town concedes. The Town concession means getting that dollar from revenue sources or from taxing the town citizens.
In conclusion, it is imperative that Town government leadership and union leadership understand the delicate balance on this. If one side gets too much... that balance can have short- and long-term ramifications.
As always, please feel free to call me at 585-872-7068 or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
August 12. 2020:
The Xerox factor in the Village and Town of Webster and how it affects our future
Having lived in Webster for the past 23 years, the Xerox campus out on Salt Road was something I certainly was aware of. I knew it was built in Webster over 50 years ago. I knew it was a key component in the Bay Bridge being built. I knew it brought a lot of jobs to Webster and assisted in the population growth of the town as farmland was sold to developers who then built subdivisions. I knew that with Xerox moving their corporate headquarters out of Rochester in the past 20 years, that the Webster campus was profoundly affected with shuttering of buildings and losses of jobs as the company's focus changed.
Over the past seven months as Town Supervisor, I have learned just how big a shadow the 700+ acres of the Xerox campus cast on the Village and Town of Webster today... and more importantly for the future. Currently, the campus has over six million square feet of building space on it. However, only about two million is occupied. The other four million have been vacated over the years. Luckily, most of those "empty buildings" at least still show well on the exterior so it does not look like a total ghost town. Allegedly, Xerox had a national developer looking to buy the whole campus in the past few years. It appears that never materialized. Maybe it was due to Xerox' attempt to buy Hewlett Packard in the past year... or the rumored Hewlett Packard seeking to buy Xerox when the former fell through. Welcome to the world of big corporations! Any sale of the 700+ acre campus would need to go through the Xerox board, and if the Hewlett Packard deal hit the board's desk, it would take preference over that 700-acre campus sale. If a seller drags its feet, the buyer will move on to something else.
There is nothing I would like more than a resurgence of Xerox at the campus with them filling the empty four million square feet of buildings with new employees and business functions. The reality is that is probably not going to happen. While Xerox still owns the campus, it puts the Village and Town of Webster into a form of "purgatory". I've heard at least a dozen times in the past seven months on development plans that people don't like where it is proposed to "put it on the Xerox campus"! Problem is that campus is privately owned by Xerox and the Village and Town don't have the ability to make Xerox "put something on their campus". As Xerox contracts at the campus, it affects what real estate taxes can be collected from them. It affects the sanitary sewer plants and their future planning. Currently that campus makes up over 55% of the flow handled by the Village sewer plant. It only affects about 3% of the Town's sewer plant flows. The uncertainty and possible continued contraction at the campus is one reason why a regional sewer plant makes sense so that the Village sewer plant is not so tied to that 700-acre campus. Bottom line... if NO flows come from Xerox in the future, and the Village keeps its own sewer plant, Village citizen's sewer fees would more than double.
People have said to me, "just call or meet with Xerox leadership and find out their plans". I wish it were that simple. I appreciate Xerox' position on this 700-acre campus and why they keep their cards held close to their vest on future plans. Frankly, I believe they may have NO future plans right now and are content to stay in a "holding pattern" (i.e. purgatory) until something comes up. That may be good for Xerox, but it is NOT so good for the Town and Village of Webster. So what do we do? Well. I'm not a big fan of throwing up your hands and saying there is nothing we can do! To me, the best plan is to put the campus in a position where Xerox can sell it. To do that, it will need a TEAM effort of the Village and Town governments on several items including but not limited to regionalized sewer plant, road upgrades on campus with maximized state and federal grants, extending a road east to west through campus to make it easier to divide it for sale, and getting Town/Village border lines that run through the middle of some buildings on the campus currently in a schematic that makes more sense.
In conclusion, one of my favorite sayings is "God helps those who help themselves". In my opinion, it is incumbent on the Village and Town Boards to be a team on this effort to move the needle on what the 700+ acre campus at Xerox will be in the future. This is no time to be nostalgic to the good old days of Xerox. The leadership needs to look to the future. They need to rise above any " non-team" and/or competitive aspects and/or bad blood that may have existed between the Village and Town governments that existed in the past. If we work as a team, and leverage county, state, and federal government leaders to help on this team, we can help create the future at that 700-acre campus instead of sitting around feeling like a victim and waiting for our destiny to be dealt to us. As always, feel free to call me at 585-872-7068 or e-mail me at email@example.com
Supervisor’s Column - August 5, 2020:
The Town government structure and Town Board meeting structure:
Seven months into my new gig as Webster Town Supervisor. Learning something new everyday. I actually am enjoying it immensely. It is extremely interesting and diverse with the fourteen departments the town has. It also is gratifying to be able to help people. The "helping people" can be convoluted if the county, state and/or federal government agencies have to be interacted with to get a resolution, but I'll save that for another article in the future.
I've been surprised by the misconception that several citizens in Webster have about the governmental structure of the town. I'm a firm believer that "knowledge is power" and that "an informed community is a better one". As such, I'm hopeful this article may shed some light on two of these misconceptions.
1. County, state, and federal government have the 3 branches; executive, legislative, and judiciary with all their commensurate checks and balances. However, Town government really only has 2 branches. The Supervisor is NOT an Executive position like a County Executive, Governor or President. The Supervisor is just one vote of the five Town Board members that make up the legislative branch of town government. I see the Supervisor position as a "hybrid" executive-legislative one due to the organizational chart of the town departments reporting up through the Supervisor. However, any resolutions, ordinances and/or laws voted on have to be a majority vote of the five Town Board members.
2. The Town Board meets the 1st and 3rd Thursday of each month for "formal" board meetings at 7:30 PM. On the 2nd and 4th Thursdays they meet at 5:30 PM for an "informal" meeting called a Workshop. To be honest with you, I enjoy the workshops more than the formal meetings. The formal meetings demand that the board members be on top of their game as they will most likely be voting on resolutions, ordinances, and/or laws that will affect the town today and for 20+ years. Workshops are more "free flowing" of conversation between the board members, and any other department head and/or citizen involved in the meeting.
Often the workshop agenda items will make their way to formal Town Board meetings and/or public hearings if traction is built. In my first seven months as Supervisor, I have heard or seen several things done in town that when I ask "why"... the response is that "it's always been done that way and/or that the law/resolution/ordinance on that was passed 10, 15, 20+ years ago". That answer always makes me curious to see if maybe the practice needs to be discussed at a workshop to see if there are aspects to it that are obsolete in 2020 and the future from when they were adopted years ago.
As always, feel free to call me at 585-872-7068 or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Supervisor’s Column, July 29, 2020:
Some more interesting Town of Webster statistics
A few months ago, I did a column about some interesting statistics I had found out about the Town of Webster since I became Supervisor. At that time, I admitted that I was kinda a "stats geek" and that I hoped you'd all indulge me. I actually got a lot of positive responses to that column with some even asking me to do a follow up describing other interesting stats I had found out about the town.
This edition of "interesting Webster stats" will focus on some dollar and cents items. Bottom line... we're in the 2021 budget season for the town government. On the surface, this budget process will be unique to what has occurred in the past 25+ years due to two reasons; 1. a new Town Supervisor who had not previously been on the Town Board and involved in the process, and 2. the uncertainties of COVID-19 and the unresolved 2020 budget to actual items on lost revenues and/or additional costs that may or may not have state or federal reimbursement potential. The good news.... have no fear of my being the "rookie" Supervisor.
My background is financial based, I have had to do budgeting at my own business for years, and the current Town Board are seasoned professionals who have helped me immensely in my first 7 months.
The COVID-19 thing. Well that is problematic to even the most experienced of budgeters. So here is where Webster statistics and facts may assist. These stats do not take into account if you live in the Village, commercial properties, fire district charges and other special districts and/or exemptions a citizen may have. Webster residents who pay real estate taxes due to owning real estate have three basic taxes they pay: Town, County, and School. These taxes are attempted to be collected from citizens in an equitable manner based on the assessed value of their real estate. The current average town assessed value on a residential home is approx. $200,000. Due to the last town-wide revaluation having been done in 2004, that means a $200,000 assessed valued house would most likely sell today for $250,000. Webster's aggregate assessed value of ALL real estate is approximately $3 billion.
The Town of Webster budget is approx. $30 million. These monies provide services for all 46,000+ citizens including but not limited to: road maintenance, plowing, leaf pick-up, sewer, parks, recreation, etc. It is covered by $15 million from real estate taxes collected from its citizens on real property they own, and another $15 million from "other revenues" including but not limited to sales tax, special district charges, and state aid. Simply said... if all other factors remain equal, if the town government can figure out how to get MORE of these "other revenues" it would be able to tax its residents LESS. The $15 million in real estate taxes is divided by the total assessed value of ALL real estate, $3 billion, to come up with the approximate $5 per $1,000 of assessed value tax rate.
New York State initiated a "2% tax cap" years ago. Essentially it means that if the Town Board decides to propose a 2021 budget that is 2% higher than the 2020 budget, it requires a super majority vote (i.e. 4 to 1 at least approval versus the normal 3 to 2 approval). In round numbers.... 2% of 2020 budgeted taxes of $15 million to Webster citizens is approx. $300,000. Unfortunately for the town budget, capital projects, their debt and interest payments on them count in the 2% cap. This is not the same in the School tax budget and gives the schools much more latitude to build new facilities and stay below their 2% cap.
So grab a seat, make some popcorn and get ready to watch a very unique 2021 budget process for the town. Last week this article was dedicated to the milestone events in the process and reflected how PUBLIC the process is. You can literally watch on TV or live stream all of them. You can also be as much involved in the process as a citizen of the town as you want to be.
In conclusion, I want the Webster citizens to know my philosophy on budgets and where my struggles will be within this process. I lean more proactive than reactive. I think 10-20 years out for the community and not one year at a time. I am not influenced by "it’s an election year" as to budgeting and why to stay under the 2% cap. I'd rather advocate for what is the best fiscal move for the community for years to come, and be voted out, than kowtow to political pressure to do something that will help me get reelected. That's the benefit of being 55 years old when holding my first elected position, and a position I do NOT look to use as a springboard to a higher elected position. My next job after Supervisor will be back to private industry. So, what does that all mean? Well, I’d rather spend $5 today and have it affect the 2% tax cap, than spend $10 tomorrow out of the town's fund balance to fix something the $5 upfront would have taken care of. You see, if you pay the $10 "reactive" fix it out of the fund balance, it does not affect the 2% tax cap. However, it is still $10 of taxpayer money. My philosophy will be problematic in the COVID-19 world we live in, and the financial uncertainties it has in July 2020. I need to be mindful of that and proceed cautiously in the 2021 budget process. As we have learned with COVID-19.... what is the RULE today, may be very different in a week, a month, etc.
