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The County Account

County bonding

In June, the Dutchess County Legislature passed the ninth bond of the year when it authorized going out for bid for a consultant for a formal study in preparation for jail construction and/or expansion. This bond, for $1.2 million, will commence the project definition stage whereby a consultant draws up real facts, figures, costs, dimensions, plans and placement to solve the county’s jail overcrowding issue.

Jail plan, census considered

In June the Dutchess Legislature will vote on the first step to alleviate jail overcrowding and bring home the more than 200 inmates currently housed out at other county jails because the Dutchess jail lacks sufficient space. Bringing home the inmates is humane as it will allow many to be closer to their families, be processed through the criminal justice system faster, and take part in the county’s generous services to curb recidivism.

Action soon on a new jail

A special meeting of the Dutchess County Legislature is planned for Tuesday, May 28, for a presentation on jail construction. The presentation will be from a consultant the Legislature authorized at its March meeting who will offer an independent evaluation of the findings of the September 2012 Criminal Justice Council (CJC) report, that among other things recommended new construction. This will be the first time the Legislature has considered a serious-minded bricks and mortar approach in close to a decade.

Exit plan needed for the RRA burn plant

The newly adopted Local Solid Waste Management Plan (SWMP) sets a lofty goal of 60 percent recycling attainment by 2022 — a noble goal — but falls short when it comes to a plan for the Resource Recovery Agency’s (RRA) waste-to-energy (WTE) plant whose operating contract expires next year. The burn plant has consistently failed to produce a profit resulting in annual taxpayer subsidy, sometimes as high as $6 million a year. This year it is expected that taxpayers will contribute $2 million to offset losses.

Legislature adopts Solid Waste Plan

There is little to cheer about the Legislature’s April vote to adopt the Solid Waste Management Plan (SWMP).

Dutchess county passes first wave of capital project bonds

Each year in December the Dutchess County Legislature adopts the Capital Projects Plan, a five-year blueprint for bond requests from county department heads to fund projects and purchases. Then beginning in January the bond requests begin rolling in. Legislators are permitted scrutiny of each individual project, although often accompanied with pressure that time is of the essence or that if we vote no, somehow we’re an enemy to progress.

Policy debates follow in aftermath of Newtown

The gun control debate came to Dutchess County after a number of county residents asked county legislators to take a position on the New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act (SAFE) signed into law by the governor in January under a message of necessity.

This legislation was intended to be a response to the tragic school shooting massacre in Newtown, Conn. I served as a sponsor of a memorialization resolution in the county Legislature that asked state leaders to revisit the topic and start anew in their efforts toward a comprehensive response to gun violence.

When judges jail debtors

On a random day in February (Wednesday, Feb. 20), there were 28 county residents jailed in Dutchess County for civil contempt. The average length of stay for those sent to jail for civil reasons in 2012 was 41.5 days, which amounts to $9,457 per person. During 2012 there were a total of 71 persons sentenced to jail for civic reasons by Dutchess County judges for an approximate taxpayer cost of $671,447.

County has completed redistricting

On Jan. 30, the Dutchess County Legislature adopted the new county legislative district map based on the 2010 census data. This map was three years in the making. In its finished version our local District 25 retains 87 percent of its former self.

Community college concerns arise

Dutchess Community College (DCC) is among only 30 community colleges in the state that comprise part of the State University of New York (SUNY) educational system. Despite a semester tuition increase of $500 as part of the 2012-13 budget, the college still prides itself on the lowest tuition in the state. It also prides itself on a 2011 enrollment of 10,316 (a growth of 30 percent over the last 10 years) and a 36 percent capture rate of in-county high school graduates.