Meetings, meetings, all the meetings

By ANNEMARIE SCHUETZ
Posted 11/11/20

Help wanted

MONTICELLO, NY — Amid all the talk of layoffs, sick days, unfilled vacancies and furloughs, Sullivan County is trying to fill some jobs. But given the financial crisis, they …

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Meetings, meetings, all the meetings

Posted

Help wanted

MONTICELLO, NY — Amid all the talk of layoffs, sick days, unfilled vacancies and furloughs, Sullivan County is trying to fill some jobs. But given the financial crisis, they aren’t always hiring the way they used to. 

Dispatchers are needed, E911 (enhanced 911) coordinator Alex Rau said at last Thursday’s public safety committee meeting. He’s asked former staff if they’re interested in coming back on an as-needed basis. Nobody bit. It’s a tough job with difficult hours, “A lot of mandates, overnight shifts,” he said. Retirees don’t want to do it. “They’ve kind of gone in a different direction,” Rau said.

The coroners’ office needs an extra pathologist; there is one in-county, and the other has to stay in the city due to COVID-19. “It’s not critical at this stage, but it is an urgent matter,” said coroner Albee Bockman. 

County clerk Russell Reeves handed out a list at the government services meeting of what the people in his office are responsible for. They’ve been asked to digitize court records: “We’re doing the best we can, but we don’t have the staff to convert all these files from the courts.” 

At the DMV, he said, “We’re down 50 percent staff, but we’re not down 50 percent customers. We’re being as efficient as possible with the least amount of staff,” Reeves said.

The legislators bounced ideas back and forth on how to alleviate the problem. Revive the mobile unit? Hire part-timers?

Sometimes, jobs are open but nobody’s taking them. The Care Center at Sunset Lake needs three RNs. They can’t fill the positions.

Meanwhile, Human Resources reported 17 employees are still furloughed and nine are scheduled to return.

Also in jobs news

But otherwise, everything brightened. Community resources commissioner Laura Quigley reported at the economic development committee that the unemployment rate dropped from 10.8 to 6.6. “A good chunk of that are people who got called back to the casino,” Quigley said. 

But she’s been working on another project. Thirty-four hundred people have dropped off the labor force. “Part of that is seasonal,” she said. But she wondered how much of that was related to the pandemic. After comparing numbers going back five years, she said, about 1,600 are likely caused by the pandemic. The next step is to find out who those 1,600 people are and then figure out how to help them get back into the workforce.

Tourism

Roberta Byron-Lockwood from Sullivan County Catskills, formerly the Sullivan County Visitors Association, delivered her upbeat report. “Our numbers continue to grow,” she said, “interest continues to grow, inquiries continue to grow.” She stressed how their data and publications are given to “development that comes into the county... so they have some of the graphics, the quality of life that they’re going to sell to bring their employees here, and to inspire them to want to come here.” She mentioned a number of ongoing projects that showcase communities.

Strong Building to be saved, finally

It’s not just about the revitalization of Monticello Manor, planning commissioner Freda Eisenberg reported at the economic development committee meeting. The Land Bank has closed on 430 Broadway, otherwise known as the Strong building, a “real anchor in the downtown that was in danger of not being saved,” Eisenberg said. The Land Bank will stabilize the building, and “it will be wrapped into the tax credit application for Monticello Manor,” making funds available. Apartments are planned.

According to a 2017 press release from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Monticello received a $500,000 grant to rehabilitate the building, which had been vacant since 2007. HUD described it as “one of the village’s largest buildings with nearly 20,000 square feet of commercial floor space… [it] currently has extensive interior water damage. An architectural assessment found that the exterior walls and foundation are sound, but demolition of the interior and replacement of the roof are necessary to retain its historic charm.” HUD had planned 16 affordable housing units at a cost of $1.2 million. 

The Rock Hill EMS tower

Legislative chair Rob Doherty asked about the status of the emergency communications tower in Rock Hill during the public safety meeting.

“That’s moving forward,” E911 coordinator Alex Rau said. “The environmental review continues. That’s going to take a few more months to finish. Soil borings are happening next week... The NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) is going to take a little longer because of COVID-19.” 

The environmental review, he said, could be done by February or March, meaning construction would be started in the spring, which is “more economical, because we’re not working in winter conditions, trying to get through ice. The tower construction is about a two- or three-month period, so we’re looking at summer.” 

The tower is located behind Crystal Run Healthcare and is owned and operated by the county.

Enrollment better than expected at SUNY Sullivan

Colleges are reporting double-digit drops in enrollment—but not SUNY Sullivan, said president Jay Quaintance. “It is up three percent in headcount from where we hoped to be,” for an enrollment of about 1,700. People are already signing up for the spring semester, with 300 so far on board, he said. 

Students are taking fewer credits, he added, but “we attracted more students than we had hoped.” 

Callicoon Park project going ahead

At Thursday’s special meeting, the legislature voted 7-2 to allocate $50,000 toward the creation of a new park from an old, destroyed campground in Callicoon. The park would have river frontage and be close to a New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) boat launch area. 

Legislators George Conklin and Nick Salomone voted against it.

“We are thrilled that the Sullivan County Legislature has adopted a resolution authorizing us to move forward with creating the Callicoon Riverside Park,” said Francis O’Shea, project manager with the Trust for Public Land, which is coordinating the project. “This new park will not only be a great place for the community to get outside and enjoy trails and unprecedented waterfront access but will [also] be an economic driver for local businesses and the entire region. We look forward to working with the community to make this park a reality and congratulate all our partners on this big win.”

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