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December 03, 2016
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Congressman visits BOCES

Congressman Chris Gibson, right, has the student’s attention as he describes a conversation with President Barack Obama.
TRR photo by Fritz Mayer

“Do you know Obama?” the student asked. Congressman Chris Gibson responded that he did. “That’s so cool,” she said. Gibson then talked about his conversation with President Barack Obama about basketball. He said, “We may disagree on some policies, but he’s a very personable guy, and I appreciate that.”

The exchange took place during Gibson’s tour of the Sullivan County BOCES facility on Loomis-Ferndale Road in Liberty on May 31. Gibson took a tour of two classes in the Pre-Tech Program, which gives ninth- and 10th-grade students an opportunity to experience what it might be like to have a career in industries such as culinary arts or construction. He also viewed classes in the Career and Technical Education Program, which gives 11th and 12th grade students a head start in a career in 19 different areas, from computer networking to cosmetology.

There are 449 students in Career and Tech, and about 90% of them will go onto college after they graduate from the BOCES program.

After the tour, Gibson held a lengthy conversation with superintendent Larry Thomas, assistant superintendent Susan Schmidt, director of Career and Tech Denise Sullivan, director of communications Donna Hemmer and director of adult education Elizabeth Hayter. They discussed how Gibson’s office might work with BOCES to better serve the residents of the county.

Hayter noted that much of the funding she receives for adult education comes from the federal government through Title II of the Workforce Investment Act; she said the reauthorization of the act has not occurred in many years, and changes to it are being considered. She said, “We have to keep in mind that these people rely on these services… If they don’t come to school, and they don’t get this diploma, and they don’t get this skill, then they’re going to live in a trailer park on social services.”

Gibson agreed that job training is important. He said, “Even in an economy of 7.4% unemployment we’ve got over 3 million jobs unfilled. As I move about the 11 counties that I represent, I run into small business owners who want to hire people.” He said his office arranged a job fair about a month ago with 70 businesses looking to hire.

The FRAC Act

At the end of the discussion, Gibson was asked about his support of the Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals Act (FRAC Act).

Gibson said, “It is four and a half pages. It’s one of the most accessible, simple, most common sense pieces of legislation that I’ve read since I’ve been down there. It says basically two things. One is that if you’re a company that’s going to participate in hydraulic fracturing, that you’re going to disclose your chemicals, that’s a base-line requirement, I would think.

“And the second thing is that you’re going to comply with the Safe Drinking Water Act. And I say it is common sense because if you talk to anyone on the street, they would expect that would already be the case, but it’s not.”

He said, “I think it is needed legislation to provide a floor or baseline,” but the states could go beyond that if they desired, based on their own situations.

He added, “Regardless of whether you think we should be executing hydraulic fracturing or not, one thing that everybody agrees on is if it’s going to be done, it’s going to be done safely.”