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County adopts $142M budget, nixes fireworks sales


HUDSON–The Columbia County Board of Supervisors adopted the 2017 County Budget at its December 14, 2016 meeting. The budget calls for spending $142.4 million, of which $41.8 million (29.3%) is expected from the tax levy. The 2017 tax will rise by $302,000 over the current year.

Before the meeting, the board held a public hearing on the proposed budget and seats for the audience were full.

When time came to vote on the budget, all supervisors present except one voted for it. Raymond Staats (D-Clermont) said he disagreed with the tax levy increase “when we’re putting millions of dollars in the bank.”

Also at the December 14 meeting, the board defeated a proposal for a public hearing on whether to legalize the sale of certain types of fireworks in Columbia County between during two periods of the year: from June 1 through July 5 and from December 26 through January 2.

Firemen in the audience referred to letters submitted earlier indicating their opposition. The Columbia County Fire Chiefs’ Association, in a February 18 letter to the county Fire Advisory Board, stated its opposition is “based on documented statistics of injury and property loss. We feel a responsibility to protect the people of Columbia County.” And the Columbia County Volunteer Firefighters Association stated on February 8, “We, as your first responders, are deeply concerned” that authorizing fireworks sales “will place the lives of first responders and Columbia County residents at risk. Sadly, many of the fire and emergencies our first responders encounter each year are preventable tragedies caused by…fireworks, including sparkler devices….”

Supervisor Mike Benvenuto (R-Ghent) said he had driven by circus tents that were selling fireworks in other counties “and I was not impressed.”

On the other hand, Mr. Staats called what he called the “delay” in legalizing fireworks sales “ridiculous,” adding, “People will buy sparklers and bring them home and use them.”

Supervisor John Reilly (R-Gallatin) asked, “Would you prefer your kids went to other counties and used fireworks without your supervision, rather than buy them and use them at home under your supervision?”

Five Supervisors voted for the fireworks public hearing: Joel Craig (R-Germantown), Rev. Ed Cross (D-Hudson, 2nd Ward), Mr. Reilly, Mr. Staats, and Rick Scalera (D-Hudson, 5th Ward).

In other business, the Board of Supervisors awarded a Certificate of Appreciation to Arthur Koweek for his almost half a century of service on the Planning Board, on which he has sat since 1967. Mr. Koweek said, “I thank the board for this honor and thank all the supervisors that I’ve worked with to bring this county into one of the best counties in New York to live and work in.”

The next meeting of the full Board of Supervisors will be Thursday, December 29, at 3 p.m. at 401 State Street.

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