As always, please feel free to call me at 585-872-7068 or e-mail me at email@example.com.
July 22, 2020:
Below is the process for the Town 2021 Budget:
July 15, 2020:
How changed laws and current times in 2020 are affecting Webster Police and Webster Town Court
The first six months of 2020 have been unprecedented on many levels. Much of what makes it unique is the combination of multiple events in a short period of time. For instance, we've had pandemics before where we have had to shut down mass congregation venues, albeit not since 1920. We've had law enforcement changes before. We've had social unrest and protesting. However, we've never had all three of those occur in a short period of time in parallel. In such, the results of them happening like this are new experiences for society and most likely ones never envisioned.
We all know about the pandemic and the social unrest and protesting. The opinions on both run the gamut on issues including but not limited to; are we being too cautious with wearing masks, and closing businesses, or are we being too cavalier? Is the social unrest and protesting warranted and being done by good intentioned people who truly have been disenfranchised for far too long, or are political special interest groups taking advantage of a situation? I don't have enough space in this article to write all the words that would do all the opinions justice on these.
However, I do want to present the third parallel event of the last six months and how it has and will continue to an impact on how the Webster Police and Webster Town Court operate going forward. Law and Order. It is a foundational pillar of society. How does it work? This is an oversimplified description: the Police arrest the accused and investigate crimes of said accused. The District Attorney's office prosecutes them based on evidence obtained from the Police within their investigation. Private Defense Attorneys or the Public Defender's office defends the accused. Various venues of the judicial system (i.e. Judges/juries) hear the cases depending on the crime and where it occurred.
As of January 1, 2020, new laws went into effect in New York State that have an impact on the law and order system in the state, and in such, in Webster. Two of these are as follows:
1. Bail Reform: depending on who you talk to, this is either the best thing to happen or the worst in years. The people who feel it is the "best thing" see it more as reforms to keeping socio-economically challenged arrested people from having to sit in jail with no chance of being bailed out, while a person of means who does the same crime will be out on bail. The people who see it as "the worst thing" cite the term appearance ticket as the lynch pin to why it is bad. Simply said, crimes committed in 2019 and prior that would have been jailable offenses for a judge to set bail on, are now given appearance tickets where the arrested person is back on the street within hours of the arrest. The severity of the crimes that appearance tickets apply to have surprised many in law enforcement, and the judicial system. New York State Assembly, Senate and Governor are now looking at some of the unintended consequences of the law that went into effect on January 1, 2020 and trying to remedy that. The most recent revision to address more serious crimes being held in jail/for bail and not get an appearance ticket went into effect on July 2, 2020.
2. Discovery: Earlier I described how the Police arrest the accused and investigate the crime. The results of those investigations that are handed over to the D.A's office and the defense for the accused are called Discovery. Changes to discovery in 2020 made it such that the time frame the Police have to get their evidence to the prosecution and defense is shorter. The effect is that Police may take longer to arrest an accused person because that arrest date starts the clock on the time frame they have to hand in discovery.
In a way, it is changing the sequence of events for the Police from arrest first and investigate second to being vice versa.
In summary, I am working with the leadership teams at the Webster Police and Webster Town Court to determine how to best handle these law changes in 2020 and the effects they have on them. Many questions to answer on this. One big one is how we will do security at the court when in the past some of the accused based on the severity of the crime they were accused of were brought in from jail in handcuffs to court accompanied by jail guard, and now they will be walking through the front door with no handcuffs, no guard due to an appearance ticket having been issued for their crime.
As always, please feel free to call me at 585-872-7068 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
July 8, 2020:
The unique configuration of the Department of Public Works (DPW) in Webster
My guess is that if you asked 100 Webster citizens to describe what the Department of Public Works does, you'd get 100 different answers. Truth be told, if I were asked that question a few years ago I would have struggled with the answer. Understanding the unique nature of the Webster DPW compared to other towns in Monroe County is foundational to describing what they do. The DPW in most towns oversees the Sewer and Highway Department functions. They also oversee the town-owned facilities such as town hall, court buildings, etc., as to their mechanics and maintenance. They issue building permits, do inspections of projects the building permit was issued on, oversee code enforcement, animal control, and the Fire Marshal, and have engineering experience to assist the Planning Board on reviewing developer's engineering drawings. Usually there is a DPW Commissioner that oversees all the various functions the department is involved in, and has Deputy Commissioners that report to her or him to handle major segments like Sewer and Highway.
Webster is unique in that it has three separate departments for Highway, Sewer, and DPW, with each of those Department Heads reporting to the Town Supervisor. This configuration evolved over the years for a myriad of reasons. For one thing, Webster has a sewer plant, pump stations, and collection system of main lines. All other towns in Monroe County now only have pump stations and collection systems. That fact alone makes sense as to why the Sewer Department in Webster would be segmented off from DPW. Another reason for the uniqueness is that Webster has an appointed Highway Department Superintendent where many towns in New York elect their Highway Superintendent. In Webster, the Highway Department among many things maintains the roads, plows the roads, does leaf pickup in the autumn, and handles drainage issues for storm sewers and retention ponds
Two of the main challenges of this three department configuration are as follows; 1. Possible customer service issues: If a citizen calls, e-mails, or stops in a Town facility to inquire on an issue they are encountering, they may be reaching out to the wrong department. For example, if their storm sewer is backed up after a heavy rain, it would be understandable to have them reach out to the Sewer Department for remedy. Unfortunately, storm sewers are handled by the Highway Department and not the Sewer Department. 2. Potential lack of project oversight leadership: ALL major projects in Town such as housing subdivisions have involvement of DPW, Highway, and Sewer staff. There may be a list of 25-30+ different tasks, inspections, etc. that need to be done in making sure the project is built to the standards laid out in the plans and approved by the Planning Board. Those tasks and inspections often are sequential in nature and need quarterbacking. Since none of these Department Heads reports to the other, a void can occur. Currently it is on the Town Supervisor to make sure these three departments work in concert on this.
These challenges are something the three Department Heads and I are addressing currently to make sure that Webster's unique DPW, Sewer and Highway Department configuration do not have unintended consequences to the Webster Citizens. As always, please feel free to call me at 585-872-7068 or e-mail email@example.com.
July 1, 2020:
The greatest influence on my conduct as Town Supervisor
The date of this Webster Herald edition is July 1, 2020. For me, it marks the 1-year anniversary of my father's passing. I'd like to take this opportunity to tell you a little about my father, Bob Flaherty, and the legacy he left. It might help to explain the manner in which I approach being Town Supervisor as it pertains to addressing both people, and the issues I come in contact with.
My dad was not a political person, although he was extremely involved in Irondequoit where he lived for over 55 years. He had an ability to look beyond Republican or Democrat and accept people for what was in their heart and their intentions. He backed Republican Supervisors in Irondequoit in the 1990s like my father-in-law Bill Dillon. However, he was very fond of Dave Seeley, the current Democratic Supervisor in Irondequoit. From my relationship with Dave, I think the fondness was reciprocated.
He was my main influence in the simple mantra of "work hard and tell the truth and things should work out". If you think about it.... laziness will be vetted out over time, as will lying, or being two-faced. But working hard and telling the truth will ultimately be respected by all. He saw it as foundational to trust. As to "trust", my dad approached people with a "blank canvas" and no preconceived bias, regardless of gender, age, race, or education. He believed and embodied the idea that you "get what you give" and he gave everyone respect immediately. I truly believe he detested the thought of anyone being disenfranchised and took extra efforts to make sure it did not happen on his watch. People saw it, experienced it, and loved him for it.
He worked hard.... he played hard. His family and friends were so important to him. We marveled at the "balls he kept in the air" even into his late 70's before he got sick. He was still working full time in the Insurance business, owned and managed real estate, and was omnipresent working and helping his adult children at their house projects. He was a reliable and a positive influence on any situation he was put into.
Maybe the most amazing thing was that he always was joking around to the point where you thought he still acted like a mischievous teenage boy even in his 70's. I saw first-hand when people mistook his congeniality for weakness, and that did NOT work out well for them. He felt that life was full of serious issues and stresses that had to be dealt with every day.... but he was going to go about tackling them all with a smile on his face, a joke, and a beer. He talked a lot which is something I definitely inherited from him!
He took a lot of ribbing as the "verbose Irishman". He did not mind the reputation as long as it was not a reputation of "he talked a lot but got nothing done". The man got a LOT done. He had two cents to his name when he married my mother in 1959. When he passed, he had amassed a small fortune and it was all the result of hard work, ethics, and being smart. His humble beginnings showed when he would go an extra five miles to buy gas for three cents less a gallon. His austerity was toward himself, however, and there was no one more generous and giving of his time, talent, and treasure than him.
I could write 10,000 more words, but I think you get the gist. So, thank you dad for the influence you had on me becoming who I am today. For the Webster community, when you see me doing my job as Supervisor, you now have a better perspective of where I come from as it pertains to dealing with people and issues. As always, please feel free to call me at 585-872-7068 or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
June 24, 2020:
Sidewalks going in on Ridge Road:
While campaigning in 2019, I heard several people say they wish we had more sidewalks in Webster. Some even said that the Town government was against installing sidewalks in Webster. One of my favorite lines is "don't let the facts get in the way of a good story". When I entered office in January 2020, I got first-hand knowledge that the facts on how the Town government was approaching sidewalks did not match the story. I immediately became aware of a 3+ year effort that the Town Board had been involved in to have sidewalks installed on Ridge Road, in the 1.5 miles between Five Mile Line Road and Rachel Drive in the Village. The "effort" was one of my first educations as Town Supervisor as to the process it takes to have sidewalks put in.
I am pleased to announce that the Town Board's efforts on this project long before I became Supervisor, and several other key Town of Webster personnel has finally culminated. In the next several months you will start to see the construction of these sidewalks. So why did it take 3+ years? If the Town Board wanted sidewalks on Ridge Road, couldn't they just wave their magic wand and make it happen? Well, unfortunately I am learning we don't have a magic wand as a Town Board, but man that would be cool if we did! Life would be a lot easier. What I found out was that the cost and the land use were the two stumbling blocks that made the process take over three years.
