I am honored to seek re-election as Mayor of the Village of Pelham Manor on March 16. This Village serves as the setting for some of my fondest childhood memories, and my continued service on the Village Board exemplifies my commitment to our collective future. As Mayor, I have dedicated my professional talents and utilized my extensive local leadership experience to ensure that Pelham Manor continues to thrive from a functional perspective and connects with each resident. In the end, we are all neighbors and share a unique bond – our special Village.
Since returning to Pelham Manor to raise my family twenty years ago, I have held significant leadership positions in the community that positioned me for success as Mayor. Specifically, at the request of the previous Village Board, I served as Co-Chair of the Pelham Manor Citizens’ Advisory Committee for the proposed Four Corners rezoning. I also served as President of the Pelham Country Club, Chair of the Pelham Preservation & Garden Society, Sustainer Representative to the Junior League of Pelham Board, and a member of the Siwanoy School Site-Based Council. In 2017, State Assemblywoman Amy Paulin, the Westchester County Board of Legislators and the Town of Pelham honored me as a Woman of Distinction for my civic engagement, my commitment to open government and my sound financial management of several organizations.
This past year, COVID-19 changed the local landscape in dramatic and varied ways. My running mates, Deputy Mayor Angela Michelle DeLillo and Trustee Joseph Senerchia, and I have proven that we are best positioned to lead the Village for the next two years. As an attorney, an engineer and an electrical contractor, our professional skill sets are complementary, and we work collaboratively. Through our leadership, Pelham Manor has effectively addressed a host of municipal challenges, some predicted and many unforeseen. We continue to deliver on our commitment to provide high-level services in a fiscally and environmentally responsible manner. Our goal is to keep Pelham Manor vibrant and safe for you.
Pelham Manor continues to achieve a remarkable balance between tradition and progress. This concept is always important, but it is vital in a pandemic. While the Village has added resources like a cutting-edge COVID-19 Hub on our website, we have retained small town touches. For instance, our office staff remains available on-site to answer telephone calls. By nominating qualified residents with diverse backgrounds to our Zoning Board of Appeals and Planning Board, I have fostered an inclusive approach to government. All Pelham Manor residents have a voice and an ally in our Village government. The current Village Board has shattered many ceilings, and I am proud to lead the first majority-female Board in Village history.
Communication and transparency remain priorities for me. Recently, we added more public access television channels for our live broadcasts of Village Board meetings, and we have launched a live stream on Facebook. The Village continues to improve our website, available at www.pelhammanor.org. The site features easier navigation, with a searchable Village Code, and we have also increased the frequency of our Village e-mail blasts and Facebook posts. Residents can keep up to date with Pelham Manor police announcements via the Nixle text notification system (text 10803 to 888777 to sign up) and Facebook. I always look forward to my Thursday morning community radio updates at 8:25 a.m. on WVOX 1460 AM. We constantly explore options to make sure our residents have easy access to timely, accurate Village information.
Michelle, Joe and I are tremendously proud of the Village’s financial record. Pelham Manor has been New York State Tax Cap compliant since its inception and in each year of my administration. Our Village is audited monthly and continues to operate debt free. For the past two years, Pelham Manor has received a fiscal stress score of 5 out of 100 (lower is better) from the New York State Comptroller, outperforming many similarly situated local communities. Pelham Manor applies a prudent approach to revenue forecasting and is disciplined with expenditure control. We are forward thinking with respect to capital needs, helping us to avoid borrowing. The Village is currently preparing the tentative 2021-2022 budget, and we intend to remain under the tax cap again this year, which is 2.74%. At this time, more than half of our fund balance is unreserved. The remainder is reserved for projects such as street paving, equipment purchases, building repair, sewer maintenance and to cover uncollected taxes and tax certiorari judgments.
