County maps goals
By Dan Hust
MONTICELLO Want to know what county leaders see as priorities?
The short list was discussed on Tuesday during a special meeting of the Legislature’s Executive Committee.
Priorities are ranked 1-3 (with 1 being the highest) and are separated by divisions/offices.
Office of the County Manager
• Within 18 months, develop performance management throughout all county organizations, instituting performance-based budgeting with performance measures 1
• Within 18 months, finalize Capital Plan for mandated county jail, employing out-of-the-box methods to reduce the overall cost and scope of the project 1
• Within one year, develop, organize and implement the Economic Development Corporation (EDC) 1
• Within 18 months (but ongoing thereafter), develop and maintain an Economic Development Master Plan for Sullivan County, including a comprehensive inventory of resources, an overall analysis of strengths and weaknesses, and a definitive action plan for sound economic development 1
• Within 18 months (but ongoing thereafter), develop and implement an energy policy for Sullivan County that focuses on initiatives which will deliver reduced governmental operating costs and encourage environmentally friendly practices, such as energy auditing, energy alternatives and energy conservation 1
Division of Management and Budget
• Within three years, develop a long-term financial plan that will project revenues and expenditures for 5-10 years 2
• Continue to work with all municipalities and schools in the county to provide consolidated purchasing services 1
• Within 18 months, deploy multifunction devices to replace single-function machines like copiers, faxes and printers 1
• Within 30 months, move forward with the Internal Unified Telephony System consolidation 1
• Improve the county’s Website and investigate creating a Webmaster position so one person is responsible for the site 1
Division of Health and Family Services
• Improve the safety and well-being of all children, youth, families and communities, including safety from crime and violence 1
Division of Planning and Environmental Mgt
• Within two years, work with the agricultural community and economic development partners to diversify and broaden the agricultural economic base to provide new income opportunities, increase the returns associated with farming, and maintain the county’s working landscape 1
• Design and implement the stream remediation projects of the E-Triple-P Program that yield the construction of flood mitigation measures without delay of intergovernmental funds 1
• Within two years, complete the digitization of the county’s tax maps and continue to maintain them with each new deed, subdivision, condominium project, special district, etc. 1
Division of Public Safety
• Within six months, continue planning and developing the Emergency Training Center facilities to promote emergency services training in a safe and modern environment 1
• Within four years, analyze and upgrade the current emergency services radio system to meet the demands of local responders and current technology, and establish a system which would give officials the ability to send emergency notifications to residents 1
• Within two years, address the marked increase in sexual assaults and crimes against children 1
• Within three years, work with law enforcement, schools and community organizations to counteract the emerging gang presence in Sullivan County 3
Division of Public Works
• Within 18 months, prepare for future reconstruction when funds allow by assessing existing bridges and providing operations with a work list of needed repairs that can be completed within the current operating budget 2
• Effectively utilize funding currently available to perform design and oversight of repairs and improvements to the existing highway system 1
• Within three (or more) years, build, operate and maintain all county infrastructure within the constraints of reduced funding while utilizing existing resources as effectively as possible 1
• Provide LEED certification and energy audit training to Building Unit staff in order to provide the county with in-house expertise in the field of sustainable building and energy conservation techniques 1.
Legislators liked what they heard, especially as it pertained to fiscal conservatism without job and program losses.
“We can’t cut our way out of our current problems,” assessed Legislature Chair Jonathan Rouis.
He advocated for growing the county’s business base, which would increase the sales tax revenue and thus offset otherwise-inevitable property tax hikes.
“Our economic development program has to be countywide,” he added. “My second priority and it ties into that is infrastructure.”
He agreed with Legislator Kathy LaBuda that roads and bridges must get attention, lest they be double or triple the expense in the future.
“But it’s going to be painful,” he warned.
Legislator Leni Binder hoped the state was done with unfunded mandates, while Legislator Frank Armstrong was gratified to see a focus on agriculture and the western end of the county.
Legislator Alan Sorensen offered another alternative to reining in costs: “I would start by dumping the dump” to which he found assent by Legislature Vice Chair Ron Hiatt (who also recommended a study of privatizing the Adult Care Center).
Sorensen also pushed for a renewed focus on the Emerald Corporate Center and Monticello’s Broadway, while also not forgetting the economic potential of the properties surrounding the Concord in Kiamesha Lake and Route 17’s Exit 106 near the former Apollo Mall.
Hiatt liked the switch to performance-based operations in county government, remarking that “sometimes, thy eye offend thee, you should pluck it out.”
That said, he worried that the county is losing people it can’t afford to see leave.
“We are so non-competitive with some of our employees, as far as pay is concerned,” he lamented. “We just can’t keep them!”
LaBuda, however, argued that this is no time to be looking at spending the significant amounts of money necessary for across-the-board raises.
“We don’t have that kind of money, Ron, to give every employee what they want or deserve,” she said.
She also lamented that the Town of Thompson’s zoning has greatly restricted the viability of the Emerald Corporate Center in Rock Hill.
Binder added that the Industrial Development Agency’s fees can be prohibitively high for small businesses, not allowing them to take advantage of the incentives offered to larger entities.
“We’re pricing a lot of the Moms-and-Pops out of the business,” she said.
Rock Hill resident Dave Colavito, who was observing the meeting, piped in to add that the IDA’s abatements should be accompanied by a later study on how well a company performed as a result in other words, the return the county’s taxpayers got on their investment.
In the process, said Rouis, a clear message needs to be sent to locals, visitors and potential newcomers.
“Sullivan County is open for business,” he stated. “We want business, and we’ll do what it takes to get business, within reason.”