THIRD DAY OF ANNUAL SESSION
Johnstown, NY December 14, 2020
Roll Call – Quorum Present
Supervisors: Argotsinger, Blackmon, Born, Bowman, Bradt, Breh, Callery, Fagan, Goderie, Greene, Groff, Horton, Howard, Kinowski, Lauria, Perry, Vandenburgh, Wilson, Young
TOTAL: Present: 20 Absent: 1 (Supervisor Potter)
Chairman Greene called the meeting to order at 1:00 p.m. Following the Pledge of Allegiance, Chairman Greene asked if there was anyone from the public who wished to address the Board. No one from the public came forward.
UPDATES FROM STANDING COMMITTEES
REPORTS OF SPECIAL COMMITTEES
Adirondack Government: Supervisor Horton advised that the Randy Preston Road Salt Reduction Act was signed by Governor Cuomo on December 4. This will really help stop the pollution of water wells.
Soil and Water Conservation District: Supervisor Horton advised that the District recently had one of their long-time members step down – Earl Hare. Mr. Hare will be replaced by Matt Brower, representing the Grange, at the beginning of 2021. Also, that the District has been working on sharing services with Fulton County by taking down telephone poles at the Tryon Technology Park.
Public Safety Committee:
- BREH – RESOLUTION AUTHORIZING MEMORANDUM OF UNDERSTANDING BETWEEN FULTON COUNTY AND RURAL LAW CENTER OF NEW YORK, INC. TO PROVIDE MANDATED APPEALS REPRESENTATION (2021) (ASSIGNED COUNSEL OFFICE)
- BREH – RESOLUTION AUTHORIZING A CONTRACT BETWEEN THE ASSIGNED COUNSEL ADMINISTRATOR OFFICE AND JOHN PROBST INVESTIGATIONS, INC. FOR INVESTIGATIVE SERVICES (2021)
- ARGOTSINGER – RESOLUTION AUTHORIZING A CONTRACT WITH MUNICIPAL SERVICES BUREAU (MSB) FOR ELECTRONIC PAYMENT SERVICES (TREASURER)
- ARGOTSINGER – RESOLUTION TEMPORARILY EXTENDING THE 2021 GRACE PERIOD FOR PROPERTY OWNERS TO REDEEM OR REPURCHASE TAX SALE PROPERTY SUBJECT TO TAX FORECLOSURE DUE TO DELAYS RESULTING FROM THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC
Chairman Greene advised that there has been a surge in COVID-19 cases in Fulton County as well as in the state and country. He reminded the Board that it is a very contagious disease and asked the people of Fulton County to be responsible and follow prevention guidelines. He further advised that there was “a light at the end of the tunnel with vaccine coming soon”. However, not by Christmas or New Years.
Chairman Greene then read his 2020 Farewell Address to the Board:
When my fellow colleagues honored me by selecting me to be the 2020 Chairman of the Board of Supervisors, I realized I had signed up for a major responsibility and an added obligation of my time. During my first few weeks, I had carved out three things I wanted to accomplish, or at least get a good start on, to both push the economy forward and to ensure the health and safety of our citizens. In addition, a fourth project came more clearly into focus for me during the course of the year. Then came the Corona Virus that later became better known as COVID-19. After the whirlwind of dealing with the pandemic in March, April, and into May, the subsequent months became frustrating, agitating, tiresome, and somewhat of a grind. Along the way, I was in the Board Office with such frequency, I thought they were going to charge me rent. I felt the need to stay engaged in regard to this virus as your representative, in part so that Administrative Officer Jon Stead and I could discuss what we were both reading and hearing.
The old adage of “adversity doesn’t build character, it reveals it” was never as true as with many of our county employees who went the extra mile in the fight against COVID-19. To that end, and at the risk of leaving out so many people willing to do more than their fair share, I would like to thank the entire Public Health Department and the entire COVID Task Force. The Public Health Department worked day and night tracking and tracing, providing essential services to those who were isolated with COVID and advising outside agencies and school districts, among others. They provided and continue to provide many more services that go unnoticed by most people unless they are personally involved. The Public Health Department should be commended for their work.
