Thursday, September 7, 2017

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Hein unveils Ulster County shared services plan


All of the supervisors attended the session chaired by Hein, top center

KINGSTON – Every town supervisor in Ulster County met Thursday morning with Ulster County Executive Michael Hein for a special mandated shared services council meeting. They unanimously voted to approve a plan to save $19 million in anticipated capital expenses, lowering the tax levy by 1.2 percent.

The County-Wide Shared Services Initiative was included in Governor Andrew Cuomo’s state budget facilitating operational collaboration between local governments.

Hein noted that going into the process, there are mixed emotions.

“When we get involved with things likes shared services, it comes with both excitement and trepidation,” the county exec said. “Evolution of the current model has become costly. We could turn into Westchester County, and become a high tax area that drives businesses out and becomes a real challenge. They have benefited from their proximity to the New York City area. Short of that, it’s the highest tax place in the country. It doesn’t work. That’s an absolute business killer.”

Among the several projects agreed to be shared by local municipalities, is a highway facility in Saugerties, funded in part through the sale of the village highway garage, and including purchase of shared-use equipment between the village and town.

“I’m excited about what the shared Saugerties highway facility looks like,” Hein told the gathered officials. “There was a reality, in an area less than one square mile, state facilities, federal facilities, county facilities, village facilities, and town facilities – all for the same purpose. I’d like to think that we can do better.”

A total of $234,458 will be saved.

New Paltz will likewise be sharing a shared municipal building between the village and town, renovating the current village hall building on Plattekill Avenue, and liquidating the old town hall building on Route. 32. Water Services system upgrades will realize further efficiencies, according to the approved plan. A total of $866,050 will be saved.

A unified transit system will combine the Ulster County Area Transit bus system (UCAT) with the City of Kingston CITIBUS fleet. “That’s not a good thing or a bad thing; it’s a thing we have to address,” Hein said of floundering city ridership rates. The consolidation involved several years of regulatory hurdles. A total of $234,000 will be saved.


The rotunda - making use of much
maligned empty space

Other cost-saving projects include a family court conflict public defender swap between Dutchess and Ulster Counties; an Ulster County Purchasing Consortium online portal ($187,397 saved); and a new E-911 Mezzanine built inside the hollow Rotunda of the Ulster County Law Enforcement Center.

“The thing that people remember when they walk into that Rotunda, it was the greatest example of government waste, in my opinion, we have seen in this area," Hein maintained.. "It was ostensibly a $4 million hallway. Ever been in it? A lovely grain silo. It was a multimillion dollar insult to the taxpayers of Ulster County.”

Construction of a mezzanine inside the Rotunda will allow the E-911 dispatch to work alongside the Emergency Management offices inside the same building, saving $110,690.

Although some of the projects approved Wednesday overlap with the $20 million statewide shared services competition offered through the Governor’s office, the FY2018 Shared Services Initiative is a separate program mandated through state and county legislative act. Dissolution of Ellenville Village and Police is one component omitted in Wednesdays vote.

 


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