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   Dutchess County Seal                             2002 State of the County Address

Moving Dutchess County Forward

…Achieving Success Even in Uncertain Times

As a community, Dutchess County is advantaged in many ways.  We have the right blend of natural beauty and resources; our little spot in the world is ideally and conveniently situated in the heart of the magnificent Hudson River Valley.  We can be accessed easily and quickly from New York City, the commerce and financial capital of the world; and conversely, we can access the city.  We have quick and easy access to planes, trains, highways, culture and recreation that enable our businesses and our residents to work competitively in the global marketplace and to play hard in their spare time. 

Webster defines the following: 

Dynamic… marked by continuous productive activity or change; marked by energy

Success… favorable or desired outcome; result

With all the assets we possess and have used and shaped effectively to create our local neighborhoods, I have said repeatedly that Dutchess County would not be the dynamic and successful community we are without the right blend and diversity of people.  I value the dynamics of this county – energy and movement are not only necessary, but also good.  The outcomes of energy and movement are dependent upon the people and the partnerships we have cultivated – and are the reasons why we have successful results.

Over the past ten years, I have been privileged to lead this county through both the expected and unexpected; through economic lean times and good times; through times of both internal and external challenges; through fast and ever changing technological times especially challenging to local and county governments; through times of population out-migration and in-migration; and through times of growth and development testing our open space, our transportation systems, our water resources, our schools, and the very ability of government to keep pace and keep the peace!

While much has changed and will continue to change, the basic tenets of creating and sustaining stability in government, and by extension ensuring economic security for the families and businesses of Dutchess County, remain the same for me and my administration today as they were in 1992.  We must provide a solid financial foundation upon which to build, and we must maintain strong fiscal stewardship of the county government – everything else we do in our government and for our community is dependent upon it!

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The tragic events of September 11, 2001 show us as a nation and a government that we can never be prepared for everything, but we must continually prepare to deal with everything.  Along with economic security, we must acknowledge our local homeland security responsibilities; we need to show successful results in our commitment to ensuring the personal safety and security of our residents; and we must continue to advance the quality of life issues so important to us --- all in a way that shows permanence, affordability and a sense of security in the future of Dutchess County.   

One of the few certainties in governance is that there will be cycles of uncertainty.  We cannot be afraid of it; we must be prepared for it.  It will be those governments and communities solidly positioned to deal with it who will be able to achieve success…even in times of uncertainty.

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Dutchess County government was prepared for the recession of 2001. The reform agenda we have been implementing over this past decade made it possible to both employ a smaller workforce today than in the 1980’s and also cut the previous rate of expenditure growth.  Unlike other governments that become bloated with pet programs that sounded good in a strong economy, Dutchess County, for the most part, remained focused on its traditional core mission.  In addition, a majority of our legislators demonstrated the political courage and the financial foresight to reject an ill-advised proposed exemption of sales tax on certain clothing.  Had we followed that path, we would have experienced a significant reduction in sales tax revenue.  That revenue deficit would have required an increase in the property tax levy of an estimated $6 million or 12%.  Fortunately, the majority of the Legislature also rejected another misguided proposal to raise the sales tax one quarter percent, an action that would have cost the taxpayers over $44 million in new tax collections.

The combined effect of these sales tax proposals in this financial climate would have significantly increased the burden on property taxpayers.  The decision to reject these proposals, by both the administration and the legislature, allowed us to avert cutting essential services and avoid raising property, sales or other taxes.  In fact, the recently adopted 2002 budget cuts property taxes for the seventh time in the ten budgets under the Steinhaus administration!  This is in stark contrast to a recent report that over 70% of New York State counties surveyed increased 2002 property taxes.  The fund balance we built and have fought to protect provides the cushion needed for the “rainy days” of 2001, 2002 and likely 2003.  While well positioned to respond to the short-term economic downturn we experienced this past year, Dutchess County must monitor the changing economy and be prepared to manage the impacts a lingering recession could potentially have on county government and our residents who depend on our essential services. 

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Dutchess vs. NY County Averages graphThe strategies and initiatives we put in place including the creation of key partnerships with the private and not-for-profit sectors, strategic investments in new technologies and restructuring key service delivery systems have provided tangible results.  Based on statistical data published recently by the State Comptroller, Dutchess County taxes its residents 17% less per capita and spends 24% less per capita than the statewide county average. Incredibly, Dutchess County’s outstanding debt per capita is an astonishing 58% below the statewide county average!

 

True Value Assessments graphDutchess County’s property tax levy totals only 23% of the county’s constitutional taxing limit and outstanding indebtedness represents a mere 9% of the constitutional debt limit.  True Value Assessments reached $16.86 million this year, representing the second year of significant growth following several years of decline.

We are pleased that in 2001 Moody’s Investors Service once again recognized Dutchess County’s financial competence when it rated Dutchess County’s bonds Aa1—one of only two counties in New York State to achieve this enviable rating.1  In its rating report which was issued prior to September 11, Moody’s cited Dutchess County’s stable financial position, improved liquidity and our ending fund balance, the amount of which is consistent with the statewide median.  They also pointed to Dutchess County’s expanding economy, renewed job growth, reduced tax appeals, and our manageable debt position with rapid payout.  And as recently as January 23rd, Dutchess County earned the highest rating possible (MIG 1) from Moody’s on our 2002 Series A Bond Anticipation Notes. Moody’s has once again confirmed Dutchess County’s sound financial condition! 

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Dutchess County has a bond rating of Aa1, which is higher than 94% of New York Counties (outside of New York City) with a Moody’s Bond Rating

Moody's Bond Rating for NY State Counties

 

Rating  

Number of Counties

Aaa

1

Aa1

2

Aa2

7

Aa3

1

A1

5

A2

15

A3

8

Baa1

5

Baa2

2

Baa3

1

Moody's Bond Rating for NY State Counties Table

Moody’s Investors Service issued a special report in November entitled, “Credit Stability for New York Metropolitan Credits Linked to Overall Fiscal Management and Economic Diversification in the Wake of the September 11th Tragedy.”  In it they projected credit stability for New York area local governments that over the past decade cultivated economic diversification and built up significant financial reserves—both of which were achieved in Dutchess County.  However, they also noted that governments that are highly dependent on economically sensitive revenues such as sales tax or growing state aid could have problems—particularly if they do not have large financial margins.  This could be a significant problem for some counties as recent reports indicate 35 New York State Counties received less sales tax income in 2001 than they did in 2000!  (Dutchess County remains a healthy 5.25% ahead of 2000.)  To maintain our enviable Aa1 credit rating, we are encouraged by the Moody’s report to continue our conservative budgeting practices; to protect our fund balance; to maintain service levels and revenue streams which insure an overall structural balance between operating revenues and expenses; and to act proactively to curtail expenditures if sales tax or other significant funding streams should fall short of projections. 

Compared to the rest of our state and much of the nation, Dutchess County has thus far weathered the recession well.  Although unemployment rose slightly in December, employment is high.  Consumer spending remains strong, the market for new housing is brisk, and prices of resales show continued growth.  Some economists are projecting a recovery to begin mid-year with modest growth achieved by year-end. 

2001 was certainly a unique year as far as the New York State Budget was concerned. After months of no action, the State legislature adopted its “baseline” budget last summer, which among other impacts, failed to provide $2.1 million to Dutchess County to support ongoing social services programming in the areas of children and family services; drug, alcohol and domestic violence services; welfare to-work and related transportation services and administrative cost reimbursement.  (The “baseline” budget was recently found to be unconstitutional—a finding of little impact in that the budget expires at the end of March!)  Much of the loss in State funding was ultimately restored as part of supplemental appropriations in late October and mid-November.  Not restored, however, was $450,000 in CHIPS funding to maintain the county’s roads and $700,000 for Dutchess Community College—the budget and property tax levy impacts of which will certainly be compounded in the future. 

Governor Pataki released his 2002-2003 Budget recently which, according to the Governor, “ ... calls for decisive action to close the large budget shortfall and reinvigorate our economy.”  The plan is not expected to result in significant cuts to existing programs. 

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So far a health care initiative was passed by the state in the early hours of the morning financed primarily by a $1 billion “one-shot” from privatizing Blue Cross/Blue Shield and the hope of a $1.8 billion windfall from Washington in the form of a higher Medicaid reimbursement rate--the receipt of which is highly speculative.  It is estimated that Dutchess County will experience $1.4 million in increased Medicaid costs for this state-mandated expansion over the next three years. This cost is said to be offset by cost containment provisions and the local share of the increased federal Medicaid share. Based on published reports of the White House’s opposition to the increased federal aid, however, I fear local property taxpayers may be called upon to shoulder a much larger part of the cost of this initiative through increased local Medicaid costs than the State expects. 

Presently the Dutchess County budget includes a startling $37.1 million for Medicaid, which represents 73 cents of every one-dollar paid by Dutchess County property taxpayers.  Homeowners and local businesses cannot afford an additional Medicaid expense burden on their property tax bill.  County and NYSAC staff will monitor progress on the State Budget and advocate for the interest of Dutchess County property taxpayers.

