With the County's budget season about to begin, residents need to know what plans Legislature Chair Rob Doherty, Vice Chair Michael Brooks and Management & Budget Committee Chair George Conklin have in mind for the County's future.
Some of that information is expected to be discussed at a Special Meeting scheduled for Thursday morning.
But what's clear thus far is that Doherty, Brooks and Conklin (and with help from dependable votes from Legislator Nicholas Salamone Jr. and too often, Alan Sorensen) are using American Rescue Plan Act dollars for projects that may be needed but that are not critical.
In fact, the $7.3 million that the County has received so far from the U.S. Treasury Department is being used to pay for Department of Public Works' road improvements and for capital improvements (a cooling and heating system) at SUNY Sullivan.
But one of the core goals the American Rescue Plan Act, according to Congressman Antonio Delgado, is "to respond to workers performing essential work during the COVID-19, public health emergency by providing premium pay to eligible worker s of the State, territory, or Tribal government that are performing such essential work, or by providing grants to eligible employers that have eligible workers who perform essential work."
Doherty, Brooks and Conklin have completely and conveniently ignored that particular part of the guidance, despite repeated reminders and pleas from a group of residents who show up regularly at meetings of the Legislature to voice their deep concern about the use of these federal funds.
And, the Legislative leaders are doing this while the Delta variant has surged dramatically in Sullivan in an environment where an insufficient number of residents have been fully vaccinated to sufficiently slow the spread of Covid-19.
We are in the middle of a public health emergency tied directly to Covid-19.
So why aren't those funds being used to increase resources to the County Health Department?
Why aren't those funds being used to provide "premium pay" to frontline workers who literally have risked their lives while going to work for the Sheriff's Office on patrol and at the County Jail, and for the nurses and staff at The Care Center at Sunset Lake?
Doherty has continually rejected using any funds for "premium pay" and instead has suggested a small stipend to all County employees. Again, that has little to do with a core intention of the American Rescue Plan Act. Doherty, who has sadly suffered from lung cancer, should have a better appreciation for healthcare workers.
Residents should demand that this Legislature deliver premium pay to front line workers.
They should demand monies be spent to immediately increase staff and resources for the overstretched Public Health Department run by Nancy McGraw, so they can respond more effectively to outbreaks throughout the County.
Residents should demand that some of those monies be used to bolster mental health services and drug/alcohol abuse treatment, two issued that rose dramatically throughout the pandemic.
There also needs to be monies spent on law enforcement. When you hear Sheriff Michael Schiff discuss the ancient age of his patrol vehicles, that should be a priority.
When you hear about a rise in shootings in Monticello, that should be a priority.
When you hear that the starting salary for a rookie Assistant District Attorney is among the lowest in the state at $53,000, Galligan's office MUST g
Because if the shootings and violence continue in our Government seat, what will follow is a mass exodus of tourism dollars that Doherty says he cares so much about.
And if serious resources are not put behind slowing the Delta variant, that, too will keep everyone away from this great County.
Below is a story from The SullivanTimes from April 7: