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State Backs Schoharie County on Relocating Jail, AECOM Projects Set to Go

Written By Editor on 1/29/14 | 1/29/14

The Schoharie County Board of Supervisors convened for the second time this year on Friday morning, hearing a wide range of reports from AECOM, County Treasurer Bill Cherry, and public discussion concerning the creation of an county administrator position in a short public session. 

Following last month's update that seventeen landowners could hold up progress on several stream restoration projects in Schoharie County, AECOM's representative presented a more optimistic report to the Board of Supervisors on Friday morning. Although thirteen residents have still not signed on, the construction process is set to begin at all four sites. 

Stating that supervisors would start seeing activity around March 1st, with all projects scheduled to be "full on" by April 1st, AECOM gave site by site status updates concerning the baker's dozen landowner holdouts: Dave Brown Mountain has none and is all clear; Platterkill has one; Line Creek has three, and Little Schoharie has nine. 

With Town of Middleburgh Supervisor Jim Buzon calling Schoharie County's creeks, "little ticking time bombs," and Vice-Chairman Phil Skowfoe expressing concerns over the property owners reluctance to sign, AECOM noted local officials are reaching out to the remaining holdouts to secure those final signatures, but suggested eminent domain may still be a viable last option. 

Discussion soon turned toward Town of Schoharie Supervisor Gene Milone's county administrator proposal, with Town of Summit resident Earl Gaskill lauding the legislator by stating that he, "agreed wholeheartedly with Mr. Milone on county administrator," suggesting further review of an executive was needed. 

Mr. Milone then addressed the board by accusing the powers that be of feeling, "threatened by the idea of a county administrator, or an executive." He would go on to state that someone needs to watch the store and that he was going to stand by his convictions in hopes the board would take a "long hard look at this issue." 

The Schoharie Supervisor would go on to defend his recommendation of appointing Schoharie County Treasurer Bill Cherry to serve as part-time administrator at the board's organizational meeting earlier in January. Arguing that costs would exceed well over $100,000 to fund the proposed position and necessary staff, Mr. Milone defended his nomination by stating, "Mr. Cherry has worn numerous hats in this county," and that, "he has safeguarded [Schoharie County] for years."

At this time Chairman Van Glad skipped over correspondence and statewide resolutions in favor of addressing the lengthy committee reports. Although outside of the normal operating procedure, Van Glad seemed concerned with getting everything that needed to be done on the agenda completed by lunchtime in preparation of an extensive afternoon executive session that lasted several hours.

But not before Flood Recovery Coordinator Bill Cherry presented the board with two important updates in the county's fight to relocate the public safety facility outside of the floodplain. Stating that Schoharie County's appeal to FEMA is gaining support, Mr. Cherry read two letters from statewide officials that could alter the dynamics of the situation (excerpted from Mr. Cherry's monthly flood recovery progress report):
I have attached two important pieces of correspondence to this report:
a) the first is a letter from the Executive Chamber in Albany dated December 26th in complete support of our position that the jail and Public Safety Facility should be moved out of the floodplain. This carries great weight since New York State will be paying 25% of the costs associated with that relocation, and NYS Emergency Management officials are in total agreement with our request for relocation, as opposed to repair of the existing structure. 
b) the second document is a letter from a top official at the NYS [DEC] dated January 21st. This significant letter takes the position that the use of state funds is restricted when those funds are being used within the floodplain. Included in the letter from NYS DEC Section Chief in charge of Floodplain Management, William Nechamen, is this critical sentence:
"Because a substantially damaged structure is treated like a new structure, Part 502 (under Title 6 of the Codes, Rules and Regulations of the State of New York) would not allow a correctional facility, major communication center, civil defense center or major emergency service facility (to be located) within a flood hazard area if state funding or state land is involved.
Mr. Cherry concluded that section of his report by informing the county board that Simmons Recovery is now, "drafting our second appeal to FEMA officials... and these two letters will play a major role in our making the case for a relocated jail and Public Safety Facility." He would add that, "FEMA must comply."
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