Unfortunately, reliance on “one-shots” to finance increased spending is not unique to New York State.  The Dutchess County Legislature’s decision to add $1.8 million in new spending to my proposed 2002 budget coupled with a $1.7 million “one shot” revenue to pay for it was less than prudent.  The 2002 budget, as you amended it, ignores the unanswered question of what happens next year when the $1.7 million in “one shot” revenue does not exist.  Key to our county’s financial strength has been the policy of the administration and the legislature to base our budget decisions on a multi-year perspective and to replenish our fund balance each year.  Your budget will make it difficult, if not impossible, to achieve that objective in a depressed economy.

Given the above, I view 2002 as a year of fiscal uncertainty, not demanding the extraordinary budgetary measures necessitated by the IBM downsizing of the early 90’s, but requiring our close attention nonetheless.  Pursuant to the authorization granted me in the County Charter and Administrative Code, I am preparing to implement such operating budget controls as may be required during the year including the setting of departmental quotas and allotments. 

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We will also manage capital program initiatives, being mindful of the debt service costs new projects will impose on future property tax levies.  We will continue to bargain in good faith with our employee unions to achieve agreements that are fair and equitable to our highly valued and dedicated employees and to the taxpayers of Dutchess County and within the context of the current economy.  We call upon the legislature to exercise caution in expanding current cost centers, or creating new ones, to resist initiatives which supplement, or supplant dried up state and federal revenues with local tax dollars, and to reject those voices that unwisely advocate spending of the county’s “rainy day” fund balance.

Dutchess County was positioned to weather the recession of 2001.  It will take the commitment and discipline of all to maintain financial stability and security in 2002, 2003 and beyond. 

Fulfilling Human Service Needs in Transition

Family Assistance Caseload graphFive years ago, bold welfare reform legislation was initiated.  Its overwhelming success continues to pay dividends in Dutchess County, with more people working, the number of recipients declining and more children obtaining the support they deserve.  Our welfare rolls have consistently dropped, thanks to our efforts and those of the community and the dedicated professionals who have chosen to make “people” their career. Time limits for federal eligibility (60-month limit) for Temporary Assistance (TANF) “kicked in” for 20 Dutchess County families in December 2001. Considering in 1996 Dutchess County had 374 long-term cases and over 2,000 total cases, to say that only 20 cases remained on TANF “full time” since 1996 certainly shows the success of our commitment, our convictions, and the energy and dynamics of the successful economy we helped create in Dutchess County.

During this period, we have developed positive services and achieved lasting results for Department of Social Services (DSS) clients, staff, and our community.  I have been insistent we expand certain day care opportunities; supportive of merit incentive programs offered for children and respite programs for grandparents; and I encouraged transportation services and job mentoring programs to help people get, keep and succeed at employment.  We have intentionally made certain DSS has been an active participant in the new Workforce Investment Board (WIB) and in Dutchess Works, the County’s one stop center for employers and job seekers.  The department sponsors a Sex Abuse and Child Fatality Review team.  We partner in food nutrition programs, and conferences to protect frail adults and healthy and/or at-risk children; we target services to non-working, non-custodial parents for employment-related activities; and we have sponsored new training initiatives such as Family Development Credentialing, helping people achieve self-sufficiency and independence.

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We appropriate $5.4 million for day care, and provide day care subsidies to more than 1400 children monthly!  I determined we should decrease parents’ co-pay requirements, which will save $500 per year for a single parent family of two with a yearly gross income of $25,000.  This change will have a significant positive impact on many low-income families striving to achieve independence and stay off the welfare rolls -- while still keeping county day care expenditures at a level our property taxpayers can absorb.

Over recent years, one area I have set as a top priority is collection of child support because it is the right thing to do.  Our Child Support unit collected $22.80 million in child support from absent parents in FY 2001, up 6.28% over the previous year.  We prepared 4,553 petitions for support and 366 petitions for paternity, and as state law allows, arranged for over 1600 driver’s license suspensions resulting in 299 respondents making child support payment agreements.  We are fully committed to further progress in this area in 2002 on behalf of our impacted children and families.

In our Child Protective Services (CPS) unit, reports of child abuse and neglect continue to increase.  To respond to both the increased caseloads and the increasing complexity of the cases we added staff to investigate reports and to train, coordinate and assure quality control of this division, and we added an Assistant County Attorney to handle increasing caseloads in CPS, Child Support and child welfare cases in general.  The Department is presently working with New York State Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) and Cornell University to assess current program performance in meeting our desired outcomes for children and families, a partnership effort with no cost to Dutchess County property taxpayers.

Not often noticed is the Adult Protective Services unit.  Abuse and neglect in our elderly population unfortunately does exist and is growing.  In fact, the caseload has increased from 2,800 in 1995 to a startling 4,229 cases in 2001!  Guardianship cases increased from seven in 1995 to 38 in 2001, and payee cases have doubled.  Therefore, we have added additional staff for this unit to better protect our vulnerable adults. 

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Dutchess County DSS has developed innovative and forward-thinking services and has cultivated new programs with remarkable results.  Cooperation and partnerships with local community agencies and New York State have resulted in constructive advances and positive local feedback and success stories.  Regrettably not receiving any publicity is that Dutchess County Social Services, with the help of its partners, has had its programs showcased in Albany, Syracuse, and Ithaca, as well as in places like Texas, California, and Turkey!

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The Department of Mental Hygiene continues to grow Dutchess County’s mental hygiene services system without increasing the number of county employees.  The department oversaw and directed the largest expansion in 20 years of services to seriously mentally ill adults and emotionally disturbed children without growing the county workforce.  The mental hygiene system in Dutchess County is larger, more comprehensive and better integrated than ever before; while at the same time, the department itself has gotten smaller—all thanks to re-engineering and community partnerships.  Since 1992, 118 positions have been eliminated, bringing the Department’s work force to its lowest level since 1979.  In the wake of September 11, the Department embarked on Project Liberty, a federally funded crisis counseling, support and referral program.  From its inception to date, over 720 Dutchess County residents have been helped by Project Liberty in individual crisis counseling, family debriefing, discussion groups and community presentations.  Project Liberty services have been provided in private homes and at work sites, libraries, rotary clubs, schools, train stations, post offices, and fire stations.  Project Liberty is ongoing and continues to be available to the citizens of Dutchess County.

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Children's Health Initiative tableOver the past three years, I have demonstrated our commitment to the youth of Dutchess County through my Children’s Health Initiative (CHI), a comprehensive tobacco use prevention program geared to school aged childrenThis program is funded at $500,000 per year and coordinated by the Children’s Services Council (CSC). 

By forming a CHI Action Team, consisting of representatives from the Health Department, the Youth Bureau, the United Way, Schools, the American Cancer Society, the Medical Society, college students, recreational directors and concerned citizens, the CSC limited duplication of services and successfully built on existing resources.  Using federal guidelines, the CHI Action Team provides grants to implement community programs, school programs, counter-marketing and smoking cessation programs.  Highlighted below are just a few of the many program outcomes that have been achieved as a result of our initiative.            

·        The book Smoke Screens: Tobacco Use Prevention Media Education was developed for Dutchess County and was published in the fall of 2001.  This text is directed at children in grades 6-8 and provides information about tobacco use prevention with exercises and activities that can be infused into existing curriculum modules in English Language Arts, Health, and the Arts.  The text provides a variety of media examples that teach kids about the deceptive media techniques used by tobacco advertisers to manipulate a young audience, while providing the most current research and statistics which convey a strong message regarding the ill effects of smoking. 

·        Due out this year is both an update to the original text to include a curriculum infusion into mathematics modules, and a new book entitled Smoke Screens: A User’s Guide.  This text will be useful for teachers and interesting to students.  It will provide explicit details about incorporating the text into any classroom and will include reproducible materials for various classroom activities.           

·        The Children’s Media Project, partly funded by the CHI, developed anti-smoking Public Service Announcements (PSA) by kids, for kids.  A total of six PSAs were developed and three were chosen to air!      

·        The Dutchess County Council on Alcoholism and Chemical Dependency, developed educational programs for kids who receive in-school suspension for smoking violations.  The program focuses on support groups and getting kids motivated to quit smoking.        

·        The National Theater for Children has developed a live educational theater program aimed at elementary and middle school students, and based on availability and scheduling, seeks to perform at all Dutchess County schools this year.  

·        Kids involved in the Nubian Directions II after-school program, in partnership with Smoke Free Dutchess and the CHI, developed a youth web portal.  This site provides a central location where kids can learn while they play anti-smoking games, view tobacco industry documents, access tobacco references, jump to other anti-smoking related sites and more.  Check out this site at www.dutchess-smoke-free.org

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In 2001, our Office for the Aging implemented the Dutchess County Family Caregiver Support Program.  This program focuses on caregivers of the elderly by offering such services as a caregiver resource center, home care, respite, transportation, adult day care, training workshops, minor home modifications, and services aimed particularly at grandparents raising grandchildren.  In 2002, the program will be expanded to include development of workplace based support groups and training.  This will be designed to address the ever increasing burden that care giving is placing on businesses and employees. 

