10 July 2009

In the news

More reaction to the July 8 DASNY decision by the county Board of Supervisors
(Register-Star, July 10)

Reaction mixed on DASNY plan
by Jamie Larson

Reactions were mixed Thursday, on a resolution unanimously passed by the Columbia County Board of Supervisors Wednesday night to bring a powerful third party state authority into the discussion on a number of large county capital projects.

The resolution allows the Board to evaluate the possibility of bringing in the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York in to consult and possibly work directly on and help finance plans including the moving of the Department of Social Services out of Hudson to the Ockawamick school building in Claverack, homeless housing, county courthouse renovations and others.

The DSS move is currently the most publicly controversial plan on the list and officials discussed with the Register-Star what role DASNY could potentially play in the planning.

The resolution was proposed by Supervisor Doug McGinney, D-Kinderhook, who says the services provided by DASNY are almost too good to be true, adding they have expertise on all aspects of government projects. He says he is not looking to stop the Ockawamick project while they consult DASNY, but he feels the input of an objective third party may help put opposition to the Ockawamick move in Hudson and elsewhere to rest, as well as help prioritize the numerous other projects facing the county during difficult economic times.

“I still agree with the decision we made,” McGivney said, “I’m not flip-flopping on my position at all. There are other people that do not agree, people I have respect for, so I’m not opposed to other people coming in and offering their opinion.”

While the resolution addresses other projects as well, the fact that it involves taking another look at DSS possibilities is encouraging to some who are fighting against the plan. “Any request for an outside agency to intervene, I would be agreeable with that,” Hudson Mayor Richard Scalera said, “But I’m not sure yet what they are asking DASNY to do.”

Scalera, Who has proposed a plan that would keep DSS in Hudson, said McGivney’s position is somewhat counterintuitive. “I really have major reservations about having someone stop and look at it while the project is moving forward,” Scalera said, “it’s kind of like moon walking. I’m not sure how you do that.”

Scalera said it sometimes feels like the county decision making process moves too fast and is done on the spur of the moment. “There is nothing wrong with saying, ‘look maybe we should stop what we’re doing for a while.’ ”

As of last Tuesday, putting the DSS Ockawamick relocation on hold to asses other possible options is the new position of Supervisor James Keegan, R-Claverack. Keegan was on the Board in the early 1990’s when they used DASNY to help plan the still pending renovation of the courthouse and says while he would like to slow down the DSS plan he thinks DASNY is probably the wrong organization to look to for conflict resolution. “I don’t think it has anything to do with it,” Keegan said, “And I don’t want to spend any more money on consultants.”

Keegan did vote for McGivney’s resolution. “I voted yes because it doesn’t commit us to anything,” Keegan said, “My idea is to slow this thing down because of the economic situation. Let’s prioritize and then move forward.”

Board of Supervisors Chairman Art Baer, R-Hillsdale, said there is no reason to put Ockawamick planning on hold while consulting with DASNY. He said the county hasn’t broken ground on construction in Claverack yet and there is no reason to stop planning for a consultation, especially when no one yet knows what type of services can be made available through the authority. We’ve always said we’ve been willing to look at different options,” Baer said, “but we have deadlines and we’ve invested a lot in the proposal we have. All that needs to go on. If DASNY can see how to do that better, we welcome their input.”

Baer said where DASNY will eventually become helpful is when the county is looking for bonds for the renovations of the courthouse and Ockawamick. The chairman also wanted to make the point that the Ockawamick building will be used by the county for more offices than just DSS, so there is no reason to consider stopping work on the project because of the controversy over social service relocation.

“Until we sit down with DASNY we won’t know exactly what they can do,” Baer said, “That’s why I’m reluctant to throw the emergency break on.”

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