Friday, May 19, 2017

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County bonding for a not-for-profit spurs wide-ranging debate in Sullivan

MONTICELLO – The Sullivan County Legislature approved issuance of $28.5 million in tax exempt and taxable revenue bonds for the Center for Discovery, which has a list of 41 enhancements the bonding would help fund. 

The bonds would be issued by the Sullivan County Funding Corporation, itself a not-for-profit entity “… to promote economic welfare, recreation opportunities, prevent unemployment and economic deterioration. 

Legislator Ira Steingart, who also chairs the county Industrial Development Agency, defended the action.

 “It’s not debt that the county is taking on, number one; that’s one misconception,” Steingart said, during Thursday’s legislature Executive Committee meeting.  “How it’s helping the county is, Center for Discovery is the largest employer, besides government, in the county.”

Citizen Ken Walter, who attends almost every meeting and has gone after this kind of funding, and the IDA in particular, many times in the past, wasn’t letting up.

“Why am I, or any of us, asked to donate to a cause that we may not believe in, because, I’m not asking for help, so why am I supporting by giving them a tax exemption and having my taxes, the taxes they don’t have to pay, why am I picking up their tab?” Walter asked. 

In a rare move, during the afternoon monthly session, County Manager Joshua Potosek left the chair and went to the podium during public comment.

“Based on our ability to provide the necessary tools and the assets needed to create the product, the land, the shovel-ready sites necessary to compete not only in the Hudson Valley but also in the Tri-State Area,” Potosek said.  “I think that without question, the work that the IDA has done over the years has been extraordinary.”

The debate continued on another issue, a resolution to authorize a contract modification for the Route 17 Corridor Study.  The $100,000 study is looking at ways to enhance economic growth from Liberty to Thompson.

Alan Sorenson said he is not convinced this is the best approach. 

Legislator Joseph Perrello, noting he has been a businessman for over 30 years, took exception.

 “We have a group of people that are motivated.  We have people that are looking to work.  We have opportunities for growth about county and we need to step forward, make the investment in ourselves and the people that live here to make this happen.” 

Perrello had harsh words for legislators who opposed that, saying “you ought to be ashamed of yourselves.”


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