February 27, 2013 —
Several lawmakers expressed reservations about committing the county to spend some $8.8 million on a new emergency radio system for the county, but in the end, the vote was unanimous to move forward with it.
The legislature voted to authorize bonding to pay for the new system at the monthly county meeting on February 21, but the actual bonding won’t take place until 2014. The county has received about $2 million in grants thus far to help defray the costs, and there is another round of funding that will be available in April. Officials are hopeful that more grant money will be forthcoming. Along with the direct cost, however, there is expected to be a yearly cost of $300,000 for maintenance.
As part of the project, the county is buying two radio frequencies from Motorola; the contract for that sale expired at the end of 2012. As part of extending the contract, an additional expense of $30,000 was incurred by the county.
With the meeting room filled with police and emergency workers, many of them in uniform, most of the legislators expressed support for the county’s first responders and for erecting the new emergency communications system.
Lawmaker Kathy LaBuda said the project has been in the works since at least 2006. She said, “Lets move this forward to keep our promise to all of our constituents that public safety is at the top of our priority list.”
During public comment on the question, only one resident, Ron Litchman of Youngsville, spoke in opposition to the project, asking, among other things, if the new system, which relies on technology dating back to 2002, will be obsolete before the bond is paid off.
Early voting opposed
In other matters, the legislators voted unanimously to oppose a bill introduced in Albany that would create the possibility of early voting in the state. The bill would require counties such as Sullivan to staff at least five polling stations with machines and personnel for two weeks ahead of general elections and one week ahead of other elections.
Election personnel would be required to observe all existing electoral protocols in the early voting. Legislators said this would result in significant costs to the county, where early voting is not needed because long lines do not form at polling stations in the county.
Legislator Cora Edwards said that while early voting may be helpful in densely populated places like New York City, it does not make sense in rural places like Sullivan County.
Legislator Alan Sorensen said, “Call me old fashioned, but I just don’t believe in early voting.