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

Money and insect trouble ahead

By Dan Hust
MONTICELLO — September 21, 2010 — The county’s deficit keeps growing as officials refine the calculations in preparation for next year’s budget.
First, it was $9 million, followed by $10 million, then $11 million.
At Thursday’s Management and Budget Committee meeting, Deputy County Manager Josh Potosek, who’s also the commissioner of the budget division, said it was even higher.
“We’re trying to cut $12 million off what looks like a $190 million budget [for 2011],” he explained to legislators.
And of that $190 million, only about $50-$60 million is within the county’s discretion to fund or not fund – the rest is state and federally mandated.
Within that $50-$60 million are crucial services like road crews and police patrols, so Potosek bluntly predicted that county staff will have to figure out how to slice away about a quarter of that funding.
“What’s the good news?” wondered Legislator Ron Hiatt.
“That was the good news,” colleague Leni Binder quipped.
County Manager David Fanslau said more refinement of the numbers awaits, via discussions with department heads and the outcome of early retirement incentives.
“But it’s going to be – as you can tell – a herculean effort,” he acknowledged.
Committee Chair Jodi Goodman said that, as a result, nothing’s off the table, including consolidation of departments.
“I believe we have to look at all things creatively,” she assessed.
the Ash borer threat
During the Public Works Committee meeting on Thursday, Parks Director Kristen Porter revealed the relatively dire results of her research into the emerald ash borer, an insect ravaging upstate New York’s ash trees.
“Without treatment, it will kill all the ash trees,” she told legislators. “It’s just a matter of time.”
The borer, an invasive species accidentally brought over from eastern Asia, has now been detected in neighboring Ulster County, and the state has enforced strict rules on transporting wood, including firewood.
Officials expect the borer will nevertheless arrive in Sullivan County soon – if it’s not already here.
Yet with tree treatments costing hundreds of dollars and needing reapplication annually, it’s not clear that Sullivan County’s ash population can be cost-effectively saved.
Binder suggested treating just the trees along the county’s borders, but Public Works Commissioner Bob Meyer acknowledged that the county is not yet sure where all the ash trees are located.
Groundbreaking law in the works
Peg Harrison, leader of the Multi-Municipal Task Force (MMTF) and supervisor of the Town of Tusten, attended Thursday’s Public Works Committee meeting to brief legislators on MMTF’s effort to create a new road use law.
“Our town roads are not strong enough to maintain any frequency,” explained Harrison of the need to regulate heavy truck traffic. “It’s not a weight issue – it’s a frequency issue.”
Though born from a desire to minimize the gas drilling industry’s impact on local roads, this coming regulation would apply to a range of industries using heavy truck transportation.
It would only exist, however, within the participating townships, which right now are Tusten, Highland, Lumberland, Bethel, Cochecton, Delaware, Rockland and Callicoon.
“We may never get drilling,” Harrison pointed out, “... but we will get the subcontractor business.”
She was speaking of the drilling coming to neighboring Wayne and Pike counties in Pennsylvania.
Though this new law would apply just to town roads, the MMTF has sought the county’s involvement because (a) the county owns all the bridges, even on town roads; and (b) the county maintains a large network of its own routes.
Though the county has a truck permitting system in place, Harrison said that “our concern is we’ll need a stronger law than you already have.”
“The way our system is set up now, it doesn’t particularly address repetitions,” agreed DPW Commissioner Meyer.
Plus, he said, a uniform system is a stronger system.
“I think it’s something we need to do to protect our infrastructure,” agreed Legislator David Sager. “... We can’t bury our heads in the sand on this.”
In other business
• In response to requests from townships, the county is increasing its payment rate to the towns that maintain county roads.
If town crews must be called out to deal with snow and ice storms more than 30 times per winter, the county will pay $100 extra per mile.
The current rate is $4,866 per mile.
• Legislators are mulling who might get the tall lightposts from the old Apollo Plaza’s parking lot.
A request from a supporter of the Liberty Central School District’s athletics program was mentioned on Thursday, but the county decided to investigate if interest exists elsewhere, as well.

top of page  |  home  |  archives