It may be a month late — warp speed by government standards — but it appears the ducks are lined up to put the new Family Courthouse at the Business Resource Center in the Town of Ulster. The state Office of Court Administration, citing overcrowding and safety and privacy issues, has been pushing the county for years to find a new location for the current leased courthouse at 16 Lucas Ave. in Kingston.
Last winter, legislature Chairman Ken Ronk appointed a study committee with orders to produce recommendations by the May meeting. It will report in June, he says.
This could be one of those zero-sum operations government likes to tout but seldom achieves. “We can renovate the BRC to the state’s satisfaction for less money than we’re paying in rent under a triple-net lease at Lucas Avenue,” Ronk said. Eschewing specifics, he did say, “We’ve paid for that buildings several times over.”
The county owns the BRC, site of the Ulster County Community College adjunct facility that moved to the former Sophie Finn school in Kingston last September.
The glitch, as previously reported, is that state law that requires county facilities to be located in the county seat. (That’s why they built the new jail on a postage-stamp plot at the edge of town.) A referendum is required to site a county facility anywhere else. If the BRC court move is approved by the legislature in June, a concurrent resolution establishing a referendum in November will also be on the ballot.
Ronk said consideration was given to lawyers who wanted a court facility located in Uptown Kingston. But not much. “Walking to the courthouse is a convenience for Uptown lawyers, but how much is that worth to taxpayers?” Ronk asked. Ronk said the BRC was about a mile and a quarter from the present courthouse — a hop and a skip for any fit lawyer.
Ronk, who had hoped for legislative approval this month, expects the whole process to take about 18 months.
Snails would be envious
Red-faced Kingston Housing Authority officials had no (plausible) answers on a state comptroller’s report that found it took almost nine years for the agency to award a $300,000 contract on routine upgrades of its buildings.
Agency attorney Andy Zweben blamed the state’s “cumbersome” contract review procedures. As a matter of procedure, the comptroller files advance reports with the municipalities it audits well before issuing public statements. Not so, in this case, said Zweben. Zweben, city corporation counsel for four years under former mayor Shayne Gallo, may have been speaking tongue-in-cheek in published reports. Nine years? Cumbersome? Mercy.
Good thing the venerable (1948) KHA wasn’t in charge of the $7.6 million (and counting) Washington Avenue sinkhole project, now five years under repair. Reportedly, it will open “soon” for traffic, possibly after pigs fly over City Hall.
Long-suffering residents and motorists can’t blame former mayor Jim Sottile. The sinkhole opened up eight months before his term ended. And they can’t credit the present mayor, Steve Noble, for finishing the job. The onus falls to Gallo, who had four full years to deal with the problem. But then Gallo paid a price, didn’t he?
This just in: There is no truth to the rumor that Kingston’s annual Memorial Day parade will detour off Broadway to march, to Washington Avenue and pause for “Taps” over the sinkhole.
Get the lead out
In a paradox worth pondering, does anybody find it curious that a county administration whose repeatedly stated goal has been to create “the healthiest county in the state” has had lead-contaminated water in about half its buildings, including its headquarters in the county office building? Just wondering.
Of course, one answer could have been: Who knew? Flint, Mich. knew in April of 2014, yet water testing of Ulster County buildings, according to officials, didn’t commence until a year later. The Kingston school system knew. It’s been testing water and actively remediating problems for at least a decade now. Kingston city officials found no such issues in their buildings.
Those of a political inclination might surmise that County Executive Mike Hein, who announced the lead findings with the usual fanfare, needed to create a crisis he could control, and use as a heat shield against other crises, like the sales tax deal and the railroad.
I for one do not subscribe to those theories. Hein has beaten the railroad to extinction, and he certainly had more than enough votes to pass his sales tax pact in the legislature. The lead crisis is fixed easily enough with bottled water, already in place in most county buildings, or with in-house plumbing replacement. There are far more serious public health issues the administration needs to immediately address.
Republican county Chairman Roger Rascoe confirms that former county legislator Jack Hayes of Gardiner, an enrolled Conservative, will be nominated to face Democratic Assemblyman Kevin Cahill at the GOP party convention on the 26th.
Ten-termer Cahill took 60 percent of the vote last time against Modena county Legislator Kevin Roberts, but that was before Shelley Silver went to jail. Hayes, a retired state trooper who lost his seat after one term to a resurgent Tracey Bartels in Democratic Gardiner, can be counted on to play the law-and-order card.
Albany scandal could be a wash this fall, what with former Republican leader Dean Skelos also a guest of the federal penal system. For what it’s worth, more Democratic crooks from New York City have been convicted than upstate Republicans.
Meanwhile, Democratic Woodbury Assemblyman Jim Skoufis, after flirting with media for a month, announced it wasn’t his time to run against 13-term Republican state Sen. Bill Larkin. The age gap between Skoufis, at 28 the youngest member of the Assembly, and Larkin, at 88, the oldest member of the state Senate but seemingly ageless, might have set some kind of record. Time, it would appear, is on the side of Skoufis, though running in a presidential year in a county trending Democratic was obviously tempting.
Here and there
Under the heading of Bob, we hardly knew ye, Delaware county hay farmer Bob (“Alfalfa”) Bishop exited the Republican field of congressional candidates last week, throwing his support to former Assembly minority leader John Faso of Kinderhook. No wonder. Faso’s opponent, Andrew Heaney of Millbrook, had (unsuccessfully) challenged Bishop’s nominating petitions. Bishop, in any event, was out of his league in terms of campaign fundraising. Both opponents had collected over $1 million compared to under $30,000 by Bishop. Bye-bye, Bishop.