On the cost side, the $2 million+ project will be 75% - 80% funded by State and Federal grants. That grant process is long and arduous. Had the Town Board opted three years ago to bypass that grant application process, the sidewalks would be in by now. However, Webster taxpayers would have footed the whole $2 million bill instead of the $400 - 500,000 it will now cost. On the land use side, these sidewalks over a 1.5-mile swath will cross over lands owned by the Town, State, County, and private owners. Unfortunately, we could not just say "hey, we're putting in sidewalks so we're going to go through your land to do it and there is nothing you can do about it". The time and cost to obtain the rights to put those sidewalks on that land, was combined with a legal process of easements and rights-of-way, and I'll spare you all the boring details. Trust me, it is no easy task.
So have some patience the next few months as you traverse Ridge Road between Five Mile Line and Rachel Drive. Installation of the sidewalks may cause some traffic issues. Can't make an omelet without breaking a few eggs. But oh, will that omelet be nice once it is done! I for one look forward to being able to walk from Wegmans on Holt Road down Ridge Rd. to Town Hall on Hard Rd., and all the way to Five Mile Line Road on these new sidewalks. I am thankful for the efforts of previous Town Supervisor Ron Nesbitt and the Town Board members for "staying the course" on what was a difficult and challenging process the past three years. They brought $2+ million dollars of quality of life improvements to Webster and did so with the citizens paying for a fraction of the cost through their town taxes. As always, feel free to call me at 585-872-7068 or e-mail me at email@example.com.
June 17, 2020:
The "jewel" that is the Webster Rec Center
With Phase 3 going into effect in the Finger Lakes region on Friday June 12th, many of you may have had a chance to go to a restaurant for the first time in 3 months. Since Webster town government does not operate any restaurants, Phase 3 did not change much of how the town facilities were operating. However, with Phase 4 on the horizon most likely on Friday June 26th, plans are being put in place to reopen the Webster Rec Center.
First of all, if you have never visited the Webster Rec Center on Chiyoda Drive off Phillips Road, I strongly suggest you do in the near future as "the world continues to open back up" from COVID-19. The facility is much more of a Community center than anything else. There is a myriad of recreation activities to be done there including but not limited to basketball, pickleball, aerobic classes, and a nautilus type gym with treadmills and ellipticals. Also, the facility is where the town's Senior citizen activities are based out.
If you have a membership at a gym, you may have run into the frustration I have heard from so many during COVID 19 the past 3 months. That frustration is that it is bad enough you can't enter the gym to work out, but it is worse that the gym is still charging monthly membership fees during the shutdown. I am proud to say that the leadership at the Webster Rec Center immediately ceased charging monthly dues to gym members when it was shut down for COVID-19 on March 16th.
I met with Chris Bilow, our new Webster Parks and Rec Commissioner this past week to go over the details of reopening the Rec Center. Not surprisingly, Chris and his staff have an excellent plan. They are awaiting details from Phase 4 and any Governor executive order on the "details" of a gym so as to be COVID-19 safe. For those of you who are members of the gym aspect of the Rec center, by the time you read this article, you may have already heard from Chris and his staff on the details of reopening. For those of you who are not current members of the gym aspect of the Rec center, I invite you to tour the facility and consider becoming a member. Even if you are not interested in a gym membership, a tour of this truly magnificent facility is something you should plan to do. I think you'll find there is something there for everyone. As always, feel free to call me at 585-872-7068 or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
June 10, 2020:
An informed Community is a Better Community
"Communication". Is there a word more overused today than communication? Whether in your personal or professional relationships, most people's biggest complaint is either a lack of communication or a feeling that what is being communicated to them is confusing. Also, most people when asked think they are good communicators, and it is other people they have personal and professional relationships with who are NOT.
Historically, it's interesting to ask the "Who, What, Where, How, When and Why" does the Town of Webster government communicate to the 15,000 households in the town... and conversely ask the same questions about the 15,000 households communicating to the Town of Webster government? Let's start with the latter.
Webster citizens can have a myriad of opportunities and reasons to communicate with the 10+ departments and 3-4 Boards associated with the town government. For the town departments These include but are not limited to; coming to town hall to pay their real estate taxes, apply for a building permit for a deck on their home, going to the Library to take out a book, going to the Rec center to exercise or for Senior events, etc..
For the various town boards, they include but are not limited to; participating in a public hearing, applying for a zoning variance with the Zoning board of appeals, Presenting a sketch plan to the Planning board, etc. From what I have gleaned in my first 5+ months as Supervisor, the means and reasons a citizen reaches out to Town Government departments and boards has not changed much in 50 years except for the onset of e-mail and websites. Simply said,.... most citizens reach out and communicate with the Webster town government when there is a service, they need that the town government supplies said service. This has led to a customer service philosophy at the town of "we'll provide the service when asked" (I.e. reactive).
Unfortunately, the means and reasons the Town government communicates to the 15,000 households has not changed much in the past 50 years too. Oh, don't get me wrong. Efforts have been made to improve this communication via websites, text or e-mail alerts citizens can sign up for, live televised, streamed, or taped board meetings, Facebook and Twitter to name a few. However, at the end of the day most likely only 15-20% of the households in Webster get our communication in a manner in which they absorb the message and it is valuable to them. One goal I have said to ALL department heads is that I'd like to see us move the needle to the point that in a year or two we feel like we have the means to communicate with ALL 15,000 households in town, and in such a manner in which the absorb the message and feel it is valuable to them. Foundational to this is changing the customer service philosophy to be one of "letting the citizen know of the services, so they can determine if they need or want them" (I.e. Proactive)
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, "an informed community is a better community". As always please feel free to call me at 585-872-7068 or e-mail me at email@example.com.
June 3, 2020:
Walking a mile in a fellow human's shoes
In the first five months of being Town Supervisor, I have tried to keep the topics broached in this column isolated to "Webster-centric" ones. However, the events of the past week in Minneapolis and this past Saturday night in Rochester make me think it is worth branching out on this article's topic.
Race. What should be a simple thing in that we all are part of the human race, is far from it. Six Billion+ humans on the planet belong to this race. We ALL have heads, torsos, arms, and legs, etc. We are the SAME. However, over the thousands of years of evolution, and based on the geography/climate that various tribes of humans lived in, skin pigmentation differs among the human race. Now, other features are different among all of us such as height, weight, eye color, etc. but those differences don't separate us as the human race like skin pigmentation does.
So why is skin color such a divisive topic in the United States in 2020? Has it gotten better in the past 60 years since Dr. Martin Luther King so eloquently gave his "I have a Dream" speech? Ask those questions to 100 people and you'll get 100 different answers.
What I do know is that I am a 55-year-old white guy. As such, I have never walked in the shoes of a 55-year-old African American guy. I cannot say that I can relate to what the experiences of the African American Community are. What I can say is that, as the Town Supervisor and on a human level, I have compassion, empathy and understanding.
I feel blessed that from an early age I got a chance to go to school, play sports, and be friends with African Americans. I truly believe that experience formed my view of people and how to evaluate my experiences with them. There is a famous line in the movie Mississippi Burning by actress Frances McDormand... "you're not born with Prejudice, bigotry and racism. It is taught". How true that is! Put 20 babies on a desert island, 10 white and 10 black and raise them to the age of 18 with NO real emphasis on the color of their skin. Do you think they would differentiate, judge, or profile the others based on skin color? I highly doubt it.
Yet here we are in 2020. Whether you are 30 years old, or 80 years old reading this article, your experiences over the years have "taught" you how you feel about race. The best thing about being "taught" is that no matter how old you are, you should always be learning. If you are predisposed based on your experiences to profile someone on their skin color, I implore you to consider that "you've never walked a mile in their shoes". Opening your mind to that concept may just start the needle moving in the right direction on race relations in this country.
On a "Webster-centric" note....At the end of the day it is important to remember we are all one Webster community. We need to support and lift up our neighbors and value what each of us brings to this town. We have so many wonderful locally owned businesses that we want to see thrive, not destroyed. We have dedicated Police Officers putting their lives on the line daily to protect our community. Our Webster community is strongest when we work together, and it is my hope that we will not lose sight of that. As always, please feel free to call me at 585-872-7068 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
May 27, 2020:
COVID 19 and Challenges to both the 2020 and 2021 Town budget
In early May, Paul Adams the Town Finance Director and I completed the 1st quarter "budget to actual" meetings with thirteen (13) Department Heads. The good news was that January-March 2020 did not manifest any major issues that would portend the overall calendar year 2020 budget being exceeded. In fact, budgeted sales tax revenue actually came in higher on the actual. The bad news.....the 2nd quarter (April- June) is where the true effect of COVID-19 will start to show. What will be the effect on lost revenue? I have to believe sales tax revenue will be down since New York on "pause" essentially shut down commerce. At the Parks and Recreation Department, membership fees for the gym at the Rec Center run at about $17,000 a month and they have ceased since March 20th.
How about additional expenses to the Town created by COVID-19? How do you quantify lost productivity from personnel sent home by State Executive orders that can't perform their jobs from home, but continue to be paid their regular full-time hourly or salary rate? Will we be challenged with paying overtime when they return due to the backlog of work?
Amidst all this uncertainty of the 2020 Calendar budget to actual, in June we will be starting the 2021 budget process. The process starts with each Department Head completing their initial "ask". If their department budget in 2020 was $1 million, their "ask" for 2021 may be the same $1 million. If that occurs with ALL of the departments, then we have the same budget in 2021 as we had in 2020 and would come in far below the 2% tax cap. However, what if each Department Head's initial "ask" is 20% more than their 2020 budget? For example, the $1 million budget for the department in 2020 is proposed to be $1.2 million in 2021. Well...if the Town Board agrees to all of their "asks", in aggregate the Town taxes would go from approx. $15 million collected in Real Estate taxes to $18 million. The tax rate per thousand would go from a little over $5 to over $6. A $200,000 assessed house would have their town taxes go from approx. $1,000 to $1,200.
Now, if I have not put you to sleep yet with all these numbers (LOL), there is little to no chance that the Town Board would ever approve a 20% increase year over year in Town taxes. The 2% tax cap per New York State gives us guidance that $15 million collected in Real estate taxes in 2020 should have approx. no more than a $300,000 increase in 2021 if you want to stay below the 2% cap. The Town Board has the right to approve a budget that exceeds the 2% cap, but there better be VERY good reasons for it, and I can assure you the process will give the public several chances to chime in.