The COVID Task Force originated early on in the pandemic when Jon Stead felt the need to have an on-going small group of department heads representing certain specialty areas to help advise us and perform tasks which may otherwise be viewed as outside the scope of their normal duties. The core of this group, which continues to meet, includes Jon Stead, Laurel Headwell, Steve SantaMaria, Terri Souza, and Scott Henze. They all have gone beyond the call of duty and I commend them all.
One more person who was indispensable during the early months of the pandemic is Perry Lovell. Through his IT expertise, we were all able to have our ZOOM meetings without nearly as many bumps in the road as I anticipated. As much as most of us would rather have had meetings in person, it was really comforting knowing we had Perry to help us through our ZOOM meetings.
I have been asked by family and friends what was the toughest part of dealing with COVID-19 as Chairman. For me, it is the 31 who died at the Fulton Center Nursing Home, plus the five who died of COVID-19 in the community. Each one of those numbers represent a real person. Most have family and friends who lost a special person in their lives. In addition, the passing of Johnstown Supervisor Richard Handy, although not as a direct result of COVID, was a sad day for all of us.
In contrast, two high points of the year, for me were the settling of the Sheriff’s PBA Contact, how Supervisors, Budget Office and Department Heads came together to ensure a responsible budget that kept taxes flat, while continuing essential services to our residents. I would like to single out two department heads, Commissioner of DSS Anne Solar and Sheriff Richard Giardino, who both run large and complex departments. Both of these individuals worked with the Supervisors to do what was necessary to ensure that their budgets were kept responsibly low while continuing to meet the needs of the community.
My one word of caution going forward is we still don’t know where we stand in regard to Governor Cuomo’s threat to potentially withhold as much as 20 percent reimbursement to counties, depending, from the Governor’s viewpoint, whether the State obtains financial assistance from the federal government. We also do not know how the continuing pandemic may impact us financially next year and beyond, despite the light at the end of the tunnel with the imminent release of vaccines.
The other high point for me was the settling of the Sheriff’s Department PBA contract back in March. Subsequent to much give and take and some very difficult meetings, patience finally prevailed after a couple of years of negotiations. Personnel Committee Chairman Jack Callery, who presided over the negotiations from the beginning, should be applauded for the work he did to help finalize the contract.
The four issues that I previously alluded to that I personally believe need to be addressed when feasible to do so are:
1. Stabilizing the Ambulance Service in the county. At that time, I became Chairman, I believed this would be the number one issue based on how our 2019 year ended. Previous Chairman Jack Wilson did a fine job advising me on the issues regarding the need for finalizing this issue. Unfortunately, this could not be addressed during this year, but once the pandemic is brought under control, this issue needs to be addressed shortly thereafter.
2. Our Vision 2026 Manual should be reviewed to see where we stand, including what has already been completed, what needs to be addressed going forward, and what may, at this point, be eliminated. Jon Stead had already developed an agenda based on my concerns and a meeting had been established but COVID ended the meeting at that time. I believe the Vision 2026 Manual is an important enough documentation that it should be revisited once it becomes feasible to do so.
3. Parkhurst Field…I believe that the renovation of Parkhurst Field would likely be a revelation for our county in terms of our tourism program. As many of you may already be aware, two gentlemen, David Karpinski and Michael Hauser, have been behind the planning of the project for several years but need a variety of support from the community to have this project come to fruition. Before the pandemic came to us, I personally met with Mr. Karpinski, several business men, local officials, and others to ascertain their views regarding this potential project. Everyone I spoke with, surprising in some cases, were tremendously enthusiastic about it. A couple of quotes I wrote down from two different people were, “It’s about time” and the other quote was “where are we going to put all those people” in response to the various baseball tournaments that would come to our area. COVID, again, stole any future talks at that time, but it should be viewed as a countywide initiative that if completed would bring many out of town families to our area over a number of months with a need for motel rooms, restaurants, and things to see and do during their down time. Ron Peters of CRG has taken notice and had a recent meeting regarding this potential project, and I believe we need to be involved through Mr. Peters to ensure this project proceeds and is ultimately accomplished.
