Securing Our Future... |
At Home and In Our Community
Our nation, our state, our county, our
governments -- and yes, all of us -- have been tested on multiple fronts over
the recent few years. Terrorists have attacked our home front placing
our national security in jeopardy; our businesses and Wall Street have been
hurt by a sustained period of economic downturn and uncertainty, exacerbated
by the continued threat of world conflict; we -- you and I, our families, our
neighbors -- have been questioning our economic and personal security that
affects our everyday lives; and governments at every level are facing fiscal
crises and challenges not seen in decades.
Just this past Saturday, President Bush
once again had to face a nation in distress, “The Columbia is lost; there are
no survivors,” he said. More tragedy and unspeakably sad news delivered
to the nation at a time of world conflict and uncertainty.
But the President and the family members
of these brave men and women have a united and clear message--despite the
known risks, we must find the will and the courage to continue exploration
and discovery. It is how this nation was born and how this nation has
Certainly, while the challenges before us as a government and a community
simply do not compare with the challenges of space exploration and what these
seven brave astronauts faced, we are inspired by their will and courage.
As we share the grief and sorrow of their loved ones, we are reminded of the
uncertainties before each of us every day, reminded that there is only so
much we can control -- but also inspired to grab hold and deal with what we
It is so timely and so important I assure
you that what Dutchess County government can control, we are and we will work
to continue to control as we look to the future. As a government and as
a community we have a proven record not only of being good test takers, but
also of knowing how to prepare for the test!
My great passion for Dutchess County, NY
only intensifies with time, and I will remain resolute that as we deal with
the future “tests” before us in both the short and long term, it will be done
in a collaborative and shared way that does not alter the mettle and spirit
of this government or this community, or of the people who call it home.
Like our country and like communities
elsewhere, the State of our County is challenged; yet unlike many communities
elsewhere, it is sound, and I am confident and excited about our future.
Let me tell you why.
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2002 was a difficult year financially for
New York State counties due primarily to the lingering economic slump, the
aftermath of September 11th and exploding Medicaid costs.
For some other counties, 2002 was particularly difficult because officials
were too optimistic in judging the economy’s ability to rebound and they
depleted their county’s “rainy day funds” in 2001. Across New York
State, 2003 County budgets adopted late last year contained significant
property tax increases, sales tax increases, new fees on auto registrations
and cell phones, and the repeal of the sales tax exemptions on clothing.
Despite all of these “revenue enhancers,” however, they also called for
layoffs and program reductions. It was a difficult year indeed for New
York’s 57 counties—as well as for New York City.
Last spring it became apparent Medicaid
costs would exceed the $33.5 million in our 2002 adopted budget, creating a
deficit of at least $2 million. The chart at right demonstrates the
increase in Dutchess County’s cost of this Albany-imposed mandated cost. Note
the rapid rise in cost since 1999. This resulted from increases in the
cost of medical care and prescription medicines and the growing costs of
long-term care for our seniors. Also affecting the costs, however, are
the Medicaid program enhancements enacted in Albany—ten major enhancements
since 1999, including four made since September 11, 2001 with the full
knowledge of the financial difficulties facing state finances. As I’ve
said before, County governments have absolutely no control over Medicaid
costs. All decisions are made in Washington and Albany. We merely
pay the bill!
New York State spends more for Medicaid
than any other state---including California with twice New York’s population.
Governors from across our nation representing both sides of the isle are
calling on Washington for help. Will New York’s call be heard from
within the crowd? So far it has not. The cost of Medicaid was THE
financial story in Dutchess County and other New York State counties in 2002
and promises to remain in the forefront in 2003.
At the same time our projections revealed
the Medicaid deficit, they were also pointing to a potential 2002 shortfall
in sales tax income. Fortunately, stronger receipts in the second half
produced annualized growth of 3.5%. The combined effect of the Medicaid
deficit and sales tax shortfall could have had a devastating impact on county
finances. While we cannot control Medicaid costs or sales tax receipts
in the short term, what we can control, we do control. That is why I
directed executive department heads to limit spending to mission critical
items, postponed certain capital spending and tightened hiring restrictions.
That is why I also directed our labor
negotiating team to settle outstanding issues and bring all current contract
talks to conclusion. Our goal was to recognize and reward our employees
for the outstanding service they provide while recognizing the economic
realities we face. I am pleased we were able to reach agreement on a
new four-year contract with the CSEA, which provided for realistic cost of
living adjustments coupled with changes to the health insurance program that
will help to stabilize costs for the employees and the county. We also
reached agreement with the PBA Sheriff’s Deputies to extend their current
four-year agreement one additional year. Finally, we agreed to a
four-year contract proposal submitted to us by the DCSEA-CWA leaders
representing Corrections Officers, but that agreement was rejected by their
membership. The signed CSEA and PBA contracts and the precedent they
establish for the remaining unit provide predictability of future payroll
costs and short-term stability in health care costs. Costs associated with
the labor settlements were funded from the county’s fund balance as planned.
Also in 2002, the Legislature adopted the
state’s early retirement benefit program through which 103 employees retired.
We are attempting a daunting effort to manage the vacancies created by the
retirements to achieve a $1.5 million payroll savings in 2003 and continued
savings for the next several years. Given our history of tightly
managing our workforce, absorbing these vacancies all at the same time has
created a significant challenge. With the exception of the Board of
Elections, all agencies and all independently elected officials have
recognized the challenges before us and have been supportive of
Legislative/Executive policies and efforts to meet our service delivery
commitments with reduced staff resources.
The 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 continue to bear fruit and
have enabled us to meet current financial challenges better than most.
Based on statistical data published recently by the State Comptroller, Dutchess County taxes its residents 21% less per capita and
spends 26% less per capita than the statewide county average.
