Happy Holidays from the Sorensen Family!
ROCK HILL - With the 2011 Holiday Season upon us, I would like to take a moment to thank you for your kind and generous support for me as I continue to serve you as Sullivan County Legislator.
I will continue to work hard to bring to you better and more limited government and common sense solutions to the problems facing Sullivan County. I am thankful for the opportunity to serve you.
The holiday season is about giving and caring as well as enjoying our time and relationships with our family and friends. As Americans, we have much to be thankful for this holiday season. I would ask you to take a moment to remember our neighbors in need and to try to help them with acts of kindness in order to fulfill the wonderful holiday spirit.
Jane and I wish you and your family a Merry Christmas and Happy Chanukah and a healthy, prosperous Happy New Year!
Alan and Jane Sorensen.
MONTICELLO - Recently, I attended the inaugural installation of new period streetlights on Broadway in Monticello.
|New Streetlight on Broadway|
With little fanfare, Village of Monticello DPW members, Delaware County Job Corps students and their instructors, and electrical contractors systematically installed the new streetlights.
In a matter of moments, the first street light was in place and within a half hour the corner of Broadway and St. John Street was embellished with a new row of streetlights.
By days end, approximately 18 of the 64 street lights were installed helping to cap off what has been a dramatic transformation of the streetscape on Broadway.
It's easy to forget how worn and bleak the business district looked a few years ago when potholes, cracked planter boxes and asphalt sidewalks were the norm.
Broadway today boasts new sidewalks, street trees, landscaping and now new streetlights.
These improvements were possible because, Village, County, State and Federal officials, along with support from various not-for-profit organizations, came together to support the reconstruction of Broadway.
In the Fall of 2007, streetlights were removed from the scope of work for the Broadway reconstruction project. In February of 2008, I coordinated with Village and State officials to have the electric conduit and bases for the streetlights reinstated into the scope of work for Broadway.
Thereafter the Village Board and Sullivan Renaissance coordinated with Congressman Hinchey's Office to secure federal funding to purchase the streetlights. The Village Board also reached out to the Delaware County Job Corps to help lower the cost of the installation.
The installation of the streetlights caps off the reconstruction efforts on Broadway. However, the new streetlights are not the end of the process of bringing social and economic vitality to Broadway-rather it is just the beginning.
In the months ahead, it will take the collective efforts of Village, County, State and Federal officials, not-for-profit organizations, local business owners and local residents to stimulate new investment on Broadway.
The foundation is now in place for a bright future on Broadway.
We just need to work together to restore the social and economic vitality to Monticello's business district so that future generations can enjoy the experience of strolling along a warm and inviting business district.-Alan
DEC announces two hearings at SCCC on hydrofracking
MONTICELLO - The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) recently announced that two public hearings will be held at Sullivan County Community College in Loch Sheldrake on November 29th starting at 1 p.m and 6 p.m.
At these hearings theDECwill solicit comments from the public regarding newly issued draft regulations for hydrofracking that were developed by the agency as part of process in preparing a finalSupplementalGeneric Environmental Impact Statement("SGEIS"). The new regulations and other informations can be found at on theDEC website.
An orignial Generic Environmental Impact Statement ("GEIS") was issued by the agency in 1992 setting parameters that are applicable statewide for State Environmental Quality Review Act ("SEQRA")review of oil and gas well permitting.
High-volume hydraulic fracturing, or what is otherwise known as Hydrofracking, is a natural gas drilling technique that is used with horizontal drilling as a means of extracting natural gases from the earth.. It was an approach not studied in the orignial DEC GEIS on Oil, Gas, and Solution Mining Regulatory Program.
TheSGEISis now being prepared to deal with specific environmental issues and concerns surrounding Hydrofracking for natural gas in a georgraphic area known astheMarcellus Shaleregion, which includes Sullivan County.
A total of four separate hearings will be held in New York State in November. The DEC will then review and prepare responses to the comments, which will be released with a final SGEISthat is being issued as part of the processto satisfy the requirements of the SEQRA that is studying the new technique and identifying potential new significant adverse impacts for these anticipated operations.
The DEC will then process and, as appropriate, issue well permits for gas well development using high-volume hydraulic fracturing in accordance with both the GEIS and the SGEIS.
For further information, you can contact theRegional DEC officein New Paltz at(845) 256-3033,Assemblywoman Aileen Gunter'sMonticello office at845-794-5807, orSenator John Bonacic'sDistrict office in Middletown at(845) 344-3311.
