07 July 2009

Call to gather Wednesday (full BOS meeting)

Join us at the regular meeting of the Columbia County Board of Supervisors meeting 7:30 p.m., Wednesday (July 8) at 401 State Street,
in beautiful downtown Hudson, New York.

The controversial decision to move the Department of Social Services away from Hudson (the county seat) to an abandoned school in Claverack, still stands. The so-called OCKAWAMICK PLAN, formulated by BOS Chairman Art Baer, and his select inner circle -- Doug McGivney, Linda Scheer, Roy Brown, Phil Williams and county Public Works Commissioner Dave Robinson -- is steadily moving forward.

We must continue to question and hold this gang of out-of-touch county bosses accountable for their decisions. They must be continually reminded that their actions have serious real-life implications for the people who put them there.

Under the OP, 64 percent of the department's clients (many without access to a private vehicle) will be forced to travel six miles to Claverack, located in the middle of a rural county without a public transportation system.

In the words of an unidentified social worker (one of many individuals who fear retribution for speaking the truth): They might as well be moving the office 600 miles away. The hardship this places on people who struggle against sizable odds to get services is already hard enough.

The continual attention and public resistance has had an effect -- we cannot give up. As a direct result of the public outcry and resistance, a key member of the Board of Supervisors has now reversed his position on the project. Longtime Claverack supervisor James Keegan announced his "change of heart" in the July 7 edition of the Register-Star:

"Keegan, who initially voted for the plan to move DSS, told the Register-Star that in light of the vocal opposition to the plan from the city and around the county, he now believes other options should be considered. 'I think we need to retool and pull back and study the situation,' Keegan said, 'I’d be willing to take another look at this thing.' …"

Keegan is not only an important member of the Republican caucus (and former acting BOS Chairman), he also controls 349 votes under the board's weighted vote system -- the second largest voting block in the county. (Minority Leader and Ockawamick supporter McGivney controls the largest block of votes with 433).

Unfortunately for the citizens of Columbia County, the DSS debacle is just #1 on the now all-too-familiar list of harebrained ideas formulated by the current county leadership. The most recent bright idea by the county bosses was to house the county's homeless in a historic landmark hotel located in the center of downtown Hudson. This stroke of genius brought the business community out in a rage and Chair Baer backed off the ridiculous idea just prior to the July 4th holiday, putting it on hold.

But the bad news just keeps coming. Recently, we learned that the Chair is faced with another significant facilities issue -- Albany is getting ready to "sanction" the county for its failure to make county courthouse accessible to the handicapped. And why is this an issue now? Because the county failed to comply with the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act for more than 20 years!

As a direct result of this significant failure in leadership, a capitol region news reporter was reduced to literally crawling up the courthouse stairs just to be able to do their job. The county now has to work overtime to fix the problem it let slide for far too long.

When this latest debacle came to light, Chair Baer was asked how the county planned to correct the problem. He told the local press, "… the county plans to obtain funding for this project [renovation of the courthouse] as part of a larger bond which combines other projects, including renovations to the former Ockawamick School, which is proposed as the new headquarters of the county Department of Social Services. The bond would be for around $20 million." (Register-Star, July 2, 2009).

So, even before county lawmakers "fessed up" to the true cost of the Ockawamick Plan, the price tag is growing. This is not how smart business is conducted. If the Chair was the CEO of a major corporation the reasoning behind his flawed decision-making would most certainly be questioned at this point. Ockawamick, Pine Haven, the courthouse. The man calling the shots is the same man who wanted to turn the only hotel in the county into a homeless shelter. When will it end?

Please come to this meeting. Your presence will send a message. Demand accountability from elected officials. Demand transparency. Although the county government continually slams the door in our faces, we can't give up.

Services should be located where the people are -- and that's in Hudson. We ask that you support the plan to KEEP DSS IN HUDSON, where it belongs. Join us. It is far from over.

7:30 p.m., Wednesday (July 8) at 401 State Street, Hudson

Any questions, please contact Linda Mussmann at 209-7966
Check back at http://dsswatch.blogspot.com to learn more.

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