Incredibly, Dutchess County’s outstanding debt per capita is an
astonishing 53% below the statewide county average! All
these are notable achievements
We also can take pride that Dutchess
County’s outstanding indebtedness represents a mere 8% of the
constitutional debt limit. This positions us well for several
major projects before us, most notably the multi-million dollar jail
expansion. True Value Assessments reached $20 billion this year,
representing the third year of significant growth following several
years of decline. And of particular importance to Dutchess County
property taxpayers, the county property tax levy totals ONLY 22%
of the County’s constitutional taxing limit and is still lower than
in 1989, an achievement few governments can claim.
We are pleased Moody’s Investors
Services continues to be impressed with Dutchess County’s financial
strength with an Aa1 bond rating—one of only two counties in New York
State to achieve this enviable rating. Dutchess County issued $4
million in Bond Anticipation Notes in January 2002 and $11.4 million in
December, both of which earned the highest rating possible from
(MIG1). In rating the January issue, Moody’s cited
Dutchess County’s stable financial position, improved liquidity and our
ending fund balance, the amount of which was 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. Each of these is a
significant achievement when compared to other New York Counties.
However, while Moody’s once
again assigned a MIG 1 rating to our Bond Anticipation Notes, they also
assigned a negative outlook to our bond rating. Specifically, in
December Moody’s observed,
“The county will be
challenged over the medium term to maintain structural balance and
ensure strong fund equity and liquidity… Budgetary pressures are
expected to continue tied mostly to Medicaid, pension and health
benefit cost increases as well as the cost of labor agreements.
Exacerbating these pressures is the county’s reliance on sales tax
receipts (32% of 2001 General Fund operations), which is an
economically sensitive revenue source. Moody’s believes the
inherent vulnerability of the sales tax dictates that reserve levels
increase in step with any increased reliance on this revenue stream.
Therefore, should the county’s fiscal 2003 budget, set to be adopted
within two weeks, include an increase in the county’s sales tax rate,
which would require subsequent state approval, higher reserve levels
may be warranted.”
Moody’s Investors Service issued a special report in late December
entitled “Budget Imbalances Could Place Credit Pressure on Some New York
Counties.” Moody’s concluded the report with its expectation
that financial pressures that began to impact counties in 2001 will continue
for the foreseeable future. They also concluded that counties will continue
to struggle to achieve structural balance unless the economy begins to
recover and changes are made to the State’s Medicaid funding system.
“That said,” the report continues, “Moody’s believes management’s
ability and willingness to take proactive steps in initial stages of a
downturn is a key indicator of long-term credit strength. The political
ability to raise taxes and make difficult service decisions is also
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Just yesterday we sold $18.8 million in
general obligation bonds. As expected,
Moody’s assigned our bonds an Aa1 rating with a negative outlook.
Echoing the comment from its December report, Moody’s added,
“Moreover, should state approval of this
increase (sales tax increase to 8%) not occur by March 1 to facilitate a June
1 implementation, Moody’s believes the county will face significant
challenges to ensure structural balance. Moody’s continued analysis
will factor 2002 year end results as well as 2003 budget implementation with
a focus on Medicaid and pension costs, potential retroactive union
settlements that are unbudgeted as well as sales tax receipts.”
Fortunately, the strength of our local
economy and the fiscal stewardship we have demonstrated for over a decade
made our bonds very attractive in the marketplace—we received twice the
normal number of bids and achieved an attractive interest rate of 3.6%.
The administration recognized the
challenges before us and took immediate action last spring by restricting
hiring, implementing spending controls, and obtaining predictability and
stability in employee salary and benefit costs. Knowing the challenges
would be greater in 2003 and 2004, I called upon this Legislature last fall
to make difficult service decisions. Unfortunately, the Legislature
lacked the political courage to do so, preferring instead to increase the
local sales tax rate to 8% and to increase spending in certain program and
service areas above the levels recommended. What was billed as a tax
stabilization plan is, in reality, an unwarranted and unwise tax attack on
the finances of the families and businesses of Dutchess County. Some
have called the sales tax increase “temporary.” Thinking people know
In December I shared with you the
concerns expressed by senior staff of the risks of balancing the 2003 budget
with revenue from the yet-to-be approved increase in the sales tax rate to
8%. Those concerns were echoed in the latest Moody’s bond
rating. First the Chairman told us it would be passed in December and
it was not. Then we were told it would be adopted in January and it was
not. More troubling is Dutchess residents and businesses were told they
would pay the new higher 8% sales tax starting in June but the County
Legislature is attempting to sneak in a March start date. Taxpayers
As we explore the horizon of our County
government’s financial affairs, some fail to recognize that County government
cannot be all things to all people. We, the Executive and the
Legislature, need to demonstrate the courage to say NO even when a program
may have merit, which most programs do. Our primary focus in the near
term has to be on our internal financial affairs and the financial well being
of those we serve.
Overall, our leadership in economic
development policies and strategies has caused the Dutchess County economy to
outpace many other areas of our state. Employment is high and stable,
consumer confidence is encouraging, home sales are brisk. This bodes
well for County government finances and those of our residents. Not
encouraging, however, is the potential impact of the state’s 2003-2004 budget
recently released by Governor Pataki.
I applaud Governor Pataki for his
leadership in focusing his State budget proposal on job creation, not taxes.
His challenge and that of our state legislators is daunting given the
magnitude of the deficit before them. True to his word, the Governor
did propose Medicaid reforms. According to his remarks, the reforms
have the potential to save $395 million for County governments during the
next two years. He also said the budget contains a comprehensive mandate
relief package that will provide new incentives and greater flexibility to
municipalities to reduce costs and remove long-standing impediments to
Not mentioned in the remarks but included
in the documentation, however, are proposals to restructure Medicaid cost
responsibilities between the State and Counties, cap overburden aid, broaden
Medicaid eligibility of certain mental hygiene services making them no longer
100% state and federally funded, reduce administrative cost reimbursements,
cut health department funding and more. Much work will be done in the
days and weeks ahead to analyze the details of the Executive Budget and their
potential impact on Dutchess County government and our Dutchess County
One thing is clear though, Dutchess
County government does not have final control of the impacts the state budget
will have on its finances and service delivery systems. That is why
we must focus our attention on those impacts where we can exercise some
control and take swift, decisive action to ensure fiscal and programmatic
stability. Senior staff and I will work closely with NYSAC, other
professional associations, and our local state representatives to protect the
interest of all Dutchess County residents and businesses.
