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Bedford Daily Voice serves Bedford, Bedford Hills & Katonah

Hearing on Open Space Brings Out Locals, Job Q's

BEDFORD HILLS, N.Y. - Bedford locals came out in droves to the courtroom in the Bedford Hills Town House Tuesday night, bringing their opinions to the Town Board on whether to keep the open space levy in effect or to suspend it for a year.

Since a local referendum in 2000 that was decided by a town vote, three percent of the taxes taken in by the town government is set aside to buy local territory and preserve it. The Town Board is proposing the cap levy be at a certain half-percent increment (with choices up to 2 percent) or suspended for the year.

With whispers of job cutting floating through town due to potential lack of funds for the upcoming budget, much of the public outcry was associated with warning the town board of choosing between setting money aside, and taking jobs.

“I don’t feel threatened with saving property, I feel nature does its course, and we do protect nature,” said Sue Carpentier, of Parks and Recreation of the town of Bedford. “But now I feel threatened with jobs, and there’s quite a few people in this room that really feel threatened and not sure what’s going on.”

With questions mounting throughout the evening, Councilman David Gabrielson decided to step into the forum and offer an explanation on how, if the levy continues, the board will not have to take funds from somewhere else to satiate the needed dollar amount. “We don't have to choose between open space and jobs if everybody in the town said, ‘I’m willing to spend another hundred dollars next year to buy open space, and to keep everybody in their jobs,’” he said.

Even Town Clerk Lisbeth “Boo” Fumagalli stepped to the podium and offered a similar description. “I think the point is, the money would continue to be collected. It wouldn't go into open space, it would go into the general fund, and this board wouldn’t have to cut anything more,” she said. “We can’t cut anything more.”

The open space levy certainly had its own cheering section, as many involved with town preservation took the stage, including Rosemary Lee, a member of the Bedford Conservation Board. “At this point in a town, we’re looking at a very limited number of properties that are going to be available to use for open space preservation,” said Lee. “To cut this fund at this time is not looking at the long view that the residents believe in.”

The Town Board concluded the evening by telling locals they will be open to listening to thoughts on the subject through November 15th. That day will mark the next official public hearing to discuss the open space levy again. The hearing will be at 7:00 PM.

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