By Dan Hust
MONTICELLO With winter approaching, legislators heard some grim news on the Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP) on Thursday.
“We will probably be in a more stressful situation [ than last year],” Health and Family Services Commissioner Chris Cunningham told the Legislature.
He praised the skills of the county staff that will begin handling HEAP applications on November 16 but said the state expects a cutback in the federal aid used to fund the program.
The maximum benefit of $500 is $200 less than last year, and emergency aid won’t be available until January 3.
“And it gets very complicated with eligibility issues,” Cunningham added.
Plus HEAP not only starts two weeks later this year but may end two weeks earlier, on March 15 though he predicted the state will extend HEAP aid like they did last year.
Grahamsville resident and seniors advocate Priscilla Bassett, on behalf of the Senior Legislative Action Commission (SLAC), urged legislators to support the continuance of a surcharge on the state’s wealthiest residents.
The surcharge is expected to generate over a billion dollars, so legislators on the Health and Family Services Committee unanimously agreed to send letters advocating for it to state and federal representatives.
Re3 Vice President Drew Gorman was back in front of legislators on Thursday, once again pitching his company’s proposal to bring a steam autoclave recycling plant to the closed landfill site in Monticello.
Promising 50-75 jobs and “$3-$7 million in net revenues per year to the county,” Gorman asked for a formal letter of interest from the county so he could confidently solicit financial backers for the project.
Legislator Leni Binder reiterated her belief that the county doesn’t currently generate the 160,000 tons of trash needed to make the process which turns garbage into cellulose fiber and fuel economical, but Gorman replied that his research indicated that number could be achieved.
However, Legislator David Sager and others want the NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation’s opinion first.
“We need to hear assurances from them that it’s bona fide,” Sager explained.
Legislator Alan Sorensen noted that the landfill/Apollo area already has interested developers who are negotiating leases with the county, advising legislators to obtain County Attorney Sam Yasgur’s input first.
But in the end, the Sustainability Policy Committee unanimously endorsed Re3 drawing up a sample contract for them to review.