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Harlem Valley scores major county grants

“The awarded projects will provide much-needed improvements and enhancements to our local municipalities and fire and rescue agencies.” — Marc Molinaro, Dutchess County Executive

HARLEM VALLEY — Millerton, North East, Pine Plains and Amenia are just some of the municipalities in northeastern Dutchess County that were recognized in the $4.6 million worth of Municipal Investment Grant (MIG) awards announced by Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro — the most ever awarded through the county’s nine-year-old program.

Thirty-eight projects were awarded funds to help bring them to fruition, with a focus on fire and rescue projects. The goal, according to Molinaro’s office, is to “promote efficiencies and long-term sustainability, agency capacity and capability, shared services and community development, while ultimately generating savings for taxpayers.”

The county executive has been an ardent advocate of shared services during his tenure in office; this is but another example of how Molinaro has made the philosophy work in reality.

He has also used the MIG Program to focus county funds on making improvements to a long list of initiatives that promise to add to the quality of life for county residents, including: existing local parks and rec areas, community centers and pedestrian connections; Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accessibility improvements at public facilities; planning/construction to develop new/expanded/alternative central water and wastewater systems; general shared services saving taxpayer dollars and efficiencies; and flood mitigation and resiliency measures to contain drainage.

“The awarded projects will provide much-needed improvements and enhancements to our local municipalities and fire and rescue agencies,” stated Molinaro.

Millerton/North East

The village of Millerton and the town of North East were among the communities that received the county funds, as was the North East Fire District, which serves both the town and the village.

“We got three grants; the village got one, the fire district got one and the town got one,” explained North East town Supervisor Chris Kennan. “I can’t speak for the fire district, but the one for the village was to help with the engineering of the wastewater project, so that’s enormously significant and a huge help… it helps the town and the village move forward on that important initiative.”

As Kennan explained it, “you can’t build something without doing the engineering.” The village has been working with the environmental consulting firm Tighe & Bond on its wastewater project for the past few years and has engaged it to do the engineering work to bring a sewer solution to the community. The town has done likewise.

The county awarded $200,000 in its Traditional Municipal Projects category, for work that falls specifically in the General Shared Services and Community Development arena, to the village of Millerton and town of North East for Wastewater Collection and Treatment System Preliminary Design work.

According to Kennan, the town also received funds to put toward the shared town/village highway garage on Route 22, to help install fencing around the new site.

“The town got a grant to fence the new highway garage,” said the town supervisor, pleased with the county award. “Fencing is quite important, to keep the equipment safe — and we will have a lot of valuable equipment up there and we want to keep it secure and make sure that children can’t get in there and play on this big heavy equipment, which could be very dangerous.”

That portion of North East’s MIG award came to $140,000.

“I hope it will cover it,” said Kennan. “Their grants generally are paid out after the work is complete, after it is finished, which will hopefully be some time in the fall.”

The third part of the grant for the twin community went to the North East Fire District (NEFD), to help it purchase Fire Rescue Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

The $94,996 award will help buy volunteers serving in the Millerton Fire Company and Rescue Squad the essential PPE.

“It was a wonderful thing to receive the news that the NEFD had been awarded this grant,” said NEFD Fire Commissioner Josh Schultz, adding the grant will “reduce the turn-around time of readiness of our firefighters in the event of multiple calls in a small time frame.”

Schultz further explained “when we respond to fires and other calls that require us to utilize our structural firefighting gear, which falls under the general umbrella of PPE, sometimes the gear has to be washed immediately after the call. Also there are very rare instances in which the gear becomes damage and ultimately has to be replaced.”

As it can take up to 48 hours — even with the modern washing equipment the district has in-house -— to turn around clean gear, the MIG award is especially appreciated. The issue is so dire, said Schultz, the NEFD “recently started contracting with a company that can clean up to 25 sets of gear at once [to] potentially reduce downtime of a firefighter’s gear and their ability to respond to alarms.”

