By Nathan Mayberg
MONTICELLO September 12, 2006 Amidst a turbulent time in county government, David Fanslau was sworn in as the new County Manager, officially taking over duties last handled full-time by Dan Briggs, one year ago.
Richard LaCondre and Harvey Smith both handled the county manager duties in the interim, along with their-day-to day duties as department heads.
County legislators expressed confidence in their choice to handle the day-to day operations of the county workforce and a budget over $200 million.
They, as he did, acknowledged that the county was in the midst of one of the worst budget crises in its history. Severe program cuts and layoffs are being projected. Yesterday, Fanslau and the legislators also repeated their calls for a sales tax hike which would alleviate potential layoffs and a substantial property tax hike.
Fanslau offered only a few words to the crowd, after he was sworn in by Sullivan County Clerk George Cooke. However, he patiently answered a number of questions from reporters afterwards.
He said there were very severe budget issues. During comments to reporters, he said he would take a hard look at raising property taxes.
Unfortunately, with the size of the deficit, there will be a need for budget cuts and program cuts. Fanslau said he was hopeful, staffing could be reduced through retirements but said there would be layoffs.
He labeled the sales tax hike as a priority since so much property in the county is off the tax rolls, and the only way to gain revenue from such property owners, is through the sales tax.
Fanslau, like the majority of the legislators who hired him, supports casinos. He called it important that the operators address potential local impacts. Fanslau doesnt want a casino or casinos, to be the primary reason for tourism in the county. Sullivan County should not become a gambling capital, he stated.
The new manager also suggested working with Sullivan County Community College and the Industrial Development Agency to entice new businesses to the area. He suggested applying for grants to aid the college in workforce development programs which would attract new companies to the area.
He and his family have purchased a home in Emerald Green in the Town of Thompson. Asked about his initial perception of the county, Fanslau described the county as a sportsmens paradise. He said it was important to protect its rural character. He even offered to protect land in the western part of the county from development.
Legislature Chairman Chris Cunningham led a moment of silence before the ceremony to honor the victims of the 9/11 attacks. The county received some criticism for scheduling the ceremony on the anniversary of the tragedy. Yesterday, Legislative Minority Leader Rodney Gaebel echoed those sentiments, stating the timing could be better. Some people are upset about that. Cunningham defended the scheduling last week, saying the attacks shouldnt stop government from functioning.
Gaebel said that Fanslau seems like a bright guy
He seems optimistic about being up and running quickly. As for the countys budget crunch, Gaebel continued to push hard for a .5 percent sales tax increase. The property tax is past the saturation point, he stated.
Legislator Ron Hiatt said he hopes Fanslau can bring cohesiveness and a unity of effort to the government. He is an experienced manager. He has no political axes. Politically, he is neutral.
Cunningham said he believes Fanslau will bring true professional skills to the position
Were very confident that we have a professional who will implement the policy directions of the legislature.