Mayor Vetos STR Moratorium

Today, Mayor Rector vetoed a Short-Term Rental Moratorium. This moratorium would have stopped all NEW short-term rentals from registering with the City for the next nine months while other legislation is considered.

As a member of the Legal Committee, I can confirm that yes, there have been lengthy discussions, but the minutes for the Legal Committee, for most of the past two years, are not that lengthy and go into no detail. This moratorium was never put in front of the Legal Committee, and was first introduced to the entire Common Council. Why have people sit on these committees if you’re going to bypass them?

Regardless of how you feel about Short Term Rentals – the lodging tax, sales tax, and parking income revenues decrease the City’s reliance on tax payer/property tax dollars.

In the latest budget for 2020, the City is EXPECTING an ADDITIONAL $200K in sales tax, an ADDITIONAL $60K in lodging tax and additional $20K in parking revenue to help balance the 2020 budget. We are hoping for these projected increases over last year (see page two).

If you impose a nine month moratorium on Short Term Rentals, how are you going to meet those projected budget numbers next year?

The answer is…no one has really thought it through. There has been no analysis on the financial impact of a moratorium.

The moratorium is a knee-jerk reaction to the housing issue. The City formed a Housing Task Force in 2017 which produced a Strategic Housing Plan – passed by the Common Council last year. Please read it. This document outlines strategies and goals – a game plan – for affordable housing in Hudson. At the very end, the last appendix, it mentions Short Term Rentals; it does not suggest a moratorium.

Hudson To Receive $24K Grant from ChargeNY!

Charging Stations

For Immediate Release

The Economic Development Committee of the City of Hudson, led by Fourth Ward Alderman Rich Volo, has received pre-approval from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority’s (NYSERDA) Charge Ready NY program for a $24,000 grant reimbursement for three electric vehicle charger stations – six ports – to be installed behind City Hall, in the municipal parking lot.

Mayor Rick Rector said, “The City of Hudson is grateful to NYSERDA for their financial assistance in providing three electric vehicle charging stations to be installed in the municipal lot behind City Hall. Special thanks to Alderman Rich Volo for his role in working with NYSERDA and the Economic Development Committee to facilitate this important project for the city.”

Fourth Ward Alderman Rich Volo states, “Climate change is the largest issue of our times with serious environmental, social, and political implications. We need to address it on the national and local levels and limit our reliance on fossil fuels which add to carbon emissions. These EV charger stations will make it possible for people to stop in Hudson, and charge their electric cars while eating at restaurants or shopping in town. The chargers will be useful for residential renters or property owners who might be unable to install car chargers at home.”

Launched by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo in 2018, Charge Ready NY provides $4,000 per vehicle charging port for public or private employers, building owners, municipalities and non-profit organizations to install Level 2 charging stations. NYSERDA is providing $5 million for this initiative for a total of 1,250 new charging ports throughout the state.

Alicia Barton, President and CEO, NYSERDA, said, “EV charging station installations by local communities are vital to New York’s efforts to electrify its transportation system and offer accessible and reliable charging where residents need them most while supporting consumers in their efforts to drive down harmful emissions by switching to electric vehicles. As we move toward achieving Governor Cuomo’s nation-leading clean energy target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 85 percent from 1990 levels by 2050, New York will continue to partner with local municipalities and the private sector to roll out programs and opportunities for making our local communities cleaner and healthier.”

The Hudson ports will be listed on EV Car Charging station phone apps for drivers to locate. The $1.75/hr cost per charge (less maintenance fees), will be added to the City of Hudson’s General Fund.

This is the third grant received in the past year and a half for the Economic Development Committee under Alderman Rich Volo. The other two grants are from the Clean Energies Communities, $35,000, and a grant from National Grid to pay for the digging and construction costs of the electric vehicle car chargers, $22,000. The Charge Ready NY grant from the state brings the total amount of grants received to over $81,000.

Tourism Board

The City of Hudson passed a Lodging Tax that went into effect on June 1, 2017. The Lodging Tax collects 4% from ALL Lodging – B and B’s, hotels, and short-term rentals. An FAQ on the Lodging Tax is HERE.

