HUDSON–Columbia-Greene Community College and Airbnb are at the top of the county’s agenda for 2019, said Matt Murell (R-Stockport), chairman of the Columbia County Board of Supervisors, in a phone conversation January 7.
He also said that right now the attention of county government should focus on 10 matters:
1. Columbia-Greene Community College needs help to overcome a drop in state aid and to continue a capital construction project while the college searches for a new president.
The state aid reductions are forcing the county and students to contribute more. To address this, the college hopes to increase revenue by attracting more students through new programs.
One recently-launched program is carpentry for historic preservation. Mr. Murell said programs like this one would attract more students who “otherwise would not go to college.”
The capital program requires $20 million, of which Columbia County is contributing $5 million, Greene County is contributing $5 million, and the state is contributing $10 million. In addition, the long-time Columbia-Greene Community College President James Campion, is retiring.
Supervisor Maria Lull (R-Chatham) is on the presidential search committee.
2. The county will also look very closely at occupancy fees for Airbnb and similar services that operate online, short-term lodging arrangements. Mr. Murell said he has designated a subcommittee for that issue.
3. Establish Cancer Benefit Insurance for firefighters, which will save money for both fire companies and taxpayers. The Columbia Paper reported December 20 that the Board of Supervisors has agreed to contribute offset the costs of insuring some firefighters at risk of developing certain types of cancers, but loopholes in the coverage remain.
4. The chairman also anticipates the completion of the Galvan Civic Motel, now expected in spring. Once ready, the county Department of Social Services (DSS) is to lodge every homeless family and family-compatible individual there, as long as it has room available. In return, the Galvan Foundation is to spend a portion of its revenues from the county on services for the clients and security.
The motel will supply 25 housing units and include on-site offices for the DSS to help clients find jobs and permanent homes. Mr. Murell said it would be the “first step in solving the county’s homeless issue.”
5. The county will continue work on the Emergency Training Center in Ghent for firefighters and EMS workers. The work is being done with help of million-dollar grant obtained with the help of former state Senator Kathleen Marchione.
6. Mr. Murell said Columbia County will continue working with Greene County on the opioid abuse crisis.
7. The county will also continue developing shared services. As part of this, the county is doing data collection for reassessments, which is cheaper for municipalities than the old practice of hiring a private company to do it.
8. Preparation for the sewer line from the Commerce Park in Ghent to the Greenport treatment plant will continue. “We’ve been getting the go ahead from people” whose property it would cross, he said.
9. He promised the county will maintain and upgrade roads and bridges.
10. And he said the Board of Supervisors would keep the tax rate stable in 2019.