State of the County Address
Legislature Chairman Barry Leemann
Let me begin by thanking this Legislature for the support you've shown me, and for the confidence you've placed in me. I'm honored to serve as your Chairman. This is a job I do not take lightly. I will do my best for you, and for all the people of the County.
I am enthusiastic and optimistic about the year ahead. 2008 will be a year of opportunity and challenge for Oswego County.
It is a year of opportunity because, after rebuilding this County's financial stability, we now have the ability to move ahead and enhance public services where needed, and make internal operating improvements where necessary, to meet the current and future needs of our citizens.
This is a year of challenge because there are outside factors, some we can influence and some we cannot, which will stretch our local finances and resources. These factors include an uncertain national economy and a proposed State budget that seeks to shift many of the State's costs onto counties.
Like all counties in New York Sate, we will face logistical and economic challenges as we continue to work on complying with the federal Help America Vote Act. On the positive side, our Board of Elections has settled into its new office space on East Seneca Street, where there is plenty of room to store the new voting machines that are required.
We all bring ideas and goals to this Legislature. We each have a vision of what needs to be done. In this environment of opportunities and challenges, our task is to work together to prioritize these goals and develop realistic plans for achieving them. Legislators, administration, department heads and employees all share in this responsibility.
Many of these goals are already underway. Our government is moving forward on several projects that enhance our quality of life and affect Oswego County residents in positive ways. We developed a low-cost prescription drug program that can help all county residents save on their prescription medicines.
2008 will be a big year for public safety. With a grant from former Senator James Wright, we are beginning renovations to the fire school. We expect to have classrooms ready this spring and the fire simulation facilities operational this summer. Government, volunteer, and all interested emergency personnel will be able to train and receive certification at the school. These first responders, brave men and women, deserve safe, first-rate training without having to travel halfway across the state to get it. Our fire services and first responders will finally have a local training facility!
Last year Oswego County E-911 obtained an Internet-based reverse 911 system to alert the public of emergency and non-emergency situations. This communications system allows officials to send a recorded phone message to targeted households.
This year, we begin the long process of replacing our emergency radio communication system. The system we have now is becoming obsolete. There are many areas of the County where coverage is unreliable. This is going to be a multi-year project that will begin this year with careful planning and research. Our goal should be nothing less than a modern system in which coverage is reliable and complete… all year round… and in every single part of the County!
We are looking forward to a very “green” year for Oswego County. We have started several projects that are good for our environment. First, the highway department is using low-sulfur diesel fuel in our trucks and equipment, reducing the unhealthy emissions we exhaust into our atmosphere.
Thanks to a grant from former Senator Wright, Oswego County will open a permanent household hazardous waste facility. The facility will provide a safe and acceptable way for residents to dispose of dangerous household materials that can pollute our environment. Much of this material can by recycled.
Our agenda today contains two environmental improvements. We are looking into a ferrous metal recovery system for the ERF. This will retrieve metal from the incinerator's ash, keeping it from the landfill. The recovered metal will be sold to generate revenue that will help pay for our solid waste system. We are also applying for “carbon credits” which will bring in revenue to pay for the maintenance of the landfill's gas destruction system.
I propose to set up an ad hoc work group this year to research and make recommendations about how County government can become more environmentally responsible in the way it operates. This group will look at buildings' environmental controls and lighting, “green” purchasing, alternative fuels, environmentally friendly vehicles, and other energy and cost saving initiatives.
Renewable energy and less dependence on oil is the key to this nation's prosperity. Oswego County is well-positioned to be a prosperous part of that new future. We are already a leader in renewable energy, and with the addition of Northeast Bio-fuels and the possibility of a fourth nuclear plant, we can only grow stronger. We will be working with the Workforce Development Board to support their efforts to establish career tracks for local people in the energy industry and other fields. By having a local workforce trained to excel in the energy industry and other growing occupations, we will be able to improve our local economy and provide more opportunities for our residents.
The people we represent expect and deserve the best from us. We must find ways to improve local government and develop more economical and efficient methods to provide public services. For this reason, I will direct our administrator to coordinate another local municipal summit, like the one we held four years ago. This will bring the leadership of the county, schools, cities, towns and villages together in one room to discuss and plan shared services, inter-municipal agreements, and solutions to common issues such as GASB-45 and workers compensation costs.
There are many other opportunities and challenges we'll face this year, too many to mention and fully discuss today: issues facing agriculture, tourism, human services, the health industry and many others. They are all important and deserve our full attention and best efforts.
Fellow legislators, we have a lot of work to do. We should do this work guided by honor, morality, dignity and respect for one another. I believe that by working together, listening to each other, respecting our differences, and focusing on the common good, that this Legislature will make 2008 a very successful year!
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