In 2018, with the new Common Council, the Arts, Entertainment, and Tourism Committee was abolished, and the Lodging Tax amended. A Tourism Board was created to include members appointed by the Common Council and Mayor.

The Tourism Board was set up in March of 2018 as follows, see law in link.

Here’s the city code regarding the Lodging Tax.
(the city code is represented in italics)

§ 275-41. Tourism Board; funding. [Amended 3-20-2018 by
L.L. No. 4-2018]

Tourism Board.
There is hereby created in the City of Hudson a Tourism Board (hereinafter the “Board”) that shall be composed and vested with such powers as herein set forth.
The Board shall consist of nine members.
The chair of the Economic Development Committee shall
serve as chair of the Tourism Board.
(a) The Mayor shall appoint four members to the Tourism
Board who shall serve at the Mayor’s pleasure.
(b) The Common Council shall appoint four members to the
Tourism Board who shall serve at the Council’s pleasure.

The Tourism Board is hereby empowered to take all
reasonable steps it determines desirable, necessary and
proper to market the City of Hudson as a destination for
overnight and daytrip visitors by making use of the funds set
aside by the City Treasurer…

The Tourism Board is funded as follows:

The City Treasurer shall set aside from such net tax revenues
realized by the City in each reporting period for use by the
Board in a manner consistent with § 275-41A(2) and for no
other purpose whatsoever:

Fifty percent of the first $250,000 so realized;
Twenty-five percent of the second $250,000 so realized;
and Ten percent of all sums above $500,000 so realized;
provided, however,
that in no event shall the sums so set
aside for use by the Board exceed $250,000
in any annual
period commencing at March 1, and ending on the last
day of the month of February.

The Lodging Tax is collected – 4% – then split between the City’s General Fund and the Tourism Board. The Tourism Board’s amount is capped at $250,000, while the city’s general fund is not.

The idea behind this law is to use the Tourism Board as an economic driver for the City’s tourism economy. In 2018, the Lodging Tax generated $240,000. Click here for link. Those funds were distributed between the city’s General Fund and the Tourism Board.

However, if the Lodging Tax generated $1,000,000, the Tourism Board would receive a maximum of $250,000 and the City’s General Fund $750,000.

(This is one of the few “hard” numbers that the City has for its tourism industry. If $240,000 represents 4% of revenue, then 100% of the lodging revenue is approximately $6,000,000 – just in the City of Hudson! You can most likely double that number to represent food/drink/retail/etc, to determine the size of Hudson’s Tourism economy. Tourism dollars help provide jobs, and pay the property and sales taxes into the City’s General Fund.)

Since the Tourism Board is seen as an economic driver, to bring money into the City’s General Fund, the Chair of the City’s Economic Development Committee is also the Chair of the Tourism Board.

When I started office in January 2018, I was selected as Chair of Economic Development. In March, when this law went into effect, I became, de facto, the Chair of the Tourism Board. This was not a position that I was expecting – since it did not exist – but being new to the job (and rather naive), I was up for it!

The Tourism Board Members were selected by the Mayor and by the Council. Our first meeting was in June 2018. This is the list of Tourism Board members.

We met with Columbia County Tourism (with offices at 401 State Street), and I met with Dutchess County Tourism for information and ideas on how Tourism Boards work. We received local marketing contacts from these sources. Some of us also attended other regional tourism seminars for ideas on how Tourism Boards operate. Every county in the state has a tourism board, as well as many other municipalities.

One of our first tasks, the City of Hudson’s Tourism Board created Mission and Vision Statements:

MISSION STATEMENT
The mission of the Hudson Tourism Board is to establish the City of Hudson as a preferred destination, while embracing smart growth and enhancing the economy and the quality of life for all Hudson residents.

VISION STATEMENT
The vision of the Hudson Tourism Board is that the City of Hudson will become the nationally recognized preferred travel and getaway destination in the Hudson Valley. We intend to accomplish this by promoting Hudson’s unique identity as a diverse, smart and sophisticated waterfront destination, with unparalleled eateries, hotels, retail shops, cultural venues and events. By promoting this wide range of experiences and the City’s rich and storied history for visitors and local residents alike, we intend to become an economic engine for the City of Hudson.

