Pelham mayor’s update: Midsummer public hearing and final vote on Pelham House; $1.1 million borrowed for sewers, storm drains

Artist+rendering+of+the+Pelham+House+apartment+building+proposed+for+Fifth+Avenue+and+Third+Street%2C+as+submitted+for+the+Feb.+15+planning+board+meeting.

Image courtesy Marvel architects

Artist rendering of the Pelham House apartment building proposed for Fifth Avenue and Third Street, as submitted for the Feb. 15 planning board meeting.

Editor’s note: This press release was provided by Village of Pelham Mayor Chance Mullen. The Pelham Examiner publishes press releases in the form received as a service to the community.

I hope this message finds you well. This is shaping up to be a busy summer for your Village government, and I’m writing to share some important information about the work we’ll be doing in the next few months.

Pelham House

First, I am happy to report that we are entering the final month of reviews for the Pelham House project. This public-private partnership will result in the construction of a beautiful, new mixed-use residential building at the corner of Fifth Avenue and Third Street, public parking for residents and shoppers, and a consolidated municipal center for police, fire, and village administration – all financed by Pelham House, a private development team led by resident Patrick Normoyle. This project relieves us of the $17.4 million we would otherwise need to spend on our existing facilities. The Village Board is now wrapping up four and a half years of work, including 15 months of professional review following the statutory actions required by the New York State Environmental Quality Review Act. At Tuesday night’s Village Board Meeting, we called for a final public hearing on the project’s overall site plan, which will take place on Tuesday, July 26th. A final vote on the project is expected to be held on Tuesday, August 9th.

In the past, the Village Board has opted for a lighter agenda in July and August. Given the condition of our facilities and the need to stay on schedule, that is not an option this time. Residents are welcome to attend these meetings in person or over zoom. Given the increase in COVID-19 cases in the region, we strongly encourage participation via zoom. If you cannot attend, please don’t hesitate to share your thoughts or comments directly with the Village Board by emailing info@pelhamgov.com.

Sanitary Sewer and Stormwater Infrastructure

At Tuesday night’s meeting, the Village Board voted to issue $1.1 million in Bond Anticipation Notes (BANs) for work related to the Village’s sanitary sewers and storm drains (these are two separate systems, but both experience issues during significant storm events and both need remediation). I am very, very excited to be making progress on this front.

The bulk of the approved funds ($750,000) will be used to upgrade our sanitary sewers. In 2019, we launched a Village-wide Sanitary Sewer Evaluation Study (SSES) to identify areas throughout our sewer system needing repair or replacement. The study included CCTV inspections, smoke testing, and cleaning of roughly 99,000 linear feet of sewer mains. We expect to receive a final report with detailed recommendations in the coming weeks. In advance of their report, our engineers have indicated that multiple sections of our 80-year-old system are experiencing inflow and infiltration, an issue caused by rainwater entering the system through illegal connections, loose joints, and cracked pipes. This issue can potentially cause sewage backups for some residents during severe storm events. We’ve been told that some sections of our sewer system may need to be entirely replaced – an expensive endeavor that will take time to complete.

Given the urgency of this issue, however, we’ve asked our engineers to identify which of their recommendations can be acted on quickly to deliver much-needed relief for residents who are experiencing problems. The approved funds will allow us to move forward without further delay. In the meantime, we’ll be engaging a third-party grant writing firm to help secure funding for the more significant needs identified in the report.

The remaining funds we approved Tuesday night ($350,000) will be used to finance portions of the Village-wide flood mitigation study we launched last month. We expect this expense to be partially offset by funding available through a stormwater grant program managed by the Westchester County Planning Department. The study is already underway, and we’ve been told we should receive preliminary recommendations before the end of the year.

Village Finances

Given the infrastructure work that lies ahead, it’s important to provide an update on the Village’s finances. As you know, the last few years have been challenging. Our reserves have been diminished over the years by unanticipated emergency infrastructure expenses. In late 2019, the situation was made dramatically worse by a spike in the cost of our garbage services three months before COVID-19 undercut many of our non-property tax revenue streams. At the end of our last fiscal year, our diminished reserves made us “susceptible to fiscal stress,” according to the New York State Comptroller. We’ve had to make many difficult decisions to stabilize our finances and rebuild our reserves. Among them, we adopted a new fund balance policy in January, laying out a 3-year goal to bring our reserves up to 16% of our operating budget (in line with New York State’s recommendation). We knew at the time that achieving this goal would require us to turn our operating deficits into surpluses as quickly as possible.

And that’s precisely what we’ve done. We’re closing out this fiscal year’s books with an expected surplus of over $700,000 – our first surplus since 2017. This moves us almost halfway to our 3-year goal in just one year. This is quick on the heels of other good news. In case you missed it, Standard and Poor’s recently decided to affirm our excellent credit rating of AA+, which is the second highest rating a municipality can receive. They pointed specifically to the management decisions and priorities we’ve established in the last few years as the reasons for their assessment: redeveloping our downtown to expand our tax base, addressing the condition of our infrastructure, the Village Board’s difficult decision to exceed the tax cap last year, and the adoption of our new fund balance policy. While we need to remain diligent in our stewardship of the community’s resources, I have never felt better about our Village’s finances, and it’s assuring to get such an explicit vote of confidence from Standard & Poor’s. Securing this rating puts us in an excellent position to move forward with our work to address the Village’s many infrastructure challenges and will save us money for years to come.

We would not be in this position if it weren’t for the exceptional fiscal guidance and management provided by our Village Administrator/Treasurer Chris Scelza and Deputy Village Treasurer Kieya Glaze. Please share your thanks with them when you get the opportunity.

Summer Fun

Of course, there’s also plenty of fun to be had this summer, so as a final note: If you’re planning to be in Pelham, please join us for the Summer Sundown Concert Series, organized by the Village of Pelham Council on the Arts. Last week’s performance by the Jonathan Finkelman Trio was a pitch-perfect way to relax at the end of a long week and enjoy great food and drinks from local businesses. The second concert in the series will take place on Saturday, July 23rd, from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm, and will feature a classical string trio from Concordia Conservatory. The series’ final concert is set for Saturday, August 6th, and Wolfs Lane Park will be filled with Samba music. I hope you can make it.

Thanks for your time, and please have a wonderful summer, Pelham.

Best,
Chance