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County grants are a lifeline in our towns and villages

The Millerton News Editorial

While the world’s attention has been keenly focused on the coronavirus for the past two years, understandably so, our elected officials have had to continue to do their jobs beyond dealing with the pandemic — a monumental chore in and of itself.

Among the many tasks for our local leaders: obtaining critical (and may we add, hard to come by) funding for the numerous programs and services we rely on as residents of the Harlem Valley.

In the past, northeastern Dutchess County has often found itself to be the recipient of the smallest piece of the pie when it came to receiving coveted grants and other funding from the county, state and elsewhere. That’s changed in recent years, especially under the watch of Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro. He has done an excellent job helping procure cold hard cash for our small corner of the world.    

In fact, in 2021, the Harlem Valley fared quite well when considering how many grants it received. Please, read on…

The Learn, Play, Create: Supporting Our Kids grant program was created last November and was a major county initiative. It awarded $3 million, funding 147 projects throughout Dutchess to local nonprofit organizations serving children impacted by the COVID pandemic. The money came from the federal government’s American Rescue Plan.

Some of that $3 million came directly into our region. Nearly $18,000 went to Hope Rising Farm Therapeutic Riding Center in Millerton to help it buy special equipment for its many young riders.

The Millerton American Legion Post 178 received  $20,000 for its Shooting Sports Education and Safety program to buy materials, equipment and supplies for its archery and shooting sports pop-up educational events throughout the county.

Cornell Cooperative Extension Dutchess County in Millbrook received $20,000 for its Agriculture Education for Kids program to purchase learning labs and supplies, including embryology kits and anatomy models for its staff and volunteers.

The Stissing Center, an up-and-coming regional performing arts center in Pine Plains, received $20,000 for its Student Theatre to purchase room-darkening curtains and a lighting system to provide local students an authentic theater experience, in collaboration with the Stissing Theatre Guild.

According to Molinaro’s office, the 2022 county budget includes $500,000 for Learn, Play, Create grant funding.

These are but a few examples; 2021 also provided for Community Development Block Grants, funded by the federal government’s Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Dutchess County awarded $2.2 million last year for 21 projects, with $99,000 going to the town of Dover for the J.H. Ketcham Memorial Park Walking Track; $150,000 went to the village of Millerton for a sidewalk infrastructure repair and replacement project; and $25,000 went to the Northeast Community Council (aka the North East Community Center) for its Youth Development Teen Team and for its CPSB internship program.

The county also helped garner more than $2 million for 28 Municipal Investment Grant (MIG) projects throughout Dutchess last year. The town of Amenia received $35,000 for critical upgrades to lifesaving tools; the town of North East and village of Millerton earned $250,000 for Phase III of its Shared Highway Garage; the town of Pine Plains was awarded $70,000 to create a Wheelchair Accessible Playground at Stissing Lake Park; and the town of Milan got $70,000 for a Four in One Baseball Field at the Milan Recreation Park.

Coming up this year, the county’s 2022 budget has $3.5 million earmarked for its Agency Partner Grant (APG) program. The APG awards are given to local nonprofits for capital and operating infrastructure initiatives.

A total of six were announced last week for the first round, amounting to $904,500. Molinaro’s office happily shared on Tuesday, Jan. 11, that $200,000 of that APG money is destined for the Millbrook Library to improve its building.

Also last week, Harlem Valley Homestead, a 250-acre working farm in Wingdale looking to expand and create sustainable facilities that welcome guests in an agri-tourism model, was awarded a $500,000 grant from the Empire State Development Grant Program through the Mid-Hudson Regional Economic Development Council.

While those are state funds, not county monies, both Molinaro and State Senator Sue Serino (R-41) were instrumental in helping secure the grant for this northeastern Dutchess agricultural treasure.

What it all boils down to is that we believe Molinaro deserves a big thank you for the work he and his office have been doing, nonstop, all while the biggest health crisis in the past century has been looming overhead. They’ve secured — and continue to do so — critical funding so our Harlem Valley communities can function smoothly and our families can access essential services during a difficult time — no easy task.

As our parents loved to say, “Money doesn’t grow on trees.”

It doesn’t, and governments and other organizations don’t like to dole it out without demanding a lot of work behind  the application process.

Of course, the county executive is not the only elected official who has been working hard behind the scenes to win our communities grants. Plenty of others should be commended for their efforts, too. This week, though, it is Molinaro and his team we thank, for those county dollars have gone a long way here in the Harlem Valley.

We hope they will continue to flow in our direction, as we will continue to welcome them with open arms and do our best to ensure that when we spend them we help as many deserving people in our community as we can.

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