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Recognizing the fiscal challenges
before us, County government must still move ahead—within its financial
ability to do so—with initiatives deemed critical to meeting its traditional
core mission. In the months ahead, we will proceed with the following:
- Dutchess Community College: Renovation of Bowne Hall
to accommodate new occupants and to upgrade and improve the HVAC
systems; significant site work repairs and modifications to
crosswalks, parking lots, walkways, plazas, stairs and ramps; roof,
HVAC, plumbing, electrical and fire system upgrades in the Center for
Business and Industry.
- Eastern Dutchess Service Center: To create and
implement an action plan to provide the physical facilities and
program resources required for the delivery of services in Eastern
Dutchess County pursuant to our previous study and the resolution
adopted by the Legislature last September.
Open Space and Farmland Protection Matching Grant Program:
Commit an additional $2 million to the preservation of open
space—bringing our total commitment to $7 million. The
Partnership for Manageable Growth includes a matching grant fund to
provide a match for available State, Federal, municipal and/or other
funds in order to protect Dutchess County open space and farmland.
Matching funds are also available for municipal resource protection
planning initiatives and for site-specific farmland protection plans
that guide potential development away from prime and important
Dutchess County Jail Expansion & Renovation Phase II (Master Plan
Completion): The expansion and renovation of our county
jail is necessary to comply with the NYS Commission of Corrections,
the Corrections Law and Federal court stipulations.
Rail Trail: construction of the next phase of the Harlem
Valley Rail Trail, extending 2.6 miles from the Mechanic Street
trailhead in the hamlet of Amenia south to the Metro-North Wassaic
- Airport Runway Improvements: The Dutchess County
Airport is a significant resource in our economic development
strategies. This work will extend the pavement life of our
runways and reduce the possibility of hydroplaning. The FAA is
requiring the installation of an engineered materials arresting
system to maintain safety.
Central Dutchess Corridor Water Line: Phased funding
will be required for the design and construction of a water line from
the Poughkeepsie area to the East Fishkill area via the county owned
abandoned Maybrook Rail Corridor. This line will transport
water from the Hudson River and other sources to the already
developed south central Dutchess area. These sources will
support existing and future residential and commercial investment in
our local communities, including the $2.6 billion chip fabrication
manufacturing facility at the IBM Hudson Valley Research Park.
The ability to provide safe drinking water through an area-wide
central water system will promote significant economic development
and will be a critical factor in the environmental and economic
health of our residents.
Reconstruct and Improve Park Facilities: Dutchess County
undertook a Parks facility upgrade project several years ago.
More needs to be done to protect the investment the County has in the
parks, specifically in the buildings, and to keep the parks safe for
The full cost of these initiatives will
be refined in 2003. Much of the work will be phased in over several
years beginning with the feasibility, preliminary, and final design studies
and ultimately construction. Much of the funding will be provided by
the Federal and State governments in partnership with our local funding
resources. Each of these initiatives support our core mission as a
County government and each is critical to providing for the future economic
well being of our government and of our community.
2002 was indeed a difficult year
financially for Dutchess County and all New York State counties. The
effects of September 11th, the lingering economic downturn and the
devastating impact of state-imposed mandates called for swift action and
leadership. The reform agenda we have followed for a decade, together
with the policies of fiscal restraint that have become a hallmark of Dutchess
County government, provided the foundation to maintain needed stability.
While we have done better than most, the challenges before us rival in
magnitude those of the early 1990’s and promise to remain through 2004.
This is why we will continue to implement prudent budget controls as needed
and as authorized by the County Charter and Administrative Code. In
addition, that is why I will look to the Legislature to exercise the
political courage to resist calls for increased spending. I will
continue my call to resist initiatives which supplement or supplant reduced
state and federal revenues with local tax dollars. I repeat, we in
Dutchess County government cannot and should not be the funder of last
It is also why I will appoint a Local
Government Efficiency Task Force made up of local officials and service
providers to consider this question. The County already works with our
localities through a shared purchasing program, saving residents hundreds of
thousands of dollars each year. What other possibilities are there?
Public works activities, insurance, planning, property assessments…?
First we will prepare a list of services where the County is already either
assisting or working with our localities or where we are ready, willing and
able to work with our localities, and move on to explore new possibilities.
While the County shares our sales tax revenue with local communities, it
simply cannot be the expectation that the County raises taxes even higher to
provide an additional revenue source for localities. Rather, we should
all be working together more proactively to control higher spending through
shared efforts. Each level of government is facing budget stress. Let
us find new ways to reduce this stress thereby reducing spending at all
There is no doubt our resolve and
resourcefulness were tested in 2002 and will be tested again in 2003 and
beyond. However, despite those challenges, County government finances
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As we continue in the future with the
proven and effective strategies we have developed over the past decade, we
will construct and execute new and creative strategies reflecting the nature
of the challenges before us today. Let me tell you how.
Census 2000 revealed the Under age 18 population in Dutchess
County to be nearly 70,000, close to a 13% increase from the 1990 census
figures. This compares to a 9.7% statewide increase in that age
category. As our youth population continues to grow and the challenges
facing them grow greater, we must remain focused on the services provided to
our young people and remain committed to providing the quality of life that
our residents want and expect for their children and families. We also
know, however, government cannot do it alone. That is why I created the
Children’s Services Council, a 1998 State of the County initiative where
I envisioned an active, working collaboration and partnership between public
and private agencies that serve children.