Two (2) last things to leave you with as we venture into the 2021 budget process.....1. You may be scratching your head if you have a $200,000 assessed house from when I said your Town real estate taxes are $1,000. You know it's more like $6,000-7,000, but that includes School taxes, County taxes, fire district taxes, and possibly sewer, park and/or drainage district charges. 2. Budget increases really come down to three (3) expenses; Personnel, equipment, and facilities. Balancing the cost-benefit relationship of these expenses with the services provided the town citizens is always the goal. As always, please feel free to call me at 585-872-7068 or e-mail me at email@example.com. ENJOY THE SUNSHINE! We definitely deserve it after the past few months.
May 21, 2020:
Separating Fact from Fiction on Development
In the past few weeks, The Town of Webster Planning Board and Zoning Board of Appeals held their first meetings in over two months since COVID-19. I got involved with these initial "remote" meeting planning and production due to challenges of holding such meetings due to COVID-19. Simply said, these meetings are meant to be public, and COVID-19 has essentially ceased our ability to bring the public into the Town Board room, so we have had to put together a structure of teleconferencing and videotaping them. Also, we had to figure out how to do these meetings with several of the board members not in the room. Personally, I think the May 5th Planning Board meeting and May 12th Zoning Board of Appeals meeting went very well considering the two month layoff and navigating a remote schematic for the first time.
While helping in preparation for these meetings and watching them on Spectrum channel 1303 live, I could not help but think of the manner in which these boards operate in concert with other Town boards. Furthermore, I thought that probably less than 10% of the citizens in town actually understand what these boards do and/or how a proposed project's path to getting approved and "breaking ground" occurs. Truth be told, prior to my taking office in January 2020 as Town Supervisor, I was in that group of citizens who did not completely understand it! I'm hopeful that over the next few months we can put together a forum and/or tutorial for Webster citizens that better explains the path a proposed project must take to get to approval.
For now, I'd like to separate a few facts from fiction/perception that may be out there on development in Webster and how the various boards rule on it. FICTION: If a proposed project is on the Planning Board agenda as sketch review, it does not mean it will be approved and ultimately get built. In the past few weeks such a proposed project was on the Planning Board agenda and I got several calls/emails to my office outraged that we were going to allow it to be built. I was able to explain to these people that the proposed project had a LONG road ahead of it to ever get approved and built based on zoning issues, variances needed, etc. I further explained that if a developer wants to get on the Planning Board agenda for a sketch review of building the new Buffalo Bills 80,000 seat stadium in Webster, they are well within their rights to have their sketch reviewed by the Planning Board but they will never get approved for it. We try to counsel such developers to not get on the agenda when their project is a long shot based on zoning, variances, etc. but some developers want to still be heard. In such cases, the Planning Board may refer them to go to the Zoning Board of Appeals to get the 1, 2, 3+ variances their project would need and then come back to Planning. They may also refer them to the Town Board for zoning or special use permits before the Planning Board will approve. Bottom line....many of these proposed projects hit a brick wall and can't move forward due to a myriad of reasons.
FACT: The Planning Board, Zoning Board of Appeals, Town Board, and Conservation Board, along with Town department heads on the Project Review Committee (PRC) work in concert to make sure any proposed project has its T's crossed and I's dotted before approved, building permits are issued, and ground can be broken to start construction. I could write thousands more words describing this process, but I'll leave that to the forum/tutorial we plan on putting together for citizens in the future. One thing that I think is important to understand is that these boards and PRC have over 40 people on them in aggregate to make sure checks and balances are in place for responsible development based on current zoning, codes, etc.. Projects do NOT just get rubber stamped and in fact is quite the contrary. The amount of input from intelligent, varying expertise people is quite impressive. These board members have helped me immensely in getting up to speed on "how it all works" and I hope in the future we can give the citizens of Webster a forum/tutorial that helps all understand.
An informed community is a better community! As always, feel free to call me at 585-872-7068 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
May 14, 2020:
Mask Distribution event shows the greatness of Webster
A smile can change your attitude for the better. Whether you are the one smiling, or someone smiles at you, a stressful situation can be disarmed with a simple smile. One of the unfortunate by-products of all of us wearing facial masks due to COVID 19 is that these smiles can't be seen. In such, an already stressful time for all of us is robbed of one of the simplest, but most effective ways to "calm nerves" and connect as people.
On Saturday, May 9th at the Webster Town Courthouse, 60,000 FREE masks were distributed out to Webster citizens. Town Employees and elected officials manned the event that brought almost 5,000 cars through the distribution lines between 10AM and 2PM. By the time you are reading this article, another similar distribution event would have occurred on Wednesday, May 13th between 10AM and 2PM at the Town courthouse.
The Saturday May 9th distribution event was one of the most unique experiences I have ever seen. The full spectrum of human nature was on display. The volunteers acted quickly and in an incredible team-oriented fashion to adapt traffic patterns when it was seen that we were going to be handling much more cars than anticipated. All of this while withstanding blizzard like conditions at times! However, the interaction we volunteers had with the people in the cars was what struck me the most and what I will remember. Oh sure, you had the negative side on human nature on display such as people complaining about being shorted 1 mask, or the masks being wet from the snow, etc. But the far majority of people were extremely grateful for us giving them free masks and doing it under less than ideal weather conditions.
Some of these people did not have masks on in their cars so I could see their smile. Those smiles energized me to forge on as I was getting fatigued. As I was wearing a mask, I wanted them to see my smile but initially was challenged to figure out how to convey it through the mask. About an hour into the event, a couple most likely in their 80's came through the line with masks on and said thank you and both at the same time "gave a double thumbs up gesture" to me. Yup... all 4 of their hands thumbs up in concert! That was all it took. They showed me how I could smile at people while having a mask on. The rest of the event, when I gave that thumbs up gesture, I got smiles from people in cars not wearing masks, and for the people wearing masks, often got a return thumbs up!
We're two months into this COVID 19 situation. I think we all know we will not magically return to life as we knew it anytime soon. We'll open back up in phases, and foundational to that opening up will be us wearing facial masks. Let's try to keep our connection as people and respect that all of us are experiencing unprecedented stresses. If we can't smile at each other to reduce that stress, maybe a thumbs up to each other will be a reasonable facsimile for the time being. We'll get through this! As always, if you want to reach me, please call 585-872-7068 or e-mail me at email@example.com.
May 6, 2020:
A Saturday in the life
Saturday, May 2nd was shaping up to be a great day in the Flaherty household. With the weather looking to be in the 60's and sunny, I'm sure like all of you, we were excited to do some outdoor "work and fun". I like to take Saturday mornings between 6 AM and 10 AM to do catch up work on Town of Webster items. Over a few cups of coffee, I find that time before the kids get up to be one of my favorites of the week. Whether returning phone calls or e-mails, it is always therapeutic to "catch up" and know you'll be going into the next work week somewhat caught up.
If there is one thing I have learned over the years, you have to accept that your "plans" may be changed due to unforeseen events. Having seven children showed me that any plans you may have had for a day could be altered for a myriad of reasons. Seems like someone was always spraining an ankle or something that made me have to deviate from the day's plan. Also, having been the owner of a company for 25 years, things came up all the time that made you have to change your plan.
So on Saturday, May 2nd, after I had done my 6 AM to 10 AM catch-up, I had planned on number of work and play things to do including; volunteering at the Food Drive at Holy Trinity that had been coordinated by County Legislator Matt Terp, walking a few miles with my 81-year-old mother, and doing some projects with my two college age daughters who had just gotten home this past week.
Then, at about 10:30 AM I got a call from Art Petrone, Deputy Commissioner of Public Works, letting me know that the sewer plant had an issue that had resulted in 10 feet of waste water in a basement of one of the plant's buildings. The timing of such an event is never ideal but it was particularly interesting in that Art had presented to the Town Board on Thursday, April 30th the laundry list of things he thought needed work on at the sewer plant. He had a disclaimer in that presentation that "this is what I see on April 30th.... the list could increase as unforeseen events occur". Unfortunately, unforeseen events can occur when a facility starts to age. It is why the Town Board decided a few years ago to do a $12 million Phase 1 project at the sewer plant.
That project will be complete in the next few months. We are now looking at options as to entering into a Phase 2 project at the plant, or to do repairs as they manifest themselves. The Phase 2 option will most likely tie into whether the Village of Webster Board votes to keep their own sewer plant, or to pursue a regional plant with the Town. The grant and financing options vary greatly between two separate plants and one regional one. The repair option becomes more of a "read and react" as functions break down. The danger of that with a sewer plant is that "the flow can never stop".
I spent some time over at the plant on Saturday, May 2nd assessing the situation with the flooded basement. I was still able to deliver some food to the food drive, albeit not work at it, and I was still able to walk with my mom. My time at the sewer plant showed me the great teamwork in place there. Sewer plant employees, outside engineering firms and electricians converged on site to minimize the damage. Bottom line, the situation could have been a lot worse if not for the quick actions taken by this team. As I got a chance to talk to many of them, it became apparent to me that they too knew that "best laid plans can often be changed", and no use crying over spilt milk (or in this case, waste water). Gotta move fast and clean it up, whether it happens on a weekday at 1 PM or a weekend at 3 AM.
I'm glad I got my schedule changed on Saturday since it showed me what a great team we have in this town at the Sewer Department. The Town Board and I will continue to work with them to try and get the plant in a position to have less repairs based on aged items, while balancing fiscal responsibility to the citizens. As always, if you have any questions or comments, please call me at 585-872-7068 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
April 29, 2020:
COVID-19 as we enter May 2020
It's hard to believe we are only in week 7 of COVID 19. It feels more like 7 months! So much of what has transpired since mid-March came so fast and furious. It challenged our normal time frames mentally and psychologically of hearing about change, processing it, and accepting and adapting to it. It has been analogous to the five stages of grief, but with the difference that you were dealing with all five stages at one time.
The past few weeks have settled us into the "new reality". This has come with a new dynamic too with two distinct ends of the spectrum of thought. Some feel that the shutdown measures of the government are too draconian for the number of cases and deaths that have occurred. They have taken to the streets in protest to "open back up immediately". On the other end of the spectrum, some feel that we should not open things back up to the way it was prior March 2020 for 2+ years. Search the internet for podcasts and articles and you will have your full on both ends of this spectrum of thought. The truth probably lies somewhere in the middle.
