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Counties Moving Forward

Bond Basics for Counties in New York State

Bond Basics for Library Districts and Other Municipal Libraries in New York State

Bond Basics for Towns, Villages and Cities in New York State

Bond Basics for School Districts in New York State

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Bond Basics for Fire Districts in New York State

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President's Page


ear NYSAC County Member,

NYSAC OFFICERS Hon. John F. Marren Ontario County President Hon. Martha Sauerbrey Tioga County President-Elect Hon. Marcus Molinaro Dutchess County First Vice President Michael E. Zurlo Clinton County Second Vice President Hon. MaryEllen Odell Putnam County Immediate Past President

BOARD MEMBERS Hon. Steven Bellone, Suffolk County Hon. Benjamin Boykin II, Westchester County Philip R. Church, Oswego County Hon. Bill de Blasio, New York City Rick House, Wayne County Hon. Beth A. Hunt, Hamilton County Hon. Margaret M. Kennedy, Otsego County Hon. Daniel P. McCoy, Albany County Hon. Mark C. Poloncarz, Erie County Dr. Kevin Watkins, Cattaraugus County Michael E. Zurlo, Clinton County

PARLIAMENTARIANS Hon. Herman Geist, Esq., Westchester County Hon. A. Douglas Berwanger, Wyoming County

We have recently just completed our first ever Virtual Fall Seminar and annual meeting, where we adopted our packet of resolutions and elected our slate of officers for the year. This is not the traditional way to swear in our association officers, but this year has been anything but traditional. The agenda for my time as the association’s leader has been decided for me, just as much of our county priorities have been decided for us since the day the COVID-19 Pandemic was declared. Our agenda, as an association is to help support all of our member counties locally lead New Yorkers through this pandemic and recession. This was captured in our theme for the fall seminar: Moving Counties Forward, Together. It is a good thing that our counties are resilient. That’s a good way to describe New York counties and the thousands of county officials who are members of our great association. We have all had our share of challenges and misfortunes along the way. Floods, snow and ice storms, tropical storms, economic recessions, state funding cuts, new program responsibilities, new state requirements on top of old state mandates. You name it. We’ve seen it. And we keep moving forward. This year, though, as county leaders we have all faced the same set of challenges and we are working together to overcome them, together. First, in January, we faced an attempt in the State Budget to undo the Medicaid Cap that has saved local taxpayers billions of dollars in the past ten years. We lobbied hard together to turn back that budget proposal.

Then, in March, we all faced an historic pandemic which hit New York State harder than it hit any other state and most countries across the globe. We were called on to help stop the spread and bend the curve locally. And we did. With our local health departments and emergency operations centers, and or daily updates to citizens, we helped reduce the spread of coronavirus in our communities. And we are staying vigilant to do what we can to prevent a second way of infections. We not only face a public health crisis but a fiscal crisis caused by the shut down. We have been advocating, together through NYSAC and individually with our congressional members, for federal funding to offset the loss of sales tax revenues and help stave off state budget cuts to local programs. I want to take this time to recognize your work and your leadership in your community and as part of this association to help move of us forward together. We cannot beat this pandemic alone. We cannot strengthen our economies in a vacuum. On our own we will not be able to convince our federal leaders of the need to assist struggling states and local governments. All of these things we need to do together, with one collective voice, through our association. Together, through NYSAC, our counties can all help each other move forward together. That is our mission this year and I look forward to working with all of you to make our counties and state safer, stronger, and healthier as a result of leadership at the local level.

