As we welcome the month of August, the good news is that months of diligence by all of us to “flatten the curve” of Covid-19 virus continues to be effective. The rates of transmission in our area, and here in the Village, remain low. We must continue to remain cautious, be diligent about wearing masks, practicing social distancing, and washing our hands.
One of Rhinebeck’s major annual events, the Dutchess County Fair will not be held this August, due to concerns about Covid19. This is yet another reminder that we have more work to do before life can fully return to normal.
In the heart of Rhinebeck, shops and restaurants have successfully reopened under strict guidelines. Both locals and visitors are venturing out more. The Village of Rhinebeck has distributed thousands of face masks and hand sanitizer to our local food pantries, the Rhinebeck Farmers Market, and to local businesses. We will continue with these programs as well as continuing regulations to protect our residents for as long as needed. Thank you to everyone who has complied with the guidelines and followed the recommendations of the health experts. We are all in this together and we will come out stronger.
Another challenge we have dealt with this summer is the huge construction project on Route 9. I am happy to report that we are now in the final phase. This project started in October 2019, and we are now close to finishing the installation of 8,000 feet of water main and repaving more than 2 miles of roads. Many of the water mains were more than 100 years old, and while the work has been disruptive, it was badly needed. When finished, traffic will return to normal and residents will have a new upgraded and safer water system.
Many have asked why crews are only paving the parts of Route 9 where we dug up the water mains instead of repaving the entire street. New York State regulates Rt-9, and paving of the road is the responsibility of the State. We are paving the parts of the road where we laid the water mains, under the jurisdiction of the NY State DOT. The DOT has recently added several “adjustments” to the plans that were approved by them before construction began. These have cost the Village extra money and threaten to run us over budget. The DOT recently requested we repave some parts of the street which were not part of the water project, adding $100,000 to our costs. The Village cannot afford to fully pave the road nor is it not our responsibility. We are continuing to work with NYS DOT to restore Route 9 and make it better than ever.
I want to thank the Village Board for being proactive in addressing the road and drainage conditions during the repaving phase of the project. And, a special thank you to Treasurer Karen Mc Laughlin, and DPW Head John Fenton for their daily diligence in managing the project. Normally a project of this magnitude would have needed a much larger team to handle the work of oversight and management and at a much higher cost. We are lucky to have skilled people who know how to get the job done while protecting your taxpayer dollars.
Last month the Governor announced New York State Executive Order No. 203 which requires local governments with police agencies conduct a comprehensive review of current police force deployments, strategies, policies, and procedures. Dutchess County has established a workgroup to review current policies and procedures among local municipalities. Rhinebeck Village is part of the group and we will work collaboratively to develop a policy. The committee’s goal is to have a completed draft by November 2020. State guidelines call for the new policy to be adopted by April 2021.
We will be focusing on a broad range of topics including how to build public trust, enhance connections to the community, as well as building accountability, transparency, professionalism while exploring violence reduction and policies for dealing with mental health issues. Before any changes are approved, the public will have a chance to learn more and weigh in on any proposed changes.
Trustee Ric Lewit reports the Village will begin work this fall to replace older roadside street lights with new efficient LED lights. This will not only reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, but will improve conditions on our roads AND save money.
The New York Power Authority is financing and contracting the work and long-term maintenance of the system. NYPA is structuring its financing so the Village will pay no more for its loan each year than it annually pays to Central Hudson for electricity and upkeep of the current system. Once the loan is paid back, the Village expects to save more than $40,000 annually. Greenhouse gas emissions will be reduced by 35.5 tons every year that the new system is in place. LED light technology has come a long way, and new lights with improved color and better focus have become standard across the United States. Other local municipalities participating in the NYPA program include the Town of Rhinebeck, Red Hook, Kingston, Ulster, New Paltz, and Rosendale.
I am happy to report that retired School Superintendent Joe Phelan is taking over as Chair of the Autism Support Committee. Joe has served on the committee since the beginning and was instrumental in helping us achieve our Phase One goals.
The Committee has been shutdown since March due to the pandemic, but Joe says it’s time to get back to work:
“While the pandemic has sidelined our Village’s historic efforts to partner with our community, in particular with our local businesses and organizations, and with our dedicated cadre of volunteers and experts, to address the needs of our children, adults, family members, community members, and visitors to our community who struggle with the challenges of Autism; and to provide assistance and accommodations for those friends and neighbors on the Autism spectrum whom we know, greet, love, and care for, and about which we are so acutely aware, have never been needed more than they are now.”
Fundraising for the project has been greatly helped by our local chefs, including Terrapin’s Josh Kroner, who represents the Rhinebeck Area Chamber of Commerce on the committee. We received a matching grant of $10,000 from the Thomas Thompson Trust which means we have $20,000 on hand to implement Phase 2.
For the month of August, Rhinebeck Village Hall will be lit by purple lights in recognition of the devastating Opioid Crisis in our communities. August 31st is International Drug Overdose Awareness Day. For more information visit
Congratulations to the following Village Employees on their employment anniversaries. Officer Kyle Jennings – 5 years, Officer Kenneth Landers – 18 years, Officer Ken Scattergood – 22 years,Officer Daniel Kaelin – 25 years, and Police Clerk Danielle Rector – 11 years.
Wear masks when in public spaces and continue to use social distancing!
As always, please reach out to me with any questions or comments. You can reach me by phone 845-876-7015 ext 2 at Village Hall or via email to MayorBassett@VillageofRhinebeckny.gov