New York "on pause" is currently through May 15th at the time I write this article. Governor Cuomo's executive orders that "shut down" the state were broad brush and painted Monroe County in the same light as New York City. As we all know New York city is the epicenter of COVID-19 outbreaks and deaths in the United States.... and Monroe County is very different demographically from New York City. We can armchair quarterback and second guess the Governor's broad brush shut down of the state all we want, but the dye is cast. We need to look beyond it now to the future and "how we will open back up".
The good news is that occurrences of the past two+ weeks portend that the opening up of New York State will be handled very differently than the broad brush close down. Random Antibody testing has shown that Upstate New York is less affected than New York City. The Governor has named Bob Duffy to head up the effort to assess how to open up Monroe County and contiguous 8 counties. Simply said... I'm hopeful that regions/counties in New York will be given the latitude to open back up at their discretion based on the COVID-19 results in their specific community. Two things on this... 1. I would assume the Governor will need to issue another executive order that articulates this county/region specific opening up latitude, and 2. You can rest assured, the opening up will not be all at once to return to prior March 2020 conditions. Such things as public building occupancy maximums, social distancing, and facial covering conditions will most likely be tied to a phased in opening up schematic. Stay tuned for more details as they arise. As always, feel free to call me at 585-872-7068 or e-mail me at email@example.com with any questions or comments. STAY POSITIVE WEBSTER! WE WILL PERSEVERE!
Supervisor’s Column for April 22, 2020:
The Challenges of Conducting Board meetings during COVID-19
One of the most important functions of Webster Town Government is to conduct various board meetings that are open for the public to attend, and be active in. COVID-19 has created challenges to these meetings being open to the public, and for the public to be active in them. I'm proud to say that the Board chairmen, Communications Director, and IT Director have met that challenge "head on" and have come up with a manner in which to hold these meetings in May 2020 to maintain the integrity of the letter and spirit of open meeting laws
To understand the challenge faced and its remedy, I would like to first describe the various board meetings. There are town board meetings of the supervisor and 4 elected council members. These include regular town board meetings the 1st and 3rd Thursday of every month at 7:30 PM, and Town board workshop meetings the 2nd and 4th Thursday of every month at 5:30 PM. Regular meetings are where resolutions, ordinances and/or laws would be voted on. Public hearings occur at these too. Workshops are less formal and where discussion occurs between board members and public on issues important to the town. Planning Board meetings are held the 1st and 3rd Tuesday of each month, and Zoning Board of Appeals meetings are held on the 2nd and 4th Tuesday of each month.
All of these board meetings are conducted at the Town Board meeting room in the Court building across the parking lot from town hall. Except for the Town Board workshops, they are all televised live to be viewed by the public on channel 1303 on Spectrum and on various streaming services. All of these board meetings agendas are posted in the Webster Herald and on various town government websites and social media platforms. Simply said... all these board meetings are open to the public and the public should be made aware of them and what agenda items they may be interested in are going to be discussed.
The biggest challenge COVID-19 posed to these board meetings was the potential of having to close them down to the public to attend in person. In late March and for the better part of April, the town addressed that challenge by just canceling all board meetings except for the regular town board meeting on April 2nd and 16th. Even on those two regular board meetings, COVID-19 posed challenges of social distancing the board members in the room along with other department heads. This was remedied with some creative positioning of tables in the room to keep us all at least 15 feet apart, and teleconferencing of some board members from their homes. We also used some call in and e-mail in techniques to implore public interaction in the meeting.
On Thursday April 23rd at 5:30 PM, the Town Board workshop will be conducted for the first time March 12th. On Tuesday May 5th, the Planning Board will meet for the first time since March, and on Tuesday May 12th the Zoning Board of Appeals will meet for the first time since March. These meetings will be conducted with a hybrid of board members in the room and ones teleconferencing and/or video conferencing in. These meetings will be conducted with a mindfulness of the letter of the law and spirit of public interaction. in such, means will be made available for the public to do so. As always, if you have any questions for me please call 585-872-7068 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. STAY UPBEAT WEBSTER! WE'RE GONNA GET THROUGH THIS.
April 16, 2020:
The "Art" of Communication and keeping people informed in 2020
When it comes to "means of communicating", society has changed a lot in the past 35 years since I got out of college. I remember my awe when I first saw a fax machine send a paper memo from the office I worked at in the late 1980's in Rochester to another office 3,000 miles away in California and print it out there within minutes. Prior to the fax machine, such a written communication would have had to be USPS mailed and received 3-4 days later.
In 2020, the fax machine is a dinosaur, and if you still use one, you are often looked upon as a dinosaur yourself! During my 30+ years in private business, I became a student of the "art of communication". It's an art, not a science since you can never truly master it, and it is always changing. The two constants are that there is a party who is looking to communicate a message, and a party that the message is intended for. I'll refer to these 2 parties as the communicator and the intended recipient.
As a private company CEO, I saw the intended recipients as two distinct categories; 1. the employees of the company, and 2. the customers and service providers of the company. The message content which the company as the communicator sent to the intended recipient categories was often very different. However, the means by which we communicated was not. I found that there were two genres of these means; 1. overt, and 2. passive.
Overt was "sending the message out" such as USPS mail, phone call, text, or e-mailing the intended recipient. Passive was "putting the message out there" and the intended recipient could look at it at their leisure 24/7 such as Facebook, or a website. When possible, we would try to make sure the message was sent out or on ALL overt and passive means of communication. That way, the intended recipient would have the best chance of seeing it, and actually absorbing the message based on what their personal preference was on means of consuming their news. I think this last point is critical within the "art of communication". The communicator often makes the mistake that the means that THEY like to consume their news is the way the intended recipient does too. Simply said.... just because I may like Facebook doesn't mean the 45,000 Webster citizens in 15,000 residences in town do too. It would be a huge mistake to tie the town government's whole communication structure to its citizens (I.e. intended recipients) to Facebook if only 1,500 of the 15,000 residences are on Facebook. We'd be communicating to 10% of the households if we did that.
One of my goals as Town Supervisor is to maximize the overt and passive communication means that the town government utilizes to communicate with its employees and its citizens. An informed staff is a better organization, especially if ALL staff get the same message at the same time. In that same spirit, an informed community is a better community and most likely a more involved community. I'd love to see public meetings in the future have 500 people attend and need an auditorium, instead of having 10 citizens attend in our town board room.
Within this effort, we are in the process of revamping the communication structure to the 230+ employees of the town of Webster. We are also starting the process of trying to communicate to 15,000 households in Webster. COVID-19 has shown us that we most likely hit less than 20% of those households currently on town communications through newspaper, website, Facebook, signed up for text or e-mail alerts, etc. The strategy to hit all 15,000 households will be multi tentacled and need cooperation of ALL departments at the town of Webster, and input from its citizens. If you'd like to hear more on how we tentatively plan to accomplish this, feel free to e-mail me at email@example.com or call me at 585-872-7068. STAY HOME AND STAY HEALTHY WEBSTER!!!!!
Supervisor’s Column April 8, 2020:
The Town of Webster 2020 budget and COVID-19
There is no doubt that when the Town Board and the department heads collaborated in mid-2019 on the Town's 2020 budget, they never imagined the effect COVID-19 would have on it. They used the time tested and traditional means to come up with the budget such as historical department expenses, and the 2% tax cap. Simply said.... the board and department heads did a great job of producing a final 2020 budget that balanced the departmental needs to perform their services, and the fiscal responsibility the town taxpayers should expect from the board members. That is not an easily accomplished balance as the town department heads often are challenged with the same dilemma, I encountered in 30 years in private industry; "American business in the last half century is expecting more, but with less resources". Those resources can be personnel, newer equipment, and/or newer facilities.
Between March 13th and April 7th, I convened the department heads in Webster eight times to give COVID-19 updates so they could go back to their staff with the information. Initially these update meetings were all in person, but as time has gone on with the social distancing mandated by COVID-19, they became more teleconferences. Also, the first few weeks were "changing by the minute" as to what we were presenting to the department heads due to daily federal, state, and County Executive orders. As things smoothed out the past 2 weeks and we entered our "new norm", I presented to the department heads the 3 main things we will be focusing on in the April 6 - May 1st time-frame; 1. Safety of our employees, 2. Maximizing Productivity, and 3. Researching and pursuing every means of reimbursement possible.
The safety aspect is based on the fact that more than half of the town’s 230+ full time and year-round part-time employees are out of work right now due to mandated facility closures and non-essential staff designations being told to go home. The staff that is still working we want to BE and FEEL as safe as possible. I capitalized "be and feel" as they can mean different things to an employee in the Sewer department versus one in the Assessment office. We are trying to respect that. On productivity, we are trying to "think outside the box" and try to make lemonade out of the lemons that COVID-19 has dealt us. The taxpayers deserve to have this productivity maximized so that when we return to full staff and all facilities open, we don't enter a phase of heavy overtime to catch up. On reimbursements, the 2020 budget to actual in the town will ultimately come down to how successful at this we are. We have people NOT working who are getting paid. We have budgeted revenues in 2020 such as rec center fees, and sales tax that will be significantly less than what we anticipated. No doubt that the 2020 budget will not balance to the actuals on revenues and expenses due to the 1, 2, 3+ months we are affected by the COVID-19 shutdown. I'm confident that between the Finance Director, Town Attorney, and other department heads that we will maximize these reimbursements from federal, state and/or county agencies so as to minimize or eliminate the effect on the 2020 budget and the taxpayers of the town. Hopefully, upon execution of that... we'll be entering the 2021 budget development season!
As always feel free to call me at 585-872-7068 or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org STAY SAFE AND HEALTHY WEBSTER!!!
Common Sense and Enforcement during COVID-19
I wanted to do this week's article on something totally independent of the COVID-19 situation we are currently in. However, no matter how hard I tried to come up with a pertinent topic, the reality is that COVID-19 is the dominant influence in all of our lives at this point. My article in last weeks' edition was already inaccurate by the time the Webster Herald hit the newsstands and people read it. I have done a follow up to that article that you can find on the Webster Herald Facebook page and Webster town government website.
