Each year the Greene County Planning Board and Greene County Legislature partner to present the Ellen Rettus Planning Achievement Awards. Ellen Rettus was a long term County Planning Board member who served for several years as Chairperson of the Greene County Planning Board and Chairperson of the Town of Durham Planning Board. As Chairperson of these boards, Ellen worked to promote sound and thoughtful planning throughout Greene County.
The awards recognize outstanding planning, community, and economic development activities that have taken place in Greene County over the past three years and the individuals and organizations that contribute to their realization. The awards also recognize individuals who have distinguished themselves through their service to Greene County and its communities.
Awards are given for outstanding achievement in one or more of the following categories:
- Economic Development
- Community Design or Improvement
- Planning for Municipal Services or Utilities
- Environmental Preservation, Recreation and Open Space
- Zoning - Innovative Techniques
- Community or Main Street Revitalization
- Historic Preservation
- Municipal Services
- Distinguished Service
- Community Service
The following awards were presented by County Planning Board Chair Eric Allan at the November 19, 2014 meeting of the Greene County Legislature.
The Bank of Greene County received an award in the Historic Preservation category for the renovation of the former Catskill Savings Bank at 341 Main Street, Catskill. The Bank restored the grand entrance and lobby of the building to its 1909 condition with its historic woodwork and glass dome ceiling. They replicated the 1909 windows, while keeping them energy efficient, and installed energy efficient lighting. Almost all of the work was done by Greene and Columbia County contractors and workers. Now complete the building will operate as a lending center with 40-50 employees.
The building, constructed in 1909, constituted "a model banking house, equipped with modern bookkeeping and posting machines, York Safe & Lock Company modern vault, safe deposit boxes and all other necessary facilities". The building was also occupied by Troy Savings from 2001 - 2003 and First Niagara Bank from 2003-2013. In late 2013, the Bank of Greene County purchased the property.
As the Bank of Greene County has grown it has purchased and restored two other buildings on Main St., Catskill. 302 Main St. was the Cooperative and Commercial Mutual Fire Insurance Company, and 288 Main St. was a car dealership. With each renovation The Bank of Greene County has been mindful of the historical significance of each building, and what the renovations mean to the revitalization of the community it serves.
Community Improvement/Main Street Revitalization:
Cultivate Catskill received an award for its efforts to improve and revitalize the Village of Catskill. Formed just one year ago in an effort to join the "America in Bloom National Awards Program", Cultivate Catskill has spearheaded numerous projects to improve the Village through tree plantings, clean-ups, urban forestry, and landscaping. Projects included:
- The clean up and planting of the Mott Street and Howard Street "Slides" that connect Main Street to parallel streets.
- The Main Street Memorial Tree program to replant the trees that once lined the east and west sides of the downtown business district.
- Fundraising and awareness projects including Cultivate Catskill Brick Fundraiser, Catskill Open Gardens Day, and five "trunk sales" held in the Village.
- Area clean-ups, including the first annual Great Catskill weed-out in the Fall of
- Other plantings of trees, plants, flowers, shrubs, pocket parks, and landscaping throughout the Village.
- Participation in the America in Bloom national awards program.
The projects have produced noticeable results and generated enthusiasm and participation in Catskill's revitalization.
Numerous groups have participated and contributed including the Fortnightly Club, Catskill Rotarians, the Guterman Foundation, the Kiwanas Club, the Greene County Sheriff's Department, the local Brownie Troop, Beattie-Powers Place, Thomas Cole National Historic Site, and many individuals and businesses.
New York Spring Water received an award in recognition of their efforts and success in building an innovative successful water bottling and processing business.
New York Spring Water is located in the Town of Halcott at the base of Vly Mountain. The company opened its doors in 2009 and completed a substantial expansion and renovation of its facilities in 2011-13, part of which had to be re-done after damage to the company’s building and spring from Hurricane Irene. The company was founded by Richard Zakka, who scouted the Northeast United States for a spring with suitable quantity and quality of water for their new company. They found their source in the Vly Mountain Spring. The business now employs approximately 30 workers.
The company's products include New York Spring Water, which is a traditional bottled water product with a traditional cap; VBlast, which has a vitamin and mineral enhanced cap and comes in a variety of flavors; Aqua84, which is spring water infused with 84 minerals from the Himalayas, and VBee, a flavored-water brand targeted to children. The company has a distribution agreement with national convenience store chain 7-11, and also ships product to countries as far away as Japan.
New York Spring Water is using modern technology to sell a product that identifies the Catskills – pure drinking water. The spring utilized by the company is literally inside Vly Mountain, and the water spends less than one minute going from the mountain to the bottle. New York Spring Water also has a patented cap that holds vitamins and minerals separately from the water. When the cap is turned, the vitamins and minerals are infused in the water, ensuring quality and freshness.
Greene County Economic Development, Tourism and Planning staff have worked closely with New York Spring Water through most of the company’s history. Its success shows that it is possible to have a nature-based manufacturing business in even the most remote portions of the County. The company markets the Catskills and its natural environment with every bottle sold.