Leaders, officials outline priorities
SCHUYLER COUNTY--Following the Nov. 4 general election, both new and old faces have secured their positions for the upcoming year. With next year in mind, The REVIEW&EXPRESS asked the elected legislators, treasurer and appointed county administrator what their goals are for the following year.
Legislator-elect for District Five Carl Blowers said his objectives for the coming year include addressing county finances, fostering business growth and encouraging accountability as a legislator.
"My objective is to foster open, two-way communication that is honest and to the point, and to demand financial discipline supported by clear open coverage of issues," Blowers said. "I am an independent thinker and will require well thought out value analysis before committing tax dollars and resources.
It is mission critical that I support strong new business growth that will increase our county tax base, therefore helping to lower individual taxes and create new good paying jobs. I do not feel that government can 'create' jobs but that we can eliminate road blocks, get out of the way and make an environment friendly to the growth of business."
Blowers said his early term goals are to "commit the time necessary to understand the needs and concerns of Legislative District 5 to ensure that my thoughts and efforts are integrated into thoughts of the people of the district." He added being accountable is an important part of his mission as a legislator and he plans to use his 49 years of experience in business and industry to support and build on the work already underway to create savings through shared services agreements and attracting new business and jobs.
Recently reelected District Six Legislator Phil Barnes said he plans to focus on continuing the county's work in the realm of economic development for the upcoming year.
"I want to continue to pursue the current economic development with things like Project Seneca while still looking out for additional goals for future planning such as expanding water and sewer through the villages of Odessa and Burdett," Barnes said. "And taking into consideration at some point in time the aging infrastructure of private sewers along the lake and starting to consider what we can do in the future."
Barnes added he would like the county to continue looking into finding a "suitable solution" for Camp Monterey. He said the county has to make sure whatever is built is built with long-term goals involved, adding the same goes for projects like the regional wastewater sewer plant.
"We don't want to build a sewer plant and then 20 years from now wish we had built a bigger one," Barnes said. "You want to build for the future, and it's pretty evident when they built the current thing they weren't thinking about 25 years down the road. You want to really look at the whole big picture and see if it will be able to take care of Burdett and Odessa and possibly along the lake."
Treasurer-elect Harriett Vickio said once she takes over the department, she plans to address the most critical priorities within the department and work to improve the way the department works.
"Once officially assuming the treasurer position in January, I will be assessing all functions of the treasurer's office to better serve our county and taxpayers," Vickio said. "I am confident that our staff will be working together to identify the most critical areas of focus, prioritizing specific action items to address needed process improvements and efficiencies. Our goal is to effect lasting, positive improvement county-wide over the next four years."
County Administrator Tim O'Hearn said three of his top priorities include expanding broadband service, completing the 911 communications project and providing support for Project Seneca. O'Hearn said with the completion of the Open Access Dark Fiber network, the county will work to expand broadband service to underserved areas.
"The fiber infrastructure will allow commercial providers the ability to expand networks and improve service," O'Hearn said. "It should also drive competition which in turn will reduce pricing. To that end, we hope to have expanded high speed internet service at a much lower cost to the consumer. To accomplish this we will utilize the Southern Tier Network, of which we are a member, to recruit telecommunication companies expansion. We will also work to reinvest revenue generated by this network to expand high speed internet service to our rural areas and to connect with Yates County to the north."
O'Hearn said the 911 communications project is also on his list of goals for 2015.
"Through the efforts of our Emergency Services Coordinator, Bill Kennedy, the county secured $4.3 million in state and federal funds to provide infrastructure and equipment to achieve interoperability among agencies and regions with respect to emergency communications," O'Hearn said. "This funding allows us to increase our 911 communication from roughly 83 percent coverage to over 97 percent coverage within county at no local cost. Additionally, due to the fiber project we will now be connected with neighboring counties and agencies to include public transit, public works and schools. We will complete this project in early 2015 and will work with all partner emergency response agencies to provide compatible communications equipment and support to ensure true interoperability."
To continue to provide support for Project Seneca, O'Hearn said the development of the lakefront and the economic development opportunities it presents is "truly exciting."
"Progress to this end will be measured by actual development," O'Hearn said. "The villages of Watkins Glen and Montour Falls are working in collaboration and as a result they have taken the lead in Project Seneca. Their leadership is a model for other communities nationwide. I am happy to provide any assistance or support that furthers their efforts."