Schoharie County ready with Earl's List


By Jim Poole

When Washington releases the federal stimulus money, Schoharie County will be ready.
In fact, county leaders are ready right now.
Supervisors, planners and others have compiled a list of 24 projects totaling more than $160 million that could benefit from stimulus cash.
Using the list as something of a lobbying tool, leaders are showing to state and federal representatives whenever possible. They’ve been publicizing the list since releasing it in January.
“We’re using it at every opportunity,” said Board of Supervisors Chairman Earl Van Wormer. “Every opportunity. . .anyone who has access to someone at the state or federal level gets a copy just so they don’t forget us.”
So far, he’s received letters back from Congressman Paul Tonko and state representatives Senator Jim Seward and Assemblyman Paul Tonko.
“And we’ve talked to Senators Schumer and Gillebrand,” Mr. Van Wormer said.
The list includes projects in the works or at least being discussed, such as Sharon Springs infrastructure improvements for the spa improvements ($3 million) and extending water and sewer service from Cobleskill to Shad Point ($3.2 million).
But it also includes new projects, such as three new I-88 interchanges: One at Howe’s Cave for the proposed water park, another at the Cobleskill industrial park and a third at Oak Hill in Schoharie.
The cost of the interchanges? $30 million apiece.
Mr. Van Wormer insisted that including such items wasn’t pie-in-the-sky thinking.
The proposed Cobleskill interchange would be attractive for the former Guilford Mills plant.
“If someone comes along and would buy the building on the condition an interchange was there, that would be a selling point,” Mr. Van Wormer said.
“It would create jobs––that’s what the stimulus is for––and the building would be back on the tax rolls. It would benefit the whole state.”
Mr. Van Wormer has two favorites on the list: $6 million for the nursing home being studied by Cobleskill Regional Hospital and $25 million to bring broadband to the county.
Those two projects demonstrate the thrust of the list, according to Mr. Van Wormer: Projects that have an impact on a large part of the county.
Not all the projects will be funded, Mr. Van Wormer realizes. He said Senator Seward joked that Washington would have to put more money in the stimulus package to accommodate Schoharie County.
But Mr. Van Wormer believes if the county is ready with a long list, it will be in better position to get something funded.
“If we create a project or two and they don’t get funded, we’ve basically wasted our time,” he said.
He publicized the list––and received rave reviews––at a recent statewide meeting of the Association of Counties.
“They were impressed that we had the foresight,” he said. “Different counties had one or two, but they hadn’t put anything together countywide.”
The countywide approach is what may get a few items funded, Mr. Van Wormer said.
“The effort is to get Schoharie County to pull together,” he said. “We’re doing a good job. . .more focused, more driven. We might surprise some people with what gets funded.”