By Dan Hust
MONTICELLO Amidst applause, cheers and hugs all around, Sullivan County’s new Legislature officially got down to business on Wednesday.
“We are committed to working together with respect and consideration in a bipartisan manner to bring about the change that the voters of Sullivan County mandated in this past election,” District 1 Legislator Scott Samuelson told the crowd minutes after his fellow legislators unanimously chose him to chair the Legislature in 2012.
“There is much to do to regain the trust and respect of the citizenry of this great community,” Samuelson acknowledged. “We understand and accept the challenge wholeheartedly.
“There will be a new way of doing business in Sullivan County one of open communication, transparency, cooperation, trust and respect.”
County Court Judge Frank LaBuda swore in each of the new legislators in a ceremony inside the Government Center’s packed lobby.
His wife, Kathy, was one of three legislators voters held over from the last term, along with Jonathan Rouis and Alan Sorensen (the sole incumbent not to face a challenger in November).
The rest Samuelson, Gene Benson, Cindy Gieger, Cora Edwards, Kitty Vetter and Ira Steingart are brand new.
Indeed, the “fresh start” theme was reinforced when Benson was unanimously chosen by his colleagues to be the Legislature’s vice chairman.
Kathy LaBuda remained majority leadera powerful post by dint of her experience and being one of seven Democrats on the Legislature while Alan Sorensen was named minority leader, as he and Vetter are the only Republicans.
Samuelson and Benson, however, promised to set political differences aside, and that vow was at least initially fulfilled in the first resolutions upon which the new Legislature voted.
All nine legislators agreed to reappoint Sam Yasgur as county attorney (concurrent with their four-year terms), Legislature Clerk AnnMarie Martin and Veterans Services Agency Director John Crotty.
They also unanimously agreed to have Planning Commissioner Luiz Aragon send comments to the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) on its draft rules pertaining to gas drillingand to demand the DEC withdraw that draft, revise it, then reissue it for another round of public comment.
The approved resolution stated that the county has concerns about drilling’s impacts on infrastructure, intermunicipal coordination, groundwater, transportation, ecosystem health and more.
“It is the county’s view that the proceeding towards a final SGEIS [Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement] at this time would be inappropriate,” read the resolution.
The comments sent to DEC reiterate county concerns about cumulative and public health impacts but also now predict that drilling will have substantial negative impacts on the existing local tourism, agriculture, real estate and healthcare industries.
Wednesday was the deadline for those comments to be forwarded to the state, and Aragon confirmed that they were.
The County Legislature will start holding committee meetings next Tuesday (beginning with Personnel at 9:15 a.m.), then continue them on Thursday (beginning with Management and Budget at 9:15 a.m.).
All meetings are held inside the Government Center in Monticello, and details can be found in the Democrat’s Meetings Box on page 2A.
The public is invited and encouraged to attend.
“It’s very important that we all participate,” noted District 6 Legislator Cora Edwards in her remarks to the audience. “... We will only be as good as the level of citizen participation in our democracy.”