Senator Briefs Reps, Q&A Follows
By JIM KEVLIN • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
COOPERSTOWN – The state Legislature’s ambitions are going to be paid for at the local level.
That could be the lesson members of the Otsego County Board of Representatives took way from the Q&A this morning when state Sen. Jim Seward, R-Milford, reported as follows at the board’s monthly meeting:
• The state Legislature has reduced AIM funding (Aid & Incentives to Municipalities) to the state’s 1,326 towns and villages by $59 million. Every municipality in Otsego County, except the villages of Laurens and Otego, will feel the cut. For Otsego County, that will take the form of a $331,320 withholding of sales tax revenues by the state Comptroller’s Office.
• Changes in voting – early voting up to 10 days before elections, and electronic poll books, among other measures – are being supported with a $25 million state allocation to counties. The whole program, however, will cost $175 million. “There’s quite a gap there,” Seward said.
• CHIPS money to local highway departments (Consolidated Highway Improvement Program funds) for road maintenance was almost cut by $69 million, only being restored at the last minute as legislators were “on the way out the door.”
In the Q&A that followed, county Rep. Michelle Farwell, D-Butternuts, asked about broadband, and the senator reported he’ll have a better idea how things stand after a Senate and Assembly hearing Sept. 17, when Internet service to rural areas will be discussed.
“We need to re-up programs that help providers in more rural areas,” he said. “As a matter of just normal business, they (broadband providers) just aren’t going to go there.”
County Rep. Andrew Marietta, D-Cooperstown/Town of Otsego, who is the board’s representative to Otsego Now, asked what the senator sees happening on the energy front in Albany.
Seward spoke about Con Edison, despite demand but low supply, declining to accept any more natural gas customers in Westchester County, and the single-minded focus on renewables in the Cuomo Administration.
With Fox Hospital and Oneonta’s colleges being forced to burn “dirty foreign oil” during cold snaps, he said, natural gas has to be part of any short-term energy mix. He also pointed out that FERC, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, is taking back control over construction of pipelines like the Constitution, which was blocked by the state DEC several years ago.
County Board chairman David Bliss, R-Cooperstown/Town of Middlefield, thanked the senator for briefing the county reps, and invited Seward to consider doing so at regular intervals in the future.