Sullivan, briefly: More notes from legislative committee meetings, September 2

By ANNEMARIE SCHUETZ
Posted 9/7/21

MONTICELLO, NY — No tax auction this year. SUNY Sullivan presents its monthly report. Unnamed companies shop Sullivan County for space. All in this week’s installment of “Sullivan, …

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Sullivan, briefly: More notes from legislative committee meetings, September 2

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MONTICELLO, NY — No tax auction this year. SUNY Sullivan presents its monthly report. Unnamed companies shop Sullivan County for space. All in this week’s installment of “Sullivan, briefly.”

Tax auction postponed again

If you were hoping to pick up some Sullivan property cheaply, you’ll have to wait.

Remember the eviction moratorium, which applies to renters? Throughout the pandemic, owners have been given a break too, but it’s just as temporary as the one granted to tenants. Eventually the rent (and the tax payment) will come due.

Right now, county treasurer Nancy Buck explained in an email following her report at the planning and community development meeting, the 2019 tax lien is stayed again, assuming the new extension is signed by Gov. Kathy Hochul.

Pre-pandemic, foreclosure proceedings would have started in October of the following year.  

So the 2020 moratorium for 2019’s taxes is still in place. But what about 2020’s taxes?

“The question is, does this preclude us from commencing foreclosure?” Buck said at the meeting.

Whether the county can do anything about unpaid taxes for the two years depends on whether more extensions happen.

The treasurer’s office paperwork is done for 2019, Buck wrote later, so as soon as extensions end she can get things moving. Paperwork for 2020 will start soon if the county attorney’s office approves.

The state had to extend the moratorium on foreclosures, legislator Joe Perrello said. He’s a landlord and owns both residential and commercial property.

If a tenant can’t pay the rent, the landlord can’t pay the taxes. And pandemic funds to reimburse landlords aren’t paid if the tenant has since left—which leaves landlords stuck with the tax bill.

Infrastructure, not just boilers

SUNY Sullivan president Jay Quaintance addressed public concerns that the American Rescue Plan funds given to the college did not truly qualify for ARPA funding.

The project is “critical infrastructure for the county,” he said. “It’s much more than boilers.” The capital project includes windows, light fixtures, and other parts of the college buildings that need to be made more energy-efficient.

The scope of the work, he said, has an impact on many sectors of the county’s economy, particularly supplies and workers.

“It has to get done and we really appreciate your support,” Quaintance said to the legislature.

Lower enrollment

In other news from SUNY Sullivan, Quaintance noted that enrollment for the current year had dropped an estimated 24 percent. “Some colleges are seeing 40 percent,” he said.

Legislators asked if full-time staff had been laid off.

No, the college’s president replied. “The only staff affected are adjunct.”

He’s hoping to boost enrollment and bring those staff back.

Diversified portfolio

Partnership for Economic Development president and CEO Marc Baez has a goal: A portfolio of employment possibilities for qualified locals, described at the economic development committee meeting. He’s also interested in building a diverse economy.

As is typical for these presentations, Baez was often circumspect about who wants to buy the land, where the land is, and other details that those nearby might want to know. (The sites are zoned for industrial or commercial use.)

A proposed tech park, which has been described at previous meetings, will be discussed at a September planning board meeting. “Hopefully, we’ll get to a public hearing.”

A real estate development firm is working on an 80,000-square-foot production facility in Monticello. “It’s moving forward, finally, which is good.”

The ecommerce site is also in process.

So is a 450,000 square-foot facility on 63 acres at Exit 107. “They’re going ahead with approvals.”

The projects are, in many ways, very different. “One of my concerns,” Baez said, “is that we’re very heavily laden in tourism. We’re going to keep doing that, obviously, but we want to diversify as much as possible.”

Once, everything was focused on tourism. In the Borscht Belt era, hotels dotted the landscape and almost everyone worked, or knew people who worked, for the hotels. When that collapsed and Sullivan was not a tourist draw, the economy collapsed too. “We don’t want to get into the same situation,” Baez said, “where all of the economy is tied into, either directly or indirectly, in one particular industry... if something happens to that industry, then we’re in a tough spot.”

...Which was followed by the tourism report

“We’ve been in the news over and over again,” reported Sullivan County Visitors Association president and CEO Roberta Byron-Lockwood. “There’s lots of stories, lots of interest, more writers are coming every day. We’re able to showcase and sell the stories of the Sullivan Catskills.”

Promotion of the county has moved away from a focus on resorts and to the overall marketing of businesses and hotels.

“It’s a great tourism economy,” Byron-Lockwood said, “and why this is the right destination...everything is moving in the right direction.”

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