Here is some recent Hartford/County news.
1) Yesterday I signed the crossplow agreement with the County which will allow the Town to snowplow maintain County Route 23 and 23A (Main St) in Hartford. The County will likewise snowplow maintain Shine Hill Rd. This is a straight up swap of snow plowing routes with no money exchanged. It is a good thing this was signed yesterday because winter is now here with the snow we got last night. This crossplow agreement will remain in place until we trade actual ownership of the roads in 2015 after the County repaves Main St. At that time Shine Hill Rd will become a County Route and 23/23A can officially be renamed “Main St.” under Town control.
2) Transfer Stations: Earth, Waste & Metal has been operating the 5 County Transfer Stations under a lease to own agreement. They are now negotiating with the County to exercise their option to purchase.
3) County Budget. On Friday the 21st, at the November Washington County Board of Supervisor’s meeting I plan to vote “NO” on the budget. The 2015 County Budget will come in at a 2.85% increase to the County Property tax levy (BTW – The Town’s 2015 tax levy will have a 0% increase). The message of the budget is that last year the County could only afford to pave 18 miles of road and this year we can only afford to pave the same number of miles. The County has 280 miles of road, so on a 10 year paving rotation we need to get up to 28 miles per year. I think the premise that the County can only afford to pave 18 miles of road (at $150,000 per mile) is dishonest because there is a lot of fluff in the budget in other places that would be better spent on paving.
I feel one benefit that all citizens see from their tax dollars whether rich or poor is having a decent County Road to travel upon. Many roads are horrible from lack of paving and we need to reinvest money into our road infrastructure. To me that is a much better community development investment than other spending items that are rather liberal in the use of tax dollars. One small example, there is $2,500 appropriated to an Adirondack Art group but good luck going to an art show on crappy roads.
Yesterday at a County budget workshop, I had the floor for over an hour with suggestions, questions, and motions to cut $440,000 from the budget’s various fluff line items and shift that money over into County Road paving. I had to do this lightning round style so they would not fall asleep. I went through the 99 page County budget with a fine tooth comb and this $440,000 came from many small items that finally added up to a lot in the end. I made motion after motion for each item only to have them shot down. The overall reasoning is that to get closer to the bone on the budget with less cushion would make them uncomfortable. Many revenue items were under estimated and many expenses were overestimated with quite a bit of liberal fluff thrown in. If we cannot afford to pave more miles why are we giving money away left and right on “feel good” items?. In the end, out of the $440,000 items I commented on, they threw me a small bone in the amount of $37,000 to go into paving. This will handle an extra 1/5th of a mile but something is better than nothing. I will vote yes on my successful amendment to the budget and then vote “no’ on the whole thing. That way what ever the budget ends up looking like, the extra to paving will still be in it.
Here is a PostStar article covering yesterday’s meeting.
Washington County Board of Supervisors Finance Committee, Thursday morning
The committee entered into executive session to discuss the possible sale of five county-owned transfer stations to Vermont-based Earth Waste and Metal. The company entered into a five-year lease agreement with the option to buy in March 2013. “They want to negotiate the price of that option to buy,” said County Administrator Kevin Hayes. The committee had previously tasked attorney Larry Paltrowitz to enter into discussions with the company. Paltrowiz was said to have delivered his findings during the executive session. No action was taken following the session.
An effort by Hartford Town Supervisor Dana Haff to find $440,000 in savings in the proposed 2015 budget prompted much discussion and praise. The committee unanimously approved a decrease in the road machinery expenditures by $36,900, to be directed toward road paving. Haff suggested increased revenue in several lines within the 99 page document, based on previous income, though, it was discovered that actual revenues have been trending downward. Online activity, rather than sales in areas such as tax maps, were said to be to blame for some of those decreases.
The committee approved the issuance of tax-exempt bonds by the Warren and Washington Civic Development Corporation for the construction of new dormitories at SUNY Adirondack. The bonds will be purchased from Glens Falls National Bank. The Warren and Washington Civic Development Corporation was formed two years ago after state law disallowed Industrial Development Agencies from issuing tax exempt bonds for civil projects. The new agency fills that gap. Projects can only move forward with the approval of both counties, regardless of its location. Warren County approved the measure Wednesday. Neither county assumes any liability by their approval.