Similar to other municipal Tourism Boards, the City of Hudson’s Tourism Board set out to find a marketing firm to fulfill the Tourism Board’s purpose outlined in the law: “to market the City of Hudson as a destination for
overnight and daytrip visitors”.

An RFP (Request for Proposal) was created and sent out to marketing contacts, this is included in the City’s minutes and available on-line.

We received about a dozen proposals, conducted in-person interviews, and selected one firm, Chandlerthinks. They offered a diverse experience with other municipal tourism boards, and they have a strong emphasis on research and community input.

The current resolution presented to the Common Council, for about $75,000, is for the entire Chandlerthinks proposal. Their proposal and the resolution can be found here.

Since the Tourism Board (other than myself) are volunteers, and we meet once/month for an hour, we are looking for an outside firm to do the research work and provide a study. They will deliver a plan and the Tourism Board can then move forward implementing that plan.

Additionally, this year, the Tourism Board spent $20,000 to replace the city funds set aside for the former Arts Committee. These funds were not included in the 2019 budget. $20,000 was allocated from the Tourism Board’s fund to the city’s Finance Committee to distribute to city-wide events such as Flag Day, Winter Walk, Bangladeshi Festival, Black Arts Festival, Halloween Parade, Hudson Eye, and others events.

The current resolution proposed to the Common Council is to task Chandlerthinks with understanding and reporting the needs of both tourists and residents and to present a plan to help our community grow in keeping with the Mission and Vision Statements of the Tourism Board.

The Hudson Tourism Board sent RFPs to local businesses last November. When the blog, TheOtherHudsonValley did a post about the Tourism Board’s RFP, Chadlerthinks found us, via google search, and submitted their proposal. They approached us.

They are specialists in small to medium-sized municipal tourism marketing.

Following is their list of clients:

Ascension Parish, LA — Alamance County, NC — Bowling Green, KY
Cumberland, MD — Carlsbad, CA — Cabarrus County, NC — Cedarburg, WI — Clifton, TN — Columbia, TN — Columbus, GA — Corpus Christi, TX — Currituck Outer Banks, NC — Danville, KY — Elk River, MN — Ennis, TX — Fayette County, TN — Finger Lakes, NY — Franklin, TN — Fremont, NE — Galveston Island, TX — Henderson, KY — Horsham, PA — Independence, MO — Irvine, CA — Jefferson, WI — Katy, TX — Kenai Peninsula, AK — Kentucky Lake, KY — La Fourche Parish, LA — Lake City, SC — Longmont, CO — Macon, GA — Meigs County, TN– Monroe County, TN — Morrow, GA — Owensboro, KY — Perry, GA — Polk County, TN — Robertson County, TN — Rowan County, NC — Saint Charles, MO — Seguin, TX — Spring Hill, TN — Stewart County, TN — Stillwater, OK — Sugar Land, TX — Sumner County, TN — Suwanee, GA — Unicoi County, TN — Village of La Grange, IL — Village of Northfield, IL

Steve Chandler himself, who presented to the Tourism Board in Hudson, is listed as a speaker to these Tourism conferences: Oklahoma Travel Industry Association, the Kentucky Travel Industry Association, Tennessee Hospitality Association’s Winter Conference and the upcoming South Carolina Governor’s Conference on Tourism.

If you agree with this resolution, please contact your Alderman and let them know.

