Poughkeepsie… In his 2006 State of the County address, Dutchess County Executive William R. Steinhaus said he planned to “form a more united and focused approach to environmental protection”, along with the establishment of environmental management goals and increased monitoring capabilities. As part of his 2007 County Budget, Steinhaus will dedicate approximately $200,000, including staffing capacity, community education efforts, and departmental reorganization in the Department of Planning and Development to carry out this important objective to coordinate and improve the environmental protection capability of Dutchess County.
The central institutional change being proposed by Steinhaus is the creation of an Environmental Programs Coordinator position within County government. Said Steinhaus, “We will be better able to coordinate, integrate and strengthen the work of existing environmental protection capacities which already exist across multiple county agencies. Better communication and coordination is a formula which has worked well for us, as evidenced in the Criminal Justice Council, the Children’s Services Council, and through the Health and Human Services Cabinet.”
The Environmental Programs Coordinator will work within the County Department of Planning and Development and oversee activities of a new Environmental Protection Coordinating Council. In this role, the Coordinator will engage the capacities of the County Attorney’s office, Planning and Development, Public Works, Health, the Water and Wastewater Authority and related county agencies such as the Farmland Protection Board, the Dutchess County Soil and Water Conservation District and Cornell Cooperative Extension. As appropriate, the Coordinator will also work with state and federal agencies and environmental advocacy groups.
“There are two tasks I want to receive immediate attention,” said Steinhaus. “We need enhanced coordination of our water and groundwater monitoring capacities and we need a credible and comprehensive plan to adjust the way the County does business, making energy conservation and environmental protection an integral part of all project planning.”
County Legislator Shannon LaFrance, Chair of the Legislative Environmental Committee, was enthusiastic about its value. “This high-level position will promote both quality and timeliness of environmental decision-making,” she said. “It will give us more solid footing for the County to advance a responsible environmental agenda.”
The County Executive’s proposed budget will be released by November 1. The County Legislature is expected to begin review of the budget in early November and will adopt the budget in December.