By Dan Hust
MONTICELLO The idea of setting term limits on Industrial Development Agency (IDA) Board members gained momentum at Thursday’s Community and Economic Development Committee meeting of the County Legislature.
Legislator David Sager started the push, arguing that any board benefits from turnover but especially one that has as much tax-abatement and business-attraction power as the IDA.
“The Partnership [for Economic Development] has term limits, don’t they?” Sager pointed out. “So why can’t the IDA?”
Currently, IDA Board members serve for as long as the Legislature desires, and some have been on the board for 15 years.
“I do believe you get stale in any position,” Sager added, noting that some of the IDA Board members have retired from the business world.
“Just because you may not be active in a business doesn’t mean you’ve lost your ability,” Legislator Leni Binder replied.
But Sager mostly found support from his colleagues.
“I think it does make sense,” said Alan Sorensen, joined by Kathy LaBuda and Ron Hiatt.
Legislator Elwin Wood, who chairs the IDA, pointed out that the past four years have each seen a new board member appointed by the Legislature, but he agreed to talk about setting up staggered terms at the August 11 meeting of the Legislature’s Executive Committee (open to the public, 2 p.m. at the Government Center in Monticello).
IDA website up
The IDA’s new website, sullivanida.com, garnered compliments from legislators but a bit of criticism from the public.
Rock Hill’s Dave Colavito and Narrowsburg’s Claudine Luchsinger appreciated the large additions of info on particular projects, but they felt the site had yet to live up to the original intent of the Legislature.
“We spent $11,000 to bring this up to date,” replied Wood, whose colleagues added that any lack of compliance with the original resolution wasn’t the IDA’s fault, as the wording had been inadvertently changed when the updated website resolution was entered into the minutes.
Motor Club concerns
Colavito also asked legislators to ensure the IDA remains responsive to all sides in controversial issues.
“I really think there needs to be a sensitivity that is [now] kind of lacking here,” he remarked, speaking of the Monticello Motor Club and surrounding residents’ issues with the noise level. “... I don’t think this is an unresolvable problem.”
“Under New York State law, it is home rule,” replied Binder, referring to the Town of Thompson’s authority to address the concerns. “We [the county] don’t have anything to say.”
Motor Club neighbor Ann Culligan said the IDA’s involvement as an arm of county government does give the county some say, and she hopes it will be a different response than the township’s.
“We’ve spoken up. We were completely ignored by the town and planning boards,” she explained to Binder.
“We’re living in a situation down there that is just intolerable,” added her husband, Jim.
Sager said he sympathized with the Culligans, adding that he knows what it’s like to have trouble with the neighbors and the town.
“I have no faith in home rule at the local level anymore,” he said, arguing that the county can place pressure on “individuals and towns to say there needs to be some conforming.”
Later in Thursday’s committee meetings, legislators unanimously agreed to pen a letter of support to the state for the Federation for the Homeless, which is facing closure of its soup kitchen due to the loss of $120,000 in state funding.
“It’s a shame, because we’re the second poorest county in the state, and we’re closing our soup kitchen,” LaBuda lamented.
New 911 surcharge
The advent of Internet telephony known as Voiceover IP or VoIP means the county’s 911 system now has another revenue source.
Regular landline and cell phone bills already feature a 30-35-cent surcharge that helps pay for 911 service, but until now, VoIP providers have not had to charge such though Time-Warner Cable, the largest local VoIP provider, voluntarily does so.
On Thursday, members of the Legislature’s Public Safety Committee unanimously voted to make that 35-cent surcharge mandatory on any VoIP phones used in the county, including services like Vonage.
A public hearing on the proposal has been set for 1:50 p.m. on August 18, right before the full Legislature meeting at the Government Center.
Visitor Center update
Though delayed by a technical funding language issue, the Upper Delaware Visitor’s Center part of the Route 97 byway goals is moving ahead, according to Planning Commissioner Luiz Aragon.
He told legislators that the state has finally signed a contract with the county to do a feasibility study on Fort Delaware in Narrowsburg, where the center is proposed to be built.