There's no question New York State faces unprecedented budgetary challenges, so it's understandable that policy makers would be searching far and wide for potential revenue generators. However recent developments should cause all state residents to ask, "at what cost"? For Sullivan County, that cost is too high.
State Senator John Bonacic and Town of Thompson Supervisor Tony Cellini deserve credit for standing on the side of fiscal prudence. They recognize that pumping $6 million into infrastructure upgrades associated with renovating the Concord Hotel at this time is a waste of taxpayer dollars. They recognize what's widely acknowledged; the Concord project is on life-support, and that's being generous, considering it's been a year since any pulse has been detectable there.
The Governor's decision to release this money is beyond difficult to understand because Sullivan County is in the midst of its own unprecedented fiscal crisis: a new jail estimated at $80 million, $36 million for landfill monitoring and maintenance over the next 30 years, and, by my math, an estimated $42 million in landfill debt service through 2022 - all this in addition to whatever reductions will be mandated from Albany.
We could have used that money to address these real issues facing our communities. But the Governor decided to fund a project that arguably may never see the light of day. Taken by itself it's indicative of the same run-away spending he has cited as the cornerstone for New York's economic woes, and exemplifies the dysfunction and double-speak that so many have sadly come to expect from Albany.
But you can't take this by itself, because it's not alone.
Governor Paterson is also pushing, hard, for natural gas extraction from Sullivan County and surrounding areas proximate to the New York City watershed. This, in spite of serious concerns expressed by agency professionals and the public that the risks have yet to be adequately addressed. The party line has been drilling is safe and will be tightly regulated. But regardless of where you stand on this issue, the Governor's 34% proposed reduction in Department of Environmental Conservation's funding contained in his submitted budget is cause for more than just concern.
We do not yet know how much of this proposed reduction will make its way into DEC's Division of Minerals Resources, the division responsible for ensuring compliance with State regulations. We do not yet know how many gas wells will ultimately get drilled in the Marcellus Shale formation. What we do know is that while the folks at Minerals may be fine folks, they are still just folks, not endowed with superhuman attributes. Our State's 14,000 active wells and 2,500 active mines already place responsibilities for over 1,000 mineral sites per Division inspector. With deep budget cuts likely and a significant increase in responsibilities, you don't need to be a genius to understand how that math will go.
Governor Paterson has decided not to run for office in November. I am asking that he take into consideration, in a credible way, the needs of area residents who don't have the luxury of running anywhere. Sullivan County residents will be living here long after he leaves office.