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Rye Merchants Want You to Spend $50 on the 5th

Rye City Council endorsed the Chamber of Commerce's campaign to get local residents out this Saturday, March 5 to spend at least $50 with local businesses.

Saturday is for shopping and the Chamber of Commerce wants Rye residents to spend $50 with local businesses on March 5th. Many businesses will be offering discounts and other promotions to sweeten the pot for weekend shoppers. The City Council offered its approval of the event.

 “By coming to support local business, you support the entire community,” said Councilwoman Catherine Parker at Wednesday's council meeting.

 Finance committee chair Norm McMaster implored the Council to take decisive action to change its health insurance plan which offers retired public employees over the age of 65 coverage with Aetna.

 “Unfunded liabilities are growing rapidly,” said McMaster. “They will double by 2020, triple by 2026.”

 “The estimated $53 million understates Rye’s true liability,” said McMaster about 2008 projections for the city’s health insurance obligation

 McMaster recommended the Council move ahead with plans to stress test its budget and devise a strategic approach to the costs of the program which he said has grown 85.6 percent since adopted, including a 15.5 percent increase since 2010.

 A further reduction of public employees to 155 workers in 2011 was also recommended by the committee.

 Mayor Douglas French dismissed the possibility of approaching the problem of escalating benefit expenditures by eliminating collective bargaining in Rye, an approach currently under contentious debate in the state of Wisconsin.

 “The goal is not to break unions but to recalibrate relationships,” said Mayor French.

 A measure to move forward on the Kirby Lane Extension Sanitary Sewer Special Assessment District passed unanimously. The project will extend access to the main sewer system to residents from a manhole point located on Gracechurch.

 After resident Richard Slack asked about an assessment already paid by some homeowners for an earlier sewer access project on Kirby Lane, Councilman Joseph Sack asked if “it would be equitable for the City of Rye to create some accommodations for those homeowners who’ve already been assessed for that project.”

 The council discussed and nixed the possibility of additional homeowner exemptions from the assessment for those who did not wish to tie into the enhanced sewer line.

“This is an environmentally sound plan that will improve everyone’s property value, even those who dissent, it’s not fair to exempt anyone from responsibility,” said Kirby Lane resident Diane Beverage.

On March 16, public hearing is set to consider allowing Rye residents who are not U.S. citizens to serve on the Architectural Review Board and a reduction to 5 members. The local board is not subject to the same requirements as those mandated by the state, according to counsel Kristen Wilson.

 “Some of the best candidates aren’t U.S. citizens; it’s an understandable qualification for the President of the United States,” noted Councilman Peter Jovanovich. “Something like this it would be great if they could volunteer.”

 Mayor Douglas French asked that the hearing also include the merits of reducing the committee down to 5 members to increase the likelihood of quorums.

 The Council unanimously upheld the denial of a recent FOIL request.

 Councilwoman Suzanna Keith reminded residents that the enactment of new pedestrian safety ordinances meant that drivers caught breaking the law by talking their cellphones could face a penalty of 2 points on their drivers’ license. Those two points could mean as much as $3800 in additional insurance premiums, according to Keith.

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