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News from the County Board of Supervisors

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COUNTY BRIEFS


NURSING education limits, property foreclosures, and house prices highlighted the Columbia County Board of Supervisors regular monthly meeting August 10.

The meeting began with a hearing on the Columbia-Greene Community College (C-GCC) 2022-23 operating budget. During the hearing college President Carlee Drummer noted that, despite a demand for more nurses, the waiting list to get into C-GCC’s nursing program this fall had 45 people.

One speaker suggested devoting resources to hiring more staff for the nursing program in order to allow it to admit more people. But Dr. Drummer explained that what limits the number of students C-GCC can enroll in nursing programs is the number of positions in health care facilities for such students to get their clinical training. And to get each of its students into such a position, C-GCC must compete against other community colleges and universities. This problem is nationwide.

Although C-GCC encourages its nursing students to get jobs at Columbia Memorial Health, many end up spread between 60 clinical sites.

Following the hearing county Controller Jim Breig and Treasurer P.J. Keeler summarized preliminary financial indicators for the year so far.

The ensuing discussion revealed that the property foreclosures the county is starting to work on now come from 2016. During the COVID crisis, the County could not do foreclosures. In any case, the county can handle only two years of foreclosures within a year. Asked if this time the county could do four years to catch up, Mr. Keeler said that depends on the availability of staff. Each foreclosure takes time and requires sending out notices and waiting 90 days for a response.

Mr. Keeler also reported some long-term real estate brokers have told him informally that 20% to 30% of all homes for sale in Columbia County are for over a million dollars, and that “they’ve never seen anything like it.”

Despite this trend, the brokers report that home sales are dropping and the county’s mortgage tax revenue has been “flat.”

The Board adopted 59 resolutions, including:

•Approved C-GCC 2022-23 operating budget

•Authorized agreements with each of Columbia County’s six public school districts, to assign one school resource deputy to the school from September 1, 2022 to June 24, 2023, at a cost of $40,000 from each school district

•Accepted a Highway Safety Grant of $5,000 for school resource deputies to develop and teach a safety program for high school students

•Appointed two people to the Environmental Management Council for up to two years: Sarah Crowell to represent the Town of Canaan, and Tara Becker as a non-voting member to represent Columbia County Health

•Enabled a Retreat and Development Day for Public Health staff in Fredonia, NY. Participants are to reflect on the events and changes of the past two years and consider how to move forward, guided by a creative change facilitator at an anticipated cost of $3,250

•HELP WANTED. Authorized hiring for open positions in the following county departments and offices: Aging, Controller’s, Health, Highway, Public Defender’s (pro-bono), Sheriff’s, and Social Services

•Ratified the terms of a Memorandum of Understanding between Columbia County and the United Public Service Employees Union and authorizing a collective bargaining agreement.

Purchase Authorizations were:

•Back-up power ($11,210) and monitoring ($4,640) systems for clinic vaccine freezer; a tractor with a mower for Engineering ($141,320); and pick-up trucks with plows (one for up to $65,000 for Facilities, and one for up to $57,000 for Solid Waste)

•Authorized contracts with consultants and service providers and accepted grants related to highway safety and hazardous material management.

The next regular meeting of the Columbia County Board of Supervisors will convene Wednesday, September 14, at 7 p.m.

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