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County hears from reports from committees

ELIZABETHTOWN The July 21 Essex County Board of Supervisors meeting included reports from the personnel, finance, and legislative committees. A special meeting was called in regards to the cleanup and reconstruction of the small grandstand stage at the Essex County Fairgrounds. A July 18 storm destroyed the structure, which is used for concerts and other events during the fair. Westport Supervisor Daniel Connell said approximately $15,000 was tied up in contracts for entertainers scheduled to appear on the stage, so repairing it before the fair starts August 13 is a big priority. Department of Public Works Director Frederick Buck said the work could be completed in 7-10 days from the time contractors are hired. The supervisors agreed to a resolution authorizing Buck to complete the project. Hotels dodging occupancy tax? In finance committee, County Treasurer Michael Diskin spoke, noting that revenues from sales tax are up 4.3 percent for the year in comparison to last year. He also indicated that some lodging businesses had been suspected of misrepresenting their reports with regards to occupancy tax. Diskin said that audits of these businesses might be necessary to put the dispute to rest, and many of the supervisors suggested creating a part-time position to ensure the tax was properly enforced. County Attorney Daniel Manning suggested contracting auditing services with the Visitors Bureau, which receives 95 percent of the funds from the occupancy tax. They'll have to agree, of course, but if it means increased revenue for them, that would seem to be a win-win situation, Manning said. Dealing with the heat crisis Finance committee chair Thomas Scozzafava brought up a question regarding the possibility of providing people with other options for paying property taxes to avoid putting stress on low-income households during the winter. Diskin explained that Jan. 1 is the state-mandated date for property taxes and cannot be changed, but there are options in place for four-month installment plans. Jay Supervisor Randall Douglas mentioned a bill being sponsored by Sen. Chuck Schumer which would double the HEAP benefit and suggested passing a resolution in support of the bill. Ron Jackson, Essex supervisor, mentioned an effort by Congressman John McHugh to increase the eligible income to qualify for HEAP, which would allow many more households to access assistance. County Manager Job Requirements In Legislative committee, there was discussion among the supervisors regarding the position and duties of the County Manager. Committee chair Dale French asked if, in changing the law, the committee wished to change the title of the position to County Administrator. Call it whatever you want, said Newcomb Supervisor George Canon, the manager looks at the problems throughout this county wherever they are, provides alternatives for their solution, the pros and cons of those alternatives, and a recommendation to this board on which of those he recommends for a reason. Scozzafava said, I think theres a lot of changes, in my opinion, that need to be made: First and foremost, accountability; from the county manager to whom? Thats the big grey area out there that we all know about. It really isnt spelled out clearly in [the local law] and that needs to be addressed. The committee held off on a decision to give supervisors a chance to look over the local law again and develop suggested changes in writing.

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