By Dan Hust
MONTICELLO Sullivan County is cancelling plans to create a demonstration farm in Kenoza Lake, but it's not abandoning the concept.
At Thursday's Planning Committee meeting, County Treasurer Ira Cohen told legislators the Real Property Advisory Board suggested the Legislature move on from the 84-acre site on Fulton Hill Road, which it's owned since a foreclosure in 2009.
"We feel it's time ... that this property should be sold at the tax auction this year," Cohen explained.
"It's not to say we shouldn't continue to pursue such a project," he added, "but not at this location."
The county had fought with the prior owner over the foreclosure, eventually securing title, but the plans for a "model farm" never gained momentum.
The Town of Delaware also criticized the county for proceeding without initially including the town, especially since the county‚Äôs ownership meant the town taxes went unpaid.
Nevertheless, legislators agreed with Cohen that they wanted to continue developing the concept and asked him to keep an eye out for suitable properties in future foreclosures.
"The key to such success will be the involvement of the stakeholders of the agricultural industry in the county and their possible desire for the county to move in that direction," stated County Manager David Fanslau afterwards.
The situation may also lead to a policy discussion by legislators, who expressed interest in retaining mineral rights on county-foreclosed properties sold at auction though more likely to prohibit, rather than derive revenue from, development like gas drilling.
Meanwhile, the Kenoza Lake site, privately appraised by the county at $350,000, will be put up for sale at the June tax auction.
A costly cleanup
At Thursday's Public Works Committee meeting, Fanslau warned legislators that continuing the annual municipal cleanup will add costs to the already strained county budget.
Every spring, the county allows the 15 townships and six villages to dump varying amounts of trash at the Monticello Transfer Station for free.
But with the county landfill now closed, the costs of allowing such have increased.
"The municipal cleanup will be a maximum of $53,200 (700 tons/$76/ton if total allotments are used across all towns and villages)," Fanslau said.
Legislators nevertheless agreed it's worthwhile.
"The county has to be clean, folks," said Legislator Kathy LaBuda.
New position coming
An argument over whether or not the county could afford to create a new grantswriter position eventually resulted in a 7-2 approval.
Legislators Alan Sorensen and Kitty Vetter remained opposed to the new position ‚Äì not because of the cost per se but because of a concern it might hurt the ‚Äúcreativity‚Äù of individual departments‚Äô grantwriting goals by consolidating the effort into that position.
But other legislators pointed out that centralization already exists in the form of the Grants Administration Department.
Couple the department's large workload and the potential to bring in more grants, and the legislative majority agreed the $60,662.24 position (including benefits) would be worth it.
Fanslau said afterwards that the funding for that position will come from other vacant positions and the administrative-cost components of awarded grants.