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Dan Hust | Democrat

Sullivan County Treasurer Ira Cohen spent a few hours last week at various committee meetings of the County Legislature, despite having undergone major surgery in July to remove his cancerous pancreas. Staff are ensuring he doesn’t overdo it, but Cohen is well-known for his eagerness to stay busy, even in the face of sometimes overwhelming health issues.

Lots of trash talk as legislators tackle full plate

By Dan Hust
MONTICELLO — August 20, 2010 — More appeals of the solid waste user fee were decided and voted upon at last week’s Planning, Environmental Management and Real Property Committee.
Legislators unanimously agreed with the recommendations of the appeal committee, comprised of Deputy County Manager Josh Potosek, Public Works Commissioner Bob Meyer, Treasurer Ira Cohen and Deputy Treasurer Nancy Buck.
Only five properties ended up on the “approval” list, and only two of those got their fee eliminated. One of those is owned by the Beaverkill Valley Volunteer Fire Department in Lew Beach, which was incorrectly charged $84.95.
The other three approved properties saw their fees reduced, including a Jeffersonville parcel owned by Legislator David Sager, whose chiropractic office should have been charged as a commercial entity, not as a multi-use property.
Sager is not on the Planning Committee and thus, while present, did not vote on the change, which reduced his solid waste user fee from $424.75 to $300.
The reassessment of fees for these five parcels means the county must refund $724.75, though a total of 32 other properties ended up on the “denial” list and will not see changes in their bills.
Push made for more recycling
Elsewhere during last week’s slew of committee meetings, Sullivan First Recycling and Refuse owner Shirley Felder-Morton urged county officials to pay more attention to recycling – and the advice of the people who are in the trash business.
“We are not recycling enough here,” she remarked. “We have no enforcement of it.”
She admitted she does not push it with her customers, who can easily jump to another trash hauling company, and she’s yet to make a profit off recycling.
Yet with all the money she and other haulers pay to the county in tipping fees – $170,000 from Sullivan First in July alone – Felder-Morton was adamant the county can and must educate about and enforce recycling, which has been mandatory since 1992.
“People are inherently lazy,” replied Sager, who as a result favors the single-stream method whereby recyclables are mixed in with the non-recyclables and sorted at a processing facility.
“My concern is if that approach is going to reduce the quality of the recyclables,” Legislator Alan Sorensen responded, worrying about contamination and items like glass shards that can foul up the separating machinery.
He agreed that many people are lazy about recycling, “but the government, in some respects, makes things too easy.”
Legislature Chairman Jonathan Rouis said the county is not considering building a separation facility but could accomplish the single-stream goal by shipping it out in bulk.
“Everyone has to get on board – that’s it,” county resident Janet Newberg remarked, speaking as a member of SPECS (Special Protection of the Environment in the County of Sullivan).
She referenced the Village of Liberty, which has achieved a higher recycling rate by citing offenders and ultimately not picking up trash which isn’t properly sorted.
Newberg urged the county to incentivize recycling, to which Legislator Kathy LaBuda suggested charging $4 for black bags but nothing for clear bags.
“Make it $10 [for black bags],” added Newberg.
“The woods will be full [of garbage],” replied Legislator Leni Binder.
“Little steps,” countered LaBuda.
“It gets back to having the guts to do it,” observed Legislator Jodi Goodman, who represents Liberty in her district.
LaBuda urged the county to work with the 15 township supervisors to create a workable plan, but Goodman felt the county should take the lead – unless the towns are willing to take over solid waste operations themselves.
No decisions were made, including any on Monticello Mayor Gordon Jenkins’ plea to have the county pay the village for the recyclables it collects.
Plans afoot for Smallwood Golf Course
Elsewhere during the day, Cohen told legislators there’s no need to have a landscape architect frame the request for proposals for the future of the old Smallwood Golf Course.
“I think we have a good idea of what we want to do with the property,” he said of what is now the county’s acreage due to foreclosure.
Bethel officials had put forth the suggestion to use a landscape architect. Concerned about the cost, Cohen said county staff will develop the request, like they did with the Apollo, though the golf course isn’t envisioned so much to be a commercial property as an environmentally oriented one.
Binder urged caution, especially with the idea of giving the land back to the township and the possibility of the prior owner suing to recover it, as it was initially intended to be a housing development.
“I was just very concerned it was setting a horrible precedent,” she remarked. “... I’m not against the end they [Bethel] had in mind, but I don’t want us open to lawsuits.”
County continuing to fund SCCC
The county’s $4 million contribution toward Sullivan County Community College’s $17 million budget narrowly earned approval, despite last-minute confusion over documents and Grahamsville resident Ken Walter’s concerns that there are no minutes showing SCCC’s board formally adopting the budget.
Still, SCCC President Mamie Howard Golladay was pleased to tell legislators that freshman enrollment is up 28 percent over last year, and in-county enrollees have risen by 12 percent.
“I actually wish we could give you more money,” said LaBuda to Golladay, “but as you know, we have a $9 million deficit.”
Fort Delaware eyed for Visitors Center
Planning Commissioner Luiz Aragon said he was excited to tell legislators that the Upper Delaware Scenic Byway Committee has agreed to formally look into using more than $766,000 in grants to create a visitors center at Fort Delaware in Narrowsburg.
The center was originally going to be constructed at the old Cochecton train station along Route 97 (the byway), but the poor economic climate pressured officials to look at existing facilities.
As the county wants to increase visitation, the re-created fort – also along 97 – was identified as an ideal location.
Thus legislators in the Government Services Committee meeting agreed to have Studio d’ARC Architects of Pittsburgh, PA, conceptually design a center fitting in with the current layout of the county-owned Fort Delaware property.
The design cost cannot exceed $25,000.
“We hope to have a schematic plan completed by the end of the year,” said Aragon.

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