Legislators list goals for 2016
YATES COUNTY--A new year means a new opportunity to work toward the completion of set goals. This is no different for elected officials, as many of them, new and veterans, set out to accomplish the goals they think are most vital to the county's success. With next year in mind, The Observer asked the members of the Yates County Legislature what their goals are for the new year. Many of these goals included addressing the county administrator vacancy, tackling the heroin issue and working toward completion of several development projects.
Legislative Chairman Tim Dennis said his first priority is solving the situation with central administration of the county operations. He added he personally feels the heroin and drug situation in the county needs even more scrutiny and action as well. Dennis said the county needs to continue to foster a robust local economy that can reduce the demands on social support systems, while also taking a serious look at the possibility of a coordinated public transportation system.
Legislator Dan Banach said his goals also include working on replacing the county administrator by putting together a job description as to what they want, then getting it out to perspective applicants who meet the qualifications. He also wants to work on improving the quality of government by continuing to review the way they have done things in the past and make changes that will improve the way the county will do things in the future. Banach said he also wants the county to put together a plan for the Keuka Outlet Trail, noting they have to get all the parties involved together and work on the legalities to make it succeed.
"We have to keep working on all things that come before us, because sometimes a little change can make a big difference as to the way things work," Banach said.
Legislator Bill Holgate said his focus for this year is "to try and fight back against the heroin epidemic which is crushing our community."
"We always have to be mindful of the budgets, but we have made cuts in the past which have reduced our ability to be more proactive in investigating drugs and crime," Holgate said. "It's important that we give the support needed to address this problem. Heroin use costs the county huge amounts of money in law enforcement, jail, hospitalization etc., but what really hurts is the loss of life."
Legislator Gary Montgomery said his goals include implementing an improved county office organization and staffing structure, noting they have a unique opportunity given the vacant county administrator position. He also wants to complete three major objectives of 2015 which included the fiber project, Penn Yan Marine development and labor union negotiations. Montgomery added he would like to identify and implement continuous improvement in services provided to Yates County taxpayers at equal to or reduced cost. He said these goals can be achieved by getting all, or least a majority, of the 14 legislators working towards these goals using data, facts and open minds.
"The taxpaying public needs to get involved," Montgomery added. "They need to share concerns and express an interest in what the legislature is doing to improve their lives. We should all (legislators and public) be working to make Yates County the best county it can possibly be at a cost that we can all afford."
Legislator Terry Button said his main goal is to improve the quality of life for the people of Yates County. He said this includes several factors such as being fiscally responsible, efficient, protecting their assets and making wise capital expenditures looking to the future. Button said the county will work to sort out other issues like the Greenidge power plant or the fiber optic infrastructure, adding he wants to do what he can to keep the area economically viable as far as jobs go.
"I don't think we have any major, catastrophic issues in Yates County that we can't solve," Button said.
Legislator Bonnie Percy said her goals include addressing personnel issues, such as filling vacancies and union negotiations. They also include completing the Penn Yan Marine development and broadband projects, as well as the budget for 2017 with the low tax cap. She noted one legislator cannot complete goals by themselves, adding it will take teamwork and listening to each other to fulfill these goals.
"The one item that every citizen of this county needs to get involved with is the heroin issue," Percy said. "It is very sad to lose so many of our young adults to heroin overdose. Regardless of your age or job, we all need to take some time to attend and/or participate in the various drug abuse meetings being organized in our communities. We need to assist in anyway we can to protect or communities from this drug."
Legislator Leslie Church said her top goals include supporting and expanding economic development activity in Yates County. Another one of her goals is supporting public transportation initiatives to improve access to healthcare, services and employment for county residents. She said she also wants to support critical broadband systems and work to ensure community access to these services.
"The Yates County Legislature should continue its efforts to hold the line on spending and oppose unfunded mandates, while providing a safe, attractive environment through the delivery of efficient, effective municipal services," Church said. "It is important that legislature work together to build a consensus on issues to best function as a body in the interests of Yates County."