County government must recognize emerging trends and act quickly to adapt to changing community needs.  One recent trend that has been observed is the growing use of nursing homes for rehabilitation services.  To assist the unprecedented number of seniors being discharged into the community, I have directed our Director of the Office for the Aging to establish a dedicated nursing home liaison.  This individual will work closely with the homes and the seniors to ensure a smooth transition.  

Smart Use of Technology

On the operational side, 2002 will see new initiatives to generate and share cost savings and operational efficiencies for county government, local municipalities, and public agencies.  The principle of improving efficiencies in government services has long been a high priority of mine.  Dutchess County has been searching for a method of obtaining an e-procurement program that meets county needs, assists local vendors and is cost effective.  Staff attended numerous presentations by every vendor in the field and explored developing an in-house program.  No ideal solution emerged. 

In order to achieve the economies of scale needed to make an e-procurement program feasible, staff undertook discussions with neighboring counties.  After much work and many discussions with e-procurement service providers, Dutchess, Rockland and Ulster Counties teamed with one provider and we formed the "Hudson Valley Municipal Purchasing Group” (HVMPG). 

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The HVMPG will be a customized Internet based e-procurement system.  Each member county will have a link from their web site directly to the system.  The link will be seamless, appearing to be a part of the county site.  The process will be as follows: each bid, quote or RFP (Request for Proposal) will be uploaded electronically from the county to the service provider. It will be identified by one or more NIGP commodity codes and matched with suppliers registered against that code.  These suppliers will then receive automatic notification of an opportunity to bid. Non-member vendors can receive the same information by visiting the web site and downloading the information they want.  

Vendors may participate in several ways.  One option allows vendors to pay a membership fee for which they will receive instant notification of any bid opportunities that match their NIGP code submissions. Without this program they would need to be on the bidders list for every municipality within this group or scan every official newspaper that posts bid opportunities. Vendors opting not to pay the membership fee may receive the same information but will need to contact the web site on their own to find bidding opportunities.  HVMPG is an exceptional opportunity for local vendors to increase their regional business base.  The greatest benefit to vendors will be the consolidation of all opportunities from HVMPG communities into one database for one price.  

Aside from the founding counties, I am hopeful that Putnam, Westchester, Columbia, Sullivan and Orange will join the HVMPG shortly.  Member counties have also been able to include any municipality, public agency or district within their borders to be part of this program.  All participation is voluntary and without restrictions.  There will not be a cost of any kind for participation by municipalities.  All Dutchess County municipalities are being contacted presently and interest has already been expressed the City of Poughkeepsie, the towns of Beekman and East Fishkill, and the villages of Red Hook and Tivoli. 

The Hudson Valley Municipal Purchasing Group represents the opportunities that can be achieved through collaboration and the smart use of new technologies.  The HVMPG will improve the efficiency and effectiveness of local purchasing activities and it will also create vast new markets for Dutchess County businesses that can be accessed at minimal cost. This is a win-win for all—including all the property taxpayers of Dutchess County.

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The County’s recently constructed Wide Area Network (WAN) forms the infrastructure for implementing many new exciting and cost effective computer applications and it provides the foundation for developing a future e-government environment.  The WAN provides faster, more secure, and reliable data communications and it allows us to interconnect virtually all County computers. Thus, we have the ability to acquire and/or develop computer applications on the most economic computer platform and they will be accessible everywhere within County government.

 

To achieve optimal benefit from the WAN, in 2002 a major initiative will be for the County to implement high speed Fiber Optic connections among ten primary County buildings – County Office Building/District Attorney, E-911, Health Department, Highway, High Street, Mental Hygiene, OCIS, Probation, Sheriff/Jail, and Social Services – and will include additional sites in future years as appropriate.  (The County has already installed and is utilizing its own private fiber optic communication links within buildings.)  The Fiber Optic communication services are 70 to 260 times faster than our existing lines and are capable of carrying voice in the future.

 

In 2001, I appointed a task force comprised of the Departments of Budget, Finance, Personnel, OCIS, Central Services, Risk Management, and the County Comptroller to analyze the county’s existing computerized financial, human resources and procurement systems and to determine their adequacy for meeting the county’s needs in the future.  It was quickly determined that while the existing systems continue to function, they are almost 30 years old, do not comply with new accounting standards, are difficult to support, not easily integrated with current technologies, are stand-alone and not fully integrated and lack the ability to provide broad county-wide planning and reporting tools.  It was also determined that the existing systems could not be upgraded to current standards.

 

The task force, with the assistance of other user departments, developed a comprehensive needs analysis covering a broad scope of applications including budget development; payroll processing; general ledger; accounts payable and receivable; capital and grant accounting; employee insurance program management; human resource applications for recruitment, civil service administration and labor relations; purchasing and inventory control; auditing and financial reporting.

 

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An analysis of commercially available software (Enterprise Resource Planning [ERP] System) has been undertaken and it is our expectation that a major 2002 initiative will be for a phased financial system implementation program to begin.  The new system will provide many varied benefits to the County as it will improve the efficiency of day-to-day-operations; meet new government reporting requirements; provide planning, analysis and reporting tools; and lay the necessary groundwork to build a bridge to future e-government by providing a back-end web-enabled business system – ultimately improving the service levels to residents.

 

Providing for a Safer Community

Dutchess County Crime Statistics graphOur criminal justice strategies and policies continue to show success.  Crime rates continued to decline, according to the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services. Index crimes reported (murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, property crimes, burglary, larceny and motor vehicle theft) dropped by 5% in Dutchess County from 1999 to 2000 and by 30.4% from 1992 to 2000, according to the most recent statistics released by the Division of Criminal Justice Services. Violent crimes reported (murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault) showed a significant drop of 34% in Dutchess County from 1994 to 2000.

This safety of our residents results in a large part from the professional competence, commitment and extraordinary cooperation by the men and women throughout our county who serve in law enforcement, the judiciary and our criminal justice and youth infrastructure. Also contributing to the reduction in crime rates is our unique approach to criminal justice planning.  In 1993, I asked the Legislature to support my proposal to create a Criminal Justice Council (CJC) to manage criminal justice issues through collaboration and partnership, combining county resources and staff with community agencies to develop comprehensive programs that deliver a continuum of services for the benefit of our entire community.  Our overarching initiatives such as the CJC, the CSC and the Workforce Investment Board (WIB) contribute to this trend by developing a uniquely coordinated approach toward issues that influence crime.

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The CJC, which includes membership from law enforcement, the judiciary, the legal community, community agencies, citizens, and the legislature, has worked steadfastly to end “the revolving door” of recidivism by supporting and implementing a variety of criminal justice initiatives that provide drug treatment, educational and vocational training and supportive services. Programs like our Intensive Treatment Alternative Program (ITAP), a joint program of Mental Hygiene and Probation and Community Corrections, work to address substance abuse and eliminate the underlying reason for criminal behavior. Our Community Residence provides a safe and sober place to live for those engaged in treatment. The Jail’s Transition Program and the Community Transitions Center provide people with the tools and skills they need to find and retain employment and enables them to become contributing members of the community.  Reducing recidivism not only benefits the offenders by making them productive citizens, but also serves to protect the community from future crimes.  

The CSC develops collaborative initiatives that focus on prevention programs for youth and families.  Keeping our youth from entering the criminal justice system is another prime component of our strategy to reduce crime.  We have our CSC involved in projects that include strategic planning, substance abuse prevention, mentoring, parenting skills, and school and community collaboration.  Through its advocacy, a grant of $404,000 for the FAST (Families and Schools Together) Program was obtained by the Mental Health Association as the lead agency.  FAST is an intensive 8-week parenting guidance group in the City of Poughkeepsie.  The program has linkages with the schools and community and focuses on parenting skills and developing the resources and support structure parents need.  During the coming year of 2002, a “Success by Six” initiative guided by the United Way with support from the CSC will be launched to address the needs of our youngest citizens.  The program will provide parent education with home visits to families at risk.   

Dutchess County’s commitment to economic development also contributes to our success in reducing crime.  We believe strongly more and better jobs help reduce poverty.  We have made it the mission of the WIB Youth Council to prepare our youth for career opportunities by empowering them with the necessary supports, preparation and skills necessary to be successful.  Employment, vocational training and job readiness skills for youth are crucial to the maintenance of a crime free life.  

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By identifying goals and objectives with a strong emphasis on the reduction of recidivism, the county has been successful in improving safety and security. Public/private partnerships lead to the identification of common goals, shared resources and a systematic approach. Strategies promoting job readiness skills are linked to employment opportunities, which in turn are coordinated with the work of the CSC and CJC.  

Our philosophy insists agencies no longer work in isolation and are able to share resources as well as ideas. Teamwork and mutual support insure that criminal justice is approached in a coordinated and comprehensive manner. Proactive approaches rather than reactive responses has become the way we conduct business.

