By Dan Hust
MONTICELLO One of two lawsuits holding up the redevelopment of the former Apollo Mall has now been settled.
On Thursday, the County Legislature unanimously approved an offer by the Village of Monticello to resolve the village’s suit over back taxes it said it was owed on the now-county-owned property.
Monticello had sued the county in October for $869,309 in outstanding village taxes owed on the Apollo property dating back to 2004, plus a pro-rated portion of whatever the county had recovered for 2002 and 2003 when it foreclosed on the involved parcels.
The county initially refused, and the matter seemed destined for court.
But earlier this month, the village proposed a settlement, which this past Thursday legislators unanimously approved.
The village board is expected to ratify the agreement tonight.
It calls for an immediate payment of $96,037 from the county to the village for 2009-2011 taxes, followed by another $330,000 when the county sells the property.
According to the resolution, County Attorney Sam Yasgur considers the settlement “fair and equitable ... and avoids exposing the county to potential liability for a greater amount in litigation.”
Chancellor-Livingston, the developer selected to re-create the Apollo, is hoping for a lease instead of an outright sale, but the terms have yet to be set.
“We’re still trying to get our development agreement together,” explained one of Chancellor’s principals, Henry Zabatta.
The agreement is currently being drafted by the county, he said, and Chancellor hopes to see it by the end of this month.
In the meantime, the firm continues to woo potential retailers, though that’s been complicated by this issue and a still-outstanding easement dispute between the county and the owner of parcels through which the Apollo’s main entrances pass.
Legislators also unanimously approved a settlement arising from mediation between the county and the builder of its new transfer station and materials recovery facility (MRF) near the landfill in Monticello.
The work was not done on time, though the county and Verticon, the contractor, disputed the reasons why.
In the end, the county agreed to pay $699,000 of the $770,000 still outstanding in the contract.
More cameras at jail
Sullivan County Jail Administrator Hal Smith told legislators Thursday that a $43,020 contract with P.N. Fire and Burglar Alarm Co. in Monticello will significantly increase the amount of cameras in the jail.
“We’re putting in these camera systems so we can keep track of our staff and inmates,” he explained.
The 32 new cameras come with sophisticated monitoring software that can identify and alert deputies to weapons carried or dropped by inmates.
“It records 24/7,” Smith said. “We’ll have staff watching it live also.”
Legislators unanimously agreed to the contract, with Jodi Goodman abstaining.
While the tentative 2012 county budget didn’t muster enough votes to pass, legislators did unanimously agree to $1,000 raises for them and/or their successors.
“I think the raise is a modest raise,” observed Legislator David Sager, who won’t be on the new Legislature when it convenes in January. “... I think it’s fair and equitable and provides clarity to how it’s done in the future.”
Sager noted the mileage reimbursement was eliminated and that he and other legislators have rejected raises in the past.
The new legislators will have the same opportunity to forego any raises, though Narrowsburg resident Star Hesse reiterated to the Legislature that it should have refused to pass the raise resolution as a sign of sacrifice to taxpayers.
Another outgoing legislator, Leni Binder, replied that it’s tough to spend all the time required for what is billed as a part-time job, unless one is independently wealthy.
“I think you’ll find,” she said to the incoming crop of legislators, “... some of your obligations are going to be more than you expect.”
After the meeting, Fanslau confirmed that he plans to discuss with the new Legislature reinstating some form of mileage reimbursement, possibly updating what he considers outdated rules, subject to legislators’ approval.
very narrow passage
A bare minimum of legislators agreed on Thursday to extend the agreement to consolidate the Sheriff’s Office dispatchers with the 911 Center’s and put them all under Sheriff Michael Schiff’s authority.
The move had actually been made earlier this year but needed to be reapproved by the end of January 2012.
Schiff pushed for approval from the current Legislature, saying he didn’t want to install $10,000 worth of equipment in the Center’s White Lake facility if the dispatchers would be separated again.
But other legislators felt it should be taken up by the new Legislature when it’s seated in January.
Ultimately, the consolidation stayed put, via a 5-4 vote.
Voting for the measure were Jonathan Rouis, Elwin Wood, Leni Binder, Jodi Goodman and Alan Sorensen. Voting against it were Kathy LaBuda, David Sager, Frank Armstrong and Ron Hiatt.
The resolution allows the Legislature to rescind the agreement at any time, so it could be a topic once again, come January.