County okays campus concept

HUDSON–The Columbia County Board of Supervisors officially adopted a Countywide Shared Services Plan that calls for moving county and Hudson city offices to a consolidated campus.

At the board’s monthly meeting Wednesday, September 13 supervisors also agreed to retain a law firm to “investigate and if appropriate commence” a lawsuit against to-be-determined companies responsible for the over-use of addictive prescription opiates.

The Countywide Shared Services plan required by the state calls for considering the purchase of the John L. Edwards Primary School from the Hudson City School District. The district hopes to close the school in June 2018, and the county may buy it for use as a combined Columbia County-Hudson City government campus. The campus would house the offices currently at four separate Hudson locations: three county buildings in the City of Hudson and Hudson City Hall.

The plan envisions selling the vacated properties to new owners.

The Shared Services Plan also requests the state to allow municipalities with fewer than 50 employees to participate in stop-loss insurance plans. This would allow them to replace “their more expensive premium based health insurance plans” with the county’s insurance plan.

And the plan calls for the county, all its towns, all its villages and the City of Hudson to share computer management systems, office supplies, real property data verification and training.

Input into Columbia County’s plan came from all the town supervisors, Hudson Public Works Superintendent Rob Perry, and the mayors of the three villages. The panel held hearings on the plan August 16 and voted to finalize it last week ahead of the regular meeting of the Board of Supervisors. The full Board then approved it, but not unanimously.

Supervisor Jeffrey Nayer (I–Copake) voted No. “We’ve already been sharing services,” he said, offering the example of highway work. “We’re already working hard to save the taxpayers’ money. Unfortunately, we have rising costs we can’t control, like insurance.”

Mr. Nayer said that “every town in the county made cuts” but were not being acknowledged for their efforts, a situation he blamed on the governor, adding, “it’s like Cuomo saying, ‘Gimme more.’”

In the matter of the lawsuit contemplated by the county, the action would target “manufacturers of prescription opiates and other individuals associated with these manufacturers” seeking to find them responsible “for damages arising out of aggressive marketing and distribution of opiates,” according to County documents. For this, the Board resolved to retain firm of Simmons Hanly Conroy (SHC), a national law firm that has been in opioid litigation for over a decade, with clients in several states.

One of the firm’s lawyers, Sarah Burns, talked to the county Health and Human Services Committee June 20. As of then, about 10 other counties in New York had already initiated suits against opiate sources. The firm will determine which companies to target and what costs the county has incurred from the “over-prescription of opioids”.

The county would still have to authorize the firm to sue and the county would pay SHC only if the county obtains an “acceptable” amount of money.

Also at the meeting:

• The board committed up to $5 million for capital construction at Columbia Greene Community College (CGCC), (see separate story in this issue)

• Supervisors voted to authorize $2.7 million in bonds for bridge improvements ($1.8 million), road improvements ($500,000), and solid waste heavy equipment ($350,000)

• The submission of additional materials to the State Comptroller’s Office was approved as part of the application for permission to build a wastewater pipeline and pumping stations along Route 66 from the Simons Commerce Park to the Town of Greenport Sewage Treatment Plant

• The board renewed the county’s lease for a mental health clinic satellite in the Valatie Medical Arts building for five years at $3,000/month. The county has operated the clinic since October 2012 and judges it “financially solvent and clinically effective”

• Supervisor William Hughes Jr. (D-Hudson, 4th Ward), the minority leader of the board, criticized President Trump’s decision to cancel the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, calling it “disturbing.” Since coming to the U.S. as children, the program’s beneficiaries “have become part of our nation. They join the military,” attend schools and work here. “For all practical purposes they’re American. I call on Congress to do something to keep them in America and on the path to citizenship,” he said

• 4H Club representatives, leader Linda Tripp and youth members Noah Kilmer and Hunter Gardner, stood on the stage with Supervisor John Reilly (R-Gallatin) as Chairman Murell proclaimed October 1-7, 2017 National 4H Week in Columbia County. “We need kids who don’t live on farms to be interested in farms,” Ms. Tripp said, observing that almost none of the children who participated in 4H’s Dairy Exhibit at the County Fair actually live on farms. Mr. Reilly called farms important for the county’s economic development. “They’re the future of our county agri-tourism,” he said, adding, “We need workers to come to the county and stay in the county.”

The next meeting of the full Columbia County Board of Supervisors is Wednesday, October 11 at 7:30 p.m. at 401 State Street.

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