Thank you very much!
-Rich Volo

Common Council President
Tom DePietro
Phone: (914) 584-5373, councilpres@cityofhudson.org

Alderman, 1st Ward
Rob Bujan
Phone: 917-514-9462, rbujan@cityofhudson.org
Kamal Johnson
Phone: 518-495-5630, kamal.johnson@cityofhudson.org

Alderman, 2nd Ward
Dewan Sarowar
Phone: 518-610-2426, dewan.sarowar@cityofhudson.org

Tiffany Garriga
Phone: 518-965-3372, tiffany.garriga@cityofhudson.org

Alderman, 3rd Ward

Shershah Mizan
Phone: 518-965-5828, shershah.mizan@cityofhudson.org
Calvin Lewis, Jr.
Phone: 518-755-9909, calvin.lewis@cityofhudson.org

Alderman, 4th Ward

Rich Volo
Phone: 518-309-2528, rich.volo@cityofhudson.org

John S. Rosenthal
Phone: 203-788-6121, john.rosenthal@cityofhudson.org

Alderman, 5th Ward

Eileen Halloran
eileen.halloran@cityofhudson.org

Dominic Merante
Phone: 518-965-4345, dominic.merante@cityofhudson.org

Solar Farm for Hudson!

A solar future

For over a year, East Light Partners has been working with the City of Hudson’s Economic Development committee (that I chair) and other local organizations to develop a community solar farm in Greenport, directly outside the City’s border. The contract between East Light Partners and the City of Hudson will be up for a vote at the Common Council formal meeting Tuesday, August 20, 2019.

Last year, East Light Partners asked the City of Hudson to be one of the purchasers of the electricity generated from the soon-to-be-installed farm. The City spends about $300-$400K/year for electricity on municipal buildings and street lighting. If the City of Hudson bought electricity from East Light Partners’ solar farm in Greenport, the City will save a fixed amount of 10% of the electricity’s cost, or about $30-$40K/year savings for the tax payer.

East Light Partners presented in front of the Common Council, the Economic Development and Finance Committees, and at a public meeting, held earlier this month.

You can view the East Light Partners PRESENTATION, MAP, and letters of SUPPORT by clicking on this link.

You can view the CONTRACT between East Light Partners and the City of Hudson by clicking on this link.

Please note from their presentation:

How Hudson will Benefit

The City of Hudson would purchase utility credits generated by the
ELP Greenport Community Solar project

Up to ~$400,000 worth of annual credits available (40% share)
• For every $1 of utility credit applied to the City’s National Grid
account, the City pays the solar project 0.90 cents.
• Always saving 10% on value of monetary credit
• Floor price of $0.06 per Utility Credit.
• Up to ~$40,000 in savings annually for a term of up to 25 years
City of Hudson would
–Reduce electricity costs with no upfront investment
–Further sustainability objectives through participation in local community solar

Questions raised:

Q: Does the City need an RFP (Request for Proposal)?

A: Since this is the only local solar farm, if an RFP was submitted, there would not be any other solar farms to meet the requirement.
(Recently, the Economic Development Committee submitted an RFP for solar car ports, with no positive responses. Our own local solar company, Lotus Energy, is no longer in business.)

Q: Can the city save more money building its own solar arrays?

A: This contract does not preclude the City from entering into any other contract or developing solar arrays on its own, (as is usually the case with a process called “net metering”). There is a cost advantage to a community solar farm which saves money and time (permits/installation/logistics) by building one large farm as opposed to smaller solar arrays on many rooftops. The City also has no upfront costs for this project as opposed to creating and paying for smaller projects on its own.

Q: Can residents participate?

A: Yes, residents will also be able to opt in for similar savings.

Q: Didn’t the City lose money on the last electricity program?

A: That program was based on a floating rate, however this one is fixed. This is a local solar farm, as opposed to bundling energy from various sources.

Q: Is it in the Bronson House view shed?

A: No. East Light Partners moved the solar farm from the initial plan, so that is is no longer in the view shed of Olana or the Bronson House. Please click on this link (provided above in the presentation) to see the map as well as letters of acceptance from Scenic Hudson, the Olana Partnership, and Historic Hudson.

Q: Why isn’t it in Hudson?

A: The area in Greenport is a stone’s throw from the Hudson border. We did investigate other sites, such as the old City landfill. Unfortunately, that landfill is capped, and cannot be built upon, as per NYS DEC regulation. The landfill is also under the authority of the county, not the city.

Q: The City can now save money that can go into “XYZ project”!

