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January 26, 2022 - 7:00pm

County manager: Time is ripe for Genesee to cash in on New York State's budgetary surplus projections

Genesee County Manager Matt Landers is urging legislators and key staff members to strike while the iron is hot as far as funding opportunities from New York State are concerned.

“Just a couple of years ago … former Governor Cuomo was telling us that they had a four-year projection of something like $80 billion in the hole. A year later, they were down to $20 billion in the hole, and then $3 billion,” Landers said.

“Now, they're looking at something like over $50 billion to the positive in a four-year projection outlook. So, the state is looking at different opportunities to fund. If there’s ever a time to ask for stuff – this is the time.”

Landers made his comments during this afternoon’s County Legislature meeting at the Old County Courthouse.

With Genesee moving ahead with Phase 3 of its Countywide Water Project, Landers encouraged County Engineer Tim Hens and his team to “put together some aggressive ‘asks’ on the water side because it's never going to be any better than right now to be asking for funding for some of our projects.”

Landers said that in reviewing Gov. Kathy Hochul’s $216 billion spending plan for 2022-23, the path seems to be clear for the county to receive its 1 percent sales tax as well as the cash generated by video lottery terminals at Batavia Downs Gaming.

“At this point in time, it looks like there's more good than bad, and not necessarily all financial,” he said. “Just having the ability to not have to go back and beg Albany for our extra 1 percent sales tax is a nice provision that's in there. It isn't tied directly to financially -- it's more procedural and a bit nerve racking that we have to do it, but it’s a nice thing that it's in the (state) budget.”

He also said distribution of VLT money – an unknown in recent years – is on track, and the county is expected to receive “an additional windfall in Article Six funding for the health department … and for mental health and veteran services.”

Article 6 state funds help support critical services provided by local health departments.

MASKING OF COUNTY EMPLOYEES

Landers pointed out that the masking requirement for county employees, which has been in effect for some time, continues – regardless of any legal back-and-forth that is happening at the state level.

County employees must wear face coverings at all time, but can take them off when seated at their workstations and are at least six feet away from others. Visitors to county buildings also are required to wear masks.

“… the Genesee County policy that we had for masking for county employees and visitors to our buildings were in effect before the governor's mandate came into place,” Landers said. “And that would still be in effect, regardless of whatever the court decision was.”

Landers mentioned that the county policy was instituted when there were “a quarter of the cases in the county that we have now, so I think it'd would not be wise for us to not follow science and to open ourselves up to less safe conditions for our employees.”

“We’re going to monitor and hopefully be able to take a different action in the spring, when the cases are ... expected to reduce but just wanted to give an update to the legislature where we stand with that,” Landers said. “And that is with both consultation and an agreement and approval from our public health director.”

NEW COUNTY JAIL UPDATES

Landers said the timeline for the new $70 million county jail on West Main Street Road hasn’t changed, crediting the work of "jail team" members Paul Osborn and Laura Wadhams for their efforts and Hens for reviewing the site plans and preparing bid documents.

“We were scheduled to be out (with bids) next week but we'd rather have it right than to just to rush,” he said. “So the timeline is still a little fluid where we're looking at (maybe) an additional week or two delay, which isn't going to be significant in the long term.”

The county manager added that Osborn and Wadhams will save the county “well into the six figures on catching things we don’t need.”

“That would be a waste of taxpayer money. I've been highly impressed with the work that they've been doing for us. They're some of our best employees and we're lucky to have them,” he said.

LEGISLATORS PASS RULE 19 ITEMS

The final two of the 54 resolutions on the meeting’s agenda were Rule 19 measures (late additions) relating to the purchase of COVID-19 test kits and the revision of the county’s purchasing policy specifically for the jail project.

Genesee County was hoping to use state funds to buy 20,000 test kits for its residents, but learned in recent days that would not be allowed. As a result, it reverted to its original resolution that called upon using $150,750 from American Rescue Plan Act (federal) funding.

Concerning the purchasing resolution, the legislature authorized Landers to approve expenditures up to $35,000 – instead of the current $20,000 limit – exclusively during the construction of the jail.

The change was made after consulting with construction management, engineering and architectural officials, who are looking to avoid any work stoppages by having to wait for the full legislature to convene.

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