By Dan Hust
MONTICELLO February 26, 2013 Despite reservations from some legislators, Thursday’s vote to move forward with a massive emergency communications system upgrade was unanimous.
Legislators Cindy Gieger, Alan Sorensen and Kitty Vetter continued to be concerned about the costs and the fiscal impact of bonding nearly $9 million.
In Executive Committee on Thursday, in fact, both Sorensen and Vetter voted against the bonding resolution.
But by the time the full Legislature meeting rolled around later that day, they too agreed to launch into the most expensive part of the $10 million project, designed to upgrade from low-band to high-band all towers and radio equipment used by firefighters, police officers, EMS responders and county DPW employees.
Sorensen’s concern that greenlighting the project might hurt the county’s chances at additional grants proved to be unfounded, he said, with Sullivan now in the running for a third round of grants (the first two have netted the project nearly $2 million).
Gieger said she supports the concept but remains worried that it will lead to a tax hike for another major county bonding effort to fix roads and bridges which is set to be discussed next month.
“We need to begin to build much-needed reserves,” she explained, advocating for a committee to review the overall bonding situation. “... We have to recognize the financial expectations of our taxpayers.”
Vetter voiced support for emergency responders but indicated she expects more grant funding to exist when the actual bonding scheduled for next year comes up for a vote.
“I do recognize the value of our people who run to help,” she said. “... I just want to make sure ... we might be able to get more monies ... that this is not locking us into an $8 million debt.”
Other legislators felt differently.
“I really don’t care how much it costs us,” said Legislator Gene Benson. “... This is something that has to be done.”
“We will continue to pursue all state and federal funding sources to minimize the amount of the 2014 bond issue,” promised Legislator Cora Edwards, who chairs the Public Safety Committee.
Gun resolution delayed
Though just as many in the audience turned out for a symbolic Second Amendment resolution as for the radio upgrade vote, legislators didn’t ultimately discuss a proposed resolution to decry New York State’s new gun legislation.
Benson said he’s working on a resolution he intends to introduce at the full Legislature meeting on March 21.
“I’m using the Ulster County and Oswego County resolutions,” he explained.
Deputies, county agree on contract
After five years without a contract, the union for the Sullivan County Sheriff’s deputies and legislators reached a deal on Thursday.
It calls for a nine percent increase to make up for a three-year stalemate (an arbitration panel already mandated raises for 2008 and 2009), plus one percent raises every year going forward through 2017.
Deputies will have to pay more toward their health insurance.
Charter change tabled
One proposed change of the county charter did not go forward Thursday.
Without explanation, Gieger moved to table a proposal to eliminate the deputy county manager position, enable legislators to choose an acting county manager (instead of the deputy automatically taking over in a vacancy), and move up the tentative budget filing deadline from Nov. 15 to Oct. 1.
Her colleagues unanimously agreed to hold off on that conversation, for now.
Movie deal reached
Legislators also unanimously agreed on Thursday to allow a movie company to film a supernatural thriller in the former Apollo Mall in Monticello.
The company shooting “Jamie Marks Is Dead” in March will be able to utilize the decaying mall’s interior for a $1,000 fee.
More vacancies filled
Seven vacant Division of Public Works positions, two vacant Adult Care Center positions, and one vacant Sheriff’s position were unanimously filled by legislators on Thursday.
All the positions are budgeted for 2013.
Economic consultant reports
A presentation delayed due to Hurricane Sandy finally arrived at the Government Center on Thursday, when consultants from the Wadley-Donovan Group briefed legislators on the progress of an economic development strategic plan.
The bulk of their presentation listed ideas that will be distilled into actual recommendations in April or May.
While most of the ideas have long been bandied about in the county, Wadley-Donovan President William Fredrick said the goal is to actually implement many of them.
“Things in the county drag on and drag on and drag on, while in other counties it gets done,” Fredrick observed.
First up, he advised, is a simplification of the current economic development system which consists of a confusing array of entities into one principal agency.
“If we were to come in [as a developer], we would be totally lost as to what to do ... who to speak with, who to get data from,” Fredrick said.
He added that out of 33 identified initiatives, the goal is to pick 12-15 priorities for action.