Monday, August 27, 2018

Tips for Schuyler and Seneca County residents impacted by flood damage to avoid scams when hiring contractors

In response to last week’s flooding in Schuyler and Seneca Counties, which left many property owners with extensive damage, New York State officials have released a list of tips for consumers to avoid being scammed, when hiring a contractor:
          Be specific about what work you want done.
          Educate yourself about the required permits – don't rely solely on the contractor.
          Shop around.
          Get references and check them.
          Get proof of insurance from the contractor.
          Check licenses (if required).
          Never pay the full price upfront.
          Always put work to be done in writing, including all add-ons.
          Know where your payments are going.
          Never do business with a contractor who is unwilling to abide by any of the conditions above.

New York State law requires every home improvement contractor, before beginning work to provide the consumer with a written contract to be signed by both parties that sets out certain specific information and disclosures, including:
          Proposed start and completion dates;
          Particular description of the work to be done;
          Materials to be provided; and
          Notice that the consumer has an unconditional three-day right to cancel the contract without penalty.

In addition, the law requires that any advance deposits taken by the contractor must be placed into an account at a banking institution separate from the contractor’s other funds. The contractor must notify the consumer of the banking institution at which the deposit is kept.
If you feel you have been victimized, please feel free to contact the New York State Attorney General's Office at 1-800-771-7755 or local law enforcement agencies in your area.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Schuyler and Yates Counties to Share Public Health Director, Expand Shared Services

In a move towards continued cost savings and increased efficiency, Schuyler and Yates counties have adopted resolutions authorizing the sharing of a Public Health Director between the two counties.

At their respective meetings on Monday, August 13, county legislators voted to authorize an Intermunicipal Agreement (IMA) permitting the consolidation of this position within the two counties.

The aim of the project is to work collaboratively while maintaining two distinctive health departments with shared leadership and integrated service delivery. Both departments will be governed by their respective legislatures and/or boards of health.

Yates Chairman Doug Paddock commented “As we continue to seek efficiencies for our residents and taxpayers, this most recent move exemplifies the commitment of both counties towards improving service delivery while lowering costs.”

Schuyler Chairman Dennis Fagan added, “While we continue to struggle with unfunded mandates and their associated escalating costs, it is great to be able to partner with our neighbors to the north, to achieve real savings for our residents.” 

Both Chairs expressed their appreciation to County Attorneys Steven Getman (Schuyler) and Scott Falvey (Yates) for their efforts in crafting an IMA that both Legislatures agreed upon.

The agreement, which now goes to the NYS Department of Health for approval, is in response to the announced retirement of Schuyler Public Health Director Marcia Kasprzyk, and the desire to further collaboration between each county. 

According to Schuyler County Administrator Tim O’Hearn while the combined savings approach $100,000 annually, the move will actually provide increased levels of service as each county shares departmental resources. 

By combining some resources, functions, and staff in their health departments, the two counties provide services that enhance their role as public health facilitators and educators in their respective communities, including:
  • ·        Public health education
  • ·        Emergency preparedness
  • ·        Childhood Early Intervention Programs
  • ·        Residential sanitary inspections
  • ·        Flu clinics
  • ·        Rabies clinics

O’Hearn stated “I commend both Marcia and Deb for their initiative in bringing this recommendation to their respective Legislatures. It is not often in government that such a collaborative and non-parochial approach to administration is achieved and this is a testament to their professionalism and dedication to public health!”

This is the latest shared service initiative between Yates and Schuyler, who currently share a Director of Weights and Measures and Code Enforcement responsibilities.

Both Counties have long recognized that inter-municipal cooperation can help local governments increase effectiveness and efficiency in the delivery of services and is encouraged by the New York State legislature via broad statutory authority.  Here, the counties are taking advantage of legislation passed in 2011 that allows up to three county public health offices in counties with a combined population of less than 150,000 to share staff and services under the management of one public health director.

A County Health Department's mission is to protect and promote the health of its residents through prevention, science and the assurance of quality health care delivery.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Ovid Town Board passes resolution supporting Seneca County development of a nine-element watershed plan for Seneca And Cayuga Lakes

The Town Board of the Town of Ovid passed a resolution on Wednesday (August 8) calling on Seneca County government to develop a Nine-Element Plan to pinpoint sources of pollution and steps to preserve the water quality of Seneca and Cayuga lakes.

The resolution, authored by Town Attorney Steven Getman, calls on Seneca County Government to work with representatives of the Seneca Lake Pure Waters Association, the Finger Lakes Institute, the Cayuga Lake Association, the Cayuga Watershed Improvement Cooperative and other stakeholders in preparing an application for funding a Nine-Element Plan, and ultimately in preparing and implementing the plan.

