By Dan Hust
MONTICELLO After some tweaking, legislators on Thursday unanimously agreed to finalize negotiations to redevelop the former Apollo Mall.
The approval means the Sullivan County Funding Corporation (a county local development agency) can come to either sale or lease terms with Chancellor-Livingston, the development firm chosen last year to build a new mall for a variety of big-box and small stores.
Prior to that vote, several public speakers urged a rethinking of the provision allowing a non-profit (expected to be the YMCA) to utilize the former movie theater, which is separate from but adjoins the old mall.
The resolution states that once at least 100,000 square feet of tax-generating retail outlets are in operation at the new mall, a non-profit can move in to the theater.
But the speakers made the case that a Y at that location could hurt for-profit businesses in the county.
“The YMCA enjoys an unbelievable amount of advantages over a private health club,” explained Fitness Factory owner Mike Dollard, who otherwise supports the Apollo’s re-creation.
With this deal, he told legislators, “you’re pretty much redoubling their advantage over a taxpaying entity like myself.”
Dollard felt “good old-fashioned Sullivan County politics [is] at play,” but knowing that the resolution was poised to pass, he urged legislators to “hold the YMCA to what their mission is: that they serve the underserved.”
No one from the YMCA spoke, but legislators said they recognized speakers’ issues.
“We hear your concerns but do not think this [competition] will occur,” Legislator Kitty Vetter replied. “The reason is the demographics of the future clientele. If the Y actually comes in, we must recognize that the target population is families.”
Some legislators, like Kathy LaBuda and Cindy Gieger, shared Dollard’s concerns but still voted for the resolution.
“I couldn’t let that be the dealbreaker,” LaBuda explained. “... For me, it’s the big picture.”
Legislator Cora Edwards, however, introduced two last-minute amendments, one of which requires a “community benefit agreement” with whatever non-profit eventually comes in. What that will contain was not detailed.
The other amendment allows the Legislature discretion over how to use the sale/lease payments from Chancellor-Livingston on the portion of the property once intended to host the now-cancelled landfill expansion (either to create a reserve fund or pay off the related debt).
$3M in bonds
Legislators also unanimously agreed on Thursday to bond $3 million.
A million of that will go toward purchasing computer hardware and software that will enable the county to create “virtual desktops,” intended to increase efficiency and reliability.
The other $2 million will help shoulder the rising costs of county road repairs. About 10 miles of roadway will be resurfaced, thanks to these funds.
Waiting period is here
Though several dealers asked for a shorter time span, legislators on Thursday agreed to institute a 15-day waiting period during which secondhand dealers in gems and precious metals have to hold on to those items.
The idea, advanced by District Attorney Jim Farrell, is to aid police and the DA’s Office in tracking down, arresting and successfully prosecuting a growing number of thieves breaking into people’s homes and stealing their jewelry.
Two local dealers showed up Thursday to ask for a seven-day period, worried that they’ll lose customers and revenue with a longer wait.
They also complained about the mandate to now send identifying info about each seller to the Sheriff’s Office within 48 hours, citing a possible invasion of privacy.
Curiously, they did not argue about the new $100-a-year licensing fee requiring them to register with the county, but legislators and Farrell rejected their arguments anyway.
“Police need that 15-day window in order to recover the material,” Farrell insisted, arguing that the intent is not to spy on law-abiding citizens but to catch thieves. “... I think it’s important we have the ability to know who these people are quickly after a crime has occurred.”
A $25,000 settlement
Legislators unanimously approved a settlement with the Teamsters Local 445 union, representing the majority of county employees.
County officials decided to stop pursuing a disagreement with the union over longevity payments to more than two dozen employees.
The payments, made to workers who have logged as much as 30 years of continuous service, total $25,000.
County Manager David Fanslau said the payout which has to be made within 45 days “should not have a major impact on the budget for 2012.”
New ag subcommittee
Legislator Cindy Gieger announced on Thursday that a new Agriculture Subcommittee will meet on Tuesday, April 10 at 11:30 a.m. at the Government Center in Monticello.
Open to the public and comprised of legislators and ag-oriented locals, the subcommittee will exist underneath the Sustainability Policy Committee of the Legislature.