This senator goes to market

Posted 8/12/20

BARRYVILLE, NY — State Sen. Jen Metzger met with constituents at the Barryville Farmers Market on July 8, touching on several areas of concern.

The first issue was that of broadband access. …

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This senator goes to market


BARRYVILLE, NY — State Sen. Jen Metzger met with constituents at the Barryville Farmers Market on July 8, touching on several areas of concern.

The first issue was that of broadband access. She has introduced a bill that would require mapping of broadband availability while addressing reliability and affordability. Statistics reporting that 98 percent of the state population has broadband access are based on flawed census information, she said. The issue is more timely as ever with people working and kids learning from home.

Addressing climate change, she informed that legislation has been introduced that would prohibit permitting of any additional fossil fuel facilities in the state and that she favors a carbon farming tax credit. 

Moving on with farming, Metzger said that there is an enormous market for everything grown within the state and that pending bills encourage the consumption of food grown regionally. This would help the vast number of small farms, 98 percent of which are family-owned, that don’t fare well in national and international markets. Such actions would create food security for residents and strengthen regional food distribution. As an example, she cited consumers’ inability to find eggs at the grocery store at the onset of the pandemic, yet eggs were available at local farms. She also mentioned the Nourish New York initiative that provided $25 million funding for food banks to purchase food from regional farms.

Metzger described another initiative to provide funding for mental health support to veterans in Sullivan County based on an extremely effective vet-to-vet program. A bill was passed to designate Tuesday, September 22 as Veterans’ Suicide and Remembrance day, noting that 22 vets a day take their lives. 

Commenting on the local care center issue, she noted that such a program isn’t designed to make money and that government money needs to be invested in such facilities. Metzger said that a legislative hearing on lessons learned through the COVID-19 crisis disclosed that there were fewer deaths in county-owned facilities than in privately owned facilities. She said that it is a government obligation to provide care for the aging and vulnerable. 

After her prepared remarks, Metzger then took questions from the group assembled to hear her.

The first question referred back to the power outage problem in the county, as a resident asked whether a program could be introduced to provide tax abatements for generators as is done for solar investment. In response, Metzger stated that during the recent NYSEG rate case, her office submitted very detailed comments regarding the lack of investment by the company in the distribution infrastructure and vegetation management. She has invited the CEO of NYSEG to Sullivan County to address the issue and to encourage them to make the proper investments. 

A Barryville resident expressed concern about the prudence of depending upon the DEC approval process which, without allowing a public hearing, permitted the former Eldred Preserve facility to introduce up to 17,000 gallons of treated wastewater into the Halfway Brook, which feeds into the Delaware River. The resident asked what could be done at this point to address continued concerns. Metzger responded her office would check into the situation. When her home area was presented with a similar situation, the stepped up monitoring and reporting requirements provided transparency; to date, the problem has not exacerbated due to the increased technology being utilized. 

A Glen Spey resident asked about changes in policing policies and used the recurrent problem of speeding along County Route 31 as an example of coverage. She said that with state police being located far away, response times to emergencies, as well as dealing with speed enforcement, is lacking. Metzger was joined in addressing this concern by Sullivan County Acting District Attorney Meghan Galligan, who noted that Gov. Cuomo needs to be encouraged to allocate resources to the county, as many of the officers have been diverted to New York City. 

A Highland Lake resident asked about the Catskill Mountain Resort issue, specifically why the NYS Board of Health has not shut down an illegal overnight camp and why the legislature did not take any action to provide enforcement capacity to the governor’s executive orders regarding the COVID-19 crisis. Metzger stated that, unlike other counties where the county Department of Health (DOH) would have jurisdiction, in Sullivan County, the issue is addressed by the local office of the State DOH. The DOH has been issuing fines and that they could shut it down; her office has not received an answer as to why this has not happened. Galligan informed that the process is that if the DOH actions are ignored, fines and civil penalties are issued; the next step would be commencing civil legal action by the State Attorney General’s office. Absent compliance, criminal proceedings could commence. Galligan said that her office is awaiting a decision from the NYS Attorney General. Asked whether the situation can simply be dragged out, she responded, “Unfortunately, yes.”

Another resident asked about the Millennium Pipeline tax break. Metzger responded that the issue was not in her jurisdiction but an issue to be addressed at the town level, adding that she was personally opposed to their seeking a tax break. 

The final question was asked by a Barryville resident about absentee ballots to be used in the November election. Metzger responded that voters should check “temporary illness” as the reason for needing the ballot. She encouraged all to apply sooner than later, which can be done at the county Board of Elections office or online, rather than wait for an application to be mailed. She also said that several legislative changes regarding the ballot process resulted from lessons learned from the primary election. 


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