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December 08, 2016
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DA discussed again, expected jobs not created

If the average Joe is interested in knowing what companies are getting tax breaks through the Sullivan County Industrial Development Agency (IDA), he no longer has to get that information by sending a Freedom of Information Law request to Albany. Instead, Joe can simply go to www.sul and click on the current projects tab.

Also, there is information about how many jobs a particular project is supposed to create, and whether the project is living up to expectations. Further, there is a wealth of additional information, such as the organization’s bylaws and budget. It’s what some county residents have been advocating for several years.

At a meeting at the government center on July 7, Jennifer Brylinski, executive director of the organization, gave a brief presentation to lawmakers about the revamped website, which was generally well received. But Rock Hill resident Dave Colavito, who has been one of the most vocal proponents of the posted information, said that the task is not quite complete.

He said the resolution passed by the county that required the changes also called for information showing how specific projects perform over time, so that a true picture of the performance of any given project could be easily understood.

Lawmakers said they would look into the matter.

The discussion then turned to a specific IDA project: the Monticello Motor Club, which provides a track where members can drive high-priced vehicles at high speeds on a track designed specifically for the purpose. Information on the IDA website says the project received sales tax incentives of $50,000 and was supposed to have created 25 jobs. The number of jobs this year is eight.

Legislator and IDA chairman Elwin Wood said when a project doesn’t meet its target, it is penalized accordingly.

But some residents had other concerns about the track, which has been mentioned at previous meetings. They said the noise generated by the track has harmed the neighbors’ quality of life and the value of their homes. Legislator Kathy LaBuda wondered why the issue was not brought up with the Town of Thompson Planning Board during the venue’s initial review process.

Resident Ann Culligan, who lives near the track, said, “We did speak up. The town and the planning board ignored us. I have a neighbor who can no longer live in her house, and mine is no bargain.” (See Letters, p. 7.)

Legislator Leni Binder said because New York is a home rule state, the situation was a matter for the town, not the county. She said, “We have no authority to act” on the matter.
Nor does the legislature have authority over which projects the IDA grants tax incentives and which it does not. The legislature appoints IDA board members, but it is an independent agency.

Finally, the discussion turned again to the IDA board and whether there should be some limit on the length of time board members should serve. While board members serve at the pleasure of the legislature, there is no term limit, and some members have served on the board for many years.

The lawmakers generally agreed to pursue the matter and come up with some type of limits for service.