I am pleased and proud – but not surprised – that five
years later, the partners of this collaboration remain committed to
working together to reach our common goals in certain quality of life
areas for children and families. The Children’s Services
Council collected data to measure factors that indicate quality of
life in five key areas – family life, safety and security, health,
education, and adolescents. Community leaders and county
residents were then asked to evaluate the status of our children, youth
and families using both this data as well as their personal and
professional experience. The results were just published and
released in the 2nd Status Report of Children, Youth, and
Families in Dutchess County. This document is a valuable tool used
by service providers for strategic planning and policy decisions for
their service delivery to our young people.
The report shows that while we are making
progress, we still have work to do. Based on the information in the
report, the CSC, knowing it must focus on areas where it can have the
greatest impact, has determined its priorities for the next three years will
be school readiness and youth at risk. The Council will
work with our schools and professionals to ensure school readiness by
increasing public awareness and parental knowledge about the developmental
stages and assets needed for children birth to six years of age, and by
enabling recognition of early childhood developmental issues that need to be
addressed, as well as access to appropriate services. With the
youth at risk indicator the Council will promote opportunities that will
empower youth to make positive life choices and will support youth to become
active and valued participants in their communities.
James McGuirk, Ph.D., Chair of the
Children’s Services Council and Executive Director of Astor Home for
Children, recently said, “These difficult financial times underscore the
value and necessity of the Children’s Services Council. Now more than
ever, it is critical that we eliminate unnecessary redundancies in services.
Now more than ever, we need to work together to make limited resources go
further… We need to raise our voices and insist that our greater
community step up to their shared responsibility for the health and
well-being of our children, youth, and families.”
Kudos and thank you to the hardworking
and committed members of the Dutchess County Children’s Services Council
– you exemplify why I believe in collaborations and partnerships as a means
of good governance and of successful community building.
Related but more specific to county
government, we are also moving ahead this year with our broad-based
organizational review of Dutchess County’s health, social, and human service
delivery system as I proposed in my budget submission to the Legislature last
November. The study will include county departments that deliver
services to our children, youth, and families.
Business and industry re-engineer all the
time and we want to continue to do that in county government. My goal
is to find more opportunities to identify promising innovative solutions.
Improved, more cost-effective and integrated, not isolated, service delivery
must be explored under the existing environment. What was up to
standard just a few years ago may not be good enough for county government
and our residents today and tomorrow.
When organizations are most challenged by
economic downturns, increased costs, and higher demands for service, a
comprehensive internal look must be made of the organization. The study
I have asked to be done will identify possible overlap, duplication, and
mandated versus optional services. It will look at the extremely complex
and varied departmental and program funding streams from New York State.
It will include a review of successful models of service delivery elsewhere in
New York and other areas of the country.
We begin this process with no
preconceived notion of what the results will show, but we pledge to begin
with an open mind and an eagerness to learn about and discuss whatever the
outcomes of this professional, objective review demonstrate. It is
absolutely essential we have the most information available, and the best
information available, before any decision is made that could make
significant changes to our current health, social and human service delivery
Key to the success of this review,
however, is the word comprehensive. When there exist many related
functions across multiple departments within one organization, a look at one
function in one department simply is not enough to understand the most
effective and efficient approach to the delivery of critical services to our
One thing we know for sure, however, is
the need to consolidate and deliver certain health and human services to our
residents in the eastern portion of the county. In 2001, I sent the
Dutchess County Legislature a proposal for a new
Eastern Dutchess County Government Services Center. The concept has
been exhaustively debated and now
returned to me for action. Dutchess County government provides
a broad range of services and programs to residents east of the Taconic
Parkway. This variety of services involves most all of our county
departments and agencies and includes both permanent and periodic services.
Some of the services are decentralized,
including health clinics, Sheriff’s substations, and
Office for the Aging Friendship Centers. For larger programs with
regular services and staff-centered activities, enhancing the former County
Infirmary building into an Eastern Dutchess Government Services Center
is an efficient, logical way to provide services to our residents east of the
Taconic. Between 1990 and 2000 the population east of the Taconic grew
by thirteen percent. Harlem Valley communities experienced an increase
of six percent over the decade.
In 2003, I will direct that the first
phase of the proposed Eastern Dutchess Government Center be initiated
on the former county infirmary site. We will be reusing a structurally
sound building for a savings to county taxpayers. Phase one will
correct the immediate needs of the Departments of Mental Hygiene and the
Health Department. Certain other services will also be possible
once the Phase one improvements have been made.
Additionally, the Town of Washington has
expressed interest in using a portion of the infirmary property for town
recreational purposes. I will initiate formal discussions with the town
to explore this possibility.
All of these policy decisions and
directions we are taking are examples of how we will construct new and
creative strategies reflecting the nature of some of the challenges before us
today in the health, social, and human service delivery systems in order to
secure the future of tomorrow. And it is why I am confident and excited
about our future.
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Our world is ripe with tension, the threat
of war imminent. Clearly, we have no control over what is occurring in
Iraq and elsewhere around the globe, but we do control county government’s
response to public safety and homeland security issues that could be tested
locally in a major event. Preparedness is the key. Dutchess County has
well-developed and tested emergency plans and we continually collaborate with
community partners to strengthen our capacity to respond. Even before
the name Osama Bin Laden was known to most Americans, Dutchess County
government and our local emergency service providers were developing and
testing our response capabilities to manmade and natural disasters, acts of
terrorism and other catastrophic events that could affect our community.
To test the effectiveness of our response
capability to terrorism, our
Department of Emergency Response conducted a major training exercise at
our county airport and created a training video, “Emergency Response to
Terrorism in Dutchess County”. Joining us in this exercise were the
State Emergency Management Office (SEMO), the Federal Emergency Management
Agency (FEMA), state and local law enforcement agencies, fire departments,
ambulance providers and local hospitals.
The Emergency Response department
provides on-going training to local government officials, police, fire,
EMS, utilities, hospitals, and other responders through a tabletop
training aid developed by SEMO that simulates a city setting. Over 375
local public officials and responders have received hands-on training
and successfully completed this two day, 16 hour course covering the
principles of the Incident Command System.