Jack Marren NYSAC President NYSAC News | www.nysac.org



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Director's Note

A NYSAC STAFF (partial listing) Stephen J. Acquario, Esq. Executive Director Karen Catalfamo Office/Financial Manager Patrick Cummings, Esq. Counsel Jackie Dederick Records Manager Patricia Gettings Assistant to the Director Ryan Gregoire Legislative Director Alexandra LaMonte Legislative/Policy Coordinator Mark LaVigne Deputy Director Dave Lucas Director of Finance & Intergovernmental Affairs Juanita Munguia Marketing Specialist Tom Oldfather Communications Manager Kate Pierce Multimedia Specialist Jeanette Stanziano Director of Education & Training

s we compiled the stories for this magazine, I noted all of the work that our counties continue to do to serve the public during this pandemic. And I’m also aware of how important it is, as an association, to pivot with our membership so that we can continue to serve the needs of a changing world for county leaders. Our mission is to educate, represent, advocate for, and serve member counties and the elected and appointed leaders who serve them. That’s the core of what we are as the association of counties. At its origin, 95 years ago, it was brought together by county supervisors, county treasurers, and county elected officials who wanted to share best practices in an era just shy of the Great Depression. Thinking about what life must have been like in those early days of the association, I’ve come to appreciate what our counties have accomplished during this COVID-19 pandemic. In 1925, our county leaders came together to share best practices. They recognized that what happens in Long Island and New York City and Westchester and Rockland effects Upstate, and vice versa. That’s what our association members did to combat this pandemic. The association was used as a tool by all of you, our county leaders from the downstate region of the state to help the members from upstate counties prepare for a growth in the number of cases in those communities. Through conference calls, Zoom meetings, and dozens of webinars, we’ve all helped each other do the best we can to prevent the spread of virus in our community. I salute you as the local leaders for leading that task, for acting as the on-site incident commanders and leading your communities through the darkest of days. As I was thinking about the origin of the association and the President of the United States at the time; a New Yorker named Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

He steered our country through the Great Depression, when 25 percent of Americans were unemployed. The need for steady responsive leadership was paramount, and so it is again when this year for the first time since the Great Depression, we saw unemployment briefly reach 20 percent. Recognizing today what FDR acknowledged so many years ago—that “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself,” our county leaders did not worry about fear, you simply acted, as you have done each and every day, to get the job done and continue to let your residents know that we are going to get through this. It took time to get through the consequences of the Great Depression, and it will take us all time to get through this pandemic and the economic, social, and political consequences of it. FDR and the leaders at that time put in place many different programs— transformative programs that helped put people to work and lead our nation through some of our most difficult and challenges times. We still have a lot of work to do to get through this time, and there are questions that we continue to ask ourselves and answer as we lead locally through this pandemic and recession. What is the role of counties? And what is the role of local government? What is the role of state government? And how can we harness new ways of thinking to make our communities, counties, and the State of New York better and stronger for the next generation? As your association, we look forward to working with you to building that better future.

Stephen J. Acquario, Esq. NYSAC Executive Director NYSAC News | www.nysac.org








Photo by Tim Tracy







NYSAC’s mission is to represent, educate, advocate for, and serve member counties at the federal and state levels. President Hon. John F. Marren Publisher Stephen J. Acquario Managing Editor Mark F. LaVigne Editor Tom Oldfather Designer Kate Pierce Advertising Staff Juanita Munguia 10

NYSAC News | Fall 2020

Advertise with NYSAC Contact NYSAC Marketing Specialist Juanita Munguia at 518-465-1473 or jmunguia@nysac.org Published 3 times a year by the New York State Association of Counties (NYSAC), the NYSAC News is the official publication of NYSAC, a non-profit, municipal association serving the 57 counties of New York State and the City of New York with its five boroughs for over 90 years. NYSAC’s mission is to represent, educate, advocate for, and serve member counties at the federal and state levels.


515 Broadway, Suite 402, Albany, New York 12207 Phone • (518) 465-1473 Fax • (518) 465-0506 Send submissions to toldfather@nysac.org. Submissions should be 750 to 1,000 words and include a high resolution photo of the author­. All submissions­are subject to editing for clarity, content and/or length. The advertisements and articles in NYSAC News in no way imply support or endorsement­by NYSAC for any of the products, services or messages conveyed herein. ©2020 New York State Association of Counties

