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County budget passed

By Dan Hust
MONTICELLO — December 17, 2010 — The Sullivan County Legislature voted 5-3 yesterday to pass County Manager David Fanslau’s $190.7 million 2011 budget.
Voting yes were Jonathan Rouis, Leni Binder, Elwin Wood, Jodi Goodman, and Ron Hiatt. Voting no were Kathy LaBuda, Alan Sorensen and Frank Armstrong.
Legislators also approved a solid waste user fee which raises residential rates.
See Tuesday’s Democrat for full story.

Legislative Roundup: Loans to be written off

By Dan Hust
MONTICELLO — Sullivan County is planning to forgive about $54,000 in unpaid loans due it.
Planning Commissioner Luiz Aragon told legislators at the December 9 Community and Economic Development Committee meeting that six participants in a county-run microenterprise revolving loan program have not paid off their debts.
At least two of the debtors are confirmed dead, said Deputy Planning Commissioner Jill Weyer, while two others declared bankruptcy.
Some of the loans – which county officials confirmed were “high-risk” – date back nearly 15 years.
Since they originated as state Community Development Block Grants, not local funds, legislators were being asked to permit the County Treasurer’s Office to write the “uncollectable” loans off.
“This is an effort to give us the ability to resolve those issues,” Aragon explained.
Legislator Ron Hiatt wasn’t so inclined.
“When people don’t pay their taxes, we generally don’t forgive them,” he observed. “We take their land.”
Hiatt, an attorney himself, said there could be other ways to collect that debt, and Weyer confirmed a judgment had been entered against one participant.
But thus far, none of the outstanding monies have been paid. So legislators reluctantly agreed to the writeoff, pending an official vote at the full Legislature meeting yesterday.
Enshrining our borders
A border dispute that’s been nagging Sullivan and Orange county officials for decades may finally be over.
At the Dec. 9 Planning Committee meeting, legislators tentatively agreed to ask the State Legislature to adopt the resurveyed boundary the two counties have agreed upon.
The adjusted border is between Sullivan County’s towns of Forestburgh and Mamakating and Orange County’s Town of Deerpark.
More transparency
Rock Hill resident Dave Colavito returned to the Executive Committee that day to reiterate the Legislature’s need to adopt accountability and transparency policies it agreed to enact two years ago as part of the County Charter’s regular review.
“Are we getting our money’s worth from projects receiving county tax breaks?” he wondered. “We really don’t know, because the county won’t provide that information to the public.”
While the county-run Industrial Development Agency (IDA) offers some information on its website, Colavito said it’s not enough and does not come directly from the elected legislators.
He also pushed for more monitoring of projects receiving incentives from the county, including tax breaks.
“This is needed to ensure projects actually generate the local jobs they claim they’ll generate in exchange for the local tax breaks they receive,” Colavito told legislators. “It’s also needed to ensure that a reduction of benefits occurs for projects failing to deliver on the local jobs, and that’s critical in these cash-strapped times when our county can no longer afford to overlook potential revenues from underperforming projects.”
“We know there is a lack of transparency when it comes to benefits,” seconded Summitville resident Eileen Haworth Weil. “... Since we are stakeholders, we have every right to that [info].”
Legislature Chairman Jonathan Rouis denied there’s any “stonewalling” going on, but a frustrated Colavito pressed him to follow through on the promise he made two years ago to enact the charter changes.
Legislator Elwin Wood, chairman of the IDA’s board, said the IDA publicly posts its minutes, adding that the agency has also pulled funding and support from companies not meeting their goals.
Rouis and Colavito sparred over Kohl’s Distribution Center in Wurtsboro, which has not created the full number of jobs it promised in order to receive benefits, yet it’s become a major taxpayer and employer in the county on a site that was formerly generating little tax revenue.
Colavito concluded that his request is not unreasonable.
“There are fine projects supported by the IDA,” he acknowledged. “... This is about ‘mend it’, not ‘end it.’”

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