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Calling it illegal, inappropriate and another unnecessary delay to putting a new roof on the Department of Emergency Services' Training Center, County Executive Robert P. Astorino today vetoed legislation supported by a majority of Democrats on the Board of Legislators.
"It is time for the Democrats to stop playing games with public safety," Astorino said. "I sent the board legislation that included the proper and necessary funding to replace the roof more than a year ago. After months of waiting, the Democrats came up with their own bill that is both illegal and inappropriate because it violates the rules that govern how county projects must be financed. The Democrats know the rules. Why won't they just follow the rules, so we can get the roof fixed?"
Astorino said he was extremely frustrated by the tactics used by the Democrats. Instead of acting quickly and prudently, they have bogged down a critical need with months of delays and unnecessary financial risk. He pointed to the following timeline for trying to replace the roof at the DES Training Center on the Grasslands Reservation:
- October 21, 2011, the county executive sends a roof replacement bond act, the proper mechanism for financing this type of project, to the BOL for approval.
- December 31, 2011, the legislative session ends with no action taken by the BOL.
- January 18, 2012, the county executive resubmits the bond act. The legislation is still waiting for a vote from the full board.
- November 13, 2012, the board by a vote of 9 to 8 passes its own legislation that attempts to merely repair instead of replace the roof using insufficient funds from the operating budget instead of through a bond.
The board's financing scheme violates the county charter, requires the Department of Public Works to make unauthorized budget transfers and puts the county's triple A credit ratings at risk by unnecessarily drawing down reserve funds.
Opposition to the board's legislation has been broad-based and bi-partisan. Prior to the vote, the county attorney, budget director and finance commissioner were all highly critical. During the floor debate, Democratic Legislator Michael Kaplowitz, the former chairman of the Budget and Appropriations Committee, voiced his opposition by saying: "This is not the way to do it. It is a capital item and it should be paid for from the capital budget."
Among the key functions of the DES building is its use as a fire training center, where classes and instruction are offered to all local fire departments. The cost of the new roof is estimated at $640,000. Leaks in the current roof leave pools of water on the floor after storms creating a variety of safety problems.
"It is hard to imagine an issue more deserving of bi-partisan support than putting a roof over the heads of local firefighters, first responders and members of our Emergency Services Department," Astorino said. "But the record of the Democrats has been to delay and obstruct. It does no good to pass a law that can't be carried out. There is a right way to do this and that legislation is still waiting for a vote."
Additionally, Astorino said he was asking the members of the Board of Legislators to pass the $87 million in capital projects that he has submitted to them. "These projects are necessary to improve our roads, bridges and public safety and will put people to work," Astorino said. "There is no good reason for the board to stall these projects."