As of the April 1 edition of the Webster Herald, The COVID-19 situation has been prevalent in all our lives for about 3 weeks. Doesn't it feel like 3 years!!!!!! Some milestones have been the week of March 9-13 when sports leagues shut down, March 16-20 when facilities like the Library and Rec center in Webster were shut down by government mandate, and March 23-27th when employees and businesses had to be quantified as "essential or non essential" to determine who can stay open and who has to work from home. Wow!!! That was quite a whirlwind of 3 weeks! For those of you familiar with the 5 stages of grief, we as a community had to process almost ALL the stages at once in parallel.
The week of March 30-April 3rd seems to be where the community is starting to enter the "acceptance" stage of COVID-19. The stage where we understand that life will not be normal for at least the next 2-6 weeks. Social distancing is a term none of us had heard of 1-month ago and now it dominates our day to day. This acceptance stage has brought with it an interesting dynamic to citizens contacting Webster Town government officials such as me.
The contact has been about questions, comments, and concerns about social distancing they have seen or heard about at places like the parks, and certain stores in town. Often within the contact, they have asked "What is the town of Webster government going to do about it?" Essentially this means they are asking about enforcement. All of these contacts have validity, but the COVID-19 situation has created government mandates so fast that the mandate really never considered the subjectivity of it.
A store may be considered "essential" within these government mandates and thus is allowed to be open, but what about the "non essential" items the store sells? Should the store be allowed to sell them? Should a person leave their house to go to that store to buy non essential items? What is a non essential item? Should the police be called, and if so, what enforcement would they legally be doing? How should they dispense out this enforcement when the court system has been shut down by mandate until April 30th? Ask these questions to 100 people and you may get a 100 different answers.
The problem is that much of the COVID-19 government mandates depend on individual citizen common sense to be carried out since the enforcement in many ways has not been clarified. As we know, common sense is a subjective thing. My 14-year old son who is a freshman in high school is a great kid, but his common sense is different from mine at 55 years old.
In conclusion, The Town of Webster government will trumpet loud that social distancing is so important during this COVID-19 situation to assure we "flatten the curve". However, there is something my parents taught me long ago..... I can only control my actions. How other people act is on them and should not have an influence on how I conduct myself. I hope that the majority of Webster citizens got this same lesson from their parents and practice it at this most critical of time.
Follow up to Supervisors Corner article in Wednesday March 25, 2020 Webster Herald
The news cycle in 2020 is "fast-paced." Daily newspapers like the Democrat and Chronicle often have articles that by the time the reader gets the paper, the articles are old news. COVID-19 has exacerbated that. County, state and federal mandates, executive orders, and stimulus packages are coming so fast and furious, that news is now changing by the minute. That is very challenging for a daily newspaper, but it is exponentially more challenging for a weekly paper like the Webster Herald.
I have gotten a lot of calls, text, and e-mails, and seen a lot of social media posts related to my "Supervisor's Corner" article that was in the Webster Herald's Wednesday, March 25 edition. The reality is that I wrote that article later in the day on Friday, March 20 so as to meet deadlines of printing the weekly paper. By the time it was published and people actually read it... 6-7 days had passed since I wrote it. Frankly, the number and frequency of mandates, executive orders, and unemployment changes per the stimulus package that had come in since March 20 had rendered most of the decisions articulated in that article moot! Simply said... the decision-making process was taken out of my hands by a "higher power" in the form of county, state or federal government.
I'm writing this follow-up to that article on Saturday, March 28 at 9 a.m. over a cup of coffee at my house. Therefore, if you are reading this 1 hour, 1 day, or 1 week from now, there may have been several new "twists and turns" within COVID-19 per county, state, and federal mandates. The one thing that was not rendered moot in the last 7-10 days by county, state, and/or federal mandate were the two (2) following foundational principles to the initial decision to NOT pay people who were NOT working:
1. Failure is not an option: There is a scene in the movie Apollo 13 where Ed Harris's character comes into a conference room in Houston's NASA headquarters and drops a bunch of "junk" on the table and essentially says to the 10 engineers in the room, "You need to make this into a contraption the astronauts need so they can get back to earth." The engineers initial reaction is "can't be done." The Ed Harris character replies by saying failure is not an option, so change your paradigm from CAN'T to "How can we". The result was the engineers figured out a way, made the contraption from the junk, and the astronauts got home. The parallel to the Town of Webster was that I wanted the 15 department heads to have a "How can we" attitude to figuring out jobs our employees could do as of March 23 that would benefit the Town of Webster today and in the future. This was to be done even if those jobs had to be done from their home and were outside the normal scope of what the employee did. Those department heads were more likely to "find a way" than to just accept that Governor Cuomo's 100% non-essential mandate and/or other mandates that closed facilities meant that their employees would be home NOT working and getting paid to NOT work. I feel that "challenge" to them was met and I'm proud of what the department heads have accomplished in this effort with the help of the town's IT department. I truly believe more of Webster town employees are home working due to these efforts than any other town in Monroe County.
2. Work is cathartic to the employee: Maybe I just come from a different era, but I always felt that working gave a sense of pride for people and was "good for the soul" to take the person's mind off of hard times they may be encountering. COVID-19 is hard times for sure. I felt that the mental health of the town's employees was improved if we could find ways to have them work, and do so in a manner that would make them feel they were contributing to the greater good of the Town of Webster today and in the future. Statistics show that people out of work are more likely to be depressed. Couple that with the stresses of COVID-19 and it could be a real bad result for "idle time people." I'm proud of the efforts of the department heads and the 230+ town employees that are trying everything in their power to work.
I'd like to think that we have tried to be sensitive to the specific individual situations of our employees within this overall desire to "have them working." We want our employees and their families first and foremost to be safe. If they, one of their family members, or someone they caretake for is at high risk if they contract COVID-19, we are trying to be respectful to that.
As always, please feel free to call me at (585) 872-7068 or e-mail me at email@example.com with any questions, comments, or concerns you may have. STAY WELL, WEBSTER!
March 25, 2020: Leadership and Decision Making during turbulent times
The week of March 16-20 was challenging to all of us within this COVID-19 situation. Fear and anxiety ran rampant and threatens to be a bigger problem than people actually contracting COVID-19. Some feared getting COVID-19. Some feared their loved ones who had compromised immune systems and/or respiratory issues getting it. Some feared the financial ramifications of lost income from the private business they own or work getting shut down.
One of the bigger challenges to me as Town Supervisor in making decisions for the 15 departments and 230+ Town of Webster employees was the quickly changing landscape of the “rules of engagement”. One day Governor Cuomo mandates that 50% of non-essential staff needs to be out of the facility they work out of and positioned to work from home... then two days later, it was 75%... and finally, on Friday, March 20, it ended at 100%.
At my private business I owned for 25 years, we were built to work remotely. Unfortunately, the Town of Webster government is the 180-degree opposite and is built to NOT work from outside the facility out of which you work. This made Governor Cuomo’s mandates to “get them out of the office and working from home” exponentially more challenging. The IT staff at the town did an amazing job getting as many employees able to work from home by Monday, March 23 as possible.
Another challenge to this was the potential that Webster town employees may end up being home, NOT working, and getting paid their normal salary/hourly wages. This weighed on me. I knew that many of the 45,000 citizens in Webster were hurting financially from the business they owned or worked for closing. It did not sit well with me that these same hurting citizens had paid real estate taxes to the Town of Webster and now those tax dollars were being used to pay town employees who were not working. Some said to me, “The payroll is in the budget, so what is the big deal?” Depending on how you do the math, the town annual budget is between $25 and $30 million, of which approx. $15 million is collected from real estate taxes. The annual aggregate payroll to all town employees is almost $15 million, so to me it IS a big deal if employees are getting paid to not work. Once they come back to work in 2, 3, 4, etc. weeks, there will be a backlog of work and we’ll have to pay overtime, which will just further hit the taxpayers in the 2021 budget or from the general fund balance. It was not an easy decision, but leading means you have to make tough decisions and sometimes you will not know if they are the right or wrong decisions for a long time.
The decision was ultimately made to not pay town employees who were home and not working. It was made knowing 18 other towns in Monroe County did NOT make that decision and are “paying all their employees even if they are home not working”. It was made with the town board being split on this concept, but with the understanding and respect of even the town board members against it. It was made being mindful of factors including but not limited to full-time versus part-time status, unions, and the current state of emergency we’re in at the state and county level. It was made while collaborating with the department heads to find ways to have these employees WORK so they can get paid as of Monday, March 23, even if the job we come up with for them during this COVID-19 situation is NOT what they normally do. As long as the job they will be doing will benefit the town and its citizens today and in the future, I can get behind it. It was made knowing I could NOT go in front of the 45,000 citizens of Webster and say with a straight face, “We’re all in this together...” if the facts were we were not and private company citizens were not getting paid to be home not working... but Town of Webster employees were.
People’s opinion on this decision will vary. Some will think it is great while others will think I am the devil incarnate. If I had my druthers, all decisions made by the town board and/or me would have 100% consensus, but that will never happen and people in leadership positions need to be cognizant of that. However, I hope that people in leadership positions make measured and pragmatic decisions based on a moral compass and the good of the whole community.
In closing, I heard a story this past week about Cathie Thomas, the Webster town supervisor 20 years ago. It essentially was that she was counseled on a decision she was about to make that it would cost her votes and she replied, “I don’t make decisions based on whether it gets me or costs me votes. I make decisions that are good for the community as a whole.” I think I would like Ms. Thomas and hope I get to meet her someday.
March 19, 2020: Multi-faceted Approach to Communication:
As we enter into uncharted territory with the Covid-19 virus, communication with our residents becomes vitally important. Residents can find the latest Town and County updates, via the following media platforms:
On the Town Website: ci.webster.ny.us
- On the main page, there are blue tabs on the right side that can direct you to the following resources:
COVID-19 Town Updates: ci.webster.ny.us/561/COVID-19-Updates
- Here residents will find the latest information from the Town regarding services and facilities, along with updates from the Monroe County Dept. of Health and the CDC.
NOTIFY ME: ci.webster.ny.us/list.aspx
- Here residents can sign up for direct notifications to your email and/or phone via our “Notify Me” system. We recommend residents sign up for “Emergency Alerts” and “All Town-Wide News & Updates”.
