Monday, January 31, 2011

Can I Quote You?

I have been attending almost every Village Board meeting for over 3 and 1/2 years.  At first I used to type all the highlights of those meetings in the Forums.  Later, after the forums closed, I started this blog.  I realized that all I had been doing was duplicating what the reporters do.  I wanted this blog to be something more factual, not just an opinion or slant on what was going on with our village and its government.  As a result, I started digital recording of all the meetings.  This gives you the chance to listen in to the meetings as if you were there!  When someone speaks at those public meetings, it should not be a surprise to them when they hear a recording of what they said on this blog.  Nobody can say, "I did not say that" or "the blogger made that up", or "that is not what I meant".   Just a reminder, if you see me at a public meeting, everything that you say is being recorded, not only by me,  the VB also records those meetings..... 

So if you are one of the Few people that believe I can recreate peoples voices to make them say stupid shit, I am hear to tell you that I can not do that.  The voices that you hear on the recordings from the village meetings are the real person saying the really stupid shit.  Give me a friggin break......  Remember, these are public meetings and the person[s] speaking are totally responsible for what they say.  I am not be responsible for anything that you say, profound or otherwise.....

Stephen Hawking is a world renowned physicist and unable to speak. He uses a special program that converts his words that he types to create a [robotic] voice.   If there was software out their that could perfectly mimic someones voice, don't you think that he would have it.

Massive Restructuring

Streamlining management and administration,  National Grid has realized that they can not continue to do things the way they have always done them.  This is just another example of rethinking and downsizing of a large corporation.  Something that our village needs to do.  Just because something has been done a certain way "for as long as somebody can remember".  It does not mean that it is the best way to do it "now".  Which is in reference to the second in command position at the DPW.  Click here for coverage of the Restructuring of National Grid.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

DPW Second in Command

At the last VB meeting [1.11.11] Village Trustees voted not to hire a DPW Job Foreman at this time.  One major reason given was that other municipalities are laying off workers.  Why should we be different?  The current foreman position is vacant because of a retirement.  The only one voting in favor of hiring a foreman now is the mayor.

The argument at tonight's meeting, who will make sure that daily DPW operations are completed when Superintendent Millett is absent [ie: time off].  Call me foolish.... but doesn't the VB hire adults to work for the DPW?  Children need day to day supervision.  Am I to understand that our DPW crew can not go a couple of days and do their job without the "boss" holding their hands to make sure they complete their duties?  I do understand that certain emergency situations arise that require some quick decision making.  For instance, the recent water main break on the corner of Church and Walton Streets.  When I walked by that evening, everything was under control.  The mayor was there supervising the DPW superintendent.  Job was done in record time....Listen to the audio....

The Job Foreman from Jim Cummings on Vimeo.

We have an "acting" supervisor when our boss is away for a day or two [or more]. There are 3 of my fellow workers on this list. All on the civil service list for that job, but were not chosen by our administration. The mayor is one of them. None of them get any extra pay for their "headaches" while performing these duties. As a matter of fact, when it is their turn to be "acting supervisor" they perform their regular duties along with the short term supervisory duties. By the way, Trustee Drake, I know for sure that 2 of the 3 are very capable of "blowing in" their fellow workers.....

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Opinions are like?

 As some of you know...I post these blog topics on Facebook so a non-anonymous discussion can take place.  It works out pretty good.  A former local politician chastised me via email, saying, "Jim, it is my opinion that you allow people with an agenda or an axe to grind a venue that they do not deserve".  That must be the Freedom of Speech Venue that the ex-politico is referring to.  So now he can blame Facebook.  Recently, a friend on Facebook was expressing some outrage after listening to the audio of a recent VB meeting.  One of his friends responded with this: "I guess when you get all your information from local blogs and don't come to any meetings it would be quite hard to make an informed decision as blogs are "opinions" and not always facts". How much more factual can a digital recording be?  Those quotes are real and therefore factual.  The names have been withheld because I am a benevolent blogger...HA!  
The following letter to the editor was in this weeks TI Sun.  I can reproduce it here because a copy was sent to me by the author several days before it went to print.  In my opinion,  I agree with Carol's opinion and that is a FACT JACK.  To quote another former politician.... "You can take that to the bank"!  Hog-Wash..... referring to anyone who had an opinion that went against his....
The Riverwalk seems to be up for discussion these days so would like to make some comments on that and a few other things that are bothering me about the Bay.
Miller Avenue is a disgrace, the broken down building at the top of the hill, the old trailer that has been there for years and the junk laying around.  The dumpsters on the left side of the road are always overflowing, they are not adequate for what they are being used for.   The Old Homestead property needs to be spruced up and the sign for the Spot should be taken down before it falls down.   Howell Avenue, which is village owned has been neglected for years along with the house on the corner.  How anyone could let that old house come into such disrepair should be ashamed of themselves.    The old Monticello Hotel with some of the windows boarded up, will this be part of the Riverwalk?
The old chamber bldg. could be fixed up and used as a welcome center and also a satellite for the police department.  I think it would be comforting to people to see police visible and interacting with the tourist.  It would project a good image.  There are only a few businessmen downtown who take pride in the appearance of their property, I just wish more would follow their good example. I try and walk everyday and it makes me sad to see how things look on our main street.  When I walk down Bethune St. to the post office it is so refreshing to see how well everything is maintained on that street.
In closing, I am not referring to the sandwich boards or the clothing on the street, I am talking about the general look of our streets, people do not even sweep the sand of the streets in the spring after the long winter.  I wish we could generate some pride in what we have instead of spending money on something that, in my opinion, we do not need.
A concerned citizen and taxpayer
Carol Shepard

