By Nathan Mayberg
MONTICELLO March 10, 2006 The State of Sullivan County is strong, and the future has never looked brighter, said Sullivan County Legislature Chairman Chris Cunningham in his annual State of the County speech on Tuesday.
He cited the countys growing real estate market, sales tax numbers, and declining unemployment rate as figures which bolstered his argument.
Of course, there is no economic project larger than Alan Gerrys Bethel Woods Center for the Arts.
On behalf of all the people of Sullivan County, I want to thank Alan and Sandra Gerry, he said.
That was met by a round of applause from the capacity audience.
The chairman forecasted increased tax revenue, job creation, and second home and small business development to result from the large project.
As for casinos, he said the Legislature remains committed to the establishment of a casino, although the prospects for one have stalled for now.
The chairman released several major initiatives as well. Among them is an initiative with Sullivan County Community College and the Partnership for Economic Development to build a green technology park at the college. The hope is that the park will attract companies that produce recycled and renewable energy materials that construction companies and other businesses can use.
Cunningham also proposed a study to review the possibility of installing renewable energy systems in all county facilities and to require all new county construction projects to use green technology.
The other major initiative proposed by the chairman is an open space purchasing program. The county will be applying for state funds to assist the county in protecting open space and farmland so that it can not be developed. Its booming development makes it likely that the county will be eligible for such funds.
Two years ago, this Legislature inherited a crisis at the county landfill, said Cunningham. Odors were out of control, and people were justifiably angry. Large amounts of trash were being imported into the county, and the proposed expansion of the landfill was hopelessly bogged down.
But now, the odors have been dealt with, importation has ended and the county is embarking on its phase two expansion, he said.
While the county explored alternatives to the landfill, they were largely unproven, he said.
Cunningham noted some of the countys accomplishments over the last year, including the new discount prescription card. The card saves residents an average of $15.43 per prescription. He also noted the near completion of the countys fire training facility and the work that has begun to construct a new jail.
The county is also building a bus garage near the Sullivan County Airport, where the countys buses and vans will be housed. The county is expanding its public transit system with at least two new vans over the next two years. The cost of the facility is $2.2 million $1.8 million of that will be covered by federal funds.
Afterwards, Republican Minority Leader Rodney Gaebel took exception to the chairmans characterization of the Legislature inheriting a mess. Except for a year and a half, the Legislature has always been controlled by the Democrats, he said. And Cunningham has been on the Legislature since its inception.
Gaebel said that Taylor Recycling was the most viable alternative to the landfill. But in the meantime as the county awaits approval for its expansion of the landfill, he said the county should expand its recycling program to include demolition debris and other materials. He said the county can work with Taylor to divert some of its waste away from the landfill that contributes to odor problems, aside from taking up space.
Nevertheless, the chairmans speech was greeted with a standing ovation.
Even Gaebel admitted the speech was pretty good and on target.