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April 6, 2006

John Hickman, Town Supervisor
East Fishkill
330 Route 376
Hopewell Junction, NY 12533

(Hand Delivered to April 6, 2006 Board Meeting)

Dear Supervisor Hickman and Board Members,

We want to thank you for the noticeable improvement in two-way communication with the residents at the town board meetings.

It has already made a significant difference, as many have told us.

We would like to make some recommendations on ways to improve the communication via another powerful tool, the town's website, and some other communication tools.

Though a few citizen groups' (Neighbors for a Safe Community, East Fishkill Citizens for Clean Water, and Save Wiccopee) websites/email lists try to keep the East Fishkill Town citizens informed, this is both the responsibility of the Town and a great opportunity for you to engage more residents.

We have found that the residents, though busy with work, family and other concerns – are passionate and care deeply about what is going on in their Town… and largely unaware of all that’s going on.

1. Re-instate email subscription for any town [board] meeting notices/agendas. A resident can submit his/her email address and select which notices should be sent.

This "reaches out" to the residents. It does not assume they will remember to check the website. The notice/agenda appears in their "inbox". It is far better than having to subscribe to the Poughkeepsie Journal and hope to find occasional small legal notices buried in hundreds of others. A listserv is simple and easy to setup.

2. Post all town meetings and agendas [in a] timely [fashion]:
(a) at least 5 business days before the meeting
(b) with no last-minute major changes that have surprised groups coming to critical meetings.

3. Re-instate the ability to send an email comment to the town. The comment web page exists, but there is no link to it on your website. It’s just not reachable now from the main website. The page exists at

4. Make the Publications more complete and consistent:
(a) The Hopewell Hamlet Pedestrian Plan would be better on the Publications page, not on the home page.
(b) The FGEIS is on your website, but not available on the Publications page, or anywhere else that I can see. Note this is a very large file.
The link is: - Comprehensive Plan.pdf
(the above line may be broken up by email - the blanks in the name are a bad idea. The following line might work better for this message...
(c) Make all proposed Town laws immediately available for review on the Publications page.

5. When major documents are created, make the all available on the website. Don't make residents drive to town hall and get a paper copy. With gasoline prices and pollution concerns rising, here is a good way to be environmentally conscious as well as reaching out.

6. Please improve the public address system… meeting attendees cannot always hear what’s being discussed. Suggestions: get a better system; make sure each board member has and/or uses a microphone, put loudspeakers (that you could turn on or off) out in the hallway, so that overflow crowds at a heavily attended meeting can hear what’s being discussed.

7. Setup a “message” voice mail box… a number where residents could call in to see if a meeting was still on, or canceled (snow days), or say venue changed (because of expected larger attendance). An info message box is easy to setup and would actually save some staff time in answering these calls now.

8. Post an overview of what’s going on in the zoning and building departments… i.e. how many developments are in what stage – let the residents have some sense of what’s before the town and what’s approved to be built.

9. Publish, and retain online, all meeting agendas and minutes.

We appreciate your note of public thanks at one of the meetings. These items of communication would be more effective if they came from the Town government. You have the access to the documents and information that the residents are keen to know about.

We urge you to seize any opportunity to increase and improve the Town’s communications with the residents. Our citizen organizations would be happy to meet with you if you would like to discuss these issues further.

Fred Robbins
Neighbors for a Safe Community

Tim Leed
Save Wiccopee Organization

Debra Hall
Hopewell Junction Citizens for Clean Water

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