4. The Route 30 Corridor for a water and sewer line running from Northville to Gloversville would provide an efficient and clean way of dealing with water and sewer for the residents and businesses in the towns along Route 30. Research and planning for this project are in the process of taking place with the appropriate county and state agencies. There will be a need to explore what possible grants or other financing may be available for this project, and possibly develop alternatives for this Route 30 Corridor if the appropriate financing does not become available for the entire route.
Unfortunately, I don’t have any more news on the process of selecting a new FMCC president. As you all know, I was on the initial selection committee that narrowed the candidates from over sixty, down to three. From there it was out of our hands and I can only assume that it is now in the hands of the State SUNY system for their decision.
Last, but front and center for me, is a big thank you to the Board Office staff, and by extension, the Budget Office. As past Chairman I’m sure can attest, they were all wonderful to work with and I always remember the respect they showed the Office of Chairman and me personally. They all made things much easier for me and I will forever appreciate them for assisting me through this difficult year.
I would venture to say that due to COVID-19, I spend more time with Jon Stead in his office than any prior Chairman. During the months of March through May, I thought a cot may be set up in the Board Office for my convenience. Between emergency declarations, executive orders, bouncing thoughts and ideas off each other, state control room calls, the normal signing of contracts and other documents and attending as may committee meetings as possibly, there was a lot of activity. When you are in that situation, it is best that you get to trust each other so that you’re pulling in the same direction. Jon and I developed a trusting and supportive working relationship that made things much easier for me and hopefully for him as well. Spending that much time together led to talk about our backgrounds, our families, and basically what makes each of us who we are. I believe, as the year moved along, we were very much in sync so that we knew how each of us would react to a given situation. Much more often than not, it ended up being the same. I want to thank Jon very much for the time and energy he spent during this past year on the county’s behalf, in what had to be the toughest year of his career as our administrative officer. Jon should be applauded for the work he did beyond the call of duty. Thank you, Jon!
In closing, it has been an honor and privilege serving as your Chairman in the year 2020. I want to thank all of you for the cooperation you have shown during this difficult year.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
Deputy Clerk of the Board Teresa Perry presented Mr. Greene with the ceremonial gavel and a small token gift in recognition of his service to the Board and remarked “What a year we have had!” Ms. Perry added the following remarks:
I would like to add that Chairman Greene was as attentive to Board matters as any Chairman that I have worked with over the past years. Chairman Greene was present in the office on a daily basis during the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and continues to make himself available at every turn since, whether it was to sign a letter, contract or just to “catch up” on the day’s events.
Chairman Greene also is on the phone several times per week with the with the Mohawk Valley Control Room, and if he couldn’t make it in the office, he was on the phone at home. We appreciate your humor, availability to this office, and as always, your treats for the office.
We have kept you very busy with some very urgent matters this year and you have been more than willing to come into the office anytime you were called.
Just as a side note, personally, I have never had a Chairman say such words as, “Oh, I only have a “short monthly Chairman’s report”. Then he hands me a four (4) page front and back report to type up!!!
Congratulations on a great year as Chairman!
Resolutions on the Agenda were then deliberated upon.
Chairman Greene opened the Public Hearing at 1:30 p.m. to receive comments on Proposed Local Law “B” of 2020 to “Allowing Residents of Fulton County and Contiguous Counties to Serve as Corrections Officers in Fulton County”.
No one present wished to speak, and Chairman Greene explained that he would leave the Public Hearing open for a period of time.
Resolutions on the Agenda continued to be deliberated upon.
No. 196 (Resolution Authorizing Extension of a Memorandum of Agreement with the Fulton County Deputy Sheriff’s Police Benevolent Association Establishing a PILOT Program for 10 Hour Work Days for Certain Employees): Supervisor Callery advised that this proposed Resolution was discussed during the Finance Committee meeting and it was decided that this agreement would only be extended through February 28, 2021, to give the Personnel Committee time next year to review any longer extension.