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Population growth and an expanding commercial and industrial base requires an increased presence of the Office of Probation and Community Corrections in Southern Dutchess County.  

As part of our effort to better connect our county government to our residents, the Beacon office has been expanded to make services more accessible to the residents of the southern Dutchess area. Families experiencing problems with their children will now be able to meet with a Persons in Need of Supervision (PINS) assessment team in the Beacon office rather than traveling to Poughkeepsie. The assessment team, which includes a psychologist, mediator, social worker and probation officer, meets with families to identify underlying issues of the child’s behavior and to develop a plan to address identified needs.  Early intervention is the goal of the PINS program.  Three assessments weekly are currently scheduled with the capacity to schedule additional assessments in Beacon if necessary.  

A modern lab for drug testing, a spacious reception area and reduced waiting times are also features of the expansion. Probation Officers with specialized caseloads such as DWI, electronic monitoring and domestic violence will also be able to use this office, thereby bringing them in closer contact with the community in which they work.  

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The Beacon office is now able to accommodate Domestic Abuse Awareness Classes and other groups in the facility.  In addition, other community agencies, working in collaboration with Probation, can use the conference rooms to facilitate groups, hold meetings and provide other services.  The expansion of the Beacon facility is in direct response to the changing demographics of Dutchess County and represents my commitment to meeting the needs of Dutchess County residents and keeping our community safe for all.

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The Domestic Abuse Response Team (DART), which we helped create as a pilot project in the City of Poughkeepsie was expanded into the Town of Poughkeepsie in 2001 and as a 2002 initiative DART will expand into Beacon.  DART was established to enhance the criminal justice system’s response to domestic violence.  The team consists of a coordinator, an advocate from Battered Women’s Services, a probation officer, an outreach worker and prosecutor in the District Attorney’s office, and police officers. Partners in this initiative include the District Attorney’s office, Probation, YWCA Battered Women’s Services, Grace Smith House, Social Services, City and Town of Poughkeepsie Police Departments and Family Services, Inc.  Special policies and procedures govern DART cases in the criminal courts of the Town and City of Poughkeepsie and the Family Court of Dutchess County.  

The goal of the DART project is to improve the safety of victims and to hold offenders accountable for their behavior. A coordinated response to domestic violence provides for immediate and effective intervention.  With the expansion of DART into the City of Beacon, I am pleased to be able to report 75% of all domestic violence cases will be handled by the DART project.  In addition, other areas of the county will receive the benefit of the experience and training of the DART members.  

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A team will be established in Beacon that will provide the same services that exist in the City and Town of Poughkeepsie.  Police officers and victims will have immediate access to an Advocate for assistance.  Probation Officers will provide the court with timely information about cases that will enhance the court’s ability to respond.  Supervision of offenders will also be enhanced because the Probation Officer and the police department will be able to work closely within the community.  The team will meet weekly to coordinate efforts, and their knowledge and experience in regard to the southern Dutchess area will contribute to the effectiveness of the project.  The availability of DART services in Beacon will reduce victim trauma and enhance safety and support as well as increase victim’s confidence in the ability of the criminal justice system to respond to their needs.

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Dutchess County has for many years been a partner in Operation Heartbeat – a collaboration of the American Heart Association of Dutchess County, the Community Fund of Dutchess County, Laerdal, IBM, and area hospitals.  As we have discussed before, Operation Heartbeat is a program designed to strengthen the chain of survival and increase the survival rate of individuals suffering from cardiac arrest. 

Presently, only five percent of sudden cardiac arrest victims survive. A strong chain of survival can increase the survival rate to 20 percent or more. The chain of survival is a series of four steps: early access to care (dial 911); early CPR; early defibrillation; and early advanced care to successfully treat a sudden cardiac arrest or heart attack.           

Early defibrillation is the only way to treat most cardiac arrests when time is of the essence.  A cardiac arrest victim who isn’t defibrillated within 8-10 minutes virtually has no chance of survival.  In many emergencies Deputy Sheriff’s arrive on the scene before emergency services.  Accordingly last year, I announced an initiative to strengthen the third link in the chain, early defibrillation through a 3-year program to equip each of our 53 Sheriffs vehicles with Automatic External Defibrillators (AED’s). We believe that increasing the availability of AED’s throughout Dutchess County will have a major impact on saving lives, especially for those individuals who live in more rural areas. 

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One of our public health and safety initiatives in 2002 will be to accelerate and expand the AED program we announced in 2001.  I have directed the Departments of Health, Emergency Response, and Risk Management to work with Sheriff Anderson to reduce the time to implement the AED program from three years to two.  As another 2002 health initiative, I have also called upon Health Commissioner Dr. Michael Caldwell to implement an AED program for county-operated facilities.  Therefore, in addition to acquiring the remaining AED’s for Sheriff’s vehicles in 2002, we will also place AED’s in five County office buildings.  I believe these initiatives will significantly increase the chances of survival for cardiac arrest victims in our community.  

Homeland Security-Protection within Our Borders

The events of September 11th  changed our world dramatically -- Americans are now more aware of and concerned about our safety.  While national security is clearly the responsibility of the federal government, it was local police officers, firefighters, EMS personnel, and others who were the first responders to Ground Zero on September 11th.  Should our nation suffer similar attacks in the future, the first responders will once again be local professional and volunteer emergency service personnel.  Dutchess County’s proximity to New York City and the significant number of our residents who commute requires us as a government to be prepared to respond to any catastrophic event.   

Dutchess County has well-developed and tested emergency plans and we work continuously to enhance local response capacity to terrorism, natural disasters or other catastrophic events that could affect our community.   County government is the umbrella coordinating organization that provides planning, coordination, training, special teams, and emergency dispatching (E911 services).  The backbone of our local first responder capabilities, however, are our friends, relatives and neighbors who donate their time as local volunteer fire and rescue responders. 

In his State of the Union Address, President Bush called upon all Americans to become involved in their communities.  I too ask for that commitment by all Dutchess County residents.  First and foremost we must maintain our ability as a community to promote safety, provide services such as home-delivered meals and medical transportation to senior citizens, and ensure a rapid response to emergencies.

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Dutchess County is like communities across our county that typically are protected by volunteer departments.  Volunteering in the fire and EMS services is one of the most rewarding, yet demanding volunteer activities today.  Time commitments of volunteer first responders include responding to incidents, training, fund raising, vehicle and station maintenance, and various administrative duties.  Maintaining a viable volunteer force is affected by other pressures, such as the increasing number of residents who commute to work outside the county; more family activities such as little league, soccer, and after school events; more single-parent households and more households with two parents working outside the home.  These pressures have a profound effect on the availability of volunteers to respond to emergencies.

When it comes to maintaining and increasing the emergency service volunteer ranks, county government certainly does not have all the answers.  Developing strategies to solve this problem will take unprecedented community wide cooperation.  I asked Emergency Response Coordinator Dewitt Sagendorph to assemble a committee to take a leadership role in assessing this problem.  As an outcome of that process and as a 2002 initiative, Dutchess County will plan, coordinate, and host a county-wide forum to promote the volunteer fire and emergency services and to address the problems of recruitment and retention.  I call upon all our citizens, our businesses, and our community agencies to participate in this process.  The issue of maintaining sufficient volunteer first responder capabilities is of such fundamental importance to our local communities that I am announcing today my commitment of $100,000 in support of a countywide volunteer emergency services recruitment program.

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Fire SceneOur emergency response workers, especially our Volunteer “professionals” are among the most valuable resources in our local communities.  The nature of their work can be emotionally draining, physically exhausting and can profoundly influence all aspects of their lives.  Many emergency responders suffer “burn out” and are unaware of the impact an incident has upon them.  Almost everyone who is involved in emergency services will eventually exhibit a stress reaction.  Stress may be the cause of physical and emotional illness and result in the emergency responder losing interest in and perhaps discontinuing their involvement with the emergency service.   

To provide the necessary tools and services to help keep our volunteers healthy and on the job, as a 2002 initiative I am directing our Emergency Response Coordinator to initiate a “Critical Incident Stress Management Team” (CISM) for Dutchess County emergency responders.  This special team will be comprised of specially trained peers that serve in emergency services along with mental hygiene professionals from Dutchess County Mental Hygiene.  The CISM Team will assist emergency responders in understanding their thoughts, emotions and behaviors that occurred during and after an incident.  It will provide an opportunity to help emergency responders understand how a powerful event has affected them and provide education in stress management and coping techniques. 

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Our ability to quickly detect and respond to the earliest signs of a biological, chemical or radiological attack relies on a strong local public health system that is closely integrated with our state and federal partners.  The Dutchess County Departments of Health and Emergency Response are just two of the many components of our local emergency response system which also includes law enforcement, doctors, hospitals, the larger medical community, non-profit agencies like the Red Cross, the media and the business community.  