School violence strikes fear in all.
Parents need the assurance their children are safe while in school. In
response, we developed the SAVE Schools program to provide hands-on
training for school district safety teams and administrators to interact with
police, fire, EMS, and other emergency responders. The program has been
presented over 50 times and more than 585 participants have completed the
In May of last year we conducted an
exercise on the grounds of the Hudson River Psychiatric Center that tested
the response to a chemical release and hostage taking incident in a school
setting. More than 200 local responders participated. This
exercise was taped by FEMA and will air nationally on the
FEMA EENET system.
While much has been accomplished to
enhance our ability to respond to local emergencies and to improve our local
‘homeland security’, more remains to be done. That is why I have
directed the County Emergency Response Coordinator to implement a two-track
plan to reduce emergency response times.
When it comes to public safety, it’s all
about getting from point A to point B,
fast. There was a time that simple radio communication between
police and dispatch met most needs. That time has passed.
Today, the most effective technology
being employed to reduce response times is the use of Automatic Vehicle
Locators (AVLs). AVLs work with Global Positioning Satellites
(GPS). Combining radio communications with GPS will enable our E-911
center to graphically locate emergency and police vehicles so when a call for
service is received, the closest available emergency vehicle may be
dispatched. AVLs will also give us the capability to provide the
responder the shortest route to the emergency and give actual driving
instructions. This gives the term mutual aid a whole new meaning.
That’s why I will be committing $600,000
to acquire this essential life-saving technology to enhance public safety and
security in our community.
The other element of the plan to reduce response times
calls for the addition of a second 911 police radio frequency to
the county’s emergency radio system. Currently both dispatch and
police communications are on the same frequency. The second
frequency will greatly enhance dispatchers’ ability to communicate with
police while keeping the dispatch frequency clear. This will
allow for clearer connections and improve officer safety and public
We have worked closely with the
Dutchess County Chief’s of Police Association throughout
the development and operation of our E-911 center and program The
Association’s 911 Subcommittee plays an important role in recommending
operating protocols for us. This second frequency proposal is one such
recommendation by the Police Chief’s Association. According to its President
Chief Jim McKenna, the cooperation between agencies in Dutchess County has led
to improvements in public service delivery, noting the added frequency will
help the police and the entire public safety community, as well as better
protect the public.
New York State Police Major Thomas Fazio
recognizes the second 911 police frequency as “a great accomplishment
for the police and people of this County. The additional frequency
allows for a more efficient means to provide assistance and security to the
fast growing population. The County Executive and the staff of the
County 911 Center are to be commended…”
There is little question our local first
responders will need back up in the event of a major emergency event.
That is why in 2003 we will broaden our capacity in the critical area of
emergency preparedness through partnership with the
Northern Metropolitan Healthcare Foundation (NorMet). NorMet is
one of only 42 organizations throughout the nation to receive a grant from
the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services to develop a local volunteer
Medical Reserve Corps. The purpose of the Medical Reserve Corps
is to assist local medical professionals and facilities in responding to a
large-scale emergency. Citizen volunteers will be recruited, trained
and credentialed to respond and put their skills to use during an emergency.
Also in 2003, we will enhance our ability
to provide up-to-date information on bio-terrorism issues to area hospitals
and physicians. The ability to recognize diseases that may be the
result of covert acts of terrorism is essential to local preparedness,
responsiveness and our ability to protect and secure public health.
However, few of today’s medical professionals have experience or training
recognizing disease agents that might be employed as biological weapons.
To address this critical need, our Health Department has identified a
clinical recognition and diagnostic software system for healthcare
professionals. We are working toward becoming a demonstration site in
New York State. Through funding provided by the state, it is our goal to
acquire the software and work with our county’s key medical facilities
to implement this critical diagnostic tool enabling physicians to fulfill
their first responder role in our community’s homeland security efforts.
These are examples of how we will
construct new and creative strategies reflecting the nature of the challenges
before us today in the areas of public health, safety and homeland security
in order to secure the future of tomorrow. And it is why I am confident
about our future.
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Since I was first elected and became your
County Executive in 1992, I have witnessed many changes in Dutchess County.
To our credit, in a way, I think we have become less a geographic territory
and more a community. At the county level we have worked hard to make
this happen by implementing policies which have the goal of knitting our 30
local communities together. To me these policies – policies that didn’t
exist prior to 1992 – are some of the most exciting changes we have made in
our efforts to create a greater, connected community, and are indeed what
gives me strength and confidence in our future.
We work to knit communities together when
we follow the guidelines of our
The Harlem Valley Rail Trail we built, for example, joins three communities
directly. The trail has been an invitation for people in western
Dutchess County to visit and enjoy the beauty of the eastern portion of the
County. The Amenia section of the trail will be improved this year when
we extend it for a two and a half miles south to join with the northern
terminus of Metro-North. This will provide an improved connection to
thousands of potential visitors from points south. I also allocated
funding in a future year to extend the trail northward toward the Columbia
County border. Therefore, more communities and more connections will be
knit together, making eastern Dutchess County a destination for those who
want to share in its rural, locally focused charm.
We will knit the County further with the
development of the Mid-County Rail Trail through four communities—from
Poughkeepsie, through LaGrange, Wappinger and East Fishkill. We have,
unfortunately had to wait for its development until completion of the
Central Dutchess Utilities Corridor, but we even now can envision further
connections, including ones to the impressive Putnam and Westchester trail
systems to the south.
