By Nathan Mayberg
MONTICELLO July 20, 2004 For the first time this year, pro-casino business leaders outnumbered their opposition at the Sullivan County Legislature on Thursday at the Government Center in Monticello.
Although it was a narrow majority, it was the first time casino proponents had shown up in force at a public hearing at the Sullivan County Legislature.
The rally by the businessmen began with a speech by Les Kristt, owner of Kristt Office Equipment Company in Monticello. By way of example, Kristt said his business has been a gamble for 35 years. The state has lotto, he added, and religious institutions use bingo. Casinos, said Kristt, have proven to be a highly effective means of making money for an area and state that needs the revenue and business.
Kristt emphasized that the proposed casinos should be required to pay for their use of public services, including roads, sanitation and police.
Another casino advocate said he supported them because they will bring much-needed jobs.
Gary Tugender, owner of County Fountain Supplies, said casinos would take the area back to a time when his company was called Sullivan County Fountain Supplies. So many hotels and business have left the area since he started his operation 27 years ago that he had to look to surrounding counties for his business.
Bob Goldberg, co-owner of the new Broadway Homes in Monticello, said casinos would help the county return to its glory of the 1960s. . . . There needs to be a reason for people to come to Sullivan County.
Several anti-casino speakers spoke about gamblings immorality. They continued to call for a referendum.
Dick Riseling of Callicoon Center gave an extended speech, which included ripping proposed casinos for their negative impact on county services, which would add to the countys deficit. He also believed they would not add to economic development, although they would bring economic activity. He called for a more accurate cost/benefit analysis for their impact on the county.
The recent report by Spectrum Gaming lacked efficiency for leaving out a crime analysis, in his view.
One business owner said the economic development has already started, which he credited in part to the reports of coming casinos. He and his workers no longer have to travel 100-200 miles to do business they once again have enough business partners in Sullivan County.
In Other Business
On a separate matter, local citizen Al Leibowitz railed against recent tax breaks given to area businesses by the Sullivan County Industrial Development Agency. He called on the Legislature to give final approval for any future tax abatements.
In legislative business, a proposed sale and assignment of lease of Harris Alports Bay #1 in the 10-Bay T-Hangar located near Sullivan County International Airport in White Lake failed to garner a majority vote by the nine legislators. The bill was supported by Public Works Committee Chair Kathleen LaBuda, Legislature Chair Chris Cunningham, Rodney Gaebel and Jonathan Rouis.
Local businessman John Nichols spoke out against the proposed takeover of the bay by the county, because he said it would cost the county more in upkeep. He would like to buy the hangar himself.
LaBuda pledged to bring the bill up again next month. The measure was strongly supported by Dept. of Public Works Commissioner Peter Lilholt. Cunningham said he supported the staff, who want more control over the hangars.
Legislator Sam Wohl, who voted against the bill, said he needed more time to study the issue.
Lilholt said the measure would allow the county to buy out Alport and lease the hangar. Lilholt wants to refuse the sale to Nichols in order to promote aviation. He also said a county takeover would allow the county to recoup its costs for upkeep of the facility.
In another issue related to the county airport, the Legislature unanimously approved a resolution to apply to the Federal Aviation Administration to disengage from a requirement that certain properties at the airport be used for airport use.
The bill would pave the way for the IDA to buy or lease the property from the county. IDA CEO Allan Scott has requested the county sell property at the airport to the IDA so they may sell the property to a prospective business.
The Legislature also unanimously approved a 3 percent contract raise for several local health practitioners who serve in the Sullivan County Certified Home Health Agency and Long Term Home Health Care Program.