Chairman Greene once again asked if there was anyone present who wished to make comments on Proposed Local Law “B” of 2020 “Allowing Residents of Fulton County and Contiguous Counties to Serve as Corrections Officers in Fulton County”.
Seeing no one, Chairman Greene closed the Public Hearing at 1:45 p.m.
No. 430 (Resolution Authorizing Memorandum of Understanding Between Fulton County and Rural Law Center of New York, Inc. to Provide Mandated Appeals Representation in 2021 for the Assigned Counsel Office): Supervisor Callery asked if this was a new contract and if it was in the 2021 budget. Mr. Stead explained this contract is done yearly, and although it is in the 2021 budget, most of the cost is not covered by an ILS grant.
Supervisor Groff asked that the Board Reconsider a past Resolution from November 16, 2020, namely Resolution 338 which changed the recycling drop-off policy.
Supervisor Groff advised that for his constituents, the change will require a 25-mile trip to get to the Solid Waste Department with electronics recycling. He further advised that the County is continually taking things away from residents, such as the elimination of picking up tires and refrigerators from transfer stations. If this change to the Electronic Recycling Acceptance Policy stays approved, then there will be electronics, along with tires and other items ending up in ditches throughout Fulton County.
Supervisor Groff made a Motion to Reconsider Resolution No. 338, seconded by Supervisor Wilson.
Mr. Stead clarified that a Reconsideration Motion requires approval by 2/3 vote of the Board.
A roll call vote was then held upon the Motion to Reconsider Resolution No. 338 (Resolution Approving Change in Electronic Recycling Acceptance Policy.) This motion carried unanimously.
Mr. Stead advised that this change in policy was suggested by Solid Waste Director David Rhodes as a cost-cutting measure because electronics disposal was no longer generating revenue for the Solid Waste Department.
Supervisor Perry advised that there is usually a container at the transfer station for electronics recycling and now the public is starting to realize that this is about to change. She anticipates much more electronics recycling due to COVID-19 and people cleaning out their homes. She further advised that just when people are making use of it, the County is going to take it away. Her town has no provisions to bring such electronic recycling to the landfill.
Supervisor Blackmon said that it is a long distance for residents to bring electronics to the landfill and there will be a lot of items left on the side of the road all through Fulton County.
Supervisor Vandenburgh suggested that the Board should revisit this policy and the County should determine that the Department of Solid Waste will continue to pick up electronics recycling at transfer stations.
Supervisor Callery commented that “taxpayers built the landfill and the towns deserve these services and people who pay taxes, deserve this”.
Supervisor Breh advised that she is getting questions from her constituents about what the transfer stations are going to stop doing next.
Supervisor Bowman said Fulton County is one of the only counties that does not charge to take back electronics because it is very costly. He further explained that mercury and lead get into water and that a broken television is very difficult to handle.
Supervisor Young and Born both agreed that transfer stations should be accepting electronics recycling and this service needs to continue.
Supervisor Fagan explained, that as Chairman of the Public Works Committee, this concern never came up in the Committee meeting; however, he now agrees that these services need to continue.
Chairman Greene then called the Ayes and Nays for Resolution 338, which was on the Table.
Total: Ayes: 523 (19) Nays: 0 Absent: 28 (1) (Supervisor Potter)
Mr. Stead announced that the outcome of the Reconsideration vote effectively rescinds Resolution 338 of 2020.
Chairman Greene advised that the Police Reform Advisory Committee is meeting tomorrow, and this Advisory Committee needs to prepare a Police Reform Plan that needs to be finished by April 1, 2021.
Chairman Greene also noted that Governor Cuomo’s mandate for a plan to adequately protect workers in another emergency involving a communicable disease is also being worked on and should be completed by the April 1, 2021 deadline.
Mr. Stead advised that the 2021 Organizational meeting is scheduled for January 4, 2021 at 10:00 a.m. Mr. Stead asked if Board members were comfortable having the meeting in person. All were in favor.
There being no further business, the Board adjourned “sine die” at 2:23 p.m., upon a motion by Supervisor Callery, seconded by Supervisor Fagan and unanimously carried.
Jon R. Stead, Administrative Officer/ DATE
Clerk of the Board