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Legislative chairman outlines 2012 agenda

At the Dutchess County Legislature’s opening session in early January, we re-elected Rob Rolison as our chairman for the third consecutive year. Chairman Rolison spoke of our policy priorities for the coming year in his acceptance speech. Excerpts are included below.

Solid waste

“In 2010 I created a Resource Recovery Reform Committee that was designed to investigate ways to improve our recycling rate and reduce the county subsidy from our waste-to-energy facility. Under the leadership of Legislator Jim Miccio (Fishkill) this committee has researched and debated how best to fulfill its mission. Their conversations with waste haulers, solid waste managers, consultants, community leaders, state agencies and regional partners have resulted in a better informed Legislature and public regarding the issues of resource recovery.

“It is the belief of this committee that the waste-to-energy facility does provide a vital service to the people of Dutchess County — a more environmentally friendly method to dispose of 100,000 tons of solid waste annually than burying it in a landfill. Thus it should not be shuttered, but perhaps sold. Placed into the hands of private operators the facility might become self-sufficient with an opportunity to expand via private investment.... If the public sector is incapable of doing something smarter and cheaper the private sector should have the chance to take the reins.

Jail

“The Dutchess County Jail continues to exceed capacity on a daily basis. A jail designed for 292 inmates with a population often in excess of 400 has resulted in the dangerous and costly policy of boarding out inmates in other jail facilities around the state....

“In the very near future the Jail Study Advisory Committee, chaired by Legislator Ken Roman (Poughkeepsie), will release its report for feedback and in it they move Dutchess County one step closer to hiring the necessary consultants to develop plans to expand and modernize our current jail facility.

“If the current jail’s footprint is not suitable then a new location must be found to house our inmates. Whether it is a retro-fit of an existing structure or a brand new one, the bottom line is that a bricks and mortar solution is needed to address the issue of overcrowding at the jail.

Mandate relief

“We legislators must pledge to work with our new County Executive [Marc Molinaro] and help him create the government infrastructure needed to assist businesses, create jobs and revitalize our economy. We can assist our businesses and families by doing what we have done for the last two years — maintain core county services while holding the line on taxes.... County government does a lot, but it is handcuffed by the state’s inability to deliver unfunded mandate relief. While struggling to provide its own core services, county government must also administer state required services without adequate funding from the state.

“The New York State Association of Counties points out that the nine “big” state mandates consume 90 percent of county property tax levies statewide. This means that counties only have true control over 10 percent of their levies and often these mandates result in the increase of taxes for local homeowners. This trend must stop and state lawmakers must deliver on their promise of mandate relief.”

Michael Kelsey represents Amenia, Washington, Stanford, Pleasant Valley and Millbrook in the Dutchess County Legislature. Write him at KelseyESQ@yahoo.com.

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