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Riverwalk News Release Notes Revised

Below is the document I wanted all of you to read.  It was sent to me back in April 2009 by Brent Sweet former trustee. The title of this topic is also the name of the file that Brent sent.  Also, in the first line below is the phrase Brent and I.  The "I" is not a reference to me, but I suppose it is a reference to former trustee, the late Cindy Chaltain. These were all the FACTS that were supposed to be shared with the media and the public

These are notes from Jane Rice at EDR who wrote the grant – this was taken from the notes that Brent and I had discussed

1. The Village of Alexandria Bay was informed by a representative of NYSDOT that it has been awarded $$ for the proposed Riverwalk Project. The Village Board (like other communities) was given approximately 24 hours in which to decide which program to follow: the stimilus program or the conventional TEP program.

2. The Village Board after serious deliberation decided to follow the TEP program for the following reasons:
    a. The stimulus program mandates that 100% of the project must be completed within three years from February 2009 AND if it isn't the Village will have to pay back the entire amount of $$. Due to the many nuances invovled with this project, such as land easements, breakwalls, short construction season etc. the challenge of actually completing this project is three construction seasons is extremely risky.
    b. The TEP program is the same program that has been functioning for many years. The time constraints are more practical and we are familiar with the agency representatives.
    c. The Village is confident that it can meet the 20% match through a combination of value of land easements, material donations, local village labor and equipment costs.

3. The Village Board's intentions were to wait until reciept of a written award letter and then to hold a press release. To date the Village Board is still waiting for the award letter to confirm the telephone notice it recieved in March. We will inform the community of the details as soon as we recieve the official award letter. In the meantime, the Village Board will be seeking community volunteers to participate on the Riverwalk Project Committee.

These were our thoughts from Brent with input from Cindy --
not enough time- needed to be completed by 2/17/12
the village needs to get right of ways and easements from
  • River Hospital board of directors, that means surveys, deeds drawn up and approvals by lawyers and boards
  • Historical society for riverwalk plus same as above
  • Ron & Rick Thomson and Mrs. T Thomson Estate plus same as above, estate could slow process down dramatically
  • the village needs to get RFP (requests for proposals)
  • Part of required process to prepare to put project out for bid
  • To put out for bid we need to have all engineering and architecture specs done and approved-very time consuming
  • chances of having all this done by summer are pretty slim

Suppose bids come in to high and we need more $$$ and we have to revise and put out to bid again, happened with pavilion project, or suppose we have faulty workmanship as we did with concrete floor at pavilion and we have to tear out and completely redo
Suppose contactors are busy with other stimulus/ state projects and prices are high above $$$ estimates done at time of grant submission(about 9 months ago) or bidders are few because of the surge in projects due to other stimulus/state/Fort Drum projects.
how long of a working season do we have in abay for this kind of outside work, 6 months or so per year not including how much can be done this season. Yes contractors can work year round but ask them what the costs go to for those winter months and then the costs/$$$ comes into play

Remember if project isn’t 100 percent completed by 2/17/2012 we (taxpayers of the village) must pay back all the $$$$
We talked to EDR and they have other communities that turned down fed stimulus $$$ for similar reasons and they recommended we do the same after very thorough analysis of our project

