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Fewer grant dollars from Albany? Sullivan is ‘stepchild in the outhouse’

By Fritz Mayer
October 12, 2011

Signs of belt tightening and fear of more of it were on display at the government center on October 6. Luiz Aragon, the planning commissioner, asked lawmakers for a resolution to apply for state grant money through a new process called the Consolidation Funding Application.

Sullivan County is a member of the Mid-Hudson Regional Economic Development Council, and Aragon wants to continue the process of applying for grant money through the council process. In this round of funding, he said, four of the 10 regions in the state will receive $40 million each in grants, while the other remaining six regions will split $40 million, which comes to an average of $6.6 million per region.

The funds will then be divided between the counties in the region; it is therefore advantageous for a county to be in one of the four regions that gets the higher award.

While not saying that Aragon should not pursue the grant money, legislator Leni Binder said, in a reference to Sullivan County’s small population and relative lack of political clout, “I am very uncomfortable with this whole situation. We are the small, small, small, small step-child living out in the outhouse.”

In the past, she said, “As poor as we were, we always had certain grants that we could get, even though it may be low-hanging fruit.” She fears that, with the new method of doling out grants, Sullivan will be sacrificed to an even greater degree to more populous areas in the region. She said, “We’ve already seen it with the money going back to Newburgh, back to Fishkill, back to all those places along the Hudson; it’s already happening.“

She concluded by saying, “I hope by saying this often enough and loudly enough, and having everybody in the state tell me how wrong I am, they will prove me wrong and we will get something.”

No lawmakers disagreed with her. But as part of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s economic development program, the new grant awarding process is the only game in town and everyone, including Binder, voted to move forward with the process.