Legislator Doug Paddock said his goals also include evaluating alternatives for the county administrator's position, adding if it is determined that having an administrator is appropriate, they will participate in recruitment and selection of an administrator. He also wants to complete construction of the dark fiber ring, as well as complete transfer of the Penn Yan Marine property to the village of Penn Yan and ultimately to Keuka Outlet Development LLC. Paddock said these goals will take cooperation and effort on the part of all legislators, and in many cases cooperation among other entities, both governmental and private, to achieve. He said he would also like to work in conjunction with other counties to convince New York State either to fund their many mandates or take them over as state programs.
Legislator Mark Morris said his goals include determining how, and if, to replace the county administrator vacancy, adding they have a unique opportunity to improve the effectiveness and cost of county government. He also plans to work as the Yates County member of the Finger Lakes Economic Development Council to continue to expand support for economic development through addition and growth of small businesses. Morris said he also plans to continue to educate the legislature on the high cost per capita and high cost growth of public safety and encourage them to take action to gradually address this to allow funding of other key activities.
"The only way to achieve these will be through collaboration with the other legislators," Morris said. "It would be very helpful if we had more public/ taxpayer involvement to encourage action. We really need an overall strategic plan (mission, vision, strategies, goals and improvement plans) and a set of operating values. Attempts to sell these concepts in the past have been unsuccessful."
Legislator Earle Gleason said as a new member of the county legislature, his first and main goal will be to learn to work and cooperate with the other members of the legislature. His other goals will be to learn more about the interest in the fiber optic network for the county and finding about public transportation for the county. Gleason said he hopes to achieve his main goal by attending the meetings and listening to the other members of the legislature. He added he hopes to achieve the other two goals, again by working with the other members as a whole legislative body and doing research to see how both the fiber optic network and public transportation might be implemented in Yates County.
Legislator Elden Morrison listed his goals as providing oversight of all county operations and delivering services to Yates County citizens "in an effective and cost efficient manner." He said with the recent resignation of a long-time county administrator, the legislature has a unique opportunity to take an in-depth look at their current structure and task assignments.
"This year will likely be crucial to the build out of the fiber loop," Morrison said. "I would like to see a dedicated sub-committee formed to conduct an assessment of the county's communications assets and ensure that the various pieces (911 dispatch, road patrol, IT department, fiber) interact in a manner most beneficial to the county."
Morrison also noted that Yates, a rural county of 25,000 people, spends about $7.1 million in public safety funds in the following three areas (exclusive of District Attorney, Public Defender, Probation, etc.): jail: $3.4 million, law enforcement/road patrol: $2.7 million and 911 dispatch: $1.0 million. He said a reduction of just 2 percent would equal $140,000 or nearly a 1 percent reduction in the property tax rate for every property owner in the county.
"I have no doubt that this reduction could be accomplished if the legislature and sheriff could work collaboratively to make it happen," Morrison said.
Legislator Jim Smith said Yates County has an opportunity to evaluate and determine what is the best leadership structure to guide the county in to the future.
"The first goal is to ensure the county continues to operate efficiently and effectively as we evaluate our options for new leadership," Smith said. "The second goal is to honestly evaluate and define how best to organize the leadership structure and the third goal is to work towards completion of key projects such as Penn Yan Marine and the dark fiber network."
Smith noted the legislature as a whole needs to discuss with input from department heads and others to determine how they operate in the near term as they evaluate our options to lead us forward. He said Yates County needs to protect that which makes the area special, including the lakes, farm land, forests and vineyards.
"We also must recognize our place in a changing modernized world and make sure that the necessary infrastructure, such as municipal water and sewer, low cost power, and widely available broadband internet is in place, such that people want to live and raise families here, businesses are welcome and able to grow in order to provide good paying sustainable jobs, and vacationers want keep coming back," Smith said.
Legislator Edward Bronson said his top priorities also include the Yates County fiber project as well as the Penn Yan Marine development. He said he plans to learn about the status of these projects and what needs to be done to push these projects toward completion.
"I would like to see Yates County attract more businesses with good paying jobs," Bronson said.
Legislator Jim Multer did not respond by press time.