East Ramapo approves emergency repairs to Pomona Middle School

The East Ramapo School Board voted on Tuesday night to approve emergency repairs to the roof of Pomona Middle School’s auditorium, which was discovered to be in an advanced state of deterioration and at risk of collapse.

Repairs began shortly after August 7, when the roof of the 50-year old building was found to be faulty. Though Board resolutions are normally required for school repairs, the emergency status of the situation allowed immediate approval of repairs by the Superintendent without a bidding process.

This week, the Board retroactively approved the repairs, which will cost $19,905 for emergency measures. An anticipated future replacement for the ceiling is likely to cost anywhere from $300,000 to $1 million.

The repairs are expected to be completed and the auditorium will be usable by the first day of school on September 4.

Rockland police to receive over $104,000 from state for bulletproof vests

Thanks to a state program offered through the Attorney General’s Office, Rockland will receive $104,172 in grant money to support the purchase of bulletproof vests for sworn law enforcement officers.

The money, provided through the inVEST Partnership program, will pay for 236 vests for police in South Nyack-Grand View, Orangetown, Piermont and Suffern. The majority, however, will go to the Sheriff’s Department, which will receive $80,000 for the purchase of 200 vests.

Rockland is one of several counties to receive funds in this latest round of inVEST grants, as well as one of the largest beneficiaries. Duchess, Orange, Putnam, Rockland, Sullivan, Ulster and Westchester Counties received a combined total of $382,192 in grants, with the largest share of $178,889.42 going to Westchester County. Rockland received the second largest grant.

The inVEST program was designed as a replacement for the federal Bulletproof Vest Partnership Act (BVP), which provided up to 50 percent matching funds for state, county and local law enforcement. The Act is still in effect, but have decreased 81 percent since their peak in 2010 when partisan gridlock stifled the program’s funding.

New state law simplifies process of obtaining absentee ballots

A bill recently signed by Governor Andre Cuomo will simplify the process by which New York residents can obtain absentee ballots by standardizing the process on the state and village levels.

The law, which was sponsored by Sen. David Carlucci, will simplify the process by amending the Village Election Law to make absentee ballot procedures in villages identical to proedures in general and primary elections. As it stood, the Village Election Law used a lengthier, more complex method for casting absentee ballots.

According to a release by Carlucci, the new law is meant to accommodate commuters, primary caregivers, the physically disabled and other working New Yorkers who have limited time and cannot afford to spend the entirety of election day at polling stations.

“People work long hours, or fall ill, or go on vacation,” Carlucci said. “In those instances, or others, we want to make it as easy as possible. This bill leads to a simplification of the process to enable more people to be involved in the democratic process.”

State forges agreement with IAC to curb cyberbullying

The New York State Attorney General’s Office announced on August 14 that they had struck a deal which will require media company IAG-which owns the rapidly growing social networking site Ask.fm, to install new safeguards against cyber-bullying.

The agreement requires Ask.fm to revamp its safety procedures. Among the biggest changes are a promised 24-hour review process for all complaints, the removal and permanent banning of users with multiple complaints on their record, the creation of a safety advisory board and online safety center, and both the hiring of a trust and safety officer and the appointment of a safety and security advisor.

Ask.fm has grown to 180 million monthly users since its inception in 2010. 42 percent of these users are under the age of 18.

State Department of Labor: New York private sector added 17,300 jobs in July

Preliminary figures released on August 14 by New York State’s Department of Labor show the state’s private sector has grown by 17,300 jobs in July, a 0.2 percent increase which reflects modest gains in spite of a largely static unemployment rate statewide.

From June to July, the 0.2 percent growth was mirrored by an identical percentage nationwide, with a net total of 198,000 private sector jobs added during the same period. A 0.2 percent growth rate was also tracked for total private sector and non-farm jobs both in New York and the U.S. as a whole. New York accounted for 8.74 percent of national job growth in the private sector.

However, the change had a minimal impact on unemployent rates in the state, which remain 0.4 percent below the national average in spite of a national unemployment increase of 0.1 percent. NYC saw an equivalent rate increase, while the rest of New York State saw an equivalent decrease.

