Spring 2013 Newsletter: Consolidations, Restructuring and Name Changes of Various Departments

OVERVIEW

To produce savings and create a more effective department structure, the Department of Public Works, the Highway and Engineering Division have consolidated into one division. The Auto Center, formerly part of the Central Services, is merged into the Highway and Engineering Division because the Division of Public Works is already in charge of the management and oversight of the Highway and Engineering equipment maintenance garage and employs mechanics, garage supervisor and related staff support. DPW is now located at 626 Dutchess Turnpike in Poughkeepsie.

The Legislature agreed to create an Agency Partner Grant Program and the Municipal Consolidation and Shared Services Grant Program to allow a more transparent and competitive process while providing a saving for the taxpayer.

The Division of Veteran Services is now affiliated with the Department of Health and is located at 85 Civic Center Plaza in Poughkeepsie. The Division of Youth Services is now a separate division and the Department of Social Services (DSS) is now the Department of Community & Family Services (DCFS) to reflect services and the overall department’s focus on providing assistance leading to long-term independence and sustainability for individuals and families. DCFS will not take new cases on Wednesday’s. Both are located at 60 Market St. in Poughkeepsie. The Division of Aging Services is now the Office for the Aging (OFA). This department is once again a stand-alone department that is funded almost entirely by state and federal revenue streams and will remain at 27 High Street in Poughkeepsie.

HIGHLIGHTS

Airport

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A recent internal audit of airport operations at the Dutchess County Airport revealed that the airport has been undergoing a net loss for eleven years (2001-2012). Continual budget deficits at the airport have resulted in the annual allocation of taxpayer-funded subsidies to offset the shortfalls. The height of these losses was in 2011 ($1 million) while the loss for 2012 was about $730,000.

There is no major air carrier service at the Dutchess County Airport and the majority of its operations are local and itinerant general aviation. A 2010 FAA-NYSDOT report found that aviation has a positive impact on the local economy and helps businesses meet their transportation needs. Furthermore, there is an ongoing process with Dutchess County Economic Development Corporation, Local Chambers of Commerce and Dutchess County Planning and Economic Development to attract business.

Since the Comptroller’s inquiry began, the director has since resigned, all hangars are now presently rented out with a waiting list and Richmor has pulled out of the airport. Negotiations over the renewal of an expired lease failed after 30 years of business with the County because the lease and rent reflected a bygone time. Until recently, both Richmor and the County’s Dutchess Aviation competed in fuel sales. Now, the Airport will assume full control of fuel sales.

New County Law Necessitates the Posting of Cash, Credit Gas Prices

The Legislature amended a local law on the signage of motor fuel in an effort to prevent misleading trade practices. Apparently, residents did not realize they are being charged a higher price for credit card then what was advertised for cash until it was too late.

Dutchess Community College (DCC) Tuition Hike

DCC received a little more state funding and has more enrolled students than 5 (Rockland, Orange, Ulster, Columbia-Greene, Sullivan) local county colleges. Given the fact that DCC’s total operating expenses are 2nd highest following Rockland County and its tuition costs are the lowest among the neighboring counties, I thought a $100 increase per semester was modest. At our board meeting, however, a student said $100 is a factor in deciding whether to go to college. As a result, I could not support this resolution.

Ban on Hydrofracking

I signed a letter along with 600 officials from all 62 counties in the state urging Gov. Cuomo to maintain the de facto moratorium on hydrofracking until the following independent assessments have been completed: a) a health impact assessment b) a revised socioeconomic study; and c) a cumulative impact study.

A month ago, the GOP voted to table a resolution banning hydrofracking in the County. Last year, they rejected the resolution all together. The GOP also voted down a local law banning the use of gas drilling of brine on Dutchess County Roads in August, 2012. Meanwhile, this passed in Ulster County in July, 2012 and passed in Westchester County December, 2012.

Dutchess Rail Trail

I co-sponsored a resolution authorizing the Inter-municipal Agreement between the County and the Town of Wappinger for maintenance of the Town of Wappinger Portion of the Dutchess Rail Trail so as to encourage its use. Phase III of the Dutchess Rail Trail is open with 6.5 new miles through LaGrange and Wappinger, linking to East Fishkill. Go discover the Dutchess Rail Trail!

