County legislators voted 17-6 on a $12.2 million bond issue to finance a new Family Court facility in the Town of Ulster Tuesday, Jan. 10, but not before raising numerous questions over its cost, implementation and supervision.
Efforts to call a special meeting of the legislature for a more thorough review of the project before voting on a bond issue were turned aside.
“I see no will on the majority for a special meeting,” declared legislature Chairman Ken Ronk in rejecting a request for a formal vote. All six who voted against the bond were members of the Democratic minority: Dave Donaldson, Peter Loughran and Jennifer Schwartz Berky from Kingston, Tracey Bartels from Gardiner and John Parete from Olive and Richard Parete from Stone Ridge. A two-thirds majority — 16 votes from the 23-member legislature — is necessary to approve bond issues.
How the legislature factors into this process was not detailed. “They are bypassing the committee system,” Richard Parete said.
“We have to own this. I feel very uncomfortable,” said Bartels, referring to lack of legislative oversight in the building of the county jail a decade ago. Rich Gerentine of Marlborough, who was chairman when the jail was completed in 2007, questioned what further information the legislature might secure by delaying the courthouse project.
Purchasing Director Marc Rider and Planning Director Dennis Doyle addressed the legislature on plans and details. The move from the current courthouse on Lucas Avenue in Kingston to the former Business Resource Center on Albany Avenue was authorized by the legislature last June and approved overwhelmingly in a referendum in November. The executive department put out requests for proposals (RFPs) for architecture/design and project management shortly thereafter. The legislature was advised of those plans at the end of December.
While several legislators disagreed, Rider and Doyle insisted the legislature had been sufficiently informed during the planning process to make a decision. They advised that the project was on a “very aggressive schedule” aimed at the expiration of the county’s lease on Lucas Avenue in August of next year. Rider said the county expected to advertise for construction bids in late summer.
In other action at its annual organizational meeting, the legislature by unanimous vote re-elected Ronk of Wallkill to another year as chairman. In a separate previous vote, Republicans re-elected Mary Beth Maio of Highland majority leader; Democrats re-elected Hector Rodriguez of New Paltz minority leader.