County legislators demands MTA consider Rockland’s transit needs

County Legislators Harriet Cornell and Alden Wolfe submitted comments to the MTA Transportation Reinvention Commission last week, arguing that after years of neglect by the agency, Rockland’s transit needs deserve more consideration.

Cornell, who chairs the legislature’s Special Committee on Transit, joined Wolfe in stating that though several projects benefiting Rockland County had been outlined in the recent Mass Transit Task Force Report, the MTA’s 2015-2019 capital program included none. They argued Rockland’s position near the city and its continued importance to traffic along the Hudson River meant ample opportunities.

“Among the counties surrounding Manhattan, Rockland has the lowest percentage of transit trips to the Central Business District [of New York City], so there is work ahead to improve the attractiveness of these transit opportunities,” The official comment read.

The report also criticized the disproportionately high share of funds the MTA extracts from Rockland compared to services offered, a value gap which Legislator Wolfe said stood at about $40 million.

The Commission is composed of a panel of 24 experts in transportation, real estate, planning, development, business and finance. They are charged with taking commentary and holding public hearings on the adequacy of MTA services in New York State and the ways in which it can be improved.

Feds raid upstate home of Republican Senator

A dozen FBI agents raided the Binghamton home of Republican State Sen. Thomas Libous on August 8, seizing records and computers from his wife Frances in a joint operation with the State Attorney General’s Office.

Frances Libous is vice chairwoman of the state’s Workers Compensation Board, but no information or comment has been released regarding the purpose of the raid or whether it is related to her current post. She has chaired the committee since 2001 and earned $104,670 in 2013.

Sen. Libous and his son Matthew Libous are already facing legal troubles of their own. On July 1, both were indicted on charges stemming from accusations that the senator coaxed a prominent Westchester law firm into hiring Matthew with offers of steering business to the firm. The senator has also been accused of using a lobbying firm to funnel $50,000 into the law firm’s coffers.

Matthew Libous also faces charges of tax fraud for failing to report $282,126 to the IRS between 2007 and 2012.

ALS Ice Bucket Challenge nets more than $15 million

The ALS ice bucket challenge, which swept social media platforms this month, has proven to be a great success for the ALS Association, raising $15.6 million dollars during its run as compared to a mere $1.8 million raised during the same time last year.

The idea, which requires participants to pour a bucket of ice water over their heads or make a donation to the ALS Association within 24 hours of being called out for the challenge, has gone viral and inspired public figures in sports, business, entertainment and politics to show their own support.

According to the Association, it has also prompted donations from many who have never donated before. According to their records, 307,598 Ice Bucket Challenge donors are new.

The Challenge has spread to Rockland as well. On Tuesday, Haverstraw Town Supervisor Howard Phillips and staff from Helen Hayes Hospital were drenched with ice buckets and fire hoses to show their support. Similarly, State Legislators Ken Zebrowski, Ellen Jaffee and David Carlucci took the challenge in Nanuet last Friday.

Aging Siberian elm to be removed to make room for new playground

The reconstruction of the current children’s playground in Nyack will likely require the removal of several aging trees, including a large Siberian elm which was found to be deteriorating.

The elm and a number of smaller trees were found by tree experts to be too damaged to be recovered. A tentative agreement to remove them was consequently reached by the Nyack Village Board.

Other options were explored, but removal was deemed the best one. Securing the trees’ limbs was ruled to be an expensive and insufficient means to prevent the aging trees from causing injuries.

The playground was closed and fenced off last fall in preparation for the replacement of old equipment with new amenities. Some of the equipment has already been removed and new pieces have already been received by the Village, which will install them with assistance from Village workers and contractors.

After they come down, the trees will likely be replaced.

Mourners say farewell to Airmont man killed in head-on collision last week

Friends and family of James DeVito Jr. gathered at Wanamaker & Carlough Funeral Home in Suffern this week to pay their last respects to the father of three killed in a head-on collision last week before he is buried on Tuesday.

DeVito was killed on Tuesday when a car driven by off-duty NYPD Officer Richard Christopher drove the wrong way on the thruway and collided with DeVito’s car. Responding police reported both were killed on impact.

Further information suggests no drug or alcohol use by Christopher prior to the crash. However, his family reported exhaustion from overwork might have contributed to the crash.

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