Table of Contents Volume 42, Issue 3 Fall 2020




Counties Move Forward Together During the COVID Crisis


Montgomery County will Come Back Stronger


What to Expect During 2021


Tompkins Legislature Invests in COVID-19 Testing


An Unprecedented Fall Seminar for Unprecedented Times


Swift Action Taken to Help Families Stay Healthy and Safe


Executive Order No. 203


Chautauqua County Works with Community Partners


Advertiser Index



Warren County Supervisor Lends Construction Expertise


Adapting County Workforce


Madison County Hosts “Mid-Action” Review


Operation COVID Response


Responsive and Responsible Ulster County

Cover Photo Whirlpool State Park, Niagara County by Jennifer Tower

NYSAC News | www.nysac.org



Counties Move Forward Together During the COVID Crisis By Dave Lucas, NYSAC Director of Finance and Intergovernmental Affairs


he COVID-19 pandemic has wrought two distinct crises: the first, a public health crisis on a scale not seen in a century; the second, an economic crisis of unprecedented speed, depth and unknown duration. Since the beginning, county government has been front and center in response to the crisis. New York’s counties have been working in the trenches every day, leading the core public health response to the pandemic and providing direct services to residents. Counties are also on the front lines of the economic response, helping businesses and schools reopen as safely as possible so that New Yorkers can get back to work and life can begin to feel more normal. Seven months into the COVID pandemic in the United States we are still struggling with containing outbreaks of the virus in different regions of the country, and certain sectors of the economy remain in deep recession, with nearly 30 million people receiving some sort of federal cash assistance because they are out of work. In New York, there were 1.2 million fewer jobs in August 2020 compared to last year, with 100,000 fewer state and local government jobs.

• Hiring freezes • Eliminating unfilled positions • Pausing or eliminating non-essential capital expenditures and procurements • Temporary furloughs • Layoffs

In recognition of the extensive needs, Congress and the President have provided unprecedented aid to help stem the spread of the virus and to prevent an economic meltdown; including aid to the healthcare sector, businesses and individuals in the form of direct payments and expanded unemployment benefits.

• Debt refinancing

Absent in the federal assistance provided to date is unrestricted financial aid to states and local governments in recognition of their documented revenue losses, and unplanned expenses that

• Maximize revenues that could be

may fall through the FEMA reimbursement cracks. Without this federal aid, counties have moved forward by adjusting their budgets in recognition of lower local revenues and to prepare for 20 percent across the board cuts in state reimbursement and aid. About one in ten jobs in the nation are linked to state and local government workers. 12

Most counties followed similar courses of action to mitigate the immediate revenue losses and growing expenses related to the pandemic to ensure their budgets would remain balanced in 2020, and to build a more solid fiscal footing for 2021 and beyond, including:

NYSAC News | Fall 2020

• Shuttering public facilities • Accessing reserve funds

• Offered early retirement and employee separation incentives • Cut local spending on discretionary items, and imposed spending caps on county departments • Short term borrowing • Cancelled contracts or renegotiated them, and so on.

To mitigate the potential impact of these reductions, counties came together in the late summer to provide dozens of costsaving suggestions to the Governor and the State Division of Budget as an alternative to just cutting state aid and to provide a starting point for discussions on fundamental reforms to state and county programs so they are less expensive for taxpayers, and more fiscally sustainable.

These essential workers are on the front lines in fighting COVID and working to restore the economy. These jobs, and the essential quality of life services they support, will be in jeopardy if federal aid does not materialize and the state aid cuts become permanent. NYSAC has projected that county revenue losses could range between $2 billion and $3 billion in 2020 alone, including state reimbursement cuts between $600 million and $1 billion on an annual basis depending on how they are implemented by the state. Most of the local revenue losses are from sharp declines in sales tax, a key county revenue source and the top revenue item for nearly half of all counties. In addition, there have been significant reductions in hotel occupancy tax collections, lower gaming revenue and uncollected fees for services. To put this into perspective, the loss of $3 billion would represent more than 11 percent of all county revenues in 2020. Replacing the lost funding with county property taxes would require a 55 percent increase, in aggregate, statewide. The actions cited above, and more to come, are intended to avoid dramatic property tax increases, while preserving essential and highly desired quality of life services in our communities.

The proposals also included temporary revenue options for counties and the state, a state early retirement incentive, lowering costs at county jails by providing more flexibility for county officials over state mandated staffing levels, reforming state procurement rules, changes to state labor laws, longer term changes in how (and who) pays for state programs, borrowing flexibility (short and long term), enhancing the integrity of the highest cost programs, among others. This report can be found on the NYSAC website at: https:// www.nysac.org/files/Part%20I%20-Interim%20County%20 Recommendations(1).pdf In the short term, we must recognize that the we cannot just cut our way out of the current fiscal crisis; nor tax, borrow, ignore or hope that federal assistance will make the whole problem go away. The package of reforms offered by counties is an “all tools in the toolbox” approach – even some that involve raising revenue temporarily as a means to prevent public infrastructure and services from deteriorating to a point that it hinders the economic recovery and harms public health and safety. Over the long term, counties want to partner with state leaders to ensure our levels of taxation and spending are affordable, sustainable, and do not reduce economic opportunity for our residents. Together we can move forward to improve the quality of life and enhance economic opportunity for all New Yorkers.

To make matters worse, the state faces its own budget gap of somewhere between $10 billion and $15 billion for its current fiscal year. The primary mechanism the state has chosen to close that gap is to reduce state funding by $8 billion to local governments, schools and other direct service providers. These reductions have the potential to become a permanent loss for counties if additional federal aid doesn’t materialize. This is particularly problematic because state funding to counties is typically a reimbursement of an expense the county has incurred on behalf of the state, usually for a mandated program such as child welfare services, public assistance payments to needy individuals, or providing services to children with developmental disabilities. When the state aid disappears, the county must still pay the full cost of these mandated services.

NYSAC News | www.nysac.org


What to Expect During 2021 A Snapshot into the NYS Capitol By Ryan Gregoire, NYSAC Legislative Director


f you speak to any lobbyist, advocate, or legislative staff they would all tell you that 2020 was completely upended by the COVID-19 virus. The NYS Capitol building has been closed since March to outside visitors, making this past year’s budget negotiations and legislative work more in the shadows than ever before. The 2019-2020 session, albeit not necessarily over, was a historic session to say the least. Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-Westchester) assumed the role of Senate Majority Leader, ushering in a new era with different legislative priorities and representing a major shift in Albany’s political balance of power – a shift which has altered our advocacy strategy.

These include several county priorities, including legislation •

permitting the implementation of fifth and future generation wireless network system technology across the state

allowing IDAs to make loans to small businesses and not-for-profit organizations up to $25,000 with certain considerations

providing public libraries with an additional 12 months to complete capital projects where such projects commenced between July 1, 2017 and July 1, 2019 and libraries were unable to complete projects within the three-year statutory time limit due to COVID-19

allowing bond anticipation notes issued originally during calendar years 2015 through 2021, inclusive, to extend up to seven years beyond their original date of issue

amending GML § 217 relation to Length of Service Award Programs ("LOSAP's") in order to address the impact of the COVID 19 crisis on the ability of volunteer firefighter participants to achieve performance points under the program point system in light of changes to emergency response protocols and the cancellation of activities for which points can be earned, among many other policy priorities

What Happened in 2019 and 2020 Does Not Necessarily Stay in 2020… Before we can speculate on what may happen in 2021, we must first look to the past to understand legislative issues that were left out of the end of session as a baseline for issues that will come alive again in January. This year’s state budget was enacted in one of the most difficult periods in our lifetimes, given the public health, social, and economic uncertainties that are accompanying the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on the State of New York and our counties. The budget addresses the economic uncertainty caused by the pandemic through a combination of new authority to make mid-year cuts, expanded state borrowing capacity, all contingent on the arrival of federal stimulus funding. While the continuity of county government operations is protected through the preservation of local Medicaid caps and the extension of local home rule revenue authority, there have been significant mid-year cuts associated with reductions in state reimbursement. In addition, counties are contributing to a new fiscally distressed hospital and nursing home pool. A full breakdown of the state budget impact to counties can be found at nysac.org/nysbudget. To date, the 2020 Legislative Session has seen the State Legislature pass a total of 964 bills, down from 1,719 bills last year, 413 of which were approved by both houses. Those 413 bills must be sent to the Governor by the end of 2020 to be signed into law or vetoed. 14