The US Health & Human Services Secretary recently announced that New York State will receive $59.2 million (of which $25.8 million is earmarked for New York City) as the first installment of a long-term commitment to improve our State’s capacity to detect and respond to bioterrorist incidents.  I am pleased that President Bush have committed to making these funds available to states and local communities, so we can enhance our already strong public health system to detect and respond to any bioterrorism threat or attack. 

While we don’t yet know how the funding will be allocated, Dutchess County will be aggressive in acquiring this welcome assistance.  I took the early lead with our Year 2002 budget to quickly build our local capacity with the creation of our first epidemiologist position to oversee our bioterrorism program.  The new federal funding will enable us to do even more, and to do it quickly.  The federal funds will be used to develop improvements in our comprehensive bioterrorism preparedness plans, upgrade infectious disease surveillance and investigation systems, enhance the readiness of hospital systems to deal with large numbers of casualties, expand public health laboratory and communications capacities and improve connectivity between hospitals, local and state health departments to enhance disease reporting across the country. 

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Our local public health system will enhance the timely and effective monitoring not just of diseases, but symptoms of suspected outbreaks of disease.  Foremost in our mission to improve our capability is to establish an enhanced surveillance system that will integrate active surveillance, routine syndromic surveillance, and high level data and medical analysis.  The system will establish field teams to conduct emergency field epidemiology that will work in a coordinated response with other partners. 

Following September 11th the Health Department collaborated with local hospital emergency rooms to implement new procedures enabling daily surveillance for unusual symptoms, diseases or disease clusters.  Additionally, the Health Department is in the process of expanding our surveillance program to include school disease reporting and the daily monitoring of all emergency 911 calls. 

We have worked with the New York State Department of Health  (NYSDOH) to receive reports of communicable diseases electronically, through the Electronic Clinical Laboratory Reporting System.  We will continue to build on this capability to enhance symptom-based disease reporting, epidemiology investigation, disease intervention and detection of outbreaks and early detection of possible bioterrorism events in “real-time.” 

We are especially fortunate to have a leader such as Dr. Caldwell who is nationally recognized for his expertise on the issue of bioterrorism preparedness as is evidenced by his recent testimony before the United States Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs (on behalf of the National Association of County & City Health Officials).  But as much as we build our systems and improve our public health infrastructure, and while I have great confidence in our local first responder capabilities, we cannot do our jobs effectively without the input and dedication of people in the community.  The most important and most effective collaboration that we have is not with other County, state or federal agencies, but with the public-at-large.  We rely on our citizens to be alert and communicate with us just as much as they rely on government to be there for them.

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Disaster Preparedness Partnership graphicIt is essential that each of us plays a role in our community’s preparedness.  To assist with this, we have been working closely with the Dutchess County Chapter of the American Red Cross to provide disaster preparedness and planning guidance to all our residents and businesses.  There are reasonable, common sense actions that we can take to prepare and protect our families, our business, or ourselves.  Very shortly, as part of our 2002 information outreach, our Health Department will mail an informational packet to all households and businesses containing material developed and supplied by the American Red Cross on home and business disaster planning and preparedness.  The packet will also include a flyer developed by the FBI on proper mail handling.  Please read the information carefully and discuss it with family members, employees and co-workers as the information it contains could save lives!

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The Dutchess County Highway Construction and Maintenance Division provides regular maintenance, storm management and responds to emergencies on the County’s 395 miles of roads and 142 bridges.  Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week the Communication Center fields emergency calls and dispatches crews to trouble spots.   However, until last year, the Center had only a handwritten daily logbook to track and manage their activities.   At my direction, DPW and OCIS upgraded the Highway Communications Center to include computer aided dispatching (CAD), similar to the system used by our Emergency Response Center (E-911).  In an effort to enhance our Storm Management Response System, the new system provides a permanent record of incoming calls, tracks dispatches and utilizes a computerized mapping program to identify and record the exact location of all incidents.  These Phase I improvements allow our forces to better identify and document trouble spots on our road system and schedule them for major reconstruction work or other long-term solutions. 

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We are now ready to implement phase II of the project.  This has been a top priority of mine as a first-hand observer of these emergency operations—and looking for ways to improve our system.  This phase will have more far- reaching implications for improving the County’s capability to respond to emergencies by electronically linking the Highway dispatch system with the Emergency Response Center.  This 2002 kickoff will begin in February and will provide for instantaneous electronic communication between the Highway dispatch system and the E-911 Center.  In addition to dispatching Sheriff, ambulance and fire personnel, Emergency Response will have the capability to electronically transfer calls to the Highway Communication Center to dispatch staff and equipment to repair damaged roads, bridges or traffic safety devices.  Additionally, calls that are received by the Highway dispatcher that require an emergency response can be electronically transferred to the E911 center.  This new linkage will provide for instantaneous communication between dispatch systems, allowing for a significant increase in the coordination of our response.  The tragic events of September 11th emphasized the County’s need to coordinate a variety of resources during emergencies and enhance our preparedness for managing catastrophic events of either a natural or manmade origin and this project we began a year ago will help achieve that goal.

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The expression of our open and free society is reflected in the way we conduct business and the way our County office buildings were designed and constructed.  Every day thousands of employees and clients enter our facilities.  We are responsible to ensure their safety as well as the security of our facilities.  Therefore, we must develop policies and procedures and allocate resources to prevent street crime, crimes of rage, and domestic or foreign terrorism from threatening our workforce, our clients or disrupting county government’s ability to serve our citizenry. 

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In the aftermath of September 11, 2001, I directed the formation of the Dutchess County Security Task Force to heighten our awareness of security and to implement procedures to minimize or prevent threats to our employees, the public and our facilities. The task force which includes members from various departments with relevant experience, devoted significant expertise in reviewing, planning and implementing initiatives to tighten security.  The task force 

  • recommended procedures to control building access before and after hours, identified and secured utility and non-public locations and recommended procedures for advance scheduling of all deliveries;
  • organized security teams in every county department to assess and enhance security policies and procedures.  Encouraged all County employees to freely discuss their ideas and suggestions with their departmental security teams;
  • developed an RFP to solicit proposals for a facility security expert to assist the county in a threat and vulnerability assessment and to recommend security solutions, and
  • established the Security Task Force as a clearinghouse for information collected by the department teams to assist the selected security expert on departmental operations and facility issues and perspectives.

The task force and building teams will continue to meet and work with the security expert on an ongoing basis.

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Everyone – managers and employees alike, must heighten our awareness of suspicious activities and packages.  We need to modify our workplace culture to assure each employee looks out for the welfare and safety of their co-workers.  For 2002, I have directed staff to develop a Terrorism Awareness Training program for county employees, and as is the case in the other counties with whom we’ve been working, the training will be mandatory for all current and future employees.  

Economic Opportunities – Maintaining the Momentum

In my introduction, I spoke of the past ten years of leading this county through both the expected and unexpected and through economic lean times and good times.  Not expected was the major corporate downsizing that affected us in 1993 and 1994; thousands of county residents lost their jobs, some lost their homes, many lost ground in an economic security plan for their families’ future.  Unfortunately, an individual affected by a major life-altering event such as long-term job loss or a major decrease in salary and benefits doesn’t ever completely recover, and government is not in a position to promise otherwise.    

But when a community suffers through such an economic devastation government leaders can and must effectively galvanize forces, help set both effective short and long term strategic economic and jobs development policies, and then be sure we have the economic development infrastructure in place to implement a plan, including a more diversified business environment. The community then is not only able to recover, but it can in fact be strengthened.   It is prepared to weather the next corporate downsizing or the next national recession better, and it creates more homegrown opportunities and more choices for the local workforce.  

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According to a recently released report on The Regional Economy of Upstate New York, published by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Buffalo Branch, Dutchess County’s Industrial Diversity index rose dramatically, and enjoyed the most pronounced growth rate among the 17 Metropolitan Counties of the state that were studied through the late 90s. The publication also confirms what most of us instinctively believe - diversified economies grow faster than non-diversified economies and areas with a mix of industries possess a buffer against economic shocks that adversely affect individual industries.  In partnership with the private sector and led by our own Dutchess County Economic Development Corporation (DCEDC) we will continue to pursue even greater business diversification going forward. 

An extremely successful program in assisting the county as we further diversify our economy is the Empire Zone (EZ) program, formerly the Economic Development Zone (EDZ) program, one of my 1994 State of the County initiatives.  Its purpose is to provide incentives for business development and revitalization within targeted locally defined borders of the program.  Zone guidelines emphasize industrial, services or other non-retail reuse of existing buildings and development of underused or vacant land that may not necessarily occur without incentive. The guidelines encourage the development of properties with identified needs such as inadequate infrastructure or building code issues.  Importantly, boundary amendments must be consistent with local land use plans and zoning laws. 

In Dutchess County, the zone includes acreage in the City and Town of Poughkeepsie; in the Town and Village of Fishkill; and in East Fishkill.  Recent amendments to the Zone boundaries build upon the County’s ability to retain existing companies, create investment in business expansion and attract new businesses, as well as strengthen our ability to stimulate job growth in the City of Beacon and the Town of Dover in the Harlem Valley.  I am pleased with this policy change we have been able to help spur opportunities and incentives for new and better wage jobs in these communities. 