The fire commissioner and one-time village trustee added not only did the MIG awarded to the NEFD help offset its financial burden, it helped the entire community.

“The MIG grant this year was particularly good to our area, between us, the village of Millerton and the town of North East, we are pleased and thankful that all of us were awarded monies to carry out and continue our projects,” Schultz said. “It’s not that often I feel that such an injection of grant money is leveled across three municipalities that are so closely linked, and the common constituents we serve will see large improvements and a progression of projects from this.”  


Just 14 miles south, the town of Amenia is likewise celebrating good news from the county, as its fire company was also awarded an MIG to assist it obtain essential equipment.

Amenia Fire District No. 1 was awarded $74,767 to purchase a High-Pressure Breathing Air Compressor System.

The county described the project as the “purchase of a new breathing air compressor system to ensure the proper and safe refilling of self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) cylinders.”

Amenia town Supervisor Victoria Perotti was clearly enthusiastic about Amenia being among the 38 recipients on Molinaro’s list of emergency services and municipalities awarded grants.

“Congratulations to the Amenia Fire Company on receiving a $74,767 MIG grant for High Pressure Breathing Air Compressor System!” she wrote in an email sent to those in the fire company and on the Amenia Town Board on Wednesday, July 27, after hearing word of the news one day prior.

Pine Plains

The town of Pine Plains also received two grants, both for its fire district and for the town itself.

Brian Walsh is both the longtime fire chief and the newly-elected town supervisor in Pine Plains. He spoke about how much the nearly $160,000  will help the community. Walsh said he was fairly confident the county would spread out the funding and figured it could easily reach his town, since it was the first round of grants. He just “didn’t know how much we would receive.”

The Pine Plains Fire District ended up receiving $107,000 for a Utility Terrain Vehicle (UTV) and for a SCBA station like the one Amenia got. The county described  the project as “creating greater efficiency, as well as the purchase of a [UTV], which will aid in a safer and more timely response to emergency calls on Stissing Mountain.”

Walsh said the UTV will be dedicated to rescuing stranded hikers and others who are in  need of aid atop Stissing Mountain or any other rugged terrain.

“We’re seeing [the need for such rescues] more and more as sightseers come up, with twisted ankles, back injuries, falls,” he said.

Walsh said what used to be four to five reports of stranded or injured people on the mountain a year has increased by one or two annually for the past number of years.

“The sightseers have probably doubled over the year, especially during COVID,” he said.

Two to three people can sit in the front of a UTV, according to Walsh, who said the fire company “wants to get a second row of seats in it, to get more manpower.” The UTV will also be available “if we get called for mutual aid, to any other department that requests it.”

The second MIG award went to Pine Plains in the Traditional Municipal Projects category, under the General Shared Services and Community Development subheading. A total of $50,000 will help pay for new Girls Softball Dugouts and Lighting. Welsh said the softball players have always been without a dugout in the town of Pine Plains.

The county described the project as the “construction of lights and dugouts at the softball field at Stissing Lake Park [to] allow for a greater number of games to be played in a single day, benefiting teams, families and the community.”

Walsh said the project was something he planned on doing before he was elected to office this January.

“I thought it’s time to get it done,” he said. “We’ve got to have the girls field and boys field be equal; right now only the boys Little League has dugouts and that’s not fair to the girls.”

When asked if he would describe Pine Plains residents as being invested into their baseball and softball games, Walsh responded “heavily,” adding the spirit on the field carries over to a kind of camaraderie in the high school and even into the town at large.

“In the last five to six years it really picked up, to where it was when I was in the program [as a kid],” he said. “Now you go down there any game night and you cannot find a spot. It’s rough to say, there are probably 40 to 50 cars on each side of the road, as an estimate. When I was a kid was a long time ago, probably 30 years ago. It’s about time [that spirit returned], and that’s what the whole town needs.

“I’d like to thank Marc Molinaro and Chair of the Dutchess County Legislature Gregg Pulver [R-19], for putting this program together and looking out for smaller towns,” he concluded.

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