By Dan Hust
MONTICELLO A split Legislature last Thursday ended up almost tabling, then passing a resolution to purchase accident/crime reconstruction equipment.
The Total Workstation desired by the Sheriff’s Office had been briefly discussed the week before, and Legislator David Sager thought the matter would be tabled to allow the sheriff to explain the necessity of the equipment.
Though its $12,540 purchase price is covered by a federal Homeland Security grant, Sager and Legislator Frank Armstrong shared the concern that it could cost the county more in manpower and maintenance.
“There’s a huge back-end cost to this that I don’t agree with,” Sager explained.
“There’s no need for us to take on an extra cost,” added Armstrong, agreeing with Sager that the State Police already have such equipment, which they can share as needed with the Sheriff’s Office.
Legislator Kathy LaBuda moved to table the matter, which garnered support from Sager, Armstrong and Ron Hiatt. But that was insufficient, and when the vote on the resolution came up seconds later, only LaBuda, Sager and Armstrong registered “no” votes.
New policies passed
Two subsequent votes earned unanimous support from all nine legislators and brought about a day Rock Hill’s Dave Colavito had long hoped for.
The Legislature agreed to both a new financial disclosures policy and term limits on boards to which they appoint members, drawing praise from Colavito.
“I think this is a very, very important step,” he said.
He had only one remaining recommendation: publish the disclosures on the county’s website, rather than just making them available through a request of the Legislature Clerk’s Office.
Whether that will happen remains uncertain, but now the public will have a way to see how much business legislators and other county officials do with clients who have matters to be decided by those officials.
For more information on the policy and how to obtain the disclosures, contact the clerk’s office at 807-0435.
Apollo YMCA issues
Two speakers at Thursday’s meeting joined several legislators in concerns over the YMCA’s desire to site a facility at the former theater on the old Apollo Mall property in Monticello.
Mike Dollard, who runs the Fitness Factory in Monticello, read a letter he had written to legislators last week, urging them not to let the plan happen.
He cited two main reasons: the non-profit nature of the YMCA and its potential competition with his and similar existing for-profit fitness centers.
“Have any of you been in a major shopping center or mall anywhere and seen an organization like the YMCA located there?” he asked legislators. “The answer, of course, is no, because it does not fit the model, and it does not fit the original proposal by this firm [developer Chancellor-Livingston].”
Referring to the YMCA’s current presence at the Monticello High School, “there is absolutely no need for them to expand and move to Apollo,” Dollard continued. “The only reason they would want to leave the high school is to get a bigger share of the very limited adult fitness market in this area.”
And if that were to happen, he told legislators, the Fitness Factory would be unable to compete.
Dollard argued that the real need is for youth services, and he would support a YMCA youth center.
Dollard thought $500,000 in state money the Y got from NYS Senator John Bonacic to develop Sullivan County YMCA initiatives would be better spent for such a youth center, but Monticello resident Jim Culligan questioned the propriety of allocating any money to a project that has yet to be approved.
“It really boggles the mind,” Culligan observed.
Though legislators stayed silent on Thursday, at past meetings they’ve expressed similar discomfort with the potential of the facility to hurt for-profits, the inclusion of a not-for-profit in the middle of a development the county wants to be a major sales tax revenue-generator, and the involvement of the Cellini family.
YMCA Development Director Linda Cellini, who has started a capital campaign to raise funds for this project, also works for Bonacic source of the $500,000.
Her husband, Thompson Supervisor Tony Cellini, was on the county’s Apollo visioning committee and has strongly supported Chancellor-Livingston, which this year earned the Legislature majority’s approval to redevelop the Apollo into a modern retail mall.
The agreement between Chancellor-Livingston and the county has yet to be finalized. Legislators have indicated they may (through the agreement with Chancellor) restrict the YMCA from occupying the site, but they took no action at Thursday’s meeting.
Moving to self-plan
Earlier in the day at the Management and Budget Committee meeting, County Manager David Fanslau told legislators that even if NYSHIP (NYS Health Insurance Program) features a 5-6.5 percent increase for 2012 rather than the 10 percent it has officially projected, the county will still save close to $2 million if it switches to a self-funded health insurance plan.
That switch was already approved by the Legislature but hasn’t yet taken effect, and Legislator Sager asked his colleagues to have more in-depth discussion first, since his own calculations differed.
“The reality is, we don’t have the money to do it,” he warned, worried that the county’s cash flow would be insufficient to meet claims.
Legislator Hiatt agreed that “we don’t know what the real numbers are,” but that was blamed on NYSHIP’s refusal to reveal the county’s claims figures.
Sager said some of his predecessors recall the first time the county attempted a self-funded health insurance program that ultimately did not work out. Legislator Jodi Goodman replied that it was a plan different from the one now coming into place.
Teamsters union rep Sandy Shaddock later cautioned the Legislature as well, calling the move “shortsighted,” but ultimately no further discussion was had.