Developing a Schoharie County-wide solar strategy, finding another use for the old jail, and looking at options for EMS coverage top supervisors’ goals for 2020 in a roadmap laid out Friday.
Also on the list as priorities:
• Continuing with economic development.
• Moving ahead with the streambank project.
• Reaching an agreement on the CSEA contract.
Board of Supervisors Chairman Bill Federice of Conesville promised the list of 2020 goals when he was elected at the start of January and Friday, he said that he’d polled supervisors to come up with it; “It’s not,” he said, “a Bill Federice wish list.”
The goals and priorities are in no order, Mr. Federice said, and though some of them will be harder than others to get to, the first three—the goals—are low-hanging fruit.
Mr. Federice offered his list after a plea from Marion Jaqueway of Schoharie for a united front on solar and this Friday, SEEC will host its first Prosperity Forum on Lodging Possibilities.
With more than a half-dozen commercial solar projects being discussed or in the pipeline locally, Mr. Federice called on the county to take a leadership role in setting policy for a “clean solar strategy” and he’ll be appointing an Energy Committee to work on it.
“I believe we can leverage the outcome,” he said. “This can be a real revenue opportunity for the county”—and part of its economic development policy.
Mr. Federice said he’s heard a lot of ideas about what the county should do with the old jail—he favors selling it—but no matter what, they’ll need a strategy and outside help to come up with it.
“What would it cost to sell? What are the advantages?” he asked, pointing out that the building needs work and supervisors have already committed to having the backup emergency dispatch center there; if the jail is sold, those plans will need to be reworked.
Mr. Federice named Broome Supervisor Steve Weinhofer, who chairs the Buildings & Ground Committee, to head up that effort.
Mr. Federice called on Mike Hartzel, head of the county’s Office of Emergency Services, to keep “looking for hot spots” that need EMS coverage and to continue his volunteer recruitment efforts.
“But I don’t think that’s the sole answer,” to providing “what most of our citizens see as a critical service,” he said of attracting more volunteers.
Mr. Federice named Jefferson Supervisor Peggy Hait, who chairs the Radio & Emergency Services Committee, to explore the costs—and revenues—of everything from supplementing existing volunteer ambulance squads to a full county EMS service.
“Something’s not right” with the local economy, Mr. Federice said, pointing to a 3.6 percent local unemployment rate—but 2019 sales tax revenues slightly lower than ’18’s.
SEEC’s Lodging Forum and hiring Destination Marketing to handle tourism are good first steps towards long-term growth that will bring jobs and keep young people here, he said, and “I think we are on the right path.”
But economic growth will also need to address infrastructure and the county’s diverse and changing agriculture.
Mr. Federice is optimistic supervisors’ improved relationship with DEC will pay off; their goal is to protect taxpayers while completing the remaining streambank work.
Mr. Federice is also optimistic about progress in contract negotiations. Both sides, he said, are showing a willingness to talk.
Not included on Mr. Federice’s list—but also suggested:
A department heads salary survey, closer cooperation between the county administrator and treasurer, completing an emergency safety strategy for the County Office Building, real time budget evaluation, pursuing a data collection grant for tax assessors, better communication between supervisors and the public, and a better working relationship on the Board of Supervisors.