By Dan Hust
MONTICELLO Legislators on Thursday discussed and voted upon a slew of initiatives, including one asking the state to allow Sullivan County to award bids to local companies even when they aren’t the lowest bidders.
Seek ‘local preference’
Citing a recent situation where a local auto dealer’s bid on goods and services for Sullivan County was just $12 higher than an out-of-county bidder, legislators in the Government Services Committee agreed to ask the state for a “local preference” bid award ability.
The idea, according to the resolution, is to aid in-county businesses in the midst of the national economic recession, which in turn could boost the county’s tax revenues.
“It would stay in the county if it [the bid] is a difference of just a few dollars,” Legislator Kitty Vetter explained.
More precisely, in-county bidders could be awarded contracts with the county if their bids are less than 10 percent higher than the lowest responsible bid from an out-of-county bidder.
Whether that will be enacted, however, isn’t up to the county.
“This takes an act of the State Legislature to change,” reminded Legislator Jonathan Rouis.
“So let’s do one every month until they pass it,” Legislator Kathy LaBuda replied.
SCCC budget revealed
Legislators in the Government Services Committee meeting Thursday also heard from SUNY Sullivan Board Chairman Nick Speranza and Interim President William Murabito, who came to promote the college and its upcoming budget.
Approved in May by the college’s board at $17.3 million, the 2012-2013 budget is $1 million higher than last year’s but is getting the same amount $4 million from the county as in 2011-2012.
Tuition will be increasing by seven percent in the fall to cover new programs and staff costs.
The new Legislature and college administration seemed to get along this year much better than last year, with legislators like Kathy LaBuda affirming that funding the college is worth even exceeding the state’s 2 percent property tax increase cap.
“It’s a piece of what’s good in Sullivan County,” affirmed Legislator Cindy Gieger.
On July 19, the county will be voting on its $4 million contribution, prior to which the public will have a chance to comment. The hearing will begin at 4:20 p.m. at the Government Center in Monticello.
Fracking brine banned
The county is headed toward prohibiting the use of fracking brine to deice its roads.
An initiative of Legislator Cindy Gieger’s, the resolution is based on a similar one from Ulster County, which just enacted such a ban.
The prohibition would apply to all waste products from the natural gas drilling technique known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.
Legislators are concerned the use of such products might harm the environment and public health, but they acknowledged that they probably cannot force townships and villages to follow suit.
Thus the measure would be limited to county roads, though Public Works Commissioner Bob Meyer said he is not aware of such fracking brine being used anywhere in the county currently.
Legislator Alan Sorensen also thought a similar resolution asking the state to ban the use of such products is warranted, and fellow members of the Public Works Committee agreed.
In the meantime, Meyer urged legislators to ensure a distinction is made in the legal language regarding “brine,” as the county currently uses a salty brine mixture which doesn’t come from fracking to treat roads.
Legislators in the Management and Budget Committee unanimously agreed to spend just over $80,000 to have a plane fly over the county and take digital pictures of the terrain.
The county did the same five years ago, and the photos have been used for everything from 911 to property taxing purposes.
While some of that imagery is out of date, Legislator Jonathan Rouis indicated another major impetus is the fact that the cost to have the photos taken a year or two from now may shoot past $200,000.
The plane is expected to overfly Sullivan County’s 1,000 square miles in October and November, when leaves are off the trees but snow has yet to blanket the ground.
ID machine not an ATV
A vote on a Sheriff’s Office request seemed similar to one the week prior, yet it didn’t generate any discussion, let alone controversy.
Earlier this month, Sheriff Michael Schiff requested legislators approve adding four grant-funded ATVs to the county’s capital budget, which turned into a debate over the need for such.
But last week, his request for another change to the capital budget to again use federal Homeland Security funds, this time to purchase an $8,000 electronic ID-creating machine passed without comment.
Did they vote on that? Look it up
Thanks to the work of Chief Information Officer Lorne Green and new Webmaster Andrew McCabe, visitors to the county’s website can now search for Legislature resolutions dating back to 1999.
For more recent years, the database covers everything legislators publicly voted upon.
“They can search by year, resolution number, when it was adopted, by what committee or its description,” Green told the Management and Budget Committee in a presentation Thursday.
The searchable index is now available at www.co.sullivan.ny.us. Under the “Find a Department” tab on the right side of the screen, click on “County Legislature.”
The “Legislative Resolutions Index” is listed in the green box on the left side of the screen. Click on it to access the index and instructions.