County Legislature has been working
In the first quarter of 2011, the County Legislature made progress on several fronts.• Chairman — In January we re-elected Legislator Rob Rolison from Poughkeepsie as our chairman for a second term. Legislative priorities outlined in his chairman’s address included a renewed commitment to fiscal accountability, citizen participation and transparency, and focused specifically on addressing jail overcrowding and improving the county’s role in solid waste management. Of note, Chairman Rolison made his second official visit to our district in February as part of Sen. Greg Ball’s summit for elected officials held in Amenia.• Solid waste — The Legislature voted in March to create two new positions (a secretary and investigator) to revive the county’s Solid Waste Department. While included in our County Charter, this department had been dormant for years, and the 2011 budget provided for reviving the solid waste commissioner role to better manage the county’s solid waste obligations. This includes licensing haulers, enforcing recycling laws and providing oversight to the controversial Resource Recovery Agency (RRA). This vote came on the heels of a Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) memo that threatened to revoke the license of the RRA waste-to-energy plant unless the county bolstered its management role. While the Legislature regretted growing a department only months after voting to eliminate other departments, the cost savings in spending $146,000 on new positions (includes office necessities) was justified in order to avoid the projected $2.3 million cost per month if the DEC acted on its threat to shutter the RRA plant.• Jail overcrowding — As the incarceration rate continues to rise, the policy of housing out inmates to other counties jails is proving to be way too expensive (about $3 million a year). Preliminary steps have been taken to outline the parameters of a jail expansion study that the Legislature will vote to undertake probably in May. As one last final attempt to make sure we have exhausted all other options, the Legislature voted in March to ask the Criminal Justice Council to evaluate whether there exists any other alternatives to incarceration programs that the county is not already using before we move forward to study expanding the jail.• Domestic violence — In February and in light of the four domestic violence deaths in Dutchess County last year, Chairman Rolison convened a special forum focused on domestic violence. This was attended by judges, law enforcement, prosecutors, citizens, legislators and nonprofits. It was a productive session that served to keep this issue on all our radars. There is no greater perversion than when the love that exists between families morphs into violent rage.• Appointments — Betsey Brockway has been appointed commissioner of the new Department of Services of Aging, Veterans and Youth. Dana Smith has been appointed coordinator for emergency response.• Ticks — In light of recent discoveries of powassan, babesiosis and anaplasmosis, the Legislature’s hard-working Tick Task Force’s scope was broadened to include all tick-borne diseases, not just Lyme disease. Michael Kelsey represents Amenia, Washington, Stanford, Pleasant Valley and Millbrook in the Dutchess County Legislature. Write him at KelseyESQ@yahoo.com.