Riding a bicycle or hiking on trails speaks to our
special quality of life. The Greenway vision is also committed to
development of a pedestrian trail stretching nearly 50 miles from
Fishkill and Beacon to Red Hook and Tivoli. The County is
presently cooperating with the Winnakee Land Trust to secure trail
easements, which would complete connections between the existing trails
in Hyde Park and the Town of Rhinebeck. Such cooperation is only
possible with a common vision, with a united commitment to improving
our quality of life, to making “home improvements” at a county
I could go on to describe wonderful work
at the local level…plans that show the Village of Red Hook eventually
connected by trail to Bard College, connections between Bard and Tivoli,
plans to connect the village of Pawling with its surroundings by trails,
plans for a vast network of trails connecting Wappingers Falls with the
town’s trail system. Our Greenway inspiration is, above all else,
connecting…. people and places. It’s a vision of a better quality of
life in our communities and of the security of a greater community for all of
us. Every time a planning board and developer cooperate to plant street
trees in front of their development, every time they add a stone wall or
reduce the prominence of large parking lots, we all benefit from our Greenway
Another knitting endeavor has been in
agricultural and open space protection. This is a notable example of
creating economic and quality of life security for our county. The
activities of the Dutchess Land Conservancy, Scenic Hudson, the Winnakee Land
Trust and the Oblong Land Conservancy have long been very beneficial to
landowners and the general public. As a result, I proposed a level of
County participation to complement the work of these fine organizations last
year when I challenged towns to follow with their own funding programs to
help protect their most valuable open space resources. At least one
northern Dutchess community has already accepted my challenge. Together
we can continue to save substantial contiguous parcels of our most fertile
and beautiful farmland and open space parcels for purposes of economic and
environmental productivity. We all need continuing and constant access
to our rural heritage especially as we witness the inevitable growth of
housing and businesses. It is why I led the creation of a historic
agricultural and open space protection program in Dutchess County, why we
have pledged $7 million over the past several years for these purposes, and
why I am confident and excited about our future.
Yet another way we are knitting together
as a community is through the activities of our
Water & Wastewater Authority. From managing no systems when I took
office 12 years ago, we now manage eight systems in six
communities and we have many more needs and requests to consider.
Work continues on the Central Dutchess Water Line project - one of the most
important infrastructure projects in decades and key to the future
of the county - that will move water along a 13-mile
Poughkeepsie to East Fishkill.
The Authority is managing the
project, but it is a collaborative effort with the County,
the Authority, the state, and local
municipalities. IBM is also making a significant
contribution toward the successful completion of this project.
This project will make available sources of water from the Hudson River
to some of our fastest growing communities giving each community along
the route greater security in their water supplies. Just as the
Legislature was far-sighted in purchasing the Maybrook corridor years
ago, we want to be far sighted in ensuring that there is sufficient
supply of water available from the corridor both now and in the future.
We also continue our efforts to
better identify and understand the aquifers and water supplies
throughout the county, the threats to those supplies and, in
cooperation with our local municipalities, to develop protection
strategies to prevent and mitigate quality and quantity problems.
Last year, the our County Health
Department and Water Authority collaborated to develop an informational
brochure providing guidance to property owners who get their drinking water
from private wells. The flyer entitled Drinking Water Safety … It’s
Everyone’s Responsibility was mailed to every property owner in Dutchess
and is routinely distributed with every new well permit issued.
Although we are leading the way among New York State counties in protecting
and improving our water supplies, there are opportunities, and I believe
obligations, to do more.
Forty percent of Dutchess County
residents rely entirely on groundwater from private wells to get their daily
drinking water. Unlike Public Water Supplies, private water sources
have no standards to regulate the quality of the water they produce.
There are no enforceable limits for contaminants and no requirements for
testing on any regular basis that could indicate if the water is safe to
drink. So, for many families who get their water every day from private
wells—having clean, safe water to drink, that is free of contamination, is
left largely to chance. This situation is not good for the health of
our residents and our county’s environment, nor is it good for our economic
I have asked the Health Department to
distribute a supply of these informational brochures to each City, Town and
Village Building Inspector, beginning immediately. We will ask their
cooperation to provide a copy along with each Certificate of Occupancy issued
to a new homeowner. Through this collaborative effort of county and
municipal government, we will enhance the awareness of each family regarding
actions they can take to protect their own private drinking water supply.
I know our localities will want to join in this effort.
Because of the importance of safe
drinking water and the absence of ongoing quality testing of private wells,
I will be asking the Dutchess County Board of Health, with support from
our Department of Health and the Water Authority, to undertake a
comprehensive analysis of this issue during 2003 and develop recommendations
to the Executive and Legislature. To ensure that all viewpoints and
issues are considered, I will use the same inclusive approach I have used to
achieve other broad community goals. I am recommending the process
involve representation from all areas of our community, including local
government, builders and developers, realtors, the Dutchess County Soil and
Water Conservation and the Environmental Management Council. Early this
year, I will outline the framework for this initiative in more detail with
the Commissioner of Health, Dr. Michael Caldwell, and the Water and
Wastewater Authority Executive Director, Scott Chase.
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Surely, getting a handle on our utility
needs and building the infrastructure to support those needs are
prerequisites to intelligently managing growth pressures in a way that will
help achieve my goals to preserve our best agricultural and open space
resources, provide our residents with the security of a healthier quality of
life, and support the jobs growth necessary to ensure economic security for
our families now and in the future.
We have also come together as a community
to knit a united response to critical county needs through activities of our
County Economic Development Corporation. The principal
recommendation that emerged from the community-wide Economic Forum I convened
in 1993, responding to the downsizing of IBM, was to have a focused and
comprehensive entity to direct and coordinate our economic development
activity. Since then, through increased tourism, through active
recruiting of new businesses, through expert administration of the Economic
Development Zone, (now the Empire Zone), through workforce development
efforts, and through assistance to existing businesses, unlike others, we
have been able to enhance our jobs growth even during a slowing regional and
Our Empire Zone (EZ) process has been a
most effective tool in stimulating new investment and adding jobs.
Since I first worked with our localities in 1994 to form our zone, local
communities with zone locations have increased from the original 3 to 11.
Poughkeepsie (town and city) East Fishkill, Fishkill (town and village),
Dover, Beacon, Wappinger, Wappingers Falls, Hyde Park, and Amenia now have
prime business locations offering EZ incentives and those prime targeted
locations have become job building magnets. From something that didn’t
exist just eight years ago, we now have an incredible 283 businesses
certified within these zone locations.
