EMS services, landfill and climate control law main topics of Madison County address
WAMPSVILLE — Madison County Chairman John Becker gave his State of the County address Tuesday, outlining future challenges, seeking to dispel a few rumors, and lambasting the governor for what he called an unrealistic climate law.
Reflecting back on 2022, Becker said “we know that things will never be the same. In fact, I said in my very first State of the County address, and many other countless times, if you don’t like change, go home and hide under the bed. We can either lead and adjust, or we can hide and pretend that the rest of the world doesn’t exist and act like when we get done hiding, things will be okay.”
“I’m here to tell you, people of action and leaders, embrace the change and make our lives better, make bad situations better, and face reality. That is what we do here in Madison County, we are leaders, we use a common sense approach to situations and adjust to change.”
2023 arrives with a financially healthy Madison County, Becker said, with employees paid well and offered first-class equipment and facilities to provide services to residents. But to continue that financial health into 2023, Becker warned it will be a year of advocacy and hard decisions.
“Seven years ago, Madison County spent county tax dollars to fund a study on EMS,” Becker said. “Despite the findings and the predictions if EMS service continued as status quo, the board chose to do nothing. Now everything that the study predicted has come true. We’ve lost a volunteer ambulance service, and we’ve lost a lot of volunteers throughout the county. A lot of agencies are unable to sustain themselves without financial support from their municipalities. So now we do what we do best here in Madison County, we have a problem, we see the problem and we have to fix it.”
Madison County, he said, will move forward with a County Wide Emergency Medical Service initiative to help fill any current and future holes in coverage or needs by current EMS agencies.
Another hurdle the county will face, he said, is the future of the Madison County Landfill.
“When we were running on all eight cylinders at the landfill just 10 years ago, recycling revenues came closer to covering costs and machines only cost a fraction of what they do today,” Becker said. “Then, beginning in 2017, recycling markets crashed with China’s National Sword policy and in 2020, the pandemic hit. As we pulled into 2022, the recycling program was operating at a major deficit; out of $900,000 in recycling costs here at the County, we only recovered $400,000.”
Becker cautioned that the rumors circulating that the landfill would close are not true. Instead, he said, the county will evaluate options for a private/public partnership for operations of the landfill that will allow the county to offer the same level of services at a much more reasonable cost.
“Under a partnership model, our county will hold the permit, and still own the land of the landfill,” Becker said. “In 2023, we will be assessing the benefits of such a public private partnership, and we ask for your patience as we move through this process.”
But the fly in the ointment, Becker said, is the Climate Action Law, which he said could be used to overrule local zoning, codes, and assessment to site an electrical power plant either near or in a residential neighborhood or an agriculturally zoned farmland.
“After listening to the Governor’s State of the State, locally we will have to work hard to protect Home Rule from being taken over,” Becker said. “Most of Upstate New York is carbon neutral,” Becker said. “New York city is only 10% carbon free. New York State is covering vast swaths of farmland with renewable energy sources, to only meet New York City’s goals.”
On top of this, the law will require large changes to homes that will impact rural residents.
To that end, the Madison County Board of Supervisors passed a resolution, opposing the ban of gas stoves and other fossil fuel heating equipment, citing the financial impact on residents and businesses that need to convert, a lack of a backup system to warm houses in the case of a power outage, and the lack of feasibility for Central New Yorkers who live in area with harsh winter weathers and an exposed electrical system.
“Just a few weeks ago in Buffalo, a storm of massive proportion froze everything in its path. Cars were stuck on highways, power outages took days to fix, and many people were left without heat. What happens when we are all on the power grid, there are no gas generators or alternative heat sources?” Becker said. “We need to come up with a better solution that not only addresses reduction of greenhouse gas, but addresses cost and the protection of our land and people.”
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