Monroe board considers Climate Smart Communities Program and bickers about Rye Hill Preserve hearing

Monroe. A Climate Smart Community effort was suggested to the Town Board, and agenda changes led to confusion and a quarrel.

| 07 Dec 2022 | 12:03

The December 5 Town Board meeting featured a presentation from the Monroe Conservation Commission, residents expressing concerns, and a short but heated discussion related to the Rye Hill Preserve.

During the meeting, Fred Schuepfer, a member of the Monroe Conservation Commission, gave a presentation about the benefits of adopting a Climate Smart Communities Program.

“It’s a state program that includes having options of loans and matching grants...when developing programs that can get us towards taking action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and also to adapt to the changing climate,” Schuepfer said.

According to Schuepfer, 363 communities in New York are already registered for the program, including several in Orange County such as Woodbury, Warwick, and Tuxedo. Benefits of the program include saving taxpayer money, better preparation for energy and flood emergencies, and creating a greener, healthier outdoor space for residents.

“It’s really an opportunity to take credit for what we’ve done, state our intentions in a positive and easy way, and even take the next step and be the leader of the towns and villages of our county,” Schuepfer said.

Comments, confusion and conflict

Following the presentation, near the end of the meeting, a couple of residents made comments related to town issues. One was Carol Hawxhurst, who questioned why the Rye Hill Preserve was removed from that night’s agenda. She said that, prior to that night, a board member had informed her and members of Preserve Monroe that the project would be discussed during the meeting.

“So I thought Rye Hill was on the agenda tonight, and I’m just wondering, what happened? Obviously, it’s not tonight, but I’m just hoping that you will provide us plenty of notice as we were told before next meeting,” she said. Hawhurst also suggested that the town board host virtual meetings for residents unable to attend in-person.

Maureen Richardson, a fellow resident, brought up a few concerns, starting with the relay of information between the board and residents.

“One of the most important things Mr. Cardone said last meeting was that the town is not supposed to be answering all of these questions for us, as much as they’re supposed to provide tools for the residents to educate themselves. But I think as a resident, we’ve heard many complaints about how the Freedom of Information Act sometimes gets stopped by the town when people try to look into Rye Hill,” she said.

Richardson also said that, despite paying the same taxes as those living on town roads, residents living on county roads do not receive the same services from the town’s highway department.

“If we have a problem with a county road, like a dead animal or we want our leaves collected, that does not happen for us through the town. It just happens through the county which has very long waiting times to address something like a dead animal,” she said.

Opening responses, councilman Mike McGinn said that Rye Hill was never meant to be on that night’s agenda.

“The reason it was not on the agenda is because we did not receive a response back to the planners...when we receive something back, then we will certainly duly notify everyone,” he said.

McGinn also mentioned that the board’s past live-streaminjg of meetings was a pandemic-related, state mandate that was eventually revoked.

Tony Cardone, town supervisor, continued where McGinn left off with Rye Hill.

“You had a councilwoman that actually took the time to contact Preserve Monroe and say that it was on the agenda. Now, my response when I was asked about it was ‘it looks like they’re on the agenda.’ And then at 1:43 on Thursday, I get an email from SunBrook saying that they would like to be removed from the agenda,” Cardone explained. “People want to make the assumption that I changed the agenda, I never changed the agenda. The agenda was never posted...note that the agenda is not posted until Thursday before that meeting.”

Following this, Cardone and councilwoman Mary Bingham argued about the misunderstanding that the Rye Hill Preserve would be ready for public hearing that night.

“I do have your email and it says, your exact words: ‘Mary, Jen said you called, looks like Rye Hill will be on the agenda December 5th,” Bingham said.

“‘Looks like it.’ I gotta tell you, I’m extremely disappointed. I confided in you to let you know, and then you put it out there to them,” Cardone responded.

“Let me finish...when I found out it was not, I notified them and I said ‘sorry, it was some misinformation, I apologize,” Bingham said.

“I got people writing stuff on Facebook that Mr. Cardone did this, Mr. Cardone did that, Mr. Cardone had direct contact with them. I didn’t have any direct contact. I’m tired of lies, we’re supposed to be working together,” Cardone said. “Mary, I’m dealing with 50 things on a Thursday. Did you call? Why didn’t you call when you saw the agenda?” he continued.

“I called Jen, and Jen talked to you. You emailed me...when I found out it wasn’t on the agenda, I told that one person ‘sorry, something happened and it’s not on the agenda,” Bingham said.

Cardone concluded the conversation by claiming Bingham “made this board look like a fool,” and adjourned the meeting.

On December 6, Cardone sent an email to residents apologizing for his behavior that night, saying that his behavior did not reflect how one should conduct business.

“We welcome open, honest dialogue through the proper channels. As a reminder, your primary source of information regarding town business should never be social media. Our doors at Town Hall are always open for meaningful conversation and access to accurate information,” Cardone wrote.

Email to residents from Tony Cardone:
Dear Residents & Community Members,
At the Monday, December 5, 2022 Town Board Meeting, I regretfully let my emotions get the best of me during an exchange with another board member. Please accept my sincere apology. That moment’s behavior is not reflective of my character nor my beliefs regarding the way town business should be conducted.
We welcome open, honest dialogue through the proper channels. As a reminder, your primary source of information regarding town business should never be social media. Our doors at Town Hall are always open for meaningful conversation and access to accurate information.
We will continue to move forward with the best interests of our town in mind.
Wishing you a joyous holiday season,
Tony Cardone
Supervisor, Town of Monroe