All of the latest Town and County notifications will also be posted on our social media pages:
We will continue to provide timely updates to residents and encourage you to sign up for notifications and follow our social media pages. If you have any suggestions for additional modes of communication, please feel free to contact me at: 585-872-7068 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
March 11, 2020:
Webster Library in 2020
One of the treasures we have here in Webster is our public library. If you have not visited it lately, I strongly suggest you do soon. It is in the middle of town on Hard Road, south of Route 104 and north of Ridge Rd. It has approx. 45,000 square foot of space to house books, meeting rooms and other special items.
Being a public library, you can take out books and other materials at NO cost/rental fee as long as you have a library card as a member. The only cost you might incur is a late fee if you bring back the book after the due date. I know personally I paid a lot of those in my younger days!
Something I have learned in the past few months is that the library has "gone digital" in much the same way as the rest of the world. This transition has its pros and cons, both today and in the future. Digital books that you can take out and read on your Kindle or tablet are starting to grow in proportion to hardcover and paperback books that people take out. If that trend continues, and there is nothing that portends it won't, the number of hardcopy and paperback books the library will have to buy annually and store on shelves will decrease. In such, it is not hard to imagine that in 10+ years the library will need far less space than its current 45,000 square feet. Less space will mean either less rent or building ownership cost.
However, the cost of hardcover/paperback books versus digital in 2020 is surprisingly different to the point it could be concerning in years to come, with regards to the economics of funding a public library from municipality tax money. Currently in 2020, the publishers are charging the library approximately $18 to buy a new hardcover or paperback book that will sit on the library shelves for years to come, and potentially be taken out by an infinite amount of people to enjoy. Conversely, the publishers are charging the library approximately $65 for digital books. Worse yet, the library does not OWN that digital book. It is essentially renting it, as it can only be taken out 24 times by the public. Therefore, if the book is popular, the library may need to "rent it" 3 or 4 times at an aggregate $200+ to meet the demand of its members.
The publishers will sell these digital books to individuals and bookstores for significantly less than the $65 charged to a public library. They also govern the supply of the books they will rent to public libraries for what I can only assume is to make sure they have a market of individuals and bookstores to sell to. I appreciate that publishers are "for profit" businesses, but this has a feel of subsidizing their profits through government monies since Public libraries are funded by municipal tax dollars.
March 5, 2020:
On Thursday February 27th at 7PM, the Town of Webster hosted an informational meeting at Webster Thomas. This open to the public meeting was to give updates on Lake Ontario and Irondequoit bay water levels. The updates centered on 3 governmental agencies; 1. Federal with the International Joint Commission (IJC) , 2 The state of New York and REDI grants obtained by the town of webster for resiliency at the Sandbar, and 3. The Town of Webster and what they did in 2017 and 2019 to assist property owners on the water, and what lessons were learned from those years that we will use to assist better in 2020. The meeting had over 200 people in attendance and was advertised by a combination of USPS 1st class mailed invites to people who own property in Webster on the water, publication in the Webster Herald, and various town websites and social media sites
The meeting was purposely structured to have less than 30 minutes on formal presentation and give an hour or more for attendee questions and comments. That structure was executed flawlessly as the meeting went slightly over 90 minutes and less than 30 of those minutes were in formal presentation with powerpoint slides, and over 60 minutes were attendee questions/comments. We tried to assemble a panel of people from the state, county, and town that would be best suited to answer the specificity of the questions from the attendees. The meeting was not televised live, but taped and is now on the Town Website should anyone want to view it in the future.
Two(2) final comments on this February 27th meeting; 1.The IJC update given at this meeting has already proven to be dated. In the past few days, a bill has been entered in the United states congress that if it becomes a law, would give citizens who own waterfront property the ability to sue the IJC for the damages they have incurred. 2. One of the central themes of the meeting was VOLUNTEERISM. In the coming months there will be opportunities for groups and individuals to volunteer their time to the efforts of placing sandbags and other resiliency items on properties that will be potentially affected by high water levels in 2020. We envision these efforts would start in Mid April, but factors such as weather will go into that. I will be reaching out to various webster civic groups to see if they would be interested in helping. Individuals can go to the town of webster website for more info on this if they are interested in volunteering. The issues that these property owners have with the IJC and the State of New York are things that I plan on advocating for as the Webster Town Supervisor. However, in my opinion the best deployment of time and resources in the next few months for these property owners is to galvanize the community in helping them. That's what good neighbors do.
Finally, I'd like to say this.......This "open to the public" forum is something I would like to do more of in the coming months/years on a variety of topics/issues that affect Webster citizens. . Venues like the webster thomas and webster Schroeder auditoriums assure that if attendance is 200+, we can accommodate with no problem. Frankly, the "more the merrier" if you ask me!! An involved community is a better community. The webster town government is NOT the answer to solving all that is wrong in the world. However, I think it can be utilized to bring people together in town for. Stay tuned for more of these "open to the public forums" and I look forward to a robust attendance
February 27, 2020:
The old adage goes that the only guarantees in life are death and taxes. Where death is pretty simple to define, taxes are not. That is because taxes come in so many different formats including but not limited to Federal income, State income, sales, and of course Real Estate. In Webster, property owners pay 3 different real estate taxes; School, County, and Town, and a 4th if you are in the village. To add to the mix, you have fire district fees, and sewer fees to name a few that really are tantamount to taxes.
Of all of the things I have learned about Real Estate taxes in my first 2 months on the job, the most confusing aspect to me has been the STAR program. STAR is an acronym for School Tax Relief. It is a program started in New York State several years ago as an attempt to give Homeowners some relief from their annual School taxes. Seems simple enough. However, there are two different options where you can benefit from STAR; exemption and registration, and a homeowner can only enjoy one of them
The Exemption option utilizes a maximum household income as a qualifier. Initially if your income was under $500,000 annually, you qualified. A few years ago, the New York State budget lowered the income qualification to $250,000. The current New York State budget being proposed for adoption in April 2020 has in its draft an additional lowering to $200,000 annual income max to qualify. These reductions in maximum household income limits to qualify reduce the number of homeowners who qualify for this STAR option. How does a homeowner save on this option? Ultimately it reduces the homeowner's school taxes by giving a reduction to their house's assessed value. For example, if the house is assessed for $200,000 for county and town taxes, it may be lowered to $180,000 for the calculation of school taxes. The homeowner's benefit is the difference in school taxes between what it would have been at a $200,000 assessment, and the lowered $180,000 assessment.
The Registration option ostensibly is simpler in that the homeowner gets a check from New York State that is essentially a partial refund of the school taxes they paid. It is approximately equal to the same savings offered by the exemption. How "simpler" it actually is? Hard to say. The reduction of the income limit on the Exemption option over the years has moved people into the Registration option, and it appears New York State wants to do that. Is that good for the homeowner? Hard to say as each homeowner's situation can be unique as to their assessed value and annual income. In conclusion, one thing is for certain (besides death and taxes).... as a homeowner, just when you figure out all this STAR stuff, you may have to turn your attention to other potential exemptions you may have including but not limited to veteran, age, etc.
February 20, 2020:
Last week, I got the opportunity to drive "shotgun" for an hour and half in one of the town of Webster's plow trucks. No matter how much I pleaded with Joe Herbst, Webster's Highway Superintendent, he would not let me drive. For that, all Webster citizens owe a thank you to Joe. The experience was "eye opening" to say the least. I got a perspective of what these talented plow truck drivers have to navigate within the effort to keep our roads clear of snow.
I drove with Tony on a sub division route. At some point in the future I hope to do a main road route. Some things I learned about Webster sub divisions is that there are currently 271 lane miles that need to be plowed. Within these 271 miles, there are 194 cul de sacs. Each cul de sac accounts for 0.2 lane miles. Therefore there are approx. 39 lane miles of cul de sacs out of the total 271 lane miles in the sub divisions or about 15%. Now here is the kicker.... the cul de sacs take about 50% of the time to make one plow run on all 271 lane miles in the sub divisions. Joe Herbst wants to be able to do one plow run of the sub divisions FASTER than his crew currently does it. If they do it faster, it saves the town money, makes the roads clear of snow quicker, and assures our drivers are not overworked. So how do we achieve the goal of doing a plow run faster? To me, the answer is one of two things; 1. find more efficient ways to plow when factoring in the cul de sac challenge, or 2. "Throw money at the problem" and buy more plow trucks, hire more plow drivers, etc.
Bottom line...… I don't like the answer of "throw more money at it". I did not like it as CEO in private industry and I certainly don't like it as Town Supervisor with the fiduciary responsibility to safeguard town funds and try to keep taxes low to its citizens. I feel trying to find ways to become more efficient is ALWAYS the first thing we should look at. I used the plowing example and the cul de sac challenge because in my first 50 days in office, I have seen several such challenges in almost ALL of the Town government departments where "Throw money at it" versus become more efficient needs to be assessed. I feel like we always need to exhaust strategies to become more efficient before resorting to spending money. Luckily, I have experienced town department heads who share in this philosophy. They understand that "throwing more money at the challenge" is not the first option, and often many not be an option at all. Webster citizens can be assured, the department heads and I are aligned in our efforts to improve services to the town while not spending more money while doing it if the opportunity for increased efficiency can be found.
February 12, 2020:
One of the main things I have been introduced to in my first 6+ weeks as Supervisor is the structure of the Webster Village government and the services they provide to approx. 6,000 village residents. Within that structure, there is a unique relationship with Webster Town government and the services the town provides to the approx. 46,000 residents. To me, the "uniqueness" is 3-fold;
The first is that The 6,000 village residents are included in the 46,000 town residents. In such, many services provided by the town are provided to village residents. In such, when Town government is discerning decisions that will be voted on by the town board, the village residents will most likely be affected by those decisions as they are town citizens too
The second is that when the Village government is discerning decisions that will be voted on by the village board, the 6,000 village residents no doubt will be affected by those decisions, but the 40,000 citizens of the town NOT living in the village most likely will not "directly" be affected.... but may have some "indirect" effect.