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Newly Zoned PropertyIn Beacon, two properties totaling nine acres are newly “zoned” - four acres of the Beacon Terminal property and five acres of the Sand and Stone land on Route 52.  In the Town of Dover, buildings on five acres of grounds on the former Harlem Valley Psychiatric Center property have been added to the Zone. In the Arlington area of the Town of Poughkeepsie, Zone boundaries were realigned to closely reflect the boundaries of the new Business Improvement District (BID).  Zone incentives also encourage residential investment in renovations; in the City of Poughkeepsie, historic properties on Eastman Terrace and South Hamilton Street have been added to the investment incentives. 

Talk about results!  Since we launched the original EDZ program in 1994, a total of 206 Dutchess County businesses have either been certified or are pending certification to qualify for the incentives offered under this policy strategy.  More than 6,000 full time jobs have been created, and more than $1.5 Billion has been invested.  Clearly demonstrating our commitment to our urban county seat, of the total number of businesses certified, approximately 150 of them are in the City of Poughkeepsie, helping to retain and create many needed jobs in the urban core.  We are committed to providing the available tools to keep Dutchess County at the forefront of job growth in New York State. 

Our DCEDC administers the EZ with support from our Department of Planning and Development.  Strong community leaders such as Chairman of the Zone Administration Board D. David Conklin and John Mack, Chairman of the Zone Business Development Committee, truly help make our business development strategies work in recruiting and retaining businesses in Dutchess County, and in helping us maintain our position as a state leader in attracting and retaining businesses and providing high quality jobs for our residents. 

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In conjunction with the EZ program, Works Now, a collaborative program with Dutchess County Social Services, the state’s Department of Labor, our local Southern Dutchess and Poughkeepsie Chambers and DCEDC, continues to be very effective for both employers and newly hired welfare recipients.  Mentoring provided by the Chambers of Commerce has produced impressive results.  In 2001, individuals mentored by the Chambers totaled 124 with a remarkable 96% retention rate! 

An interesting irony about workforce development is that whether a community’s unemployment rate is a whopping 11%, as it was in the city of Poughkeepsie in 1994, or whether it is an unbelievably low 2 ½ to 3%, as our county’s was in late 2000 into 2001, a strong workforce development system is equally important and of priority need to both the employer and the worker.   In business and jobs attraction or retention efforts, a community must be able to show an available labor force with appropriate skills, education and training.

Some basic principles of a strong system as adopted by the state’s Workforce Investment Board (WIB) are:

·        the need to enhance and sustain an integrated coordinated career development system through employer, government and education partnerships at the state, regional and local levels;

·        the need to enhance and sustain an effective, integrated career decision-making, career preparation, and job-matching system for youth and adults; and

·        the need to develop an industry-led skill credentialing and quality management system to provide employers with a steady supply of well-prepared workers. 

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Since well before the implementation of the federal Workforce Investment Act of 1998 (WIA), we kick-started the issue of workforce development locally.  We invested enormous time, energy and leadership into developing a collaborative and integrated workforce development system.   With strong partnerships and volunteer participation of many community business leaders, our local WIB has developed and refined policies and procedures necessary to move federal training dollars to serve the unemployed as well as the underemployed. Nine local businesses participated in a pilot program to identify business services challenges and develop solutions. Targeted industries as well as targeted skill shortages have been defined.  

Youth, our emerging workforce, are a strong focus in my priorities for the local workforce development system.  As a member of Governor Pataki’s State Workforce Investment Board (WIB), I have been serving on the Emerging Worker Sub-committee, co-chaired by State Education Commissioner Richard Mills.  At a recent meeting of the committee, I, along with Dutchess County WIB Youth Council representatives presented our local strategic plan and action steps to date.  The State committee was most interested in our model of the county’s existing collaborative and partnering infrastructure, as evidenced by our recent conference co-sponsored by the Dutchess County Children’s Services Council (CSC) and the WIB, Pathways to the Future, which had 275 participants, more than 100 of them youth.  

This successful conference hosted a number of workshops including union apprenticeship programs; navigating the workforce system utilizing our one stop center to help job seekers Dutchess Works; vocational opportunities and employment opportunities for those not planning to attend college sponsored by BOCES; and linking to the business community.  All participants in the conference learned they each have a vital role in supporting the integration of the business, educational, and human services communities to improve the quality of life in the county.  

Another example of our commitment to youth workforce systems development is our recent addition of a “Youth Navigator” position to help build a “WIBWEB” of collaborative youth resources within the county for integrated service delivery.  Over 300 youth have received services to help them stay in school, or if they were out of school, to get a GED and find employment.  We also continue to partner with others such as the Eleanor Roosevelt Center at Val-Kill, Diversity Coalition and the local Chambers to build strong and successful relationships between schools and the business community, strengthening school-to-work opportunities for our emerging workforce.

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In 2002 as a new initiative, I added $25,000 for DCEDC to further our goal to enhance the present and future economic viability and attractiveness of Dutchess County through the promotion of broadband telecommunications infrastructure and services.  The objectives of the program include increasing access and use of broadband services; assisting businesses in finding ways to implement broadband solutions; and promote DC telecommunications both inside and outside the county.  EDC will assess current telecommunications infrastructure and providers and create a multiyear action plan; provide technical assistance for businesses to use broadband services; work with the county to assist localities in formulating telecommunications policy; create financial vehicles to assist business development; and promote and market telecommunications. 

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Duchess County has been recognized for its very aggressive, multi-dimensional and comprehensive economic development and job growth efforts.  Such recognitions include: Plants, Sites & Parks, March 2001 cited IBM’s Chip-Fab Plant in East Fishkill as one of the top 25 U.S. Business Projects; Expansion Management, January 2001 ranked Dutchess County No. 4 in the nation in High-Tech Growth; Expansion Management, October 1999 rated Dutchess County a Five-Star Community for Quality of Life; The Wall Street Journal in October 2000 ranked Dutchess County 6th in the country for growth in household income; and The Wall Street Journal in November 1999 ranked Dutchess County’s “Big Blue Country” among the 13 hottest regions for high tech in America.  

We appreciate the recognition; recognition only follows results!

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One of my first initiatives as County Executive was to recognize the economic impact of the tourism industry and commit additional resources and attention to it.  Dutchess County competes for tourist dollars with other areas both near and far.   It’s simply not enough to have the historic and cultural attractions, we must have an appealing up-to-date, state-of-the-art marketing strategy that serves as an invitation to Dutchess!  Aside from the more traditional, yet very creative print ads, travel guides, trade shows, and familiarization tours for travel writers, in 2002 the IDA has agreed to fund an online/web-based marketing initiative for Dutchess County Tourism.  On-line consumers increase every day, and many are travelers who plan business trips or family vacations using the Internet.  It is a market that is tapped into by young professionals who spend their discretionary dollars to get away.  Dutchess County has over 600 small businesses and 10,000 jobs that service the tourist trade either directly or indirectly.  According to Dutchess County Tourism and Promotion Agency, more than 3.5 million visitors come to Dutchess annually, spending in the neighborhood of $431 million dollars!  The return on the county’s $600,000 contribution in our tourism industry is well worth our investment!   

Tourism is the county’s 2nd largest industry.  It is also an industry that helps sustain and maintain our historical and cultural assets, which serve as a complement to the character of our community and the quality of life we all treasure.     

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Strengthening Our Communities

Dutchess County is growing.  The County grew by 20,688 people in the 1990s, its fourth largest growth decade ever.  While growth is welcomed, it puts additional strain on our infrastructure and can threaten the rural atmosphere and community qualities that so many of us enjoy.  

Roads, in particular, have become more crowded.  Traffic along some portions of Route 9 increased by 22% during the 1990s.  On some local roads, traffic increased even more.  Meanwhile, mass transportation increased its ridership.  Our County LOOP Bus System carried 770,000 passengers in the year 2001, up  45%  since 1989.  Metro-North carried 4,360 weekday passengers from Dutchess County stations in 1999, compared to only 1,430 passengers in 1985.  A 300% increase. 

The Northern Harlem Line is the fastest growing portion in the Metro-North service area.  An extension of service on the Harlem Valley Line to the new station at Wassaic was the first such improvement to Metro-North passenger service since its inception in 1983.  The new 250-car parking lot, completed in 2000, is already filled to capacity. 

Parking DeckMetro-North has worked together with Dutchess County responding to our requests to establish new service improvements.  Just last week, on January 30, 2002, Metro-North President Peter Cannito was in my office to discuss our ideas and plans for the future.  In Wassaic, we have plans to expand the parking lot.  Also, Dutchess County will soon go to bid for a contract to extend the Harlem Valley Rail Trail south from Amenia to the Wassaic facility.  On the west side of the County, Metro-North is cooperating with our community efforts to establish a pedestrian linkage between the Dia Art Center and the train station.  Metro-North is also implementing a two-phase plan to improve parking at the Beacon Station.  The first phase will expand surface parking while discussions between the Mayor, city, county officials and Metro-North for the second phase contemplates a parking deck.  Along with parking improvements will be construction of a new station and completion of a pedestrian overpass between the east parking areas and land west of the tracks.  Ferry service is being planned for reinstatement at the Beacon Waterfront.  Our efforts also include coordination with NYS DOT to improve traffic outflow at peak hours in Beacon.  The turn lane from 9D north to the Newburgh-Beacon Bridge has been lengthened and will receive further future improvements. 

