Dan Hust | Democrat
State Trooper Mike Rushanski, left, and Liberty resident Pat Lubin discuss the merits of the Loomis Area Neighborhood Watch, on which they work together.
County’s repair bill nears $10 million
Story by Dan Hust
MONTICELLO June 18, 2013 Legislators preliminarily agreed on Thursday to extend the county’s contract with the Labella architectural firm to design two new showers for the Adult Care Center (ACC).
Pending approval by the full Legislature this week, Labella will be given up to $27,060 for the design of second-floor shower facilities, as the circa-1990 originals were recently discovered to be leaking water.
The leaks threaten the ongoing work to turn the first floor into an Alzheimer’s unit. But since the county did not uncover the leaks until it started work, the original $79,650 agreement with Labella had to be increased.
The county will have to bond the funds, get a grant, or reduce the existing scope of work to pay for the showers’ replacement, said Public Works Deputy Commissioner Ed McAndrew.
He warned legislators that problems like these are bound to crop up again, as the county has long deferred maintenance on its aging infrastructure.
For example, he said, a hot water heater at the county jail failed, necessitating a $5,000 replacement.
And “certainly there are a lot of roofs that need replacement,” McAndrew added. (The ACC’s roof, in fact, is slated to be replaced.)
But legislators are confronted with a lack of available funds to do preventive maintenance, due both to the county’s economics and the dearth of grants for building repair projects.
“Your biggest potential source would be for energy efficiencies,” offered Acting County Manager Josh Potosek.
But the problem may be spiraling out of legislators’ control, as it’s far bigger than just buildings.
“If we were to have our bridges, roads and buildings in decent shape, we’d need about $9.5 million a year,” said McAndrew. “Our operating budget right now is $250,000.”
Grahamsville resident Ken Walter was appalled.
“I really have a problem when government doesn’t take care of my infrastructure,” he told legislators. “I don’t want to see us putting off something that’s going to cost me more in the long run as a taxpayer.”
But an increase doesn’t seem to be on the horizon.
“In order for us to fund DPW to where I think it should be, I’d have to raise your taxes by 10 percent next year, and I just can’t sell that,” said Legislator Kathy LaBuda. “We’re doing the best we can.”
What happened to the ElB?
Rock Hill electrician Carl Kerber attended Thursday’s Public Safety Committee meeting to ask legislators why they haven’t yet reconstituted the Electrical Licensing Board (ELB).
Though the ELB has been defunct for two years, the county is still collecting license fees.
“You should be doing something with it,” Kerber urged.
“If the board did meet, what would they do?” asked Legislator Cora Edwards, who’s been mulling the issue with colleagues.
Kerber replied that the ELB could focus on testing procedures, continuing education, updating its portion of the county’s website, and talking with building inspectors about enforcement.
“You need to appoint a board,” he stated.
But other legislators, like Kathy LaBuda, said code enforcement officers have the true ability to monitor and enforce electrical codes.
Legislator Gene Benson felt the licensing solely of electricians is “prejudicial.”
“I think all the other trades should be licensed,” Benson stated, though he’s not against reconstituting the ELB.
Legislators will meet to discuss it both today (June 18) at 2 p.m. and at the next Public Safety meeting at 4 p.m. on July 11, both at the Government Center in Monticello.
Training facility’s use expanded
Local fire departments may soon have the ability to schedule their own usage of the county’s emergency training facility near the county airport in White Lake.
Up till now, the complex’s busy schedule has been controlled by county, state and federal agencies, albeit often for training of local emergency workers.
But thanks to approval by Public Safety Committee legislators on Thursday and pending full Legislature approval this week, local fire companies will be able to schedule their own use of the facility, independent of the county, state or feds.
Officials indicated there are about 100 days per year available for local fire departments to use, so long as they pay a $50/day charge for the county personnel required to open, close and monitor the facility.
Want to start a neighborhood Watch?
With burglaries on the rise, local interest in Neighborhood Watches is also increasing.
So on July 16 at 7 p.m. at the Monticello Firehouse, Legislator Cora Edwards and local Watch leaders are inviting one and all to come learn how to start a Watch in their neighborhoods.
“We are asking people to step up,” Edwards explained at Thursday’s Public Safety Committee meeting. “We don’t want them to live in fear.”
Fallsburg Police Officer Jason Edwards, State Trooper Mike Rushanski and Undersheriff Eric Chaboty attended to note that such Watches have made a difference in places like Foxcroft Village, Loomis and Rock Hill.
“Basically, you are the eyes and ears for us,” affirmed Rushanski.
Even young people are invited, as Edwards has recruited some for his Foxcroft Village efforts.
“I actually have youth who are block captains,” he told surprised legislators. “I can’t recommend that enough: get the kids involved!”