Is Partial-Self Insurance Plan for County more Cost Efficient?
ROCK HILL - In these tough economic times, we need to look into all measures to reduce the cost of County government.
Controlling our health care cost is perhaps the first place to look. We need to examine all options to reduce the Countys health care cost while maintaining an acceptable level-of-care for our employees.
The average Sullivan County employee health insurance premium costs over $19,000 per year. Here are some facts:
County Workforce Contributions:
In the 1990s, Sullivan County administered a self-insurance program, but abandoned that approach in the late 1990s in favor of a fully insured plan. Under a fully insured plan, Sullivan County pays fixed monthly premiums to an insurance carrier and they in turn assume the responsibility and related risks of paying claims.
Then, the County moved from offering its employees the option of several health insurance carriers to solely offering the New York State Health Insurance Program (NYSHIP) Plan.
Recently, I facilitated a discussion in the Governmental Services Committee about the idea of exploring the cost-effectiveness of moving the County health care program from the NYSHIP to a Partial-Self Insurance Plan.
Partial self-insurance provides a lower employer base cost to the County, which then participates in claims to an agreed-upon maximum. Stop-Loss Coverage is also provided to limit the Countys liability. This approach is much more flexible and offers the potential for significant cost savings both on a short-term and long-term basis.
While NYSHIP offers a well-respected fully insured plan, a major drawback is that it only offers two basic benefit packages: 1) Single Coverage and 2) Family Coverage. On the other hand, many other public employer health insurance carriers offer the option of paying for Single Coverage, Coverage for Couples or Family Coverage.
We shouldnt be forced to pay for family coverage when the employee does not need that level of coverage. Under the present plan, the County is likely paying for the higher premium family coverage (i.e. husband, wife and children) when there are many employees with two-person households, including several hundred retirees.
I asked that the County Legislature pass a resolution calling for the issuance of a Request for Proposals (RFP) to get new quotes for both fully insured plans and partial-self insurance plans. At the April 14, 2011 Governmental Services Committee, this measure received the unanimous support of my fellow legislators who then asked staff members to work on the RFP.
All of the proposed health plans that are bid in this RFP will have to be comparable in the provision of benefits as the current NYSHIP coverage due to the Countys collective bargaining agreement with the unions.
Because of our projected budget shortfalls and the costs and limitations of the NYSHIP Plan, it may be time once again to change the coverage. If we are going to control our health care costs in the long-term, we need to develop a health care plan for Sullivan County that provides cost efficient insurance and that also promotes healthy lifestyles for all members in the County system.
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- Time forfresh perspectives to stimulate economic development and job creation in Sullivan County -
ROCK HILL- Last week, a discussion ensued at the Personnel Committee regarding whether or not the Sullivan County Legislature should set term limits for the Sullivan County Industrial Development Agency (IDA),an important player in the economic well being of Sullivan County.
Our IDA was created by an act of the New York State Legislature in 1970 and its board helps to advance economic development projects by granting tax abatements to companies looking to or doing business in Sullivan County.
Its mission, as stated on its webpage http://www.sullivanida.com/is to promote economic welfare, recreation opportunities, prevent unemployment and economic deterioration, ensure the prosperity of Sullivan Countys inhabitants, and promote tourism and trade.
Presently, the Board Members of the Industrial Development Agency are appointed by the Sullivan County Legislature and continue to serve at the will of the Legislature.
There are no terms of office or term limits for these IDA Board Members. The appointments are open-ended and some of its present members have sat on the board for decades.
That needs to change.With the economic challenges facing the county-it is time for some new board members with new ideas and experiences to sit on that board.
We need to enact a law that sets definitive terms of office and the terms should be staggered, much like is done in Orange County, where new changes have set the terms of office for IDA Board Members running from between two years and five years.
We can increase the opportunities for new IDA Board Members by enacting a one-year off provision between terms of office (i.e. no consecutive terms-of-office).There should also be a provision of no-consecutive terms of office for the Legislative liaison the IDA Board.
Im not optimist about these changes. If past actions are an indicator, rather than quickly moving forward with the enactment of terms of office for the Sullivan County IDA, the Legislature will get bogged down in tangential discussions and will not enact terms of office for the IDA.