NYSAC News | Fall 2020

A full breakdown of the state legislative impact to counties can be found at www.nysac.org/legislativeplatform. During our Virtual Fall Seminar, counties will convene to approve resolutions, laying the groundwork of our 2021 Legislative Platform and 2021 Legislative Program. NYSAC will be closely monitoring and engaging with counties on several key issues of importance. Shortly after the conclusion of the 2020 Virtual Fall Seminar, the association will begin preparation for a series of meetings with the NYS Division of Budget. NYSAC will compile fiscal priorities to be addressed in the Executive’s FY 2021 Budget Proposal and State of the State Address. The 2021 budget priorities along with the 2021 legislative platform and program will include NYSAC standing policy, as well as new initiatives approved during the Fall Seminar.

It is important for counties to engage with the standing committee process. Resolutions that have been adopted by your county can be proposed for consideration during the winter conference in January. NYSAC is continually looking for advice and guidance from counties to help relay the county position in Albany and Washington.

A Legislative Teaser for 2021 While our 2020 Legislative Program and 2020 Legislative Platform will serve as the official policy agenda of the association, you can expect some of these areas to included legislation to •

create of a Blue-Ribbon Commission to Redesign StateLocal Service Delivery.

grant counties the flexibility to reduce program costs or allow counties to raise non-property tax revenues at local option

restore any state aid cuts implemented throughout SFY 20 as part of the SFY 21 budget.

eliminate the distressed hospital payment fund

eliminate the state diversion of local sales tax for state spending initiatives

allow telehealth services to continue for the Early Intervention Program post COVID-19

grant NYC and NYS counties a temporary ability to borrow money to cover operating expense due to a loss of sales tax revenue as a result from the COVID-19 pandemic

temporarily increase the sales tax rate (for a period of 3 years) by 1% in total, split evenly between the state and counties. Counties should be required to share the .5% revenue from this additional 1% in compliance with their existing sales tax sharing arrangement

create a sales tax rate floor of 4% for the few counties whose local sales tax rate falls below 4%, contingent on the passage of a local law affirming they would like to increase their local sales tax to 4%

The 2019-2020 legislative session was a banner period of legislative activity and 2021 will surely present a host of new challenges. As your association, NYSAC will continue to be your representative at the negotiating table, ensuring lawmakers understand the county position and asking the tough questions of how will this law be implemented? Is it feasible? What are the costs and whom should be responsible for paying for these programs? We look forward to continuing this work and to our progress working with our counties, and state leaders in Albany to advocate on behalf of our mutual constituency.

Rewind: 2020 Fall Seminar Workshops Nearly 1,500 county officials received training during NYSAC's first ever Virtual Fall Seminar - but it doesn't stop there! All workshop recordings are available on our website at www.nysac.org/FallSeminar or on our YouTube channel, NYSACTV. Here are a few of the workshops that were held: November 2020 Election Administration

Bracing for the Next Wave

Leadership in the Time of COVID-19

County 2021 Budget Challenges

Emerging Cyber Security Threats

New Tools to Communicate in a Socially Distanced World

Policing in 2020

Governing Through Executive Order

Counties, Mental Health, and the Criminal Justice Process

...and more! Visit www.nysac.org/FallSeminar or NYSACTV YouTube Channel to watch all of the high-quality trainings.

NYSAC News | www.nysac.org


An Unprecedented Fall Seminar for Unprecedented Times


n April, as the COVID-19 pandemic was sweeping across the nation, the NYSAC team gathered to begin a series of discussions about how to address our upcoming in-person events. While hosting industry-leading conferences and seminars is one of our favorite things to do, it was with great disappointment that we decided that for the safety of our members and staff we had to cancel our in-person events for the remainder of 2020.

Virtual Workshops included: •

November 2020 Election Administration: What is Different?

County 2021 Budget Challenges

Policing in 2020: What We’ve Learned and How Do We Change

But just as our members can’t afford to let a global pandemic prevent them from doing their work, we resolved to not let COVID-19 prevent us from doing ours. To ensure we continued fulfilling our mission to represent, educate, advocate for, and serve New York's counties, we set about planning NYSAC's first-ever, fully virtual conference!

Emerging Cyber Security Threats

COVID Communication: New Tools to Communicate in a Socially Distanced World

Leadership in the Time of COVID-19

This event would provide the same high-quality training and timely, thought-provoking workshops that you expect from a NYSAC conference, but in a radically different format. Rather than meeting in person over one weekend, the Virtual Fall Seminar would be held over 9 days via a virtual platform. It was also decided that, in light of the tremendous financial challenges faced by counties as a result of the pandemic, NYSAC would work with our outstanding private sector partners to provide this event at no cost to our members.

Reopening to the Public, Safely with Appointment Software

Counties, Mental Health, and the Criminal Justice Process

Meeting New York State’s Climate and Renewable Energy Goals

Governing Through Executive Order: A State and Local Perspective

Bracing for the Next Wave: Lessons Learned from COVID-19 in Emergency Management

Technology Options for Public Hearings

Using Wastewater to Slow the Spread of COVID-19

Investing in Our Older Americans

COVID-19 Testing: A Rapidly Evolving Landscape

New York Colleges- Educating During a Pandemic

How effective was this new format? The results speak for themselves: The Virtual Fall Seminar succeeded in training and educating over 1500 county officials – a NYSAC record – through 16 workshops hosted by over 40 expert panelists!

Though we endeavored to accommodate as many attendees as possible by limiting workshops to just two per day, we understand that this year has placed more demands on county leaders’ time than any other. That’s why we’ve made video recordings and presentation slides of all these workshops available on our website at www.nysac.org/fallseminar. There you can view the Fall Seminar workshops when it fits your schedule. In a year in which so many aspects of our lives were turned completely upside down by the coronavirus pandemic, NYSAC was committed to maintaining the same level of industryleading training that you’ve come to expect and rely on from your association. While we weren’t able to meet in person. We’re still moving counties forward, together. 16

NYSAC News | Fall 2020

NYS Association of Counties

2021 Legislative Program KEY COUNTY PRIORITIES Create a blue ribbon commission to redesign state-local service delivery

End the diversion of county sales tax for state programs and purposes

Grant counties the flexibility to reduce program costs

Children with Special Needs


(Health, Children and Families Committees)

(Environment Committee)

Expand Universal Pre-Kindergarten (UPK) to include children with special needs.

Require school districts to transport preschool special education children.

Create a more stable and comprehensive ewaste recycling infrastructure and renew the $3 million appropriation for collection and disposal programs.

Require providers to bill insurance before billing counties and the state.

Support remediation of PFAS and other water contaminants.

Cap county fiscal liability for preschool special education.

Expand the zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) rebate for municipalities.

Allow telehealth services to continue for the Early Intervention Program (EIP).

Expand the Bottle Bill to include liquor, wine, and iced tea bottles.

Increase rates for services in high poverty areas.


Enact a covered lives assessment on third party commercial insurance that matches the Medicaid rate of reimbursement (75%).

Community Colleges

(Racing, Gaming and Wagering Committee)

Resolve the gaming compact dispute between NYS and the Seneca Nation. Allow the Seneca Nation to share revenues directly with localities until the dispute is resolved.

Share sports gaming revenue with all New York counties in conjunction with OTBs in contract with the casinos.

(Higher Education Committee)

Set the base state aid formula allocation for each community college to 100% of the prior year or increase $100 per FTE, whichever is greater.

Classify the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) as a university that provides 4- and 6-year degrees.

Provide funding for workforce training to ensure community colleges are positioned to provide a skilled, local workforce for business and industry growth.

Economic Development (Energy and Telecommunications Committees)

Expand broadband and cellular coverage to unserved and under-served areas.

Release the Upstate Cellular Coverage Task Force Report.


