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The County Beat: Takeaways From the July 7th Legislative Meetings

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Reporting by Amie Acton, Pictured is the current full Allegany County Board of Legislators

7.7.21 Committees: Public Works, Public Safety, Personnel, Human Services

It was a day of long agendas for committees in Belmont with only members of the Personnel committee enjoying a short meeting. Issues discussed in committee ranged from grant monies to contracts to filling open positions within county departments. Highlights from each include:

Public Works

  • Requests to fill 2 positions within the Solid Waste Dept were approved
  • Acceptance of Federal and State monies by the Highway Department for bridge projects in Wellsville and Alfred
  • Next electronics recycling event will be July 31st from 9:30-12:30 at the Belmont Transfer Station, County Road 48. Full list of accepted items available here: https://www.dec.ny.gov/chemical/66872.html

Public Safety

  • The Public Defender’s office, as reported by Assistant Public Defender JR Santana Carter, is experiencing a large post-COVID backlog, much related to new laws requiring prosecutors share discovery items with the defense. PD office requested the creation of a new paralegal position, salary to be funded by the state. Legislators Barnes (4) and Healy (2) expressed concerns over how much and for how long the state would pay for this position, while Legislators Hopkins (1) and Dibble (3) asked for additional specifics on the proposed position. Both Santana Carter and County Treasurer Terri Ross said that because these new laws were the result of a lawsuit the funding for this position differs from regular state aid. While long term funding is not a certainty, Santana Carter feels that funding is unlikely to be pulled due to the legal complications that would result in regards to said lawsuit. The committee voted unanimously to approve the request.
  • Emergency Management and Fire office working to recruit and train two more fire investigators which will return their numbers to pre-COVID levels, brief report on power outage at Cuba Memorial Hospital whose handling of the emergency was praised by Director Jeff Luckey.
  • District Attorney’s office reported violations were down, despite officer’s issuance of traffic tickets
  • STOP DWI has gone to seven schools in the county to do bike safety presentations with 143 kids attending
  • Probation office had low numbers, whether historic or simply COVID related Director Robert Starks was unsure. Starks’s request to fill a probation supervisor position was unanimously approved.
  • Weights and Measures, although director Gilbert Green wasn’t able to attend, reported checks on vehicle and non-vehicle scales, gas stations, and airport fuel pumps in the county, most in Wellsville
  • The Sheriff’s Office reported an update on a non-functioning pod in the county jail that had lost power, possibly due to a leak in the roof. Sheriff Ricky Whitney reported that power had been restored while legislator Graves (4) expressed concerns about other pods within the facility. The office requested approval for hiring two part time cooks and four part time emergency services dispatchers, all previously existing positions. Whitney requested and was granted permission to accept a state grant of approximately $135,000 to be used for updates to the equipment for the 911 center

Personnel

  • Request to hire two part time laborers for Office of the Aging, both new positions, was approved
  • A large wasp caused a flutter of movement amongst meeting attendees until it met its demise at the hands of Legislator Graves (4). A good chuckle was had by all as the meeting adjourned

Human Services

  • Director of Public Health Tyler Shaw reported an increase in cases of lead levels in children, from 18 cases in May 2020 to 45 in May 2021.
    • County still offering vaccines, upcoming walk-in clinic will be held at the Allegany County Fair in Angelica the week of the 19th. Patients will receive the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Shaw reported that the county offers the three major vaccines and his continued concern at Allegany County’s low vaccination rate. Fanton (3) asked if people who had developed natural antibodies to the virus were being tracked and whether or not they should be encouraged to get a vaccine. Shaw responded there was no such effort. Hopkins (1) brought up the point that acquired immunity wasn’t as long lasting as the vaccine, which Shaw said studies so far confirm.
    • Director Shaw requested to fill a public health technician position that had been vacated due to promotion, the committee unanimously approved. Legislators voted to accept money from two grants, $1.4 million for school re-opening and $327,000 for further COVID-related expenses
  • Office of the Aging received $756 donation from Allegany County Student Government fundraiser, will be used for travel expenses incurred for home meal delivery. Director Anita Mattison highlighted the online book club her department had started during the pandemic that has seen remarkable success. Legislators voted to accept federal money for Office of the Aging through the American Rescue Plan and the Consolidated Appropriations Act to cover COVID-related expenses with required 10% county match. Office of the Aging implementing new software to better optimize driving routes for their meal delivery program. Will help with more effective time management and lower mileage reimbursements for volunteers.
  • Social Services Commissioner Edna Keyes reported their Job Track program was able to move forward. She requested filling typist and caseworker positions, the latter due to retirement. The contract with Dr. Craig Zuckerman of Rehabilitation Today Services was increased from four hours per week to seven hours per week. Decker (2) inquired as to the reason for the increase, Keyes stated the need had grown and Dr. Zuckerman was able to provide the extra time needed.  Legislators approved contracts for the Summer Youth Program and for lab services with Olean General Hospital as well as accepted grant funds for adult protective services costs related to COVID.
  • Just before the committee adjourned, Stockin (1) spoke to “express my appreciation to the chair for the expert handling of this extensive agenda”. The dry humor in his tone inspired a chuckle throughout the committee before they officially adjourned.
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