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In Poughkeepsie, we have witnessed completion of a very attractive and functional parking deck to serve Metro-North and the public, and improvements to the intermodal facility are being completed.  This project has been a priority of mine since 1995.  A new station canopy will soon be finished to allow buses convenient access to the station. 

We are witnessing a changed attitude toward transportation.  While we depend on cars for freedom and convenience, we are increasingly aware they are also responsible for noise, pollution and spread-out land use patterns.  This gives rise to the need to seek a balance, to mitigate the unsafe and unsightly aspects of automobile use by paying closer attention to our roadways, their width, their purpose, their impact on surrounding businesses and neighborhoods. 

In Arlington, the New York State Department of Transportation has been working with local officials and business owners to consider Raymond Avenue modifications while improving the pedestrian quality of the area.  In Hyde Park, Rhinebeck and other communities, planning boards are seeking a higher design standard from new gas stations so that the building architecture is featured more than the cars out front.  Route 55 and Route 9 (in front of Marist College and south of Sharon Drive) are planned boulevards to grace the entranceways into the Town of Poughkeepsie.  I believe highways aren’t just to carry traffic; they provide the access points from commercial activity, separation between buildings, connections between urban, suburban and rural areas.  They parallel pedestrian areas and border homes and parks.  As much as possible, they should fit into our landscape as unobtrusively as possible. 

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Therefore, for 2002 I am asking the Department of Public Works as well as the Department of Planning and Development to jointly review County road specifications to insure they meet the needs of the communities, that roads are scaled to future demand so our rural areas not be burdened by excessively wide roads that help destroy the rural character. 

Last year the Village of Wappingers Falls accepted a transportation plan completed under the auspices of our Poughkeepsie/Dutchess County Transportation Council.  It includes recommendations for sidewalk expansion and improved crosswalks.  

We also continued our work with local communities on pedestrian plans.  This included work in Freedom Plains (LaGrange) and the Hopewell Hamlet (East Fishkill).  In each case, plans call for a mixed development, including housing to convert a strip into an integrated community center.  We also continue to work with the Harlem Valley Partnership and Putnam County on an integrated corridor study for Route 22.  The final report is due later this year.

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FarmlandDutchess County has made great strides in open space preservation.  In 1999 I announced my landmark Open Space and Farmland Protection Program, a county-funded open space initiative where the County provided matching funds to state, local, federal and private sources.  In 2001, we doubled our annual financial commitment to $2 million and expanded the scope of the program to include funding for completing farm plans and infrastructure improvements.  To date, we have successfully helped protect seven open space properties and 1,000 acres of farmland and open space in agreements that are either being processed or have been completed.  For every County dollar invested, our commitment has attracted about three more dollars from outside sources.  This was the intention and goal of creating the county program when I proposed it. 

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Just imagine what could be done with County resources when matched by aggressive town financial support.  In one town, it is believed the town could purchase development easements along its busiest highway for $2,000,000 end-to-end.  This 300-foot buffer from development would keep out strip commercial development forever.  Matched with County, state, and other resources, the town would have a relatively small bond requirement for its share. 

Governor Pataki recently set a high open space protection goal for the State – 1 million acres over the next 10 years.  With the growth pressures on Dutchess County, we must also set a high standard that is realistically achievable. 

Dutchess County has a real chance to preserve its rural qualities.  Today, I propose setting a goal of 12,000 acres of open space be preserved in the County over the next 10 years.  This could be the equivalent of 80–100 large properties saved from development.  Such an ambitious goal can only be accomplished when the different levels of government join forces as partners out of shared values and mutual conviction.  Upon investigation, local elected leaders, in particular, will find open space protection to be a good investment.  As the county share of the partnership, we are committing $2 million additional matching dollars in 2002 for farmland and open space preservation efforts.

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Dutchess County Greenway Compact Communities graphicOur Greenway Plan is named “Connections.”  We expect the Town of Wappinger to be the twentieth community to join the Greenway next week. The City of Poughkeepsie recently indicted that it plans to join our smart growth effort.  This common endeavor suggests that throughout the County we look to the future with a renewed purpose and eventually a stronger capacity to deal with the challenges of growth—all through better connections. 

One of the original dreams of the Greenway was to create a continuous trail on both sides of the Hudson from New York City to Albany.  Some segments of the trail are already intact; for example, several miles of trail exist in Hyde Park.  But imagine a completed trail from Beacon to Red Hook.  Therefore, to complement the regional and local work of The Winnikee Land Trust, Scenic Hudson, and the Greenway Conservancy, for 2002 I am asking the Planning Commissioner and County Attorney to direct resources to begin moving us toward a continuous trail in Dutchess County.  I would like to see easements completed in the next 24--36 months that would secure as much as possible of the trail right of way along the 51-mile shoreline of Dutchess County. 

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Another major trail on our agenda, the Mid-County Rail Trail from Poughkeepsie to East Fishkill has been funded, and will be completed once underlying infrastructure is installed.  I have already mentioned the trail link between South Amenia and the Wassaic train stop.  The towns of Red Hook, Pawling, Clinton and others are aggressively planning for connected trail systems.  We can imagine a time, not too far away, when we can hike on a beautiful trail, not too far from our home no  matter where we live in Dutchess County.  This will promote personal health and community health simultaneously.  

Now let’s imagine together a connected system of trails, protected farms, parks and reserves, scenic viewing areas and bicycle paths.  It’s not a fantasy.  The good efforts of so many have brought results already; gradually our dreams are becoming reality.  Our open space beauty and recreational advantages stand to become an important statement about our quality of life, our community identity and our local economic strength.

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As a result of the policy discussions and strategic decisions we have made, the Dutchess County Water and Wastewater Authority now operates eight utility systems with over $25 million in assets.  I expect that many more systems will be added in the next several years as the county adjusts to the demand for a rational pattern of growth across our countryside. 

In 2001, the $4 million Harbourd Hills-Zone D project began construction, and it is anticipated to be completed in the summer of 2002, further supporting our efforts to provide quality water to long burdened areas in and around Hyde Park. 

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The concept of a water line from Poughkeepsie to East Fishkill is fundamental to the economic well being of Dutchess County.  Enormous effort is going into achieving that end.  Project planning and funding issues have been complex, but we remain optimistic that project completion is possible.  The benefits, especially economic, will domino to every municipality in Dutchess by enabling the $2.5 billion project expansion at IBM East Fishkill.  This effort will make water available from the Hudson River to some of our fastest-growing communities along the 13-mile corridor.  

Our County Water Authority will also be continuing its efforts to better identify and understand the water supplies throughout the County, the threats to those supplies, and, in cooperation with our local municipalities, to develop protection strategies to mitigate quality and quantity problems.  This work has been particularly effective in the Harlem Valley, where we have worked in partnership with the municipalities on a regional effort.  As the word “drought” appears more regularly in our daily news headlines, these types of long-term strategic issues must be addressed.

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Last year, I established a Smart Growth Housing Task Force to explore our capacity to help shape the supply of a diversity of housing options within Dutchess County.  Their report draft, submitted late last year, illustrates the severity of the problem.  The median price of a single-family home was $207,500 in December 2000 and new housing was considerably more expensive.  Renter households must contend with average rent increases of 8 to 9% because the vacancy rate was practically non-existent (1.5% in 2000). 

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Much of the cause of skyrocketing housing prices, in both the rental and home- ownership markets, relates to the availability of land and the fact that it is controlled by a municipality’s zoning ordinance.  In Dutchess County, there are 30 municipalities and 29 different zoning ordinances.  If a town’s zoning ordinance does not zone any land for apartments or smaller, affordable lots, housing diversity cannot be achieved, even if there are private developers interested in creating such housing.  Regrettably, a review of Dutchess County zoning ordinances by the Department of Planning and Development has shown there is little land currently available for moderate and entry-level housing opportunities, and in some communities, there are none.  Municipalities can form Housing Committees to investigate the housing market and needs of their residents.  They Pawling Land Parcel for Housingcan use this information to support adjustment of their zoning ordinance and to encourage private developers to include a small number of affordable units in many housing developments.  Many years ago, the Town of Pawling addressed head on the need for moderately priced housing.  As a result, they made an innovative change to their zoning, which requires that affordable units be a part of any significant housing project being proposed.  Fellow towns in Dutchess County could look to the Pawling example of visionary leadership on this issue. 

