County to ask state not to force new jail
By Dan Hust
MONTICELLO Sullivan County officials have been successful in getting NYS Commission of Correction (COC) Chairman Thomas Beilein to promise a visit.
When he’ll actually make that trip is still in question (though it will be in the evening), but he’ll likely be met by the kind of pointed questions and criticism levelled at county legislators on Thursday.
“We can’t afford it,” said Phil Manoy, one of several speakers at the full Legislature meeting in Monticello who talked about the proposed $80 million new jail. “People are struggling to pay their taxes now!”
That thought was echoed by Legislator Alan Sorensen.
“At some point the state needs to realize we can’t afford this,” he remarked. “We’re already at $80 million in [existing county] debt. This [new jail] will bring us closer to $200 million.”
Legislator Jodi Goodman said a petition has been started that will ask the state not to force the county to build a replacement to the 100-year-old jail in Monticello, which County Manager David Fanslau said is now the officially oldest operating jail in New York.
Goodman urged interested citizens to add their signatures to the petition. It will be available shortly online at www.scgnet.us, or paper copies can be obtained/reviewed at the Legislature’s office in the Government Center.
“We want to get those names up to the state ASAP,” she said.
In the meantime, residents like Tom Manza, who lives about a mile from the proposed new jail location, urged legislators to consider rehabbing the old jail and building an annex on existing adjacent, county-owned property.
“The fact is, local contractors could use the work,” he remarked. “... And it can provide an affordable solution for a number of years.”
Unions say county must provide reasoning
Lou Setren, speaking on behalf of Teamsters Local 445 (which represents more than half of the county’s workforce), told legislators on Thursday that the union is willing to work with the county on proposed “givebacks” in the 2010 tentative budget.
“We recognize as well as any other taxpayer the dire straits we’re in,” Setren explained.
However, he added, the county must first present the union with an analysis of the savings before any agreement can be reached.
Thanks to a resolution first introduced by Legislator David Sager, the county now has a whistleblower policy.
Legislators on Thursday unanimously adopted the policy, which recognizes that state and federal statutes encourage the reporting of illegal or otherwise fraudulent conduct in government.
The county’s policy is intended to protect employees from retaliation and exposure for reporting such conduct (so long as it is done in good faith), and the policy will be made known to all those doing business with the county, as well.
Private summit planned on county’s future
About 100 “representatives of stakeholder groups” from the county are being invited to a “charrette,” or summit, to discuss the county’s needs, priorities and strategies for the next five years.
The event will be held all day on December 7 at the Lodge at Rock Hill but is not open to the public. (A report on the event will be featured in the Democrat on December 11.)
The summit is being coordinated by the Division of Planning and Environmental Management with a $24,000 state grant, along with expected donations from the mostly unidentified stakeholder groups.
A “working group,” however, already includes the Sullivan County Partnership for Economic Development, Industrial Development Agency, Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Association.
To be led by Planning Commissioner Luiz Aragon and Dykstra Associates’ planning consultants Robert Tessier and Fred Suljic, the summit’s overall thrust is to create a five-year economic development plan for the county, with a report to be delivered from Dykstra by January 15, costing $4,000.
Concord still supported by county
Legislators on Thursday reiterated their support for the Concord’s resurrection, agreeing unanimously to continue efforts to create a funding mechanism to pay for a $6 million road improvement plan around the former Kiamesha Lake resort.
The state will only reimburse the county for that $6 million, not pay for it up front, but the county does not have that kind of cash on hand, meaning short-term bonding is likely.