Largely due to our zone expansion
efforts, the number of zone certified businesses has increased by fifty-five
percent in just two years. This is important because 75% of those
certified are intending to expand existing Dutchess County business.
I have worked with the zone board to
insure as broad a reach as possible for the EZ. Two locations in the
Harlem Valley, the former Harlem Valley Psychiatric Center and former Wassaic
Development Center have recently been added to our County’s EZ program.
I submitted these locations for legislative action because of their unique
potential to invigorate the economy of the Harlem Valley and the county.
I want to take this time to congratulate
David Conklin, our
DCC President and
volunteer president of the Dutchess County EZ. He and Director Anne
Conroy, along with the Zone Administrative Board, have worked relentlessly to
make our job creation and investment accomplishments second to none in all
New York State.
I believe it is again time to convene
business and community leaders, government partners, and others once again for
a 2003 Economic Security Summit to look at this community’s
current and future economic and business challenges, to evaluate our existing
strategies and programs, and to set a course for building even stronger
economic security. I have asked the Dutchess County Department of
and Development together with the Economic Development Corporation to
assemble a planning committee to work with me to launch such an economic
security summit to be held in the fall of this year. I am confident we
will obtain the same quality of insights that inspired our economic
development activities nearly a decade ago.
Since my early days as County Executive,
I have recognized and promoted tourism as a mainstay of our jobs base in our
Dutchess economy. The
Tourism Promotion Agency's parent organization, the Economic
Development Corporation, has also recognized this and has recently expressed
a renewed commitment to further developing our tourism infrastructure within
the County. The Agency is now developing a series of “tour
packages,” encouraging eager visitors to stay with us for a night or two,
or longer, as they explore a variety of historic, culinary, architectural,
cultural, and out-of-doors activities.
Every year we work to have more to offer residents and visitors alike.
In May, we will see the opening of the Dia Arts Center, a world-class
organization we worked so hard to convince to come to Dutchess County,
that will coincide with the official introduction of Minetta Brook
outdoor sculpture program, and Beacon’s 90th birthday (Bard's
opening of the Performing Arts Center will have occurred a month
earlier). Dutchess County will put out the welcome mat, joining
artists, organizations, patrons and residents in a celebration of who
we are and how we have come together in worlds of performance,
creativity and self-expression.
That is why I propose we establish an event that helps us rediscover
Dutchess County through a festive Spring Celebration of the Arts.
Let’s have a long moment of fun while we recognize the superb talent of
artists from far and near. Let’s involve our families of Dutchess
County with the thousands of visitors, many of whom will discover
Dutchess County for the first time. I have asked county tourism
and planning officials to work with Dia, the
City of Beacon
and other local organizing groups such as the
Dutchess Chamber of Commerce and Beacon Arts Community Association
(BACA) to support their endeavors to make the celebration as inclusive
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As we envision the impacts of all of these policies,
activities, and events, it is easy to see why more and more, many of
us think of Dutchess County as a Hub of the Hudson River Valley.
Perhaps it is because our IBM Chip Fab is a center of world
attention; maybe it is because our horse breeding industry is written
about in the New York Times as recently as one week ago; or
perhaps it is the international attention the
FDR Library attract – or even the regional attention drawn to
Dutchess Stadium or the way Marist and Vassar are gaining such
heightened reputations. Perhaps it is Vassar Hospital’s status
as a regional medical center. Maybe it is because of Dutchess
County’s growing importance in
the arts: the Dia Art opening;
Kaatsbaan’s presence; Tallix world renowned sculptures; Minetta Brook
sculpture program with international appeal; Bard Performing Arts Center,
perhaps one of the best college facilities of its kind in the world; or
consider the talent that visits us regularly at the Bardavon and the Civic
Center. Yes, we in Dutchess are successfully branding our community
to be the Hub of the Hudson River Valley.
Maybe we also think of ourselves as a hub when we
consider the activity around the Beacon and Poughkeepsie train
stations. My office and our Department of Planning has been
working with Metro-North and have begun a planning design process to
build a new station and parking structure in Beacon. The new
station will serve as a vibrant, exciting visitor center, a
Gateway Welcome Center, and will provide new opportunities for
people to access our waterfront. We are continuing to position
the Poughkeepsie Train Station to solidify its role as a regional
hub. The intermodal improvements we began in 1995 are
completed, but greater possibilities for the station and location are
still in front of us. Therefore, last year I asked the
Commissioner of Planning and Development and
the Director of Tourism to head a
County Executive ad hoc committee consisting of varied, but related
interests, to investigate ways to improve the interior of Poughkeepsie
Train Station. My vision is to create an inspiring first impression
for new visitors, as well as a lasting impression to remind local residents
all this community has to offer. It can literally provide the
pictures to tell the story of a community full of diversity – diversity in
its people, its places, its history, its culture, and its recreational and
educational opportunities! The committee has submitted for my review
a number of intriguing possibilities to enhance the Train Station’s role as
a welcome mat, or another Gateway Welcome Center for Dutchess
County. I am asking them to pursue some of their ideas, working
together in cooperation with Metro-North in 2003.
Maybe we think of ourselves as a hub
when we consider the various activities around our Hudson River
waterfronts. For the past several years, the
Hudson River Rowing Association has enabled students from Poughkeepsie,
Arlington, Hyde Park, Spackenkill and Our Lady of Lourdes High Schools to
participate in rowing competitions. Rowing helps tie us to the Hudson
River, reminding us of our historic dependency on the Hudson and
perpetuating the river’s role as a principal focus in our daily lives.
As a parent of children formerly involved in rowing, I join with those
rowing families who understand the discipline needed to make 5:00 a.m.
practices and who want the sport to grow and flourish. I can attest
to the inspiration of this program.