No one spent any time looking into federal grant because we applied for this grant for the 3rd or 4th time in 5-8 years. Remember federal stimulus $$$ were not available till a month or so ago so no time looking into federal grant
The fed automatically put our state application into the fed pool, we didn’t even know about it till we got the call the day of the special meeting that they wanted an answer from us by 5 pm that day
we were told at 10 am we had to make the decision between the fed grant $$$ or state grant $$$ by 5 pm--- not much room for negotiation there
  • Our conference calls and e-mails from the state DOT says if we choose the state TEP $$$ we have them and 5 years and extensions as we got with the pavilion $$$ which we got 2 or 3 extensions for which is now complete with state grant $$$$ and matching funds of 20 percent which was the donation of the scuba park lands from the Thomsons etc. + or -
We wanted to wait for some official confirmation in writing or any type of award letter and our grant writer EDR had two other communities in the exact same situation that had declined the fed $$$$
we called the state people and asked for something in writing ASAP and we are still waiting: they are busy and we have to work with these people for five plus years on this project,
when these awards happen usually there is a public announcement with the local senator, assemblywoman and assemblymen involved for the community receiving the awarded $$$$, they have helped us with the applications over the years and with the whole process. They need to be included/involved and nothing is official yet.

For further clarity, the village must come up with 20 percent of the total $1.13 million or about $226,780

The villages 20 percent would come from at least 3 or 4 different sources as did the pavilion grant 20 percent

Those villages matching sources would be;

  1. the agreed/ approved/appraised value of the land and lands underwater in front of the River Hospital that the hospital would have to deed over to the village for the riverwalk to be on; estimated value - ???? substantial $$$$

  1. the agreed/approved/appraised value of the land owned by the historical society that the riverwalk covers as it comes off the front of the hospital and turns and goes by the Historical Cornwall bldg and down in front of the old chamber bldg making its way to James street through the alley between Imdads and the Thomson museum. – substantial $$$$

  1. the agreed/approved/appraised value of the roughly (25) 8ft x 50 ft concrete pre-stressed T’s (concrete surface where motel was torn down) that the Thomsons have donated for matching $$$ which would be the base for the riverwalk in front of the hospital and other areas along the waterfront. Again substantial $$$$. The interlocking stone pavers go on top of concrete to create the walking surface for the riverwalk

  1. also the village is allowed to submit all payroll costs(employee and employer) and equipment rental costs for matching $$$ that they use in helping throughout the project which was substantial $$$ for the pavilion project

This is the text from Doug Burgy’s e-mail from the Albany office of the NYSDOT explaining about the Federal Stimulus money.

As we discussed, there will be an accelerated time line to completion
for TEP projects funded with monies from the stimulus [American Recovery
and Reinvestment Act (ARRA)] set-aside. Such projects must generate
bills within 12 months of funds availability (March 3rd) and complete
within three years. These are drop-dead dates, because the feds will
take away unobligated balances after one year and obligated but
unexpended balances after three years and re-distribute them to other
states. In other words, in exchange for receiving 100% project funding
with stimulus funds in lieu of getting only 80% under TEP, you will have
to accept some risks.

Because the schedule for stimulus projects is still accelerated, you
will have to get going immediately after the announcement of these
projects to get work with Region 17 to get an agreement in process. You
will also have to consult with the Region about the requirements for
consultant selection, if you will be using one. Moreover, there will be
a strict accounting of job creation on a weekly, monthly, quarterly and
annual basis. This will be over and above standard EEO/DBE reporting

If you say "yes" to going with stimulus funds, and if the Village is
selected for such funding--since we will have more candidates than
available funds in the TEP set-aside not all communities who want
stimulus money will get it--you will not be able to fall back on TEP,
because all TEP funds freed up by transferring projects to the stimulus
program will be programmed for unfunded projects on our statewide list
for the current TEP funding round. You have to choose upfront whether
you want to go stimulus or TEP, and then you will receive a letter from
(I believe) the Commissioner of NYSDOT indicating that you either have
been awarded stimulus or TEP funds. At that point, for all intents and
purposes, you will be locked in to that particular fund source and its
program-specific rules and regulations.

I hope this explanation helps. Please respond ASAP, i.e., by tomorrow
morning at the latest, about whether you want to go with the stimulus
funds. Thanks.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Mayor has Secret about the Police Department

The mayor was up to his Super Secret Squirrel stuff when he blind sided board members about a change in personnel within the PD....He managed to keep the secret  till he cracked under grueling  interrogation by the audience.

police appointment from Jim Cummings on Vimeo.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Riverwalk Project 101

The Riverwalk Project has gone through many modifications since April 2009.  With all these changes comes confusion.  Below are past links to coverage of this project.  I only ask that you review the factual information that is referred to in my posts.  Study these, and educate yourself before you commit yourself to either supporting or not supporting the Riverwalk Project

Link to a story I did on April 2nd 2009 Included in this story is a link to a document provided to me by then Village Trustee Sweet. Read that document.  The document refers to the 2 grants that were available to the village.  The Federal Stimulus 100% grant [VB turned this down] and the T.E.P. 80% grant 20% village contribution.  This is the State grant that the village has for the Riverwalk Project

The following link will explain the grant we now have Transportation Enhancement Program [T.E.P.]

