Dear Village of Old Westbury Residents,
Greetings, and Happy Spring! As your Board of Trustees, we wanted to take this opportunity to provide you with a recap of some of the actions we have taken to enhance our community by addressing challenges and implementing change. As your fiduciaries, we are always mindful to evaluate our decisions through the lens of the residents – because we represent you, and we are residents ourselves. Our interests are aligned in that we all want the same things: to live in a safe, beautiful environment that is prudently managed fiscally, legally, and politically, and where everyone’s voice is heard and valued.
In that spirit, below are just some of the actions the Board has taken to enhance our community and adapt to the changing times.
New Chief of Police/Technological Advances/Cost Savings
- This year, the Board broke with long-standing precedent and, instead of automatically selecting a new Chief of Police from within the department’s ranks, conducted an exhaustive search for the best candidate to tackle the increase in crime and elevate the department’s tools, policies, and procedures. Our decision has already proven to be the right one.
- Chief Stuart Cameron served Suffolk County from 1985-2022 and as their Chief for approximately 10 years. Throughout his career, Chief Cameron won numerous awards and wrote numerous publications. His latest article in the NYS Chief’s Chronicle titled “Artificial Intelligence and Law Enforcement” was the cover story and prominently featured Old Westbury on the cover. We encourage everyone to read it and it can be found on our website. His knowledge and expertise have already brought positive changes to our department and most importantly the safety of our residents. In his short tenure to date, he has already overhauled our department, making it operate more efficiently, reducing unnecessary costs and expenses and adding technology to protect all of us. For example, since Chief Cameron assumed the role, monthly overtime expenses have decreased by more than 30%, saving the Village tens of thousands of dollars per month. From day one Chief Cameron has taken the time to meet residents and if you haven’t met him yet, please take the time to do so.
- To our benefit, Chief Cameron chose to come out of retirement. Because he retired from the Suffolk police department, our only financial responsibility is his salary and when he chooses to retire from our department there will be zero payout. Just our last two Chief’s resulted in payouts of over half a million dollars. Most importantly he is an extraordinary asset for our Village, and we are grateful to have someone of his caliber onboard. We all want to be safe in our homes and our community and there is no one better to lead that charge.
Village Legal Counsel Restructuring/Cost Savings
- As of April 1st , the Board has retained Spellman Gibbons Polizzi Truncale & Trentacoste, LLP as our Village counsel. Specializing in municipal, labor and employment law we are thrilled with the services they have been providing us and changes they have recommended that are cost saving, efficient and that streamline our procedures all in the interest of our residents.
- Going forward, the Board will be engaging law firms with specific expertise when necessary. This aligns with the Board’s goals to ensure that we take advantage of valuable experience and knowledge in the most cost-effective way for our Village. Breaking from tradition, all firms now report directly to the Board, as opposed to channeling everything through Village Counsel. This approach is financially and practically superior.
Dealing with Litigation Against the Village
- The Board, in conjunction with expert insurance counsel, has successfully negotiated with our insurance carriers to assume payment of litigation fees as of April 2023. This is a savings of approximately $20,000 per month. We will continue to keep the residents apprised of our efforts to recover hundreds of thousands of dollars already paid.
- This Board is aligned in its refusal to pay millions of dollars to settle meritless lawsuits and will remain steadfast in defending the Village against baseless claims.
Village Law Reviews
- The Board is regularly enacting and/or modifying Village laws that make sense for our community.
- For example, we recently amended the Village Towing Law and reverted to the law as it was prior to the changes implemented two years ago. The law provided little in revenue and created dangerous situations for our officers, as well as diverted valuable police resources. With the most recent amendment, we received approximately $17,000 in fees this past March from towing companies interested in doing business in our Village.
- Additionally, we now require all film production in our Village to undergo a stringent screening process and seek Board approval.
- The Board is regularly reviewing our code, looking at our surrounding municipalities and anticipating the needs of our residents.
- In the past few months, many changes have occurred in our staffing, all with the goal to insure that our Village operates at its best. Fara Gaertner, our new Village administrator, brings valuable experience as an administrator from Williston Park for over 20 years. Leah Leston, a longtime employee, has been promoted to Deputy Clerk and Samantha Cesario has been hired as our Court Clerk. The staff understands that our residents are the top priority. We are pleased to inform you that we now have the best team in the history of our Village. We encourage you to get to know our staff and reach out to them with questions and concerns.