A: The City’s budget increases by about $200K/year due to health insurance costs and other long-term contracts. Even though I would love to say that this frees up money for another project, what this will actually do is lessen the cost increases for next year’s budget, saving the tax payers money.

Every day, I hear of another global story regarding climate change. Ultimately, it is going to be these little things that each community does LOCALLY – switching to renewable energy, electrical vehicles, planting trees (and stop cutting down current trees) – that will help solve this global problem. Think globally, act locally.

Please email or call your Alderman TODAY and let them know that you support this program. A list of Aldermen and their contact information can be found on this link.

If you are not sure of your Ward, please click here.

I enjoy being able to move these projects forward, to help our local Hudson community. I, myself, am up for reelection in November, and if you would like to contribute to my campaign, please click on this LINK.

Thank you very much for your support, Hudson!

— Rich

Community Solar Participation

Hudson Area Library

51 N. 5th Street – Community Room

Monday, August 5th – 6:30-8:30pm

Alderman Rich “Trixie” Volo leads a discussion on a potential new solar farm to power the City of Hudson’s municipal buildings and street lights.

The proposal would be save taxpayers approximately 10% on the City’s electric bills – or about $36,000/year!

The solar energy generated would also be available to residents.

Come and be part of the discussion and meet the representatives from East Light Partners.

There will be cookies!

Click here to see a copy of the East Light presentation to the City of Hudson.





Recycling in Hudson

Red Sticker from DPW

Many received the RED STICKER this past week from DPW in Hudson.
Why?

In the past, China used to buy much of the US’s recyclables – that is up until the new Chinese NATIONAL SWORD policy that started in January 2018. Stricter guidelines on the quality of recyclable materials – recyclables cannot be more than .5% contaminated –made sorting recyclables much more important, and nearly impossible to meet the new standards.

What does .5% contaminated mean? If it cannot be recycled, then it is contaminating the rest of the load. An oily pizza box or a jar of peanut butter, with too much peanut butter left, cannot be recycled. Styrofoam cannot be recycled. Composites – like a disposal razor that is both plastic and metal – cannot be recycled. Even the lid or cap on a bottle or container, if they are two different types of plastics, is considered a composite. Remove the lids.

Years ago, a glass baby food jar and its metal top – recyclable. Today, baby food in plastic squeeze pouches with different types of plastic and leftover food inside – garbage.

If there’s more than .5% GARBAGE – non-recyclable material in the load – then the entire shipment is discarded as GARBAGE.

Municipalities throughout the US, including the City of Hudson, used to be able to sort the materials, send them to China, and at least break even on the cost. This year, with stricter Chinese guidelines, the City is paying $40,000/year to deliver its recyclables to a sorter.

The City of Hudson’s DPW department enforces its sorting policy with red stickers. Here’s a copy of Columbia County’s Recycling Protocol below.

The best advice I can give you is to put these recyclable items into a container (with holes in the bottom to let the water drain) and leave them out for DPW. Since the City is using a single-stream sorter, all potential recyclable materials can be put in the same container.

SORTING? Do I need to separate my garbage?
In Columbia County, no. We use a single-stream MeRF (Material Recovery Facility). MeRFs separate recyclables by placing them on a magnetized conveyor belt. The magnets hold onto the steel cans while paper and plastics are separated. Anything that can TANGLE a conveyor belt – a hose, wires, cables – should NOT be put in with recyclables. Cardboard boxes should be broken down because the MeRFs identify paper products by seeing them as “two-dimensional” objects and separates them accordingly. It is debatable if a DUAL-stream sorting (where paper and plastic are separated by the consumer) is better, more efficient, or cost effective. Different communities have different answers.

If you want your food packaging to be recyclable, I recommend buying products in compostable materials first – or canned goods in steel cans – since steel has a high recyclable rate. You may buy a frozen, non-GMO, organic vegan dinner, but the microwavable plastic dish will stay on the Earth for another 400 years.

Glass is also very recyclable, however, glass breaks, and then sometimes contaminates the rest of the load. A state-wide dime deposit on wine and other glass bottles would help keep glass out of the garbage stream.