Another link to a Riverwalk topic I wrote on April 15th 2009 It features an interview with Channel 7 News and Richard Drake who was not a trustee at the time.

The video below is the virtual tour of the Riverwalk project with Prudent Engineering

Riverwalk Tour 5.13.10 from Jim Cummings on Vimeo.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Back to the local news

Riverwalk discussion from the 1.11.11 VB meeting. 
The first audio clip is a teaser, it is about a minute long.  The purpose of such an edited clip is to tease you into listening to the second  l o n g e r  clip.

Short Version Riverwalk from Jim Cummings on Vimeo.

Full version Riverwalk Discussion from Jim Cummings on Vimeo.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

A Few Words of Introduction

.... From Watertown Mayor Jeff Graham, Assemblywoman Addie Russell, and Senator Patty Ritchie:

Introductions prior to Gov. Coumo's Speach from Jim Cummings on Vimeo.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Walking Away from the Riverwalk Grant

Councilman Durand is amazed.... that people would be against the Riverwalk, when they do not even know how much the Village will have to contribute to the project.  I am one of those people that he is referring to.  I have this love hate relationship with this project.  At first I thought it was the dumbest thing ever.  Then, last May about 20 of us went on a virtual walk through with the people from Prudent Engineering. It was then that I saw the beauty of its potential.  That beauty was scarred by the lack of communication between the Mayor and the River Hospital.  He just assumed that the village could put the Riverwalk on top of the hospitals seawall.  I started to hate the project when the mayor then decided to move the project and make its focal point right behind the Monticello.  I hated the project even more when for unknown reasons it was abruptly canceled.  Then the project was resurrected and placed in front of the hospitals seawall, where it was intended to be all along.  To many ups and downs, and lets put it here or there, or the off again on again scenarios that we have all heard or read about.  I can not help but distrust this project and the people that are overseeing it.  Enough about all that.

I was amazed at what I saw at last nights Town Board Meeting.  What I witnessed was not so much about the Riverwalk.  What amazed me is that without much "effort" a member from each of the village and town boards shared something.  Not the shared services that I have been harping on for so long.  They shared a common concern and created a bond between the two boards that I hope will continue to grow.  Kudos to Councilman Durand and Trustee Jury........

Riverwalk .... Different Slant from Jim Cummings on Vimeo.

I received this comment via email:

Re your latest blog - if I was Jim Durand there would be no reason not to be for the Riverwalk seeing as he isn't one of the village property owners who would pay for it.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Wait Outside!

Look at the poor blogger, he looks so cold

The Village Board went into executive session to discuss some personnel issues [the hiring of another police officer and a work foreman for the DPW].  Myself, Corey Fram [TI Sun], Jaegun Lee [WDT] and Bill Ryan waited in the foyer for executive session to finish, when we were politely asked to wait outside of the building because our chatter was disturbing their meeting.  So as the four of us waited outside in the wind blowing out of the NE @ 15mph with a temperature of 15 degrees F [-1.8 wind chill], the only chatter was from our teeth.  So after 15 minutes or so, I peeked in the window, all the board members looks so warm and toasty.

I thought that when boards went into executive session,  the public was to be made comfortable enough so they did not become discouraged and leave before the board returned to regular session?  Well.... the four of us got frozen ass, discouraged and went home to tha tha tha thawwww ouTtTtTtttttt.  Maybe next time you guys and gals could find another room to hold your exec session, so the rest of us can sit and be warm and comfortable.  It is a public meeting and NO we were not going to sit in our own cars with four engines running.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Village vs Town Justice

According to Town officials,
We do not utilize any security system or have a uniformed officer present during court

Yet, the Village court has a Village Police officer present during it's night court.  The village has also appointed Brad Millett as Bailiff.  By definition, a Bailiff is a court attendant whose actual duties vary according to jurisdiction and judge but often include maintaining order in the courtroom. The Town has made no appointments for a bailiff.