“Consistent countywide efforts to protect the watersheds of the lakes are preferable to town-by-town measures which may be inconsistent and ineffective due to the geography of the county and the watersheds,” Getman explained.

“Experience over the past decade has shown that effective watershed management includes active participation from stakeholders, analysis and quantification of the specific causes and sources of water quality problems, identification of measurable water quality goals, and implementation of specific actions needed to solve those problems.”

The resolution passed unanimously among the board members present. Voting for the measure were Supervisor Walt Prouty and board members Eric Holmberg and Joe Borst. Board members Mark Beardsley and Carrie Wheeler-Carmenatty were absent.

Following the vote, the board asked Town Clerk Michele Vangalio to forward a copy to the Seneca County Board of Supervisors.

A Nine-Element Watershed Management Plan is a clean water plan that details a community’s water quality concerns and a strategy to address these concerns. The plans are developed by people who live and work within the watershed with support from local and state agencies. The elements are intended to ensure that the contributing causes and sources of nonpoint source pollution are identified, that key stakeholders are involved in the planning process, and that restoration and protection strategies are identified that will address the water quality concerns.

The plans are consistent with the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Environmental Conservation framework for developing watershed plans, and funding is available from the Department of State for 75% of the plan’s cost.

The Seneca County Board of Supervisors previously considered a motion considering a nine-element plan for Seneca and Keuka Lakes. The Ovid resolution asks that Cayuga be included in any such efforts as well.

In July, reports surfaced that Cayuga Lake is being monitored for Harmful Algal Blooms (HAB's), a visually identifiable bacterium which is blue or green in color and slightly resembles wet paint. People are advised to steer clear of the toxic bacteria, which is especially harmful to elderly people, those with weaker immune systems, dogs, and other pets.

The Town of Ovid, located in the geographic center of Seneca County, is bordered on the west by Seneca Lake and on the east side by Cayuga Lake.


Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Schuyler County may join lawsuit against Federal Government

The U.S. Department of Interior may have underpaid Schuyler County for payments in lieu of property taxes on federal lands within the county.

In response, the County Legislature’s Legislative Resolution Review Committee moved Wednesday (August 8) to authorize Schuyler County Attorney Steven Getman to file papers joining a federal class action lawsuit initiated by Kane County, Utah.

According to Getman, the United States Court of Claims has held that underpayments on federal Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) programs in Kane County and other local governments may have occurred during 2015 to 2017. The PILT Act is intended to compensate local governments for tax revenues lost from federal lands in their jurisdictions, and the costs of providing services to those lands, Getman said.

That could include the part of the Finger Lakes National Forest in the Town of Hector, Getman said.

“If court determines the county was underpaid under PILT agreements for lands in the National Forest, the county can recover additional money” Getman said. “There is no cost to participate in the lawsuit and no disadvantage to the county to do so.”

According to County Administrator Tim O’Hearn, “any money collected would go to the county as direct revenue to offset the cost of services to the forest and lost tax revenue, in order to reduce the local tax burden.”

“Given the fiscal stresses placed on local governments by state and federal mandates, county officials have a duty to make sure that any funds due Schuyler County taxpayers come back to Schuyler County to pay for necessary services,” Getman noted.

County Treasurer Harriett Vickio has reported that the County received payments for the affected years as follows: 2015, $16,526.00; 2016, $17,244.00; 2017, $17,091.00.

Any additional amounts for those years obtained from the lawsuit would be calculated by the court, Getman said.

The measure now goes to the full legislature for a final vote August 13 at 6:30 pm.

Monday, August 6, 2018

New York Commission on Parental Legal Representation to Hold Public Hearings

The Commission on Parental Legal Representation was created earlier this year "to examine the current state of mandated Family Court representation and determine how best to ensure the future delivery of quality, cost-effective parental representation.”

The Commission will be holding public hearings this fall “to gather information on existing services and suggestions for reform needed to ensure quality representation for persons eligible for assigned counsel in family law matters." It is seeking testimony related to the following topics:

• Funding and Caseloads;
• Timely Access to Counsel;
• Structural Issues;
• Model and Scope of Representation;
• Financial Eligibility Criteria and Procedures;
• Statewide Oversight Role; and
• Global Issues.
The deadline for submission of written testimony and requests to testify at the Commission hearings is Thursday, August 16, 2018.
The hearing dates, times and locations are:

• September 13, 2018, 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m., 50 East Avenue, Suite 200, Rochester;
• September 27, 2018, 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., 27 Madison Avenue, New York City;
• October 10, 2018, 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Justice Bldg., State St., Room 511, Albany;
• October 23, 2018, 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., 100 Supreme Court Drive, Mineola.
For more on the hearings, including how to submit written testimony and requests to testify, click here.