Sullivan County Democrat
Callicoon, New York
April 12, 2013 Issue
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Dan Hust | Democrat

Monticello resident Tom Manza, standing, urges legislators to call for an amendment – rather than a repeal – of the state’s SAFE Act gun legislation as Legislator Gene Benson listens.

SAFE under fire

By Dan Hust
MONTICELLO — March 12, 2013 — Legislator Gene Benson informally introduced a draft anti-NY SAFE Act resolution on Thursday and expressed confidence it will be passed by his colleagues at the full Legislature’s March 21 meeting.
Stating he’s thus far received 300+ emails in opposition to the state’s new gun control legislation (enacted in the wake of the Newtown, CT shootings), Benson offered a preview of the draft of his resolution, which calls for the state’s law to be repealed and a more public and participatory process to be undertaken.
“Hear, hear!” replied Legislator Kitty Vetter, followed by statements of support from fellow legislators Kathy LaBuda, Cora Edwards and Cindy Gieger.
Other officials weighed in, too, including County Attorney Sam Yasgur.
“People were seriously misled by this law,” he stated, arguing it does not make the state safer.
Community Services Commissioner Joe Todora agreed, noting that the law does little to increase his ability as a health professional to appropriately treat mentally ill people who may use guns.
“If they really wanted to help us, they’d give us more mental health resources,” Todora said.
Sheriff Michael Schiff said the issue isn’t so much about guns as it is about process.
“You’re dealing with the U.S. and NYS Constitutions,” he argued. “To change that, it should be done deliberatively.”
But Monticello resident Tom Manza worried officials may not be listening to the “silent majority.”
“I don’t think the average citizen in the county wants this [SAFE] law torn up,” he remarked, pointing out a recent survey that indicated 94 percent of people in Congressman Chris Gibson’s district support background checks on all gun purchases.
“A lot of people in this county want some safeguards,” he said, “but they’re not necessarily the loudest in Sullivan County.”
Instead of repeal, Manza suggested the resolution ask for amendments to the SAFE Act.
“The feeling of the average citizen is it shouldn’t be destroyed,” he insisted.
Both sides’ assessment of the majority opinion will be tested on March 21 at 2 p.m., when the full Legislature meets at the Government Center in Monticello to discuss and vote upon the resolution.
Renovations move forward
Thanks to a unanimous vote by legislators on Thursday (with Cindy Gieger and Kitty Vetter absent), the final piece of the Adult Care Center’s renovation project is now in place.
Steve Lundgren was named the $1.1 million project’s construction manager. A Hortonville resident and former construction manager of the Sullivan West High School, Lundgren will be paid $56,000.
The rest of the grant-funded project is ready to go – and must be finished by October of this year.
“All contracts for construction have been awarded,” Purchasing Director Kathy Jones told legislators.
It will refurbish the 23-year-old facility in Liberty and add Alzheimer’s and physical rehab units.
New drug plan
Legislator Cindy Gieger plans next month to formally introduce a resolution calling for a new monitoring plan and part-time consultant to reduce the county’s expenses on pharmaceutical drugs for residents of the Adult Care Center and County Jail.
“I know the cost [difference] between brand-name and generic drugs is astronomical,” she told the Health and Family Services Committee on Thursday. “We need to keep the oversight constant.”
She provided legislators an analysis estimating that the county could save upwards of $85,000 a year if drug prices were more closely monitored.
She is advocating for a software program and a consultant position (working 12-14 hours a month) be created to accomplish such.
“I’m going to have all the figures next month,” she promised.
SASD remains
Legislators in the Agriculture and Sustainability Policy Committee on Thursday unanimously agreed to keep Sullivan Alliance for Sustainable Development (SASD) as the county’s green energy consultant and promoter.
Though the $60,000 contract (if approved by the full Legislature later this month) will retain the nonprofit through to December, the amount is less than what they’d requested, due to budget cuts.
Worried about Monticello
During Thursday’s Public Safety Committee meeting, District Attorney Jim Farrell told legislators he has “a concern about the Village of Monticello.”
“They had a complement of four detectives [in their police department],” he remarked. “They now have one – and the crime has not receded.”
He urged legislators to remain aware of the situation, especially since the Government Center and the DA’s Office, among others, sit within village boundaries, where the police are constantly battling gangs and drugs.
“That’s a concern I think we need to look at as we’re going forward,” he argued, “because I’m not sure it’s going to be addressed by people who have the power to address it.”

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