All communities throughout the US are dealing with these new National Sword guidelines and unfortunately, there’s no easy solution. Here’s some ideas:

  1. Companies switch to compostable materials from plastic. I recently switched my cookie bags from plastic to compostable wood pulp. What used to cost 4 cents/bag is now 29 cent/bag, but the compostable bag will not live on the Earth for the next 400 years like a plastic bag will. Other farmers at the market also switched, but there’s still a long way to go for other companies to follow.
  2. Buy less plastic. Easier said than done, but it’s something to think about. Maybe a safety razor and blades as opposed to a disposable one? Maybe buy your fruits and vegetables at the Farmer’s Market in a reusable bag instead of at the store, wrapped in plastic? There’s bamboo cutlery and toothbrushes as opposed to plastic, which work just as well.
  3. Composting – This is a plan that I would like to implement in the City of Hudson in my next term. This would not reduce the amount of plastic on the Earth, but it would take compostable materials out of the garbage stream. We pay per tonnage to either dispose of the garbage, or for the compostable materials to be carted away to a composting facility where it would then be used by local farms. It would be a financial wash for the City, since the costs are about the same. There is potential money from the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation for composting grants to help communities get started. A city-wide composting program will require a team of people. If you’re interested, please let me know.
  4. Ban certain materials – like styrofoam. I could propose a law in the City of Hudson to ban styrofoam. Unfortunately, the City has no resource to ENFORCE the law. A law like this would have to be on the county or state level (similar to tobacco/alcohol age restriction laws) with the appropriate enforcement agency. Neighboring counties such as Ulster and Albany have banned styrofoam – so it’s possible.

(I’ve been reluctant to write this post, because it’s not very hopeful for the future. Even IF China does purchase a shipping container of recyclables, we do not know if it’s even being recycled! Or, if it’s just being discarded into the oceans….sigh… There’s still a lot of work to do.)

I, myself, lobbied in Albany in the mid-80s to get the Bottle Bill passed and a 5 cent deposit added to soda and beer cans.

Thank you very much for reading, and I hope that this helps. I am running for a second term as Alderman and I’m on the ballot in November. If you would like to support my campaign, please contribute by clicking on this link.

City of Hudson EV Charger Stations

EV Charger Stations behind City Hall

On May 31st, good news to the City of Hudson! The City was awarded one of the two grants for Electric Vehicle (EV) Charger stations and ports. The grant from National Grid will pay for the digging and construction work to connect the charging stations to the grid.

I learned about these grants by attending various conferences throughout the state. As Chair of the Economic Development Committee, the committee has been working on this grant process for the past few months.

The $22K grant from National Grid and another similar grant from ChargeNY (to pay for the charging ports themselves) fund the project outside of City of Hudson taxpayer dollars. The City will then charge $1.75/hour for use of the ports and electric, adding the revenue into the City’s General Fund.

Both National Grid and the installation company, PlugIn Stations, surveyed various sites throughout the city and this site was chosen for the initial set of charging stations for a few reasons:

  • The distance from the electricity service to the parking island.
  • The charging stations, in order to accept credit card transactions, must be located near the City’s Wifi connection.
  • The location is in the middle of the City. For renters with electric vehicles, who may not be able to install chargers in their home, this location will be more accessible.
  • Travelers using the charging stations often stop to eat/shop, while their cars are being charged. This can take one to two hours. This location offered easy access to those amenities.
Three of these charging stations – or 6 ports total – are planned to be installed.

Grant processes generally take months – sometimes years – and we have one more grant to go for this project. However, this $22K grant from National Grid is a really big step for Hudson and the environment.

Easter Baskets at FASNY!

Myself, FASNY Activities Director Matthew Plew,
Peter Merante, and Salvation Army Director Ria Everts

The Friday before Easter Sunday, myself, Peter Merante and Ria Everts from the Salvation Army put together 75 baskets for the residents of the FASNY Firefighters Home. Everyone received baskets, candy, cards, and an oatmeal raisin cookie from Trixie’s Oven.