Evidently the Village is taking a more pro-active rather than a re-active approach to the safety and security everyone in the court room.  According to one Village Trustee, We are not immune to tragedies just because we are a small village.
So what is the difference between the Village and Town Courts?  Actually there are no differences.  What they do have in common is they are a duplication of service.  The Town is a no frills efficiently run court room.  The Village court is glitzy as it is adorned with new furniture and judge robes and more recently the addition of the armed uniformed village police officer.
WAIT, there is something in common between the Town and Village Courts.  The elected Honorable Sherry Pennington presides over both courts.  Yet, the Town Court does not utilize any security system or have a uniformed officer present during court. Nor do they have any plans to.   If court room security is an issue in the Village Court, wouldn't the same issues be present at the Town Courts?  After all, it is the same Judge presiding over the same courts!

Hope I never have to go to Village Court
WAIT AGAIN,  the Town Court has another elected Justice, the Honorable Louis Perry.  But he would have no bearing on what goes on in the Village Courts.  Where does this need for court room security in our Village Courts come from?  Judge Pennington?  NOPE,  Judge Perry?  NOPE, so who does that leave?  A non elected, mayoral appointee  judge Butcher.  What is the real reason for the heightened security at the Village Court?  Who feels insecure, and why?

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Wintry Stroll along the Back Nine

Recently the Village and Town shared their resources and created the "Back 9" walking trail.   The photos in the slide show are from a recent walk along the trail.  Please take special note of the poem at the beginning.....

Wintry Stroll from Jim Cummings on Vimeo.

I also submitted the slide show to WWNY YouNews

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Listen UP Local Elected Officials

Redesigning Local Governments: Governor Cuomo is creating a program to reward local governments that save money by rightsizing. The Citizen Re-Organization Empowerment Grants will provide up to $100,000 to cover all or part of the costs of merger and dissolutions studies.

So set aside your your pet peeves regarding the other elected officials [town or village] and get this shared services show on the road.  The easiest department / service to consolidate is our Justice Department.  

Transformation Plan for the New NY as outlined in today's State of the State Address.

Dissolve Village into Town

It did not work for the the Village of Whitesboro.  But that does not mean it is a bad idea to explore consolidating and sharing some departments and services between our village and town!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011


That is the sound a snow plow blade makes when it hits the edge of a covered pipe and pops out an 8" section of the pipe from the sidewalk. I bet that made a hell of a noise.  So would this be like leaving the scene of an accident?  A hit and run so to speak?
Another season of let's play how much snow can we wing into the bloggers drive way?  Hope you did not damage your snow plow blade!  A lot of the snow could be winged to the vacant side of the street.  Whatever......I know it is all in good fun.....

Village Snow Plow Pranks from Jim Cummings on Vimeo.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

NYS Unified Court System an organization that brings unity and conformity to the 2,100 justices in the 1250+  City, Town, and Village court rooms in New York State.  The website can be found by clicking this link.  With a huge organization as this, there also needs to be a plan. Hence the Action Plan For Justice Courts 2006 and it's 2 year update 2008 .  The Unified Court System also has an assistance program known as the Justice Court Assistance Program [J.C.A.P.].  J.C.A.P. doles out grants to local courts that apply in amount s up to $30,000 per court annually.  The NYS Unified Court System also offers a Justice Court Security Assessment.

The following are quotes from the Action Plan 2006:

These assessments occur on-site at the Justice Court and include not just physical inspection, but also detailed discussions with court staff and other local personnel. Each assessment generates a confidential report to the Justice Court and the locality, with recommendations to improve the tribunal’s security infrastructure in ways that often are economical, simple and straightforward.

To date, however, barely 4% of Justice Courts have availed themselves of this opportunity, leaving over 1,200 Justice Courts without any security review at all.

As with other Judiciary grant programs, recipients of these Justice Court facility grants would be subject to performance standards and financial review by OCA and the State Comptroller’s Office.

My guess is, a municipality such as ours stands a better chance of receiving the J.C.A.P. grant if we also participate in the Security Assessment.  There was some debate recently regarding one of our Village Police present during court.  My argument was that this was never discussed at a VB meeting.  I was also told that I was wrong.  The following are minutes from the VB meetings where the the J.C.A.P. grant application is discussed and the security assessment is briefly discussed.

From minutes justice security

From minutes justice security

From minutes justice security

From minutes justice security

I do not see any reference to placing a Village Police officer into our court room.   Therefore I am not wrong!  I have no problem with making our court safe and secure.  I do however have issues with the cost of doing court room business.  It costs more to run our court than what it takes in with fines and surcharges.  I do not believe that the  J.C.A.P. grant compensates the village tax payers for the extra police duties in the court room. I  wonder what the Town Board plans to do with their court room regarding security. It should be the goal of both the Village and Town Boards to consolidate both Justice courts into ONE!