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Dan Hust | Democrat

Youth Bureau Board members (from the left) Orlando Hernandez, Aleta Lymon and Barbara Durbak aired their concerns about proposed changes in the Bureau during Wednesday’s Management and Budget Committee meeting of the County Legislature.

Pleas to preserve programs and personnel begin

By Dan Hust
MONTICELLO — November 16, 2010 — Legislators on Wednesday got a taste of what may be to come in meetings with county staff and the public about the just-unveiled 2011 tentative county budget.
During the Management and Budget Committee meeting, Sullivan County Youth Bureau Board Chair Barbara Durbak of the Sullivan County Cares Coalition expressed concerns about the proposed merging of Youth Bureau staff with the Office for the Aging.
“Our violent crimes are at the worst for our youth in the state, except for New York City,” she told legislators, urging them to keep the Youth Bureau’s two employees focused on Youth Bureau activities.
County Manager David Fanslau replied that Bureau Director Lesia Snihura’s paperwork load will be significantly reduced, freeing her to handle most of the duties on her own.
Her coworker, Cynthia Briggs, will split her time between the Bureau and the Office for the Aging, and Legislator Ron Hiatt added that the mixture will allow the county to tap into state funding for the position.
Fanslau said the $134,000 cost for both positions in a Bureau that’s administering $118,000 in funding is not fiscally defensible, thus warranting the change.
But Durbak reminded him that the Bureau had four employees just two years ago, and Briggs’ current job includes out-of-the-office duties involving monitoring and assisting the town, village and nonprofit youth activities the Bureau helps fund countywide.
Fanslau insisted those duties can be consolidated into one position.
“If it becomes proven you can’t do with one employee through the year,” he said, “then we’ll have to change that.”
Legislator Jodi Goodman said the argument really lies with the state and its unfunded mandates, while Leni Binder remarked that the groups which get Youth Bureau funds must be responsible to monitor and audit their own finances.
Nevertheless, said Youth Bureau board member Aleta Lymon of the Recovery Center, legislators have a duty to provide for county youth.
“I hope you guys in your decision-making really think it through very carefully,” she urged.
Legislators promised to do so, pointing out they’re not cutting funding for the Bureau.
“We are going through an unprecedented time ... and it’s only getting worse,” advised Legislator David Sager. “We’re going to have to make some tough decisions ... but we’ll do the very best that we can.”
To smoke – or not
Legislators also spent time Wednesday determining how to resolve complaints about county workers smoking so close to county buildings that the smoke wafts in open doors and windows.
“The current regulation is there’s no smoking within three feet of county buildings,” Public Works Commissioner Bob Meyer told legislators during the Public Works Committee meeting.
Based on research with other counties, Meyer recommended pushing smokers out to at least 50 feet from county structures and 100 feet away from recreational areas like parks and playgrounds.
“I question how do we enforce all those regulations?” Legislator Goodman asked, arguing that it should be an all-or-nothing approach – either permit it as practiced now, or ban it altogether.
Meyer said the county’s Tobacco-Free Coalition had suggested handing out “don’t smoke” cards to parkgoers to remind them of the rules, but that only garnered snickers from legislators.
“Now we’re going to have a litter problem,” joked Sager.
But Legislator Kathy LaBuda noted that people smoke to relieve stress and anger, and curtailing that ability could lead to serious issues for anyone using county facilities.
“There’s no way you’re going to tell people they can’t smoke anymore,” the non-smoker told her colleagues.
Binder suggested a room where smokers could light up, but Fanslau pointed out that there are 100 county buildings, making the idea expensive and impractical.
Legislator Hiatt likened the very thought to the Salem Witch Trials.
“I think we ought to have a little pity on them and just let them go outside to smoke,” he remarked.
Sager and Legislator Alan Sorensen liked the designated area idea, so long as it’s a sufficient distance from structures.
Fanslau said he’d put something in writing for legislators to consider at one of their December meetings.
On a related note, legislators in the Government Services Committee unanimously agreed to ask the state to ban the currently legal sale of “synthetic cannabis,” which Sorensen said has been linked to health problems and deaths.
“I would also add,” he quipped, “that this is not a locally grown product.”

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