As a former prosecutor, I continue to focus great attention on the Pelham Manor Police Department. Thankfully, our highly trained officers respond to calls within minutes. Under my leadership and following the appointment of Chief Jeff Carpenter in 2015, Pelham Manor has effectuated a shift in departmental culture. Early in his career, Chief Carpenter trained in the White Plains Police Department, which was at the forefront of Community Policing programs and initiatives at the time. In 2018, the Chief was selected from an international field to attend a three-month FBI National Academy for law enforcement executives in Quantico, Virginia. Relying on this broad foundation, Chief Carpenter has increased accountability and significantly expanded advanced training. One of our Sergeants just received certification as a Departmental De-Escalation Training Officer, and our Crisis Intervention and Mental Health “First Aid” Officers have provided crucial support throughout the pandemic. Pelham Manor presently has one Detective assigned to Westchester’s Real Time Crime Task Force, affording the Village incredible access to shared data and outside law enforcement agencies.
With a continued emphasis on community outreach and sensitivity to the diversity of needs, our officers check in on the elderly, disabled and neighbors in need during emergency and disaster events. This service has been particularly meaningful for our neighbors during the pandemic. When COVID-19 restrictions ease, our officers look forward to resuming daily trips to Siwanoy and Prospect Hill Schools. The Village is dedicated to promoting safety and fostering productive relationships with all residents. Over the past eight months, Pelham Manor has embraced its work under Executive Order 203, the New York State Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative. Under the leadership of Village Trustee and Police Commissioner Breda Bennett, Chief Carpenter and other Village representatives have participated in a wealth of in-person and remote meetings with residents. Our department remains committed to building relationships and fostering trust and confidence in law enforcement. Chief Carpenter has an “Open Door” policy and is personally available for discussion on all police matters at 738-1000.
The Pelham Manor Fire Department, under the leadership of veteran Fire Chief Joseph Ruggiero, also distinguishes itself. The centrally located Firehouse at 4 Penfield Place allows for easy access to neighborhood streets and quick response times. Chief Ruggiero conducts training exercises in Westchester and coordinates practice drills with the FDNY. Pelham Manor firefighters are trained in Hazardous Materials response and Trench and Collapse rescue techniques. Additionally, the department oversees a Fire Prevention Program and makes visits to schools and day care centers. Our firefighters enjoy hosting school children and performing on-site equipment demonstrations. They are also dedicated to charitable initiatives, such as the annual Toys for Tots program and a local food drive. Pelham Manor is fortunate to have well-trained volunteer firefighters who assist our paid professionals. In furtherance of our fiscal objectives, Chief Ruggiero also serves as Village mechanic, obviating the need for that salaried position.
My Board colleagues and I share a genuine commitment to the environment and have a demonstrated record of promoting sustainable and environmentally responsible initiatives. Among other things, we have implemented Village-wide full conversion of LED street lights, and we are actively reviewing gasoline-powered leaf blower legislation. In accordance with our environmental goals, Pelham Manor has developed a progressive approach to our comprehensive waste management program. The Village’s Department of Public Works is responsible for refuse and recycling collection, as well as street, sidewalk and park maintenance. The DPW crew also supports storm and disaster response efforts, allowing our neighbors to resume activities as quickly as possible. Like our other service departments, our DPW workers are Village employees, with benefits and pensions.
Our refuse is currently processed off-site as part of an EPA and DEC regulated renewable resource program where the material is burned in a filtered environment and converted to energy. The Village recently entered into an inter-municipal agreement for shared services to remove food waste from the municipal solid waste stream, an effort commonly known as food scrapping. With DPW personnel, Pelham Manor also operates a recycling center on Spring Road. The center is open three days a week to drop off household recyclables and electronic waste. The Village composts the organic waste collected at no cost to taxpayers and offers this compost to Village residents and others for free. We operate this program according to a public-private partnership, using a circular economy framework. Notably, Pelham Manor has one of highest recycling rates in Westchester County at 67%, ranking 6 out of 42 communities.
While in office, I have worked tirelessly on behalf of all Pelham Manor residents. It has been my honor to serve with a talented Board and competent Village administration. I am thankful to have a patient family and the best friends on earth, many of whom graduated from Pelham Memorial High School with me. They all support my passion for Village service, knowing that my heart will always be in Pelham Manor.
Michelle, Joe and I look forward to building on our record of accomplishment and continuing the momentum over the next two years. We respectfully request your vote on Tuesday, March 16 at the Pelham Manor Firehouse, 4 Penfield Place.
Jennifer Monachino Lapey