CE Steve Neuhaus Gives State of the County Speech Highlights Improvements
In Economy, Safety, Open Space
By Edie Johnson
In a speech lasting about an hour and a half, County Executive Steve Neuhaus enumerated the county’s accomplishments over the past year.
Neuhaus was introduced by longtime friend Arnold “Butch” Amthor, the Maybrook and Montgomery Police Chief shot last year during a standoff over a domestic abuse situation. Amthor humbly protested that being up on stage was worse than being shot, after which he praised Neuhaus who was almost immediately by his side at St. Luke’s Cornwall Hospital in Newburgh. Both had high praise for both the police and hospital’s response. Neuhaus choked up trying to describe the event that nearly took his friend’s life.
A highlight of the speech was demonstration of a new drone division as an accessory to Public Safety. Neuhaus showed how prudent use of drones can save lives. Playing the part of a lost citizen in a remote park area who had been stung by bees, Neuhaus held his arm up while a colleague sent a drone across the auditorium and delivered an epipen right into his hand. He then described other ways that these drones can save lives, such as law enforcement actions where a drone could be flown overhead to determine whether a criminal was alive and armed. They have also been used in flood conditions and for lost hikers, allowing rescue personnel to pin-point people in danger as well as making small but necessary deliveries. If there was another train derailment like the one in Newburgh last year, he said “A drone could fly right up to it and read the MS4 documents to determine whether personnel approaching such an accident would be putting their lives in danger.”
Other issues that were emphasized were the need to upgrade school safety by implementing measures set by a new police task force. Neuhaus said “I see nothing good coming out of Washington for this, or from Albany either”. The task force has recommended a certified school safety officer for every school, whether a retired veteran or police officer. Retired officers can be recertified if necessary. Among other measures they also recommended a county-wide Orange County School Security Association.
While training is advancing in the areas of building trades, and construction projects, Neuhaus put his foot down on one area of concern. He said that all communities in the county have a good record of following building approval guidelines and codes except for one. He said he plans to sign an order to changes this, saying “Soon I will sign an Executive Order that will make compliance with 239-M and SEQRA a mandate prior to issuing any County Permits.”
The speech continued, detailing key areas of progress in the county’s finances.
Sales Tax Revenue has risen by $15 million to $280.5 million.
$3.8 million extra sales tax was shared with municipalities.
The county’s unassigned fund balance has doubled.
$59.9 million has been invested in Newburgh.
Expansion of the Heritage Trail is progressing.
The Government Center has reopened on time and services are now centralized.
Tourism has grown and will grow even more with a soon to be named Director.The Heritage Trail has Expanded to Harriman at one end & is under expansion westward to Property values are up.
646 residents have utilized the new Orange-Ulster BOCES Learning Center in NewburghNorwegian Air to Stewart expected to create an estimated 230 jobs. Volume up 63 %.Camp Laguardia property has been rezoned and has interested parties.
As for the status of Route 17’s expansion to a 3-Lane Highway, Neuhaus said he is glad for the funding that has come in, but traffic is already backing up on the weekends, and there is still Legoland ahead. He has heard that there is another study planned. His response, “We don’t need another study, we need shovels.”