On the legislative agenda: drilling, taxes and fees
By Dan Hust
MONTICELLO A variety of issues concerned legislators at Thursday’s panoply of County Legislature committee meetings.
Gas drilling on the table
Legislators agreed the county should have a presence at this Thursday’s NYS Assembly hearing on gas drilling.
Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther set up the hearing to gain comments on the state Department of Environmental Conservation’s (DEC’s) proposed new rules for drilling statewide.
“We should definitely be present,” remarked Legislature Chair Jonathan Rouis. “I think it’s too big an issue [not to be there].”
Legislator Leni Binder worried in particular about the potential for drilling near New York City’s water supply system not just because of a danger to the water quality but a threat to dam integrity.
“Why would you ever allow drilling near the reservoir?” she wondered.
County Manager David Fanslau said city officials had told him they’re taking a hardline stance against any gas drilling in the city’s watershed.
The Assembly hearing is open to the public and will be held this Thursday at 9 a.m. in Room 306 of the State Capitol in Albany.
More DMV fees coming
County Clerk Dan Briggs was none too happy to inform legislators that the state will mandate car owners exchange their current license plates for new “more reflective” ones this coming April.
And every plate switch will cost $25 plus another $20 if drivers wish to retain their current license plate number.
Briggs, who oversees the local Dept. of Motor Vehicles (DMV) office, blamed it on the state’s finances but remained cognizant of the local plight.
“I think the economy is such that that is just one more burden we cannot bear,” he said, calling the fees “onerous.”
The Government Services Committee unanimously passed a resolution opposed to the fees.
No solar at landfill
Fanslau and the Office of Sustainable Energy’s Dick Riseling confirmed that the county is not pursuing “solar capping” at the landfill in Monticello.
For several months, officials had been considering covering the landfill (when it closes next year) with a non-permeable layer of solar cells to generate electricity.
“Solar capping on landfills has not been perfected to the stage where it’s very efficient,” Fanslau told legislators on Thursday.
Plus, the DEC is not supportive of the concept, making the acquisition of needed permits problematic.
So Fanslau recommended continuing with a plan to capture and use the methane gas naturally produced by the landfill, while Riseling also said wind energy could potentially be harnessed at the site.
Assessments going down
Fanslau also informed legislators that the Town of Highland’s recently reduced tax assessment rate will have an impact countywide.
Correcting what had been widely perceived as an inequitable system, Highland officials dropped the assessment rate from 100 percent to 75 percent.
Since properties now will be taxed at 75 percent of their full market value, the tax base has, in essence, shrunk and not just on the town level.
Sullivan County, said Fanslau, will realize a 2.6 percent reduction in its total assessed value as a result of Highland’s action, totalling about $1 million less in county taxes this year.
College enrollment up
Sullivan County Community College Vice President Liz Kubenik was happy to tell legislators that SCCC’s student body is larger than last year’s.
“We’re looking at about a six percent increase,” she said, “in our full-time enrollment over last year.
“Our part-time enrollment is down a bit,” she added, “but that may be because our part-timers are now full-timers.”
The overall head count is up 4.5 percent over the 2008-2009 school year.