B y Derek Liebig
The Washington County Board of Supervisors voted last week to approve the creation of an Economic Development Coordinator, but there was debate as to whether the position would benefit the county’s economy.
“This is big government getting bigger,” William “Beaver” Watkins, Cambridge Supervisor said. “What the impact?”
Supervisors also approved the creation of a part-time planner position, which will aid the coordinator.
Sara Idelman, Greenwich Supervisor and chair of the Agriculture, Planning, Tourism and Community Development committee, said she believes the position will lead to the creation of jobs.
“Economic development is a buzz word that has been floating around for years, but it’s more than that. We have 200 jobs leaving and that’s going to create a huge ripple effect throughout the entire county,” Idelman said, referring to news that General Electric is considering the closure of its Fort Edward facility.
“We need to work toward bringing business into the county that is sustainable and will commit to our communities.”
The county previously had a planner position, but it was eliminated several years ago. Tori Riley, who served as head of the Washington County Local Development Committee, had assumed some of those responsibilities before leaving to take a new job earlier this year.
“Just because we’re creating the position, it doesn’t mean it’s going to work,” Alan Brown, Jackson Supervisor said. “Maybe some more thinking ought to be put in to make sure it works.”
Idelman said one of the most important responsibilities of the newly created position will be to serve as a voice for Washington County on the state’s economic development councils. The councils, which are divided into different geographical units, compete for economic grant money.
Bill Hart, of Irving Tissue, is the only voting member of the Capital Region council from Washington County.
Most supervisors were supportive of creating the position and only Watkins and John Rymph, Easton Supervisor and chair of the board of supervisors, voted against it (Darlene Dumas, Fort Ann Supervisor was absent).
“This is meant to encourage growth and help business,” said Brian Campbell, Hebron Supervisor and county budget officer. “We’re trying to enhance the ability to employ people in this county.”
Dana Haff, Hartford Supervisor called for periodic performance evaluations to ensure the position is effective.
“This is the one department that could have an impact, but I think we should look back in four years to measure its effectiveness,” Haff said.
David O’Brien, Hampton Supervisor, said the evaluation should be made on ongoing basis and not every four years.
“Anytime we aren’t satisfied, we can get rid of the person. This is an important position,” Robert Banks, Dresden Supervisor said.
The two positions, including fringe benefits and office supplies, will cost the county $164,782 and has been including in budget requests for next year.
“People aren’t falling over coming to Washington County and it’s because of taxes,” Watkins said. “This position won’t ever create a job.”
County purchases new equipment for 911 center
In other matters, the board voted to authorize the purchase of new phone equipment for its 911 center.
The equipment will be purchased in conjunction with Warren County and will cost the county an initial outlay of $263,450, a savings of $173,205 if the county bought it alone.
County administrators Kevin Hayes said the county may be able to get reimbursed for the equipment.
“Warren County got a grant to pay for their share and Washington County didn’t and it’s a joint project, therefore if we reapply we would stand a high probability of getting it,” he said.
Some supervisors questioned applying for a grant after already paying for something, but Hayes said there is a two-year to get grant money for something that has already been purchased.
The equipment will not be installed until next year and will be included on the 2014 budget.
The current equipment is eight to nine years old, officials said.
The next meeting will be held at 10 a.m. on Oct. 18.