PINE PLAINS – Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro delivered his 2022 State of the County address on Wednesday in Pine Plains, touting accomplishments and presenting a bold list of initiatives for the future. A budget gap of $40 million that his predecessor, Bill Steinhaus, left behind has been turned into a surplus of $60 million in the county’s fund balance, Molinaro said.
“The state of Dutchess County remains strong, as our county has overcome unforeseen obstacles and come through the other side more united and robust than ever,” Molinaro said, adding “Today we are poised for more growth and prosperity because of our decade-long commitment to smart, fiscally conservative and compassionate government. To continue along this path, we must redouble our efforts to keep Dutchess County safe and affordable, creating opportunities and optimism for every County resident.”
Continuing his history of expanding mental health services, Molinaro unveiled a new partnership with Westchester Medical Center (WMC) and MidHudson Regional Hospital (MHRH) that will establish the “Center for Excellence for Behavioral Health,” creating several new beds for inpatient services. Dutchess County will allocate $3 million for the new services and WMC has committed 60 new staff members to the region, focusing on mental health services. The beds will be used by patients from Dutchess and Ulster counties. Mental health services were diminished in Ulster when a hospital in Kingston eliminated its behavioral health programming.
Both MidHudson Region Hospital in Poughkeepsie and the Health Alliance Hospital in Kingston are members of the Westchester Medical Health Network.
Additional measures for public health and safety include:
- Investing opioid settlement funds to develop the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) program, a community-based diversion approach which focuses on a harm-reduction/housing-first framework which allows officers to re-direct low-level offenders engaged in drug or other risky activity to community-based services, instead of jail and prosecution;
- Expanding the Intensive Treatment Alternatives Program (ITAP), an alternative to incarceration for those in the grip of substance use disorder;
- Supporting the overall health of the community with a mobile vehicle, planned for deployment later this year, which will bring operations to every region of the County, offering immunizations, case work, sexually transmitted disease testing and education, veterans counseling, group sessions, referrals to community providers and more;
- Investing $10 million in American Rescue Plan (ARP) funding for the design and development of a new, consolidated two-way radio system for first responders, which will replace outdated and uncoordinated two-way radio systems utilized by various emergency services throughout the county, providing all agency interoperability and a reduction in costs for most emergency services;
- Allocating $4 million for this year’s MIG program, which prioritizes fire and rescue agencies, including municipal, non-profit and established fire districts, to enhance their capacity and ability to respond to emergencies;
- Investing more than $2 million to purchase three vehicles critical to the Department of Emergency Response’s mission of preparing and responding to emergencies in the community, including a new state-of-the-art Mobile Communication Command Post vehicle;
- Building on the Re-Entry Stabilization Transition and Reintegration Track (RESTART) program at the Dutchess County Jail to establish the Re-Entry Community Housing and Resource Guided Empowerment (RECHARGE) program, which provides individuals housed in the jail who are at high risk for re-offending with safe and secure housing, case management and employment assistance.
Molinaro also addressed the needs for housing in the county. Earlier this month, the county released its 2022 Housing Needs Assessment (HNA), an extensive report detailing countywide demographic and housing data, an evaluation of housing trends over recent years and projections for affordable housing needs over the next 20 years. To address the housing gaps identified in the HNA and help eliminate them, Dutchess County is dedicating $20 million in ARP funds to invest in several interventions, including, among others:
- The creation of a housing trust fund, with a recommended initial funding of at least $2 million per year, which will be a source of flexible funding to aid the implementation of a variety of affordable housing efforts;
- Offset the costs of new or upgraded infrastructure, such as water and sewer, to ensure the viability of mixed-income housing developments; and
- Identifying sites that would be suitable locations for multi-family developments and ensure those locations are properly zoned for such development; such sites include those with access to household services, alternative forms of transportation and other necessary infrastructure, such as water and sewer.
More information about County Executive Molinaro’s 2022 State of the County Address, including video of his remarks is available on here. Molinaro will be holding town hall forums to give residents a chance to address the vision for Dutchess. The initial forums are scheduled as follows:
- Office for the Aging Tri-Town Senior Friendship Center, First Presbyterian Church of Pleasant Valley, 1576 Main Street, Pleasant Valley on Tuesday, May 3rd at 12:30 p.m.
- Red Hook Community Center, 59 Fisk Street on Tuesday, May 10th at 5:30 p.m.
- American Legion Post 427, 7 Spring Street, Wappingers Falls on Tuesday, May 17th at 5:30 p.m.