By Nathan Mayberg
MONTICELLO January 24, 2006 The first installment on a new county jail was made Thursday by the Sullivan County Legislature.
The Executive Committee unanimously approved a $7,390,000 contract with $300,000 in contingent expenses for LaBella Associates, a firm out of Rochester, to handle the architectural/engineering and construction management services portion of the project. The costs will be bonded.
The county is still searching for a location, with leaders currently leaning toward placing the jail in Liberty on county-owned property at its health care complex. The county is also considering placing it on properties owned by other municipalities.
LaBella Associates will be analyzing the countys options. The final cost of the jail could run between $50-$70 million.
The jail is expected to be completed in three to five years, according to Sullivan County Co-Manager Harvey Smith. He said the contract approved on Thursday was as comprehensive as possible.
Smith and Department of Public Works Commissioner Robert Meyer will be working closely in overseeing the work.
Sullivan County Sheriff Mike Schiff was in attendance with Undersheriff Eric Chaboty. Schiff thanked the Legislature for their approvals.
I think time is of the essence. We want to do it right, he said.
Sullivan County Legislature Chairman Chris Cunningham replied, This is the beginning of a long process.
What About a County Manager?
Another lengthy process is winding down. The search for a new County Manager is still down to two candidates.
Both hail far from Sullivan County or New York, for that matter.
According to county officials, one is from Florida and one is from Michigan.
Free Master Plan Services
Towns can now gain the free services of the Sullivan County Planning Department to help them formulate a new master plan. Although the service was always offered by the county, the Legislature chose to pass a resolution highlighting the option.
The Executive Committee approved a resolution which will inform towns of this service, which can costs towns thousands of dollars if done through a private consultant.
Legislators and Planning Commissioner Bill Pammer said the resolution is not a mandate but simply an offer.
One member of the Town of Lumberland Planning Board was in attendance to criticize the legislation anyway. He said that independent consultants offer creativity and objectivity.
Legislator Rodney Gaebel countered by saying he took offense to the statement. He said the countys planning department was full of talented individuals who were capable of working for independent firms or starting their own.
Legislator Jodi Goodman added, Ive never seen an office have more charisma.
Town of Lumberland Supervisor and Association of Town Supervisors Chairman John LiGreci said the association believes the countys program is a great service.
Give Em a Break
Sullivan County Legislator Sam Wohl is proposing a 10 percent county property tax break for all volunteer firemen and emergency responders. The break is designed as an incentive to bring people back into those services.
Volunteerism is down, said Wohl.
The break has a maximum limit of $5,000. He said he was asked by the Volunteer Ambulance Corps of Rock Hill to propose such legislation. He said the Town of Lumberland has already passed such a resolution for its town taxpayers. The Town of Liberty has set a public hearing on a similar proposal.
About $1.5 million in expenses for the new meat processing facility in Liberty will also be bonded by the county. The facility is expecting to be financed by two grants as well as fees from companies that do business there.
Co-County Manager Richard LaCondre said the reimbursement mechanisms wont be completed quickly enough. The project is being coordinated by Rick Bishop of the Sullivan County Planning Department.
The Financial Management Committee approved a resolution which requested the State Legislature raise the sales tax from 7.5 percent to 8 percent. The countys portion would increase from 3.5 percent to 4 percent.
The committee also approved a resolution requesting the State Legislature raise the room tax from 2.5 percent up to 7 percent.
And $79,300 was approved for a physicians assistant to handle the increased needs of the Department of Community Services mental health clientele.
Action on Affirmative Action
During Executive Committee, Eric Monroe of the Black and Latino Democratic Committee petitioned the county to adopt an affirmative action plan, as has been done in neighboring Orange, Dutchess and Ulster counties. He said that minority employment was a key concern for his committee. He presented Cunningham with a petition signed by 300 people.
Sandy Oxford suggested the county hire a Spanish-speaking person for its 911 response team. She said there was a recent incident with a Spanish-speaking victim calling 911 but receiving no response for 72 hours.
Cunningham said the countys Personnel Department has an equal opportunity policy.