- The Board has overseen the implementation of new technology to increase transparency with residents. As technology changes we strive to stay ahead for the benefit of our residents. We encourage all residents to sign up for the Village App, Eye on Water and provide our police department with all of your vehicular information. As we phase out the VOW stickers that have proven to increase crime in our surrounding municipalities, the more information our police department has, the better they can serve you. Our new flock cameras, that are monitored in real time, will inform our Police Department that it is VOW residents vehicle if you are in our database. Please note, if your vehicle is stolen having your plate registered with our Police Department will assist in your vehicle recovery.
- One of the main responsibilities of your Board members is to stay abreast of political issues that may positively or adversely impact our Village, and to advocate for our community.
- As such, we are constantly interacting/developing relationships with elected officials and their representatives in the County and State. All of us have had the privilege of serving the Village for many years, either as Trustees or on our sub-boards. This has given us the ability to develop valuable contacts that assist us in obtaining monies and advocating for our Village that better our Village and lessen the burden of our tax dollars and promote our safety.
- The Board’s success in this arena was recently on display when our outreach to Senator Martins and other political allies resulted in the removal of SUNY Old Westbury from consideration for migrant housing. We thank Senator Martins and our other friends for their efforts and continued support.
- We are excited to let you know that Bacon Road, Bass Pond, Morgan Drive and I.U. Willets Road will receive much needed overhauls in the next few months, all resulting from our ability to secure grant monies and our constant interaction with Nassau County to insure they do their part on the county roads that run through our Village.
We are currently working on securing funding for improvements to our Police Department that we hope we will be able to share with you shortly.
Department of Public Works
- The Board approved the purchase of new machinery that will enable our DPW crew to repair our roads without the need to utilize outside contractors where possible. This will allow for more road repair and save the Village money. Tackling our roads is always a priority.
- We are pleased to inform you that our revenue in our building department has increased by over 40% this past year and all permits are current. The Board has been working with the building department to streamline the application process. Our continued commitment is to ensure that any current or future resident going through the building permit process receives expedited services.
- The Board has negotiated an unprecedented yearly PILOT payment with NYIT. The new contract, executed in March of 2023, resulted in a yearly PILOT payment of $270,000 yearly for the next 15 years. Additionally, since the negotiations have been ongoing for two years, upon execution the Village received a payment of $308,000 in March for the past two years. We are excited about our current relationship with NYIT. We were able to maintain the integrity of our Village, secure a yearly payment that is more than double previous payments (prior yearly payments were $110,000 per year) and foster a relationship with the University that will allow them to grow and provide much needed services to their student body.
- Together with our Chief of Police, this past month the Board negotiated a contract with our Dispatch Department. This is the first time our Dispatch Department has ever had a formal agreement. Hiring and maintaining dispatchers has been a constant struggle for our Village and our surrounding municipalities. This issue has led us to use our Police Officers to assume dispatch roles for over 20 years. Not only has this resulted in exorbitant overtime expenses but it has kept our Police Officers from doing their job- policing and keeping us safe. We are happy to inform you that our part-time dispatchers are assuming more shifts. We have received more candidates for dispatch positions than ever in our history. Once we have the opportunity to study the significant benefits to our Village, we will share that with our residents.
Each year the board spends several months preparing the budget for the upcoming fiscal year commencing June 1st . We do our best to take into consideration every potential expense and have to make some difficult choices to ensure that the needs of the Village are met and we continue to maintain and build our existing infrastructure. We are pleased to inform you that for the fiscal year ending May 31, 2023, we have a surplus of approximately $700,000. Additionally, we continue to maintain a Village reserve fund of approximately $4 million.
Serving as a member of the Village Board is both an honor and a great responsibility. The list above is a sampling of the myriad of issues we address on behalf of our fellow residents each and every single day. We are an active, engaged, and collaborative Board working together to find consensus for the good of the entire community. We have always and will continue to make ourselves available to all residents and to do our best to address the needs and concerns of all. We want you to share your concerns, offer your incite and provide assistance where possible. We all have the same common goals and want what is best for our Village. We strive to be transparent and follow the law.
Always feel free to come to the Board or staff with any concerns. Attending the Board of Trustees meetings that occur on the third Monday of every month, barring holidays, is the best way to voice any concerns, have your questions answered and of course a record is maintained as a stenographer is present at every meeting. There is a tremendous amount of misinformation out there and there is no one better to ensure that you are properly informed than those with firsthand knowledge.