Human Services (Social Services Committee)

Reform the use of “handicapping conditions with disabilities” to eliminate outdated use of terms for peoples with disabilities.

The State should fully fund the cost of any services the State continues to provide when the federal government ends their financial support.

Judiciary (Judiciary Committee)

Lower court judgment interest rates.

Fully fund parental representation in child welfare proceedings.




2021 Legislative Program Local Finance & Tax Relief (Finance Committee, Budget & Revenue Committee)

Grant permanent sales tax authority for all counties.

Public Infrastructure & Transportation (Transportation, Local Government Committees)

Authorize gig economy industries to collect sales tax. 

Authorize the use of design-build contracts for localities.

End the mandatory diversion of  county sales tax for state purposes. 

Provide financial support to county-owned airports.

Increase county retention of DMV revenues.

Increase funding for CHIPS, PAVE NY and BRIDGE NY.

Enact statutory changes to allow counties to lower local government costs.

Support local maintenance costs of the Empire State Trail.

Enact “No New Unfunded Mandates” legislation.

Public Safety


(Codes, Crime Victims, Crimes and Corrections Committees)

Reform Part 730 of the Mental Hygiene Law to help counties support the mental health condition of those in state custody.  

(Social Services Committee)

Lower local Medicaid caps to reflect current payments and savings.

Complete the State statutory requirement to takeover local Medicaid administrative functions.

Raise the minimum age of juvenile delinquency from seven to twelve years old.

Allow and incentivize shared county jails and grant counties the flexibility to establish minimum staffing ratios.

Grant counties the ability to create county-wide emergency medical services (EMS) taxing districts.

Reform 9-1-1 surcharge laws to more accurately collect fees from all devices that can access 9-1-1 service delivery.

Public Employee Relations (Investigations, Government Operations, Codes, Civil Service and Pensions, and Labor Committees)

Reform the NYS Scafford Law.

Raise the threshold for Wicks Law (GML § 101) to at least $10 million.

Allow counties to set employee residency rules.

Public Health & Mental Health (Health, Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities, Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Committee)

If adult-use cannabis is legalized, apply county sales tax and share the cultivation tax with counties.

Reform individual grants for public health work to a block grant while maintaining funding levels from the consolidated programs into the new block grant, similar to social services program areas, to allow for county flexibility and eliminate costly administrative work.

• 18

Expand supportive housing beds to individuals with developmental disabilities. NYSAC News | Fall 2020

Shared Services (Insurance, Local Government Committees)

Make it easier for local governments to create Article 47 health insurance consortia.

Allow shared service matching funds to be used for plan and implementation costs.

NEW YORK STATE ASSOCIATION OF COUNTIES 540 Broadway, 5th Floor Albany, NY 12207 518.465.1473



Executive Order No. 203 Next Steps: New York State Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative By Patrick Cummings, NYSAC Counsel


n June 12, 2020, Governor Cuomo signed Executive Order No. 203 in response to tragic deaths involving police interactions. The Executive Order states that it was created in part due to “…the police-involved death of George Floyd in Minnesota, protests have taken place daily throughout the nation and in communities across New York State in response to police-involved deaths and racially-biased law enforcement to demand change, action, and accountability.” Ultimately, the purpose of EO 203 is to create changes in local law enforcement policies and strategies to mitigate police-involved deaths and racially biased law enforcement. The following is a breakdown of the steps required by EO 203 to achieve these goals. Executive Order 203 has four steps that must be followed by all New York local governments that have policing entities: REVIEW - EO 203 calls on any local government policing entity, to perform a review of current “police force deployments, strategies, policies, procedures, and practices.” This can be an internal review, or this process can involve input or help form outside entities. The main purpose is come out of this step with the complete understanding of what the current police policies and procedures are, and how exactly are they are being implemented by the department and in the community; what is working and why, what is not and why. One tool to help this compressive review can be by the 117-page guidelines put out by Governor’s Office found at on.ny.gov/2G7BCvt. PLAN DEVELOPMENT- After or in coordination of such review, the Chief Executive of any local government with a local police agency must convene the head of the local police agency, and stakeholders in the community to develop such plan. The stakeholders (defined below) must be consulted with and allowed to make recommendations when creating such plan. This step is for community, police, and all criminal justice stakeholders to have a seat at the table to provide input. Ultimately it will be the Chief Executive that puts together and presents the reform plan to the local legislature; however, this will be done with input of the groups listed above and input can take many forms including taking suggested plan language. ADOPTION OR RATIFICATION OF PLAN- Such plan must be offered for public comment to all citizens in the locality, and after consideration of such comments, the local legislative body in such political subdivision, which shall ratify or adopt such plan by local law or resolution. The local legislature body may reject a plan as written and this would restart Step 2; however, a plan must be ratified no later than April 1, 2021.

