Sullivan County Democrat
O n l i n e  E d i t i o n National Award-winning, Family-run Newspaper
  NEWS ARCHIVES Established 1891 Callicoon, New York  
home  |  archives

Dan Hust | Democrat

Sullivan County Legislature Chairman Jonathan Rouis delivers his State of the County Address on Wednesday night.

Rouis speaks of troubles, and successes past & future

By Dan Hust
MONTICELLO — February 19, 2010 — Sullivan County Legislature Chairman Jonathan Rouis apologized Wednesday.
“My colleagues and I will be the first to tell you, the system put into place this year was far from perfect,” he said of the new solid waste user fee. “And while we conducted Town Hall meetings, numerous public meetings and answered dozens of media inquiries about the new system, I recognize that we did not go far enough with outreach to our communities before the system was put in place.
“And for that, I do apologize.”
Indeed, Wednesday’s 2010 State of the County Address candidly assessed a number of issues that did not go as Rouis had hoped.
“These past two years have not been kind to Sullivan County,” he acknowledged. “Our unemployment rates have climbed into double digits, our own revenues have fallen by millions of dollars, and our financial aid from New York State and the federal government has decreased by hundreds of thousands of dollars.
“Even standing here a year ago, I don’t think we could have imagined the depth and scope of the challenges that we faced and continue to face. This is truly the worst financial crisis our nation has endured in most of our lifetimes, and the light at the end of the tunnel has yet to emerge.”
Rouis bluntly agreed that he and his fellow legislators have made “some very difficult, and often unpopular, decisions,” but he argued that county government must always try to innovate and improve.
“We must take a long, honest look at the core operations of our county government and enhance those services that work and serve our residents – and unfortunately, divest ourselves and our taxpayers of those services that simply no longer make sense.”
Rouis said those divestitures would be based on common sense. He was short on details but said the Division of Public Works will be studied in depth to find efficiencies, the future of the Adult Care Center as a county-run facility will depend upon state funding levels, and the highly unpopular solid waste user fee will be reworked.
Though costly, the jail will be replaced, vowed Rouis.
“We can debate the size, scope and location,” he said, “but the bottom line is we need a new facility. We needed it 10 years ago, maybe even 20 years ago, and the reason we are faced with this $80 million price tag is due in large part to lack of action taken to move this project forward over the past 20 years.
“Make no mistake about it: the price will only continue to go up if we try to wait.”
Not everything was painted in such a grim light. In fact, Rouis praised the good work of county employees.
“They are the ones who care for the sick, protect the innocent, make our roads safe and passable, and they are the ones who truly make a difference in the lives they touch.
“These last two years have not been easy for our county staff, with losing nearly 40 of their colleagues in necessary but painful layoffs in 2009, and yet they still come to work each day to serve and protect our communities.”
Rouis also touted their accomplishments in 2009, noting how those dealing with everything from emergency services to healthcare provided more training, programming and face-to-face help than ever before, serving youths, senior citizens, professionals and laypeople alike.
But Rouis noted that more work awaits in 2010, especially in the area of economic development.
Highlighting the recent county-conducted charrette, he said the county is focusing on increasing agricultural opportunities, including a demonstration farm.
“Greening” the county also extends to finding energy efficiencies, he added, and last year’s announcement of an Economic Development Corporation has not been forgotten. Rouis said the organization, which would group economic development agencies countywide under its umbrella, is approaching operational status.
“And our largest and most aggressive economic development project for 2010 is the redevelopment of the Apollo Plaza as an integrated recreational and retail experience,” he affirmed. “This project will allow us to recognize and utilize the site as a gateway to the Catskill Mountains, honor Sullivan County’s legacy as an outdoor sports destination and serve as a model for innovative, environmentally-responsible site redevelopment.
“And, of course, no State of the County speech would be complete without the mention of what I dare say is our most elusive project: casinos. I believe ‘elusive’ says it all.”
Rouis touted growth at Leisure Time (now Boreal Water Company), Center for Discovery, Monticello Motor Club, Bethel Woods and the local banking industry, plus the dozens of successful events last year celebrating the county’s bicentennial.
He also pointed out that the SC Visitors Association will spend nearly $100,000 in 2010 to reintroduce the local matching funds program to assist small businesses in their marketing efforts.
As for the potential promises and pitfalls of natural gas, Rouis pledged to have the county be “the lead educator and disseminator of the factual information surrounding drilling.”
He concluded as he began, with a sense of optimism despite deep hardships.
“While it might be easy, given the current financial situations we are all facing, to fall into a state of negativity, I refuse to give in,” he stated. “... The road ahead is not going to be easy, but I refuse to believe it is impossible to improve the quality of services our residents have come to rely on for their everyday existence, and at the same time realize the limitations of the taxpayers in the county who fund those services.
“... I call upon all of us – my colleagues, this audience, our friends, neighbors and communities – to come together to find solutions to the multitude of issues we are facing,” Rouis concluded. “I ask that you resist the urge to join the chorus of simple negativity and join those of us that want to make a difference.
“The doors of county government are open, and now – more than ever before – we welcome your input.”
* * *
For the full text of the 2010 State of the County Address, log on to the county’s website at

top of page  |  home  |  archives