To help with this process in 2002, I have asked our staff to develop technical memorandum to give municipalities guidance on how to make changes to their zoning ordinances to permit a wider variety of housing choice.  Municipalities can use the County’s Partnership for Manageable Growth for matching grants to undertake reviews of zoning ordinances, master plans and subdivision regulations or develop Generic Environmental Impact Statements for developments of apartments or homes on small lots. 

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The availability of water and/or sewer is integral to the development of multi-family housing or homes on small lots and as such, the County encourages municipalities to access the County’s Partnership for Manageable Growth for help in developing these services.  This program will help municipalities bring such services to a site by providing matching grants for pre-construction/feasibility studies and construction projects. 

We will also be involved with several initiatives to encourage the development of a wider variety of housing choices throughout Dutchess County.  In 2002, I have directed that the County review all County-owned properties for their potential use for affordable housing prior to their being made available at public auctions.  I believe properties that have potential for small-lot homes or multi-family housing should be offered to local non-profit housing developers or private developers with restrictions that the housing developed on the land address the housing needs of low and moderate-income residents. 

In addition to the Technical Memorandum, for 2002 I have asked Planning to increase its educational efforts and technical assistance as it relates to housing.  Specifically, the staff will survey the housing needs of Dutchess County residents and develop a statistical tracking for all segments of the housing market, which will help municipalities and public and private developers in their efforts to create more housing options.  I am also pleased to announce the County will develop a housing section on its website to help residents and developers understand the housing market and the options that are available both for finding appropriate housing and developing appropriate housing. 

To assist in providing suitable housing for all income groups remains a most important challenge for all local officials.  None of us can or should expect the problem to be solved by someone else.  Each of our towns, villages and cities grew up with a capacity to embrace the needs of a wide variety of people.  Our community has always thrived because of its diversity.  Cost conscious, smaller, no-frill, least-cost, or multi-family housing need not be unattractive, either socially or physically. 

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Our 30 localities need to look at their local codes and review practices to see that opportunities exist for young and old alike to make an appropriate housing choice.  Our local economy and the social fabric of our community depend upon an inclusive attitude, one that encourages two-worker, moderate-wage households as well as our own children just starting out, to enjoy the advantages of living in Dutchess County, just as higher-wage earners who are moving up from counties to our south.  We stand ready to partner with our localities in these efforts. 

I am encouraged by the possibilities for a diversified housing stock when contemplating the potential for development at the former Hudson River Psychiatric Center site.  My staff and I have committed extensive effort to help promote the opportunities for that site as both a cornerstone of new housing availability and as an economic generator.  Also encouraging are activities of volunteers and public officials in northern Dutchess where we are working with Red Hook as it plans to clean up a brownfield site and eventually convert it to a 100 elderly housing units.  This project will result in an abandoned property back on the tax roles, turning a community liability into a wonderful asset. 

Or let’s contemplate additional housing in downtown Poughkeepsie.  Just two blocks of upper floor space and some infill building on Main Street between Market and Hamilton could yield about 250 residences.  The City has recently identified the potential possibilities for the newly reopened Main Street.  I am told 250 units represent a possible $10 million construction cost with another $10 million in secondary spending.  Planners estimate occupants of these units would have a combined annual purchasing power of $7.5 million, with a meaningful amount of that being spent in the immediate neighborhood. 

Diverse housing opportunities strengthen the economy for young people especially; downtown locations provide the interest and excitement they expect.  The City of Beacon has been reinventing itself very successfully through urban housing opportunities.  Other communities can have the same success if they pursue this vision. 

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The Community Weed and Seed Program has worked with Poughkeepsie to establish an excellent vision for the heart of its main street.  When constructive activity begins on rehabilitation, we can foresee the actions that will follow.  College students, young professionals, trades workers, and seniors will look for establishments to patronize.  People who have lost the habit of visiting Poughkeepsie Poughkeepsie Main Streetwill have reason to return.  To demonstrate my conviction that Poughkeepsie’s new main street vision is achievable, I pledge up to $500,000 as a county inducement to other public and private investment that will provide upper-floor housing.  New residents will become attracted to Dutchess County because of its cities, not in spite of them.

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Local communities have joined in a community block grant program for nearly 20 years.  This has been a very successful cooperative venture resulting in scores of infrastructure, façade restoration, business loan, handicapped access, housing and economic development projects.  However, I am convinced the CDBG process can be improved.  The new Advisory Council to the County Executive is now considering program changes to allow worthy projects to receive concentrated funding to complete large community projects with a high priority need.  This and other changes will increase CDBG’s readiness to make significant changes at the local level. 

Last year the CDBG program provided $1,853,000 for municipal and non-profit agency use.  A quarter of the allocation was used for water and sewer improvements and 12% was allocated for sidewalk and road improvements. 

In the year 2001, the County of Dutchess submitted an application on behalf of the City of Beacon for $1.5 million in Section 108 Loan Guarantee funds as a result of an award of $600,000 in federal Economic Development Initiative monies as part of the Hudson River Partnership 2000, a multi-jurisdiction economic development initiative.  The County is in the process of working with potential Section 108 applicants and with the Economic Development Corporation in creating a Small Business Revolving Loan Fund to make use of these loan funds. 

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Under our County HOME Investment Partnership Program, construction began on two significant projects in the City of Poughkeepsie, Harlow Row and Garden Street. These projects are essential to the revitalization of the City of Poughkeepsie.  Upon completion, efforts will have created seven homeownership opportunities, fifteen rental units and four commercial spaces. 

In the City of Beacon, construction was begun and completed on eleven townhouses that are now occupied by low and moderate-income first time homebuyers.  Also in Beacon, construction was completed on three buildings on Main Street containing 13 rental units.  In the Town of Hyde Park, 82 units of housing for senior citizens were completed with assistance from the County’s HOME Program. 

Eight households were assisted with the purchase of their first home through the County’s First Time Homebuyer Program.  Ten senior citizens were assisted through the Senior Citizen Owner-Occupied Property Rehabilitation Program and an additional nine senior citizen were assisted through the Christmas-in-April Program, to which the County provided a $35,000 grant. 

We also received $707,347 through HUD’s Supportive Housing Program for four programs to assist homeless persons throughout Dutchess County.  Rehabilitation Support Services, Inc. will receive $400,995 to provide permanent housing with case management, employment and vocational counseling for 10 persons who are homeless and seriously mentally ill.  I am pleased to announce Grace Smith House, Inc. will receive $33,629 to support three apartments at the Brookhaven Transitional Apartments occupied by homeless survivors of domestic violence. Hudson River Housing, Inc. will receive $109,974 for their River Haven Independent Living Program which helps older homeless youth develop skills, personal characteristics and the means to make the transition to successful independent living; and, the Mental Health Association of Dutchess County, Inc. will receive $167,749 to maintain their expended hours for the Living Room, a drop-in center that provides support and resources to the homeless with mental illness and those with mental illness and chemical abuse issues.

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Over the course 2002, I plan a major new initiative to visit localities to engage in Conversations for Community Connections, an initiative for me, along with county department heads and other community leaders to discuss intergovernmental and community issues of mutual concern to the county and our municipalities.  The emphasis will be on listening to the concerns and ideas of our residents and local officials.  

As part of this initiative, I will also present localities with a framed aerial portrait of their municipality.  In 2001, we completed the acquisition of Digital Aerial Photography and the electronic update of the Tax Parcel Maps.  This photography is unlike any other we have had in the past; it is crisp and clear enough to make out the players on a baseball diamond and accurate enough for detailed planning projects.  The Tax Parcel Maps have been corrected and updated to overlay these photographs.  The implications are clear - pictures of natural features combined with ownership information allow the best possible planning of all our County resources.  A picture may be worth a thousand words, but to work with the actual data generates plenty of creative conversations about good planning.  For this to happen, I have also asked the County Department of Planning and Development to package the available digital data for each locality with instructions for its use and examples of good planning practices, which can be used when evaluating local projects. 

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It is an understatement to say the events of recent months have caused us to examine the things we hold most dear.  On September 11 our impulse was to draw our families near.  In this context especially, we look more closely at our homes, our neighborhoods, our greater community.  And one way to forge a sense of optimism and purpose is to consolidate our loyalties and double our resolve.  We work together to improve the world around us, the familiar nurturing environments of our neighborhoods and our communities and their place in the Hudson River Valley.  We triumph by seeing the fruits of our own activities.  We find glory by seeking permanent beauty and peace in our daily settings, while knowing that the world is unpredictable and changing.  We seek the best from our families and ourselves by giving of ourselves to others, by joining neighbors with a vision of a safe, prosperous, tranquil and beautiful community, locally and regionally.  Accordingly, the initiatives and the dynamic of Dutchess County simply reflect our combined desire to prevail, to be proud of our homeland, to focus on the important things in life, and to achieve success in moving Dutchess County forward...even in uncertain times. 

May God Bless Dutchess County.

 

William R. Steinhaus                                                                             February 6, 2002

Dutchess County Executive


 

 1Only Westchester County, where local municipalities guarantee the county property tax levy, holds a higher Aaa rating.

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