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Supervisors meet with Legislature for first time in half a decade

Alex Kielar
Posted 2/23/24

MONTICELLO -— For the first time in five years, 10 of the 15 Town Supervisors of Sullivan County met with the County Legislature in the Council of Governments meeting on Thursday, February 15. …

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Supervisors meet with Legislature for first time in half a decade


MONTICELLO -— For the first time in five years, 10 of the 15 Town Supervisors of Sullivan County met with the County Legislature in the Council of Governments meeting on Thursday, February 15. The meeting was following the full board meeting of the Legislature. 

The next Council of Governments was decided by the two parties to take place on May 16.  

“We are grateful that you had this meeting here today,” Bethel Supervisor Dan Sturm said. “The Council of Governments meeting is mandated in the charter that was designed years ago and we haven’t had one in over four years. We have had a lot on our minds, but more importantly, that’s the way the function of the government center is supposed to work.”

Topics of discussion included EMS, short-term rentals and sales tax, with Supervisors and Legislators looking to get on the same page with all topics that arose. 

Emphasizing health and safety

The topic of EMS was brought up by District 2 Legislator and Chair Nadia Rajsz, who said that the Legislature had a meeting with the EMS Advisory Board the week prior to the Council of Government meeting. 

“We got a lot of good input,” Rajsz said. “One of the things that came out of this meeting was implementing a county-wide CON [Certificate of Need] - which we haven’t acted on yet. The CON would allow for any ambulance company to go into any town as needed.”

District 6 Legislator Luis Alvarez explained in further detail the process of getting a county-wide CON. Alvarez said that they are going to go back to when he first started in EMS in the Town of Liberty.

“At that time, the EMS was actively run by the different towns,” Alvarez said. “The EMS Advisory Board has no binding in what their decisions are. The new budget that is coming from the State of New York is going to make EMS essential services. Once [that happens], the county is also going to put forward a resolution to make it an essential service. 

“Then we are going to try and get our own certificate of need for the county, which would allow all ambulance corps in the entire county to operate,” Alvarez continued.  “They don’t have to get permission, as the 9-1-1 center can dispatch and send them to wherever it is.”

Alvarez also said that they are working on getting a full-time EMS Coordinator position for the county. Currently, Alex Rau is juggling both the EMS and 9-1-1 Coordinator positions, which Alvarez said means he is essentially part-time in both. 

“[Rau] is trying to do two different jobs in one position,” said Alvarez. “We made it clear to [the EMS Advisory Board] that the way it is right now, it is not functioning. We are calls behind, behind and behind.”

Alvarez noted that he still volunteers for Liberty Fire Company and that most of the time when they are trying to get an ambulance, Livingston Manor EMS is answering calls for Liberty EMS. 

“This cannot keep going on, we have to move it forward,” he said.

Several supervisors agreed that the county’s problem is a lack of volunteers.  

“That’s where the county has fallen off all over the place,” said Mamakating Supervisor Michael Robbins. “There’s a bigger issue than just making this rule [county-wide CON].”

Robbins said that they have to recruit more volunteers as volunteer service has “gone out that window.” 

“There are no volunteers,” agreed Alvarez.

Robbins also referenced the legislation signed by Governor Kathy Hochul in December of 2022 that created an opt-in for all local governments to provide a 10 percent property tax exemption to volunteer firefighters and volunteer ambulance workers. 

“I know a lot of towns have done it,” he said. “It was also presented in front of the county and the county hasn’t done it. That’s one of the incentives for volunteers to start coming back.”

Rajsz said that one avenue in recruiting individuals for EMS is through Sullivan County BOCES and SUNY Sullivan, which both have programs that have training in EMS. 

“I don’t wanna hear the stories,” Alvarez said. “We need to just get the job done, can’t sit around and wait.”

Bose noted that he has noticed that since Mobilemedic was sold, the problem has been exasperated.

“I hear those calls and thank God for the volunteers at the Town of Rockland,” Bose said. “I hear them covering for Mobilemedic a lot.”

Bose also referenced how the Town of Callicoon’s system has worked well, which splits the ambulance district with Jeffersonville. They have paid EMTs on a per diem rate and Paramedics on salary. 

“It’s a huge cost to our town, but it’s working,” Bose said. “We have coverage, but we also rely on our volunteer fire company.”

Getting uniform on short-term rentals 

Another big topic of discussion was on short-term rentals, which Rajsz said isn’t something she wants to prevent, just for the county to have some control over them. It was noted by the council that at least four to five towns in the county currently have short-term rental permits, through either Airbnb or VRBO. Forestburgh has one for $2,000 a year permit fee, but is revisiting in the coming months. 

Rajsz said that the towns that either have a permit or are working on one, are all across the board and not set at a uniform price. She also said that Governor Hochul is working on a bill to get a sales tax on short-term rentals. 

“That’s a pot of revenue,” Rajsz said. 

County Treasurer Nancy Buck said that the county collects the money from Airbnb revenue which goes to her office. She said that 85 percent of revenue goes to tourism and 15 percent for administration. For VRBO, she said that the SCVA collects the revenue and five percent of goes to the county. 

“I don’t think there’s anything wrong with you [the towns] charging [business owners] to open up on a yearly term,” Buck said, “because you do have more responsibility. You have to make sure that they’re up to code and they’re not bothering their neighbors.”

While the county collects tax on the short-term rentals, the towns are not benefitting from them at all, according to the supervisors. 

“We don’t even have a handle on how many are in any one particular town,” Rajsz said. 

Cochecton Supervisor Gary Maas agreed.  “We need a uniform thing that all towns, for the most part, can agree to,” he said.

District 5 Legislator Cat Scott also agreed.

“We need to have some sort of guideline so there’s some continuity,” said Scott. “So we’re not putting problems onto our neighbors with some of this. Getting input from the towns is also important. 

Spreading the  money around

Bose framed the question as to why the towns can’t get a different proportion of the sales tax revenue. He referenced the number of complaints that they are getting regarding people having different neighbors every weekend due to short-term rentals. 

“We’re hearing these [complaints] and we’re getting zero,” Bose said. “I’m pretty sure our town has been pretty cooperative with the county. 

“We have at least 50 short-term rentals,” he said. “I think the reason that some of the other towns are reluctant is because we are getting nothing from it. We are getting no revenue from this at all and we did a lot.”

Bose pondered that they could potentially take some of the revenue away from the 85 percent going to tourism and make it around 60 percent to leave some for the towns. He also referenced that 46 of the 57 counties outside of New York City in New York State have some sort of sharing agreement for the revenue. 

“It could be a simple process,” Bose said. “We were only trying to share any increase that the sales tax produces. I think it’s way past time to get something done and that’s what we are asking for.”


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