Hopewell Depot Restoration Corporation

I co-sponsored a resolution authorizing extension and amendment of lease agreement with the Hopewell Depot Restoration Corporation because I personally volunteered my time in the restoration of the Depot and I know how hard the local residents and businesses worked to restore this beautiful building. After a fire nearly destroyed the building in 1986, local residents formed the Hopewell Depot Restoration Corp. to preserve and ultimately restore the station to its original form. Taking nearly two years to accomplish this, I am happy to say that they are now open for tours. The Hopewell Depot is located at the southern trail-head of the Dutchess County Rail Trail, in the village of Hopewell Junction.

Item Pricing

A resolution eliminating manual tagging has been tabled for various reasons. I raised following concerns: a) the lack of staff in the Weights and Measures Dept. to conduct regular inspections; b) a store making prompt payment to consumers who have been overcharged; c) the lack of scanners per square footage; d) the likelihood that the supermarket would make full- time employees part-time employees; and e) the likelihood that chaos and confusion between store personnel and customers would take place, especially when items are moved and not placed back where they belong or when a label on the shelf is changed at a moment’s notice and the scanner doesn’t read the new price.

Jail Expansion

The county houses between 150 and 200 people daily and the cost of transporting and housing inmates is approximately $4 million a year. A regional approach to jail expansion is no longer an option. The annual jail population, including inmates housed in other counties has jumped 24 percent from 2002 to 2011. Mental illness, drug addiction, barriers to jail diversion programs appear to be causing the rise in the number of people incarcerated in Dutchess County Jail. Bail trends may also be affecting jail overcrowding.

The price range for a new jail can cost taxpayers from $78 million for a 500-bed facility to $202 million for a 650-bed facility.

I think we can all agree that there is a need for substantial restructuring of the criminal-justice system but how do we get there with differing views? We all agree that the county must provide more alternatives to incarceration, ramp up its community re-entry programs, create alternative housing for women and youth, better train police on mental-health issues and divert more people from jail into programs but the GOP doesn’t want to discuss these options until the new jail is built. These measures should be implemented “simultaneous” with a new jail not separately.

Redistricting

In 2009, the Legislature, led by a Democratic majority passed a local law that would have provided for independent redistricting. The Republican majority rescinded this effort and appointed a Citizens Steering Commission on Reapportionment that met a couple of times both in 2011 and 2012. Note the Committee was not called to meet from last June until this past January when the district lines came up for a vote. Moreover, they hired David Schaefer of Skyline Consulting, the same exact consultant the state Republican Senate ‘majority’ used to gerrymander their district lines, without my knowledge or the democratic minority leader. This issue was not so much the gerrymandering but the process. I do not support the way this was handled.

Demolition of the Historic Nelson House Annex (next to the county building)

The Conditions Assessment Report did not at any time, or in any language state the building is beyond re-use or repair nor did is it use a phrase most associated with a “condemned” order that the “building was in imminent danger of structural collapse.” Yet, the majority party voted to demolish this local and national treasure built in 1925. I have reason to believe this building could have been revitalized. At your leisure, look up the history of the Nelson House Annex.

Resource Recovery Agency

The County has released a local Solid Waste Management Plan titled, “Rethinking Waste.” It is a ten-year plan for the management of solid waste outlining how much solid waste we are currently generating, how much we currently recycling and reusing. It also sets a plan for how we can decrease a generation of solid waste and increase what we take out of the waste stream. I highly recommend you go to our website, read the plan and give us your feedback.

Board of Elections is seeking Bi-Lingual Election Inspectors

The Dutchess County Board of Elections (DCBOE) is seeking individuals to serve as Elections Inspectors for the 2013 Elections, particularly individuals with Spanish language proficiency to help with a new initiative to provide Spanish language access for elections in Dutchess County. Elections Inspectors are paid $150 for a Primary Election (12pm-9pm), $215 for a General Election (6am-9pm), and $35 for a mandatory training class. Those interested should contact the DCBOE at (845) 486-2470 or visit their website: http://www.dutchesselections.com.

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