Delay. Delay. Delay.Its the modus operandi of those in control of our county in preventing meaningful changes to occur in county government.
I only say this because the Legislature previously promised terms of office for IDA Board Members, which was reported in aTimes Herald Record Articleon February 9, 2007.
Then the Legislature expanded the IDA Board from seven to nine members with one spot on the board for a labor or union representative, but failed to set a proposed three consecutive four-year term of office for Board Members.
There are long-term members on the IDA Board who have served our community with great distinction and who have helped to make our community a better place to live.The enactment of terms of office for the IDA Board is in no way a negative reflection on their service to our community.
However, with our economy in the tank, we need to embrace the enthusiasm of new board members who may bring fresh perspectives on how best to stimulate economic development and job creation in Sullivan County.Its the right thing to do.
Now more than ever is the time for us to embrace this modest change to the IDA Board terms of office, rather than fearing such action-Alan.
Feedback is welcome!
STATE LEGISLATURE PASSES BILL TO HELP HOMEOWNERS IN TOWN OF THOMPSON
ALBANY - County Legislator Alan Sorensen's efforts to address a major concern about dam safety in his district paid off when the State Legislature recently passed legislation sponsored by Senator John Bonacic and Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther which authorizes the Town of Thompson to establish the Treasure Lake/Davies Dam Improvement District and the Lake Louise Marie Dam Improvement District.
Under DEC regulations, the dams for the lakes need to be upgraded. The lakes Treasure Lake, Davies Lake, and Lake Louise Marie are used for recreation and/or water supply purposes.
Under existing law, the approximately 800 homeowners in the Emerald Green and Lake Louise Marie communities would have had to front an estimated $4 million or $5,000 each to make needed improvements to the dam.
To address that concern, Sullivan County Legislator Alan Sorensen stepped in and proposed that the Town of Thompson seek to have a special law passed to allow for the creation of dam improvement districts, thereby allowing the $4 million cost to be spread out over 30 years, with a much more manageable estimated cost of $200 per home per year, according to Sorensens calculations.
Alan Sorensen presented an intelligent solution for his constituents, who would have otherwise been stuck with a very high cost repair this year. I applaud him, as well as Town of Thompson Supervisor Tony Cellini and the Thompson Town Board for developing a mechanism to better ensure the safety of the dams. Senator Bonacic said.
Related Story in Times Herald Record
ROCK HILL GROWTH ONE OF FASTEST IN HUDSON VALLEY!
Rock Hill - The US. Census Bureau recently released some very important statistics about County Legislative District 9.
The 2010 Census revealed that one of the fastest growing communities in the Hudson Valley is the hamlet of Rock Hill in Sullivan County.
Between 2000 and 2010, Rock Hills population increased from 1,056 to 1,742 persons a 64.9% increase in residents.
The rate of growth in the Rock Hill area was even greater than Orange Countys fastest growing Village of Kiryas Joel.
If Rock Hill were a village, it would be the third largest Village in Sullivan County.
Why the dramatic increase?
Because Rock Hill is a great place to live and has a lot to offer its residents. It is the home of the Emerald Green and Lake Louise Marie residential communities, which has stimulated growth in new commercial businesses in the Rock Hill Business District. We also have some of the most beautiful scenery, lakes and roads in the Catskill Mountains-including a great hiking trail into the Neversink Gorge.
Rock Hill also hosts the Emerald Corporate Park, which includes the Crystal Run Healthcare facility, a top rated medical care facility that brings employees to Rock Hill every day and serves our local residents and patients from all over the NYC Metropolitan area.
Rock Hill also has a great variety of small businesses, including some great restaurants to eat at with the family and friends.
Most important is the quality of life as defined by Rock Hills strong sense of community. We have a great Fire Department, Ambulance Corps, a vibrant business association and a number of very active churches and synagogues.
This significant increase in population in Rock Hill raises important implications for its residents in the future.
In considering our future, we must ask this question: Is our rural hamlet ready, and/or wanting, of more of this explosive growth in the next decade?
While population growth increases the opening of new businesses and local government revenues, it also increases the demand for services such as public safety, road and street maintenance, and parks and recreation.
As the Census figures indicate, Rock Hill is one of the best places in Sullivan County live, work and visit. No doubt, it will continue to grow. We need to accommodate this expansion in a manner that grows our local economic base while preserving our great quality of life.
By planning ahead now, we can chart our future and make Rock Hill even better.
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