After an hour-long discussion with the Committee last night, three of five Cortlandt council members indicated they would be willing to vote for the town to contribute $15,000 of taxpayer money to the first phase of the Committee’s project. Supervisor Linda Puglisi has been supportive of contributing the money from the start, but council members have raised concerns over the total cost of the project and spending tax dollars on the memorial.
After last night' conversation councilmembers John Sloan and Frank Farrell were amenable to the idea of contributing, but councilwoman Ann Lindau still “needs to think about,” before stating a position, she said. Councilman Dr. Richard Becker did not attend the work session.
The ,would commemorate four local men lost on or as a result of 9/11 and would featurfrom the World Trade Center, a sun dial, bronze statue and meditation garden. Croton has agreed to contribute $3,900 and Buchanan agreed to $1,100, according to Puglisi.
At the start of last night’s meeting, Janet Mainiero, Chair of the volunteer BCC 9/11 Committee, asked the town board why they were reluctant to sign an inter municipal agreement that committed Cortlandt to a $15,000 contribution, and what the board needed hear to persuade them to sign it. She and the project’s architect James Rhodes expressed that they were hurt by the town’s reluctance. At one point Mainiero said “this is painful,” and asked for the board to allow Puglisi to sign an IMA that doesn't call for money.
“This is our taxpayers money involved,” said Councilwoman Ann Lindau. We have a fiduciary responsibility to the taxpayers. They haven’t’ come forward to support this project but it is now falling back to (them).”
The Committee has been for the project for two years, and has raised $20,000 for memorial, originally estimated to cost about $200,000, they said. Many large donors they expected did not come through, they said. So the Committee has worked hard to reduce costs as much as possible by finding volunteers and non-monetary donations, Mainiero and Rhodes said.
They have a volunteer construction team, engineer, surveyor, architect and others. They have also found a contractor to donate a crane to reduce costs. The crane donation brought the Committee’s request from Cortlandt down to $10,200 from $15,000, which the Committee requested but the board voted to keep off the town board agenda last week.
Since fundraising has been slow and the town was hesitant to agree to $15,000, the Committee split the project into two phases, Rhodes said. The first phase includes the boulder, sundial and steel girder from the World Trade Center, with very little landscaping, Mainiero said. The second phase would include a bronze sculpture of a woman and a meditation garden.
“I want to see it up and saluted. I don’t want to see it lying on the floor.” Rhodes said of the steel girder.
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Councilman John Sloan said he would support the $15,000 if that was the last portion of funds needed to complete the project. The Town Comptroller said the Committee’s estimates were not complete, Sloan said, which worried him.
Ann Lindau reiterated Sloan’s point about the estimates. She asked the Committee to provide more solid estimates for both phases of the project, including the group's expenses.
“We never had an accurate budget,” Lindau said. Architect James Rhodes later “refuted” that point, and said that the Committee does have a professionally estimated budget and worked hard to reduce expenses as much as possible.
“There is nothing smelly going on here,” architect James Rhodes said.
“I am not accusing you of anything smelly,” Lindau said.
““We are burning ourselves out trying to get something done by Sept. 11,” Rhodes said.
Councilman Frank Farrell acknowledged the Committe's volunteer work.
“I 100 percent support the project and admire the committee for the time they spent,” Farrell said.
Farrell also addressed an accusation he said he has heard that the town board was unsupportive of the memorial because it would be located in Croton. He said this is untrue.
“(The Croton Landing location) ties together Cortlandt with the World Trade Center well,” Farrell said, adding that the board always supported the location and still does.
In addition to his supportive words, Farrell expressed concerns over the cost estimates, saying they did not look “realistic" to him. However, Farrell said he would agree to an amended IMA that stated the town would contribute the final $15,000 to phase 1 of the memorial.
Sloan also said he would support the amended IMA as well. Lindau said she would need to think more about it. Puglisi maintained her support for contributing the $15,000.
“I am supportive of the project and contributing taxpayer money for our portion of the project, “ Supervisor Puglisi said. "Taxpayers put it in our hands to make judgements about what will benefit our community," Puglisi said, expressing her support.
The board will most likely hold a special town board meeting in order to make a final vote on an amended IMA. The Committee said they would be reluctant to move forward with their project until that is finalized. Patch will keep you updated on the board's final decision.