Supes get tough on butts

HUDSON–The Columbia County Board of Supervisors adopted a policies restricting smoking in county facilities and allowing female county employees to express milk for their babies at their worksite.

The board also passed two other resolutions. One calls for the state, not the county, to pay for public defenders representing indigent defendants, and agreeing to take legal action against the state funds for that purpose are not fairly distributed statewide.

The other demands that the state continue its practice of funding the full salary of the district attorney.

The new Columbia County Tobacco Policy prohibits the “use of tobacco products” in all interior spaces, vehicles, and–except for designated areas–outside spaces owned, operated or leased by the county. The policy specifies each designated smoking area.

The resolution adopting the policy also says that “tobacco users are expected to leave no” cigarette butts, matches or other “trace of tobacco use on county properties” other than in the “tobacco receptacles” that the county provides at each designated smoking area.

The policy applies to visitors and clients as well as county employees. However, “employees who choose to use tobacco products may do so on their regularly scheduled breaks or meal periods…. There are no additional smoking breaks.”

All current and future employees will receive a copy of the policy and department supervisors or managers are responsible for ensuring employees comply.

The policy covers all tobacco products, not only cigarettes, cigars and pipes but also chewing tobacco, snuff, and electronic smoking devices. The policy comes up for review in two years.

In addition resolution says, “Columbia County is committed to providing support to all who want to stop using tobacco.”

Another policy adopted by the Board allows county employees who are mothers of children under three years old to express and store their milk during the work day, in order to bring it home after work for their babies. The mothers can do this during lunch time, regular breaks and, if necessary, additional time arranged with their supervisor. They shall have a private sanitary room (“not a toilet stall or rest room”) to express their milk and may store the milk in a cooler brought from home or an employer-provided refrigerator.

Employees are responsible for talking with their supervisor about their lactation needs, bringing their own breast pump, and keeping the milk-expression room clean.

On a different topic, Kinderhook native Martin Van Buren bought the Lindenwald estate in 1839, while he was president of the United States and lived there after he retired from politics. The current National Historic Site consists of the estate house and its surrounding land, which served Mr. Van Buren as a farm and now has nature trails.

The National Park Service selected five county teen-agers as youth ambassadors, as part of its effort to spark interest in national parks among younger generations. They will spend eight weeks this summer, from July 5 through August 26, working in both the house and the grounds. Their tasks will range from giving house tours to landscaping.

Supervisor William Hughes (D-Hudson, 4th Ward), Friends of Lindenwald President Peter Bujanow, and Park Service official Kayla Altland spoke before turning the stage over to four of the youths: Jasmine Dort, 16; Dan Gelles, who is finishing his senior year at Hudson High School; Maggie Huston, 17, of Chatham; and Kristian Tampasis, 16, who will be a senior at Hudson High School next year. Kristian said he hoped the internship would help him develop social skills. Dan said he hoped to learn something before going to college next year. Maggie said she loved nature trails and historic sites. Kayla said later that the Lindenwald internship would include a fifth County youth, Geetika Verma, 17, of Chatham.

Also at the meeting the board passed two resolutions calling for the state to pay for mandates relating to the offices of the public defender and the district attorney. The first declares “Columbia County will take part in necessary litigation to make” 100% of the defense costs for people who cannot afford a private lawyer “an expense of the State of New York.”

Columbia County Public Defender Robert Linville requested the resolution at the May 19 Public Safety Committee meeting. The resolution states that “both the federal and New York State Constitution” require “the representation of poor criminal defendants,” but “this high expense is born by the County taxpayers.” The exceptions are five counties where the state recently substantially increased funding to public defender budgets.” This is unfair to the remaining counties, including Columbia, according to Mr. Linville and others.

In April, the Board of Supervisors adopted a resolution asking the state to pay for legal defense in all counties; the new resolution turns up the pressure, stating Columbia County’s willingness to join in a suit against the State for this purpose.

According to the other resolution, “well after all counties set their 2016 budgets,” the state made decisions that required increasing the District Attorney’s salary. “For 50 years, the state has funded all salary increases imposed on the counties,” but the state budget enacted on April 1 “did not include the funding for… the increase in DA salaries.”

Columbia County’s resolution “calls on the State… to pay for this increase retroactive to April 1, 2016 and not pass this unfunded mandate on to local taxpayers.” The District Attorneys Association of the State of New York, the resolution notes, has already corresponded with state officials requesting “that the state fund this salary increase.”

The next full County Board meeting will take place Wednesday, July 13, 7:30 pm at 401 State Street in Hudson.

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