County redistricting revisited

By LIAM MAYO
Posted 4/12/22

MONTICELLO, NY — When Sullivan County redrew its districts in 2014, the process attracted some criticism for a purported lack of transparency. Members of the public raised objections, such as a …

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County redistricting revisited

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MONTICELLO, NY — When Sullivan County redrew its districts in 2014, the process attracted some criticism for a purported lack of transparency. Members of the public raised objections, such as a delayed presentation from the legislature and a lack of openness from the consultants hired to draw up the maps.

The chair of the current legislature, Rob Doherty, referenced the flaws of the previous process in a special meeting of the legislature on April 7, as he laid out a road map for the county to once again redraw the borders of its districts.

Last time, Doherty said, a committee of three legislators made the decision in private what map to send to their fellow legislators and to the public. This time, the legislature would make all of its redistricting decisions as a full body, out in the open.

The county will contract with Main Street Communications (MSC) to conduct the redistricting, the same company that handled the county’s redistricting in the previous two cycles, said Doherty. MSC will create three maps as options for the county to consider, the same as it did each of the previous two times.

Rather than provide those maps to a closed committee, and having that committee provide one map to the general public, MSC will make all three maps available to legislators and to the public, said Doherty. The legislature will hold a public hearing before deciding which of the three maps to consider.

The legislature approved a contract of $25,000 with MSC, with talk of representatives from MSC explaining to the legislature about their plans shortly.

Who gets paid?

The legislature also approved several spending items from the Division of Planning and Community Development at its April 7 special meeting.

The legislature approved $54,100 in Plans and Progress funding, supporting six projects from towns and community organizations throughout Sullivan County. (For more on the projects approved, see page 9.)

Also approved at the meeting was a $250,000 contract with Alta Planning and Design Inc. for the design of a bridge and boardwalk connection over the Neversink River in the town of Fallsburg.

The bridge was part of the O&W Rail Trail project, said Freda Eisenberg, commissioner of the division of planning and community development. This funding would close the project’s funding gap and help get the bridge in the ground as early as 2023.

The bridge would be transformative, said legislator Alan Sorensen, turning a local rail trail into a regional destination.

Doherty agreed. The bridge would link 15 miles of the O&W Rail Trail, he said; the longer the trail, the more likely people would come and use it.

For more on the transformative potential of the trail system, see page 12.

The fall of Castle Point

Later in the day, the legislature heard from veterans about the proposed closure of the Veterans’ Affairs (VA) hospital at Castle Point.

A report from VA Secretary Denis McDonough, released on March 14, indicated that the VA had plans to close its hospital at Castle Point. The report added that VA enrollment in the metro New York market was projected to shrink by 23.1 percent in the next 10 years, reducing the area’s need for beds, and that the facility at Castle Point did not meet modern health standards.

It recommended shifting services away from the Castle Point facility to other facilities in the community or other VA facilities, after which the facility could be closed.

Veterans present at the meeting expressed their concerns about the potential closure of the facility. Many veterans rely on county-provided transportation services to make their medical appointments, they said, and that transportation would have a much harder time getting veterans to services at hospitals farther away.

They believe that the VA’s population estimates aren’t as accurate as they could be, and sought help from elected officials to protest the plan to the VA.

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