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Ban gas drilling on county property

By Dan Hust
MONTICELLO — March 16, 2010 — Legislators on the Public Works Committee unanimously agreed Thursday to ban gas drilling involving hydrofracking on all county-owned properties.
Citing environmental, water quality, traffic and property impact concerns, the resolution says no such drilling will be allowed “until such time as the potential long-term, cumulative and indirect environmental and public health impacts are adequately addressed and appropriate mitigation measures are identified.”
An accompanying resolution was also approved on Thursday, urging Congress to “amend pertinent federal laws to adequately safeguard the environment and the public from any environmental and health risks associated with hydrofracking.”
Both resolutions will go before the full Legislature this Thursday for official approval. The meeting is open to the public and will be held at 2 p.m. at the Government Center in Monticello.
‘We’ve done nothing!’
Approval of two uses for a $24,000 state grant arrived during Thursday’s Community and Economic Development Committee meeting, but not before a tongue-lashing from Legislator Leni Binder.
The grant will be split between paying for public relations work and hiring a researcher or consultant to survey and analyze workforce housing in the county.
“The whole time I’ve been here, we’ve done nothing!” lamented Binder, referring to repeated studies yet little progress regarding expanded workforce housing in her 15 years on the Legislature.
Binder, who runs the Woodridge Housing Authority, was told the study is a required component of the grant, but she wondered whether more study would do any good.
“We know the demographics,” she pointed out. “... And in all this time, we have not put a shovel in the ground on any project!”
Legislature Chairman Jonathan Rouis said it wasn’t for lack of interest or effort – even eagerly interested developers have affirmed that financing such projects are not easy.
In the end, legislators agreed to proceed. Binder didn’t vote, as she’s not on the committee.
Job losses continue
Center for Workforce Development Director Laura Quigley had some unhappy but unsurprising news for legislators on Thursday.
The unemployment rate is now above 10 percent for the county, she said, just slightly lower than the national average. In the surrounding area, that’s the highest percentage rate, with Ulster County the next closest at 8.8 percent.
“And the average duration of unemployment [in Sullivan County] is 29.7 weeks,” she said.
Calculating in those who are no longer receiving benefits, Quigley estimated the county’s unemployment rate to be closer to 16 percent.
Identifying hazards
About 80 hazard mitigation questionnaires have been received by the county, according to Project Manager Glenn Gidaly.
On Thursday, he reported to legislators on the progress of updating the countywide hazard mitigation plan, required by FEMA to be eligible for federal funding in case of emergency.
Gidaly, representing the contracted engineering firm of Barton and Loguidice, said the plan must be updated every five years. The last one was created in 2005.
Any resident or property owner in the county can fill out the questionnaire, located on the county’s website at Those forms, which will help officials tailor the plan to the various communities of Sullivan County, are due back to the county no later than the end of this month.
A spokesperson for all?
An offhand comment from Ken Walter has got legislators thinking.
The Grahamsville resident, who has been fighting Sullivan County Community College over the experimental wind turbine being built at its Loch Sheldrake campus (near his mother’s home), mentioned during Thursday’s Government Services Committee meeting that the public relations needs of the college and the county should be combined.
SCCC has a PR representative, whereas the county itself is currently without one (and Rouis’ plans to hire a new one have been met with concern by his colleagues).
Walter wondered if even Cornell Cooperative Extension could benefit from a PR person who would serve all three agencies.
“The idea has merit,” replied Committee Chairman Alan Sorensen.
“It’s something we ought to consider,” agreed Legislator Ron Hiatt.
County to pay landfill fine
Legislators in Thursday’s Executive Committee meeting agreed to have county officials sign a consent order with the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).
The order demands the county pay $5,000 (negotiated down from $25,000) as the result of violations of air quality standards at the now-closed landfill in Monticello.
The resolution states that “the violations were caused, in part, by the conflicting needs to control odor while still maintaining the specified levels of certain gases” involved in the methane extraction system.
The violations, according to the county, have long since been rectified – with the fine being the last piece of a process which included new procedures to ensure compliance with DEC rules.
Flood-damaged properties up for sale
Planning Commissioner Luiz Aragon told legislators on Thursday that his staff is readying the documentation necessary to put several flood-damaged properties up for sale.
In particular, letters are being prepared to be sent to adjacent property owners to offer them a chance to put in a bid.
Through a state grant, the county purchased 11 properties last year in areas where willing sellers wanted to rid themselves of flood-ravaged land and structures.
A requirement of the grant, however, was that existing structures be demolished and no new ones be erected. Thus, potential uses are severely restricted.
Aragon said yesterday that the Youngsville Fire Department is interested in the one property in Youngsville, and the Village of Jeffersonville may desire one or more of the four properties within its boundaries (all located on land called The Island).
The other six properties – one in the Town of Fallsburg and five in the Town of Rockland – will likely be sold to private individuals or groups.
Aragon expects to begin selling the properties in the spring.

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