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March 13, 2014

Delaware debates inmate-schooling plan

By Cheryl Petersen Contributing Writer
The Daily Star

---- — The Delaware County Board of Supervisors weighed in on two of the governor’s proposals at its meeting Wednesday in the county office building in Delhi.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s February proposal to provide prison inmates with taxpayer-funded college tuition, estimated at a cost of $5,000 per inmate, brought negative reactions from the supervisors. 

The Delaware County Public Safety Committee sponsored a resolution to oppose Cuomo’s plan to offer prison inmates college educations at taxpayer expense. However, the resolution’s language prompted some concerns.

“I’m not comfortable with the wording of the resolution. It sounds as if we don’t support inmate education. More research needs to be done,” said Sidney Supervisor Eugene Pigford.

Bonnie Hamilton, Director of County Public Health Services, was asked to speak. Hamilton said: “I do believe the language of this resolution could be improved upon, mainly so it doesn’t work against the Drug Task Force. Inmates generally have mental-health issues or addictions, and it’s been proven that incarceration of addicts has not helped them. Education increases the chances of staying out of prison.”

The weighted vote was 1,608 against the county resolution, and 2,619 votes in favor of it.

On another matter, the board unanimously resolved to urge Cuomo to refund the projected New York state tax surpluses to the taxpayers. As it stands, the estimated $2.2 billion surplus may go to municipalities that stay within their the tax cap.

“As budget director, I see this as a threat to the towns and counties,” said Walton Supervisor Bruce Dolph. “A municipality trying to stay under the 2 percent tax cap, so they can receive some of the surplus money, is a huge risk for the schools in case there is an emergency. It also could lead to bankruptcy.”

“The only towns able to stay under the 2 percent tax cap already have funds,” Spaccaforno said. “Cuomo is only giving more money to the rich and creating more division from the poor.”

“The estimated surplus, if we can call it that, should be returned to the people,” said Harpersfield Supervisor Jim Eisel. “The government doesn’t create jobs, the private sector does, and that is where the money should go.”

The board also approved two resolutions written by John Boecke, director of veterans services, supporting Blue Water Acts presented by Rep. Chris Gibson, R-Kinderhook. 

The resolutions are meant to ensure health care to service members who could have come into contact with the air-borne chemical Agent Orange during the Vietnam War.

A grant awarded to Delaware County in the amount of $179,210 was accepted by the board to upgrade the hardware and some software for the 911 system.

Graydon Dutcher of the Delaware County Soil and Water District gave a presentation on successful flood-mitigation projects after Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee.

Dean Frazier, commissioner of watershed affairs, spoke on behalf of the flood-mitigation strategies that also include buy-outs and relocations. “Be assured, any decision to buy out or relocate comes from the community in which it may occur,” said Frazier. “The plans are voluntary.”

However, Middletown Supervisor Marge Miller criticized the New York City Department of Environmental Protection for sometimes being slow to act, noting: “The process would have to work hand-in-hand.”