Sullivan County, briefly

By ANNEMARIE SCHUETZ
Posted 4/21/21

MONTICELLO, NY — Everyone is sure that something will benefit Sullivan County in the recently passed New York State budget. The $212 billion state package has money for small businesses, the …

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Sullivan County, briefly

Posted

County still sorting state budget information 

MONTICELLO, NY — Everyone is sure that something will benefit Sullivan County in the recently passed New York State budget. The $212 billion state package has money for small businesses, the arts, a boost in school Foundation Aid, property tax relief and much more. 

But there’s still a lot to parse. County director of communications Dan Hust said that there are some line items that would help the county:  

  • Increased funding for the Consolidated Highway Improvement Program (CHIPS) and the Marchiselli program, which helps communities with the local share of road and bridge projects. Statewide, this increase is $100 million, Hust said.  
  • A $50 million increase (statewide) in the PAVE NY program;
  • Restored Video Lottery Terminal (VLT) aid; and
  • An additional $8 million (statewide) in funding for the unmet needs of the elderly. Unmet needs usually include services like home-delivered meals, respite for caregivers, transportation, nutrition counseling and adult day care.

The next management and budget committee meeting is Thursday, May 13, and more will be known by then, he said. 

Paying legal bills

After legislator Luis Alvarez sued chairman Rob Doherty on March 10 for defamation, there was talk that the county was paying Doherty’s legal bills. 

That is true. 

This follows the NYS Public Officers Law, said Hust. It provides protection for any officer or employee of the state (or municipality) against personal liability if they are sued individually “as a result of any cause of action which may arise by reason of an act or omission which occurs ‘while the employee was acting within the scope of his public employment or duties,’” according to a summary of the law by the State University of New York. 

The chairman’s attorney is Stephen Coffey of O’Connell & Aronowitz.

Beyond this, “the county doesn’t comment on pending litigation,” Hust said.

Human rights work 

County director of the human rights commission Adrienne Jensen has been busy since she was first hired, reported Julie Diescher at the April 15 human resources committee meeting.  

Diescher is the human resources director and oversees the human rights commission under the recently reworked law.  

“She’s doing a great job,” Diescher said, of human rights commission executive director Adrienne Jensen, who started on March 1. “She’s addressed five cases and two of them have been closed already.” 

The job was unfilled for a year while the county debated what to do with the commission.  

Jensen has reached out to county offices, the towns, schools, libraries and many other groups, Diescher said. “It’s important to connect with those people proactively so they have a voice and a person to reach out to for their respective communities.” 

Visitors association contract vote 

Up until this year, the Sullivan County Visitors Association (SCVA) received 85 percent of county room tax dollars to use to promote tourism. Sullivan has since chosen to reallocate an unspecified amount of the money to developing tourist infrastructure.  

On April 15, the final step was taken, and the SCVA contract was put to a vote. The contract had been previously approved by the SCVA. 

But first, in public comment, Cat Scott raised the point that there is no way of being certain that the high numbers of visitors and new residents in the county will continue. “You think they’re going to stay here,” she said. She reminded everyone about the period after 9/11, when city people moved here for safety and then left when they were comfortable with going back to the city. “Counting on this money is ill-advised,” she said.

That would apply to the groups hoping for a share of the room tax dollars, as well as the county. Scott asked the legislators to vote against the new contract. “Stop enabling this crap.”  

“I believe they signed it under duress,” said Lou Setren in public comment, adding that the visitors association needed the money to move forward. The vote passed 5-3 with Ira Steingart abstaining. 

Nadia Rajsz and Luis Alvarez voted against it, and Joe Perrello initially voted for it (“I want this to be over with.”) and then changed his vote. “They had a gun pointed to their heads,” he said, meaning that they were told to sign or lose the contract. 

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