The third is that on paper what makes the MOST sense for the 46,000 citizens of Webster is that the Town and Village governments should work as collaboratively and harmoniously as possible for the good of the WHOLE community, while navigating the challenge that the two governments operate independently of each other. From the papertrails I have reviewed on several topics and stories I have been told by both town and village officials and citizens..... the history of the town and village has NOT always gone as collaboratively and harmonious as the ideal would have it. Perceptions become reality in people's minds, even if the fact pattern does not support those perceptions
Over the next 2-3 months, the 46,000 citizens of Webster today, and 20+ years from now will be directly affected by the town and and village government's decision on Sewers in this community. Simply said.... the Village government will vote on whether to continue on with their own sewer plant, or whether to join with the town on a regional/consolidate sewer plant. Mayor Byerts, Deputy Mayor Ippolito, Deputy Supervisor Cataldi and myself have been meeting the past month within the effort to work collaboratively and harmoniously for the good of the whole community on this issue. My goal in this process is to make sure the town and village have the facts on the dollars and cents of the 2 options the village government will ultimately vote on. As we progress in this process, we will "increase to number of people" in these meetings beyond the 4 of us. Already we have met with engineering firms who have conducted studies at town and village expense in the past 2-3 years so that we could get an understanding and agreement on the dollars and cents they came up with from their paid for studies. Our next endeavor will be to meet with the DEC and the State grant and financing agency to get facts on what the 2 options would mean to them. By March, The Mayor, deputy mayor, deputy supervisor and me need to determine how many more people to expand these meetings to. Since the village government is making the vote, Deputy Supervisor Cataldi and I will defer a lot of that decision to Mayor Byerts and Deputy Mayor Ippolito as to how many of the 6,000 village citizens should be included in this vetting and discernment process.
In summary, I am an accountant by trade so I am biased. almost 100% of the time, consolidation makes more dollars and cents sense today and 20 years from now than 2 separate entities. However, I am keeping an open mind to the facts as them come in from engineers, DEC, state finance and grant agencies etc. Also, even though I am new to this process, I am sensitive to the NON dollars and cents aspect to this decision by village government that may influence the decision. I do have trust in the Village government that they will make a fiduciary decision based on the present and future of the community and not on what has happened in the past.
February 5, 2020:
I'm a self proclaimed "data junky". I went to college for Accounting and then was in some form of a financial business for the past 30+ years. In such, I came to depend on data as both a) being facts and b) thus being foundational to decision making. Data can also be misleading if not looked at from all sides. For example, saying that you attended 100% of the board meetings this year when there has only been one meeting is not really statistically relevant.
With the spirit of data in mind, I'd like to tell you some of the things I have learned the past year campaigning and now being in the Supervisor position about our great town of Webster! The town is 35 square miles and has approx. 45,000 people. Therefore there is approx. 1,300 people per square mile. For a point of comparison, Irondequoit has 51,000 people and is 17 square miles or approx. 3,000 people per square mile. There are 31,000 registered voters. Approx. 1/3 of them are registered Republican, 1/3 Democrat and 1/3 unaffiliated or other party. 13,000 people voted in the November 2019 election or approx. 42% of all registered voters actually voted. I'd like to think that the early voting opportunities now available to webster residents will increase voter participation in 2020 and beyond. I think we all can agree that maximizing voter participation is a good thing. Hard for me to hear a citizen complain about something and then find out they did not vote.
I was surprised to find out that 76% of the November 2019 13,000 voters were over 50 years old. My surprise comes from the fact that there are approx 8,500 students in the Webster school system and about 6,500 live in Webster. I have not done a deep dive on this, but I felt it safe to assume that the majority of these 6,500 student's parents are UNDER 50 years old. I sure hope they vote!
The 2020 town annual budget is approx. $30 million. That's the money we have to provide the services to the 45,000 townspeople such as sewers, highway department, etc. Of that, approx. $30 million, half comes from real estate taxes, and the other half from federal, state, county monies, other taxes such as sales, mortgage, and fees. The approx. $15 million collected in taxes is spread over an aggregate assessment of $3 billion on 17,000 tax parcels of which approx. 12,000 are people's residences. The simple math of $15 million taxes needed from $3 billion in aggregate assessment means about $5 per thousand. So, if your house is assessed for $200,000, the town portion of your real estate tax bill is about $1,000.
There are a lot more data points I have picked up in these past few months, but I'll conclude at this point before I have you all fall asleep from reading this. Please feel free to contact me with any questions you may have on the data points I presented in this article
January 29, 2020:
One of the things I truly believe in is that "you are part of the problem or part of the solution". I used to tell the staff at my company that there was no talent in pointing out the problem, but that talent lies in proposing some solutions to the problem. WIth that in mind, I have been blown away by home many boards, committees, associations and clubs there are in Webster. The people on these boards and committees are giving their time, talent, and treasure to several causes. They by definition are "part of the solution". I would welcome getting a chance to meet all of these organizations. It gives me the chance to learn more about their mission and it gives them a chance to query me on things important to them to see where we match up.
The more involved the citizens are in a community, the better the community. Involvement in various organizations usually results in participants understanding that facts drive good decision making, and opinion drawing. They tend to be more understanding of other organization's challenges based on what they have experienced with their own, and less apt to just blindly accept as unequivocal truth a rumor they heard. The social media society we live in has wonderful aspects to it in the access to information we now all have. One of the unfortunate by products of this is that anyone can be a "keyboard, faceless warrior/troll" and put rumor and statements out to the world that are not based in fact and have them accepted by many as fact. Before social media, such people either were not heard, or if heard it was by a few people at the corner bar or diner and most likely the person was not take that seriously. Now that person's vitriol can be seen and heard by thousands and potentially drive decision making and opinion drawing. Very scary.
As previously stated, good decisions and opinion drawing are based in facts. The keyboard warrior/troll poisons the well to being able to make good decisions and draw opinions. My experience has been that involved people who are giving their time, talent and treasure to various causes tend to not be these keyboard warriors/trolls, and they also are not as willing to accept their bombastic statements as fact. In summary, if you're already involved, THANK YOU! If you are not involved, please consider doing so. It is so rewarding for both the community and you personally. Finally... please reach out to me to have me as a guest at your organization's meeting.
January 22, 2020:
My friends and family have been asking me how the first couple weeks on the job have been going. My answer has been "challenging.... and pleasantly surprising". The challenging aspect has been that the position is robust as it pertains to all you need to know to be effective. To me, being effective means you support and advocate on behalf of the organizations employees and customers. The town of Webster has 45,000 customers in the form of its citizens. Between full and part time, the town has approx. 200 employees operating under more than a dozen departments. Bottom line... it is incumbent on me to learn and absorb all aspects of the position of Town Supervisor as quickly as possible so that my effectiveness can be sooner than later.
The pleasantly surprising aspect has been in what I have encountered with the department heads and employees of the town. The stereotype of government employees not having some of the characteristics of private industry employees could not be further from the truth in Webster. I've found several of the department heads to be type A personalities who work way more than 40 hours a week, own their department with the pride and attention to detail commensurate with high success individuals. These people would be successful in any line of work including had they chosen entrepreneurial business ownership. I cannot emphasize how critical that is to my potential success in the position of Town Supervisor. In any organizational structure, if the CEO, General, or whatever title is on top has great leaders, department heads, great things can be achieved. The top of the organizational chart has a lot to do with the culture that evolves at the organization. However, that person at the top can only do so much and if the department heads don't genuinely buy in to the culture, it will not happen. I'm very excited at what I have seen so far and feel confident great things will happen in 2020 and beyond for Webster.
Something i found on the campaign trail in 2019 and has continued to manifest itself since I was elected in November and took office in January is that there are a lot of talented citizens in Webster who have conveyed to me they want to help their hometown out. I want to tap into these people's talent and enthusiasm for the greater good of the town today and the future. I'm new to the position and still vetting how such citizens can be involved. Some of it is easy to assess as there are boards and committees they can be appointed to. However, I think there is an opportunity for several ad hoc committees to evolve in the future to research topics that are hot buttons to the town. A potential example of this would be an adhoc committee to research and make recommendations to the town board on amending zoning laws that have been in affect in some instances over 40 years. Webster and the world in general is very different in 2020 than it was in 1980. Do some of the zoning laws put in place in 1980 that made sense then not make sense in 2020?
As the saying goes, "Rome was not built in a day". I'm anxious to move forward with ideas and plans for Webster. I have also learned over the years that I need to be measured in that. I need to continue to learn from the great department heads Webster has. every day brings a something new I learn that will be foundational to any plans ultimately proposed. I promise you all I will continue to be a sponge and get in a position of being efective as soon as possible.
January 15, 2020:
As a 54 year old husband, father of 7, and business owner the past 25 years, I have seen a lot. The past year of campaigning for and now being the Webster Town Supervisor has accentuated something I am very familiar with. That being that "various forms of misinformation or being devoid of information" is the biggest hurdle to effective communication, decision making and/or determining one's opinion.
As I met with Webster citizens the past year, I found that many had a perception that Webster Town Government was not being transparent. The more I looked into it, the more I started to understand how that perception could be just a "form of misinformation/devoid of information". Now don't get me wrong, one thing I learned a long time ago is that you don't argue against perceptions by defending what you did in the past. You CHANGE perceptions by what you DO in the present and future. Hopefully this column can act as a start to that change
At the top of Webster Town Government is the 5-person Town Board. As Town Supervisor, I am one of those board members. We minimally meet 24-times a year for regular board meetings, on the 1st and 3rd Thursday of each month. These meetings are open to the public and are in the Town Board meeting room in the courts building behind town hall. These meetings are also by law given public notice by publishing in the local newspaper. (I.e. the Webster Herald) ALL decisions made by the board occur at such meetings including resolutions, ordinances, and laws. Based on the last 3-4 sentences.... Webster town government IS transparent. So why the perception it is not?
The first challenge is that the "relatively universal" law of publishing/posting government meetings in a local newspaper was adopted when newspapers were the main means of citizens consuming information. Reality is that in 2020, "print media" is having its challenges as other digital means of information consumption become more utilized by people. I'm not certain the current subscription levels of the Webster herald, but my guess is that a minor percentage of the approximate 45,000 citizens in town and 31,000 registered voters subscribe and/or read the "print version". That can lead to a majority of the population being "devoid" of the information about Webster Town government notices and just how accessible and transparent it can be.
One thing I learned as a CEO of a company was that you have to accommodate the demands of the customer base. Where I may like having a print version to read my news (which in fact I do cuz I'm old school) I have to be aware that a majority of people may not and want it in some digital form. I don't foresee the posting/publication laws changing any time soon from newsprint, However, as Supervisor, I will work to make sure that an expansion of these postings will be done in a variety of digital ways so that a majority of the townspeople will know when these town board meetings are, and what topics will be discussed at them.