Having worked over the past 2 years with the Rowing
Association under the leadership of Andy Mauer and Judy Clark and
having worked with our schools, involved parents and
Colleges, I am announcing today the County’s commitment to, and
participation in an ambitious goal to build a Community Boathouse
Rowing Center on riverfront lands made available by Vassar
College just south of and adjacent to the Marist campus.
Several potential funding sources have already been identified to
support this endeavor and architectural plans are already being
endeavor and architectural plans are already being developed.
This project will further help brand Dutchess as a
hub of the Hudson River Valley and create yet another exciting “hub”
destination within our borders.
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Towns also want their hubs. We
have worked with LaGrange to envision one of the most exciting planned
community development projects in recent history. If successful, the
county staff I have assigned to assist our local
will help convert the Freedom Plains hamlet into an attractive, mixed-use
area with traditional shopping streets and residential neighborhoods
similar to our historic villages and larger hamlets.
officials have also worked with us to envision a renewed hamlet in Hopewell
Junction, which again would exhibit the best of urban village design.
Union Vale have also expressed interest in creating town centers and I
look forward to offering county assistance to them in that collaboration.
Housing prices have continued to climb,
with the median selling price growing 20 percent in 2002, alone. We
discussed the housing need in 2002…. I must mention it again. The
history of Dutchess County has been one of caring for its citizens, not
just some of them…. but all of them. Companies cannot pay everyone
the salary needed to afford expensive homes. How do we become more
inclusive to recapture our traditional spirit of acceptance? What can
a community do to provide housing that its local working family can afford?
The answer has to be addressed, in part, through the creative application
of new zoning provisions and forward thinking land use policies.
Pawling and East Fishkill have already begun to address the problem in
their codes. Today I again challenge other communities to join them.
Moderately priced housing should not be viewed as a problem for the cities
to answer; rather we should consider it an opportunity for all of
us. We work to achieve balances in life, whether checkbook or work
Balance in housing is every bit as necessary, and a balanced economy is
central to our economic security for local businesses to prosper and
families to be secure.
I feel so committed to the need to
expand our housing opportunities that I will accept any invitation by local
governments to discuss the issue with them. Resolution is possible, I
am sure, in a way that protects our local identity and rural quality of
life. I will ask my Commissioner of Planning and his
Housing Coordinator along with our EDC to join me in such discussions.
I am confident our County Planning Department can work with local
communities to explore acceptable opportunities for consideration by town
leaders. Let’s not talk endlessly about this challenge; let’s do
something more about it – NOW!
But I must add that where we can do something about housing, we are
and will continue to do so. Revitalizing our two city cores with
“home improvements” to the Main Streets of
Poughkeepsie while at the same time helping to create the
full range of housing units our community needs, are examples of
things we can control through cooperation and collaboration with our
cities. As I discussed last year, the empty Hudson River
Psychiatric Center can be turned into a huge community asset. We
have moved closer to that goal with HRPC currently under contract to
purchase by a private developer. The new owners will begin
developing their interest in using the building inventory, in part,
for conversion into new housing units.
There are real examples of how these
effective policies are bearing fruit. County community development
assistance we have directed to Beacon has migrated from east Main Street to
west Main Street. The façade restoration program is being used
And last year in my State of the County
address, I offered a half million dollars to assist Poughkeepsie in its
Main Street revitalization, specifically to create critically needed
housing units. Subsequently, I increased that amount to $755,000,
whereby the County will assist in financing 86 new housing units on Main
Street and another unit on Mill Street. Perhaps more importantly, I
introduced the Pennrose/Duvernay and Brooks team to the city,
resulting in an agreement to construct rental units in three, attractive
4-story buildings and some retail space on the 400 Block of Main Street in
Poughkeepsie. The city is now moving forward in the approval process
to begin these projects.
Another example of where and how we can
do something about our housing needs is the coordinated use of the
Community Development Block Grant funding between and among local
communities and the county to achieve new housing opportunities for
seniors. Last year I discussed the county cooperating with the
Town and Village of
Red Hook to convert
the former PERX brownfield site, now county owned through tax
foreclosure, into 100 units of senior citizen housing. Work
progressed in 2002 with phase one of the county cleanup occurring on the
site with the Town and Village of Red Hook dedicating county community
development funds to be used in the cleanup effort. Once the cleanup
has been completed, I will be submitting a proposal to the Legislature to
transfer title to the property for the purposes of critically needed senior
housing. This availability will of course create a positive “housing”
domino, freeing up single-family homes the seniors currently own to then
become entry housing for young families.
This project alone encompasses many of
the priorities I have set in recent years and is testament to how working
together we can and we do find solutions to strengthen our economic
security in the future.
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None of our activity to advance our
quality of life in Dutchess County is by accident. We have
consciously and deliberately developed and acted upon policies over recent
years to make Dutchess County a better place to live. The support of
our citizens and our local officials in this quest has been critical.
Let’s picture it again. A more connected county with a system of
open space, trails, and recreational areas near by where we all live.
More thriving cities, welcoming points in a county which is increasingly
alluring due to its focus on the arts, open space, recreation and
historical character. Development supported by utilities so it is
organized and relatively contained, not sprawled thoughtlessly across our
countryside. County government programs and services that are
becoming more cohesive and accessible to all our residents.
Dutchess County’s future - the
future I am confident in and excited about - all depends on a secure
economy, a balanced tax base, a stable population, and a safe, secure
community. The progress we have made in these areas is remarkable,
yet we can never take that progress for granted. I have attempted in
this 2003 address to convey “how” I believe we will not let that happen,
how we will together keep this community one step in front of others as we
position and re-position ourselves to deal with securing our future.
As a community we deserve to take that
long pause of fun in the spring and celebrate the progress we have made –
celebrate with joy and with confidence that we have in place the
infrastructure to create the new and creative strategies reflecting the
nature of the challenges before us today and in the future.
May God Bless Dutchess County.
William R. Steinhaus
February 5, 2003
Dutchess County Executive
2003 State of the County Address (Printer-friendly version .pdf
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