SUBMIT PLAN TO DOB- Such local government shall transmit a certification to the Director of the Division of the Budget to affirm that such process has been complied with and such local law or resolution has been adopted.

Who are Stakeholders: Stakeholders include, but are not limited to, membership and leadership of the local police force; members of the community, with emphasis in areas with high numbers of police/community interactions; interested non-profit and faith-based community groups; the local office of the district attorney; the local public defender; and local elected officials.

What Police Entities are Subject to EO 203 Executive Order 203 applies only to local governments that have a police agency operating with police officers. For most counties, employees with police powers are typically within the Sheriff ’s Department. However, it is important to review the police power list defined under 1.20 of the Criminal Procedure Law to see if your county has any other employees that would be subject to this process, plan review and adoption. The last several years have seen a dizzying pace of change in the field of law enforcement. From Raise the Age and Bail Reform legislation, to the decriminalization and potential legalization of recreational cannabis, the law enforcement landscape in New York State is evolving rapidly. As we navigate these changes, NYSAC will continue to provide our members with analysis of these laws and guidance tailored to your needs as a county leader. NYSAC News | www.nysac.org


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COVID-19 AND WIRELESS: CONNECTED IN QUARANTINE New York was the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States, which made us realize, now more than ever, wireless communications is as essential to our safety and survival as our healthcare. Many regions in New York are still struggling with access to reliable cell coverage. The more densely populated areas lack capacity for so many work-from-home users, first responders and businesses on their networks at any given time, while the rural areas lack general cell coverage and broadband access, thus impacting their quality of life. For the last twenty-five years, our firm, V-COMM, has been at the forefront of the constantly-changing wireless industry. We have developed first responder networks throughout the northeast, modernizing emergency communications, while working on some of the largest and most intricate cellular networks in the world. We understand the complexity of the wireless industry and have been regarded as a valuable resource for many governmental agencies across the nation. From the largest counties to the smallest towns, we help our clients navigate the many issues they face with their wireless systems and provide viable and cost-effective solutions.

During these unprecedented times, we have learned to live in a way the human race never has never lived before: fully connected in quarantine. The need for wireless service extends far beyond our “new normal”. Amidst the chaos, we are constantly checking in with our elderly and immunocompromised loved ones to confirm they remain safe and COVID -19-free. We are calling first responders for help in the face of emergency and illness. In the most unfortunate cases, we are reaching out to offer condolences and prepare funeral arrangements for those lives lost to COVID-19. With today’s threat of a global pandemic looming around every corner and with the majority of citizens working and communicating from home daily, reliable wireless service is truly necessary everywhere now more than ever. If you find yourself agreeing with everything you just read, it might be time for you to contact our wireless professionals to discuss wireless communications systems in your municipality. V-COMM’s expert team of engineers have the capability to handle the needs of all our clients’ wishes, no matter how complex. Do not waste any more of your precious time worrying about what needs to be done and how. Let us help you determine what your municipality needs to ensure the health, happiness and safety of everyone in your jurisdiction during this critical time and beyond.

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Warren County Supervisor Lends Construction Expertise for Safe Board Room By Don Lehman, Warren County Director of Public Affairs


hen members of the Warren County Board of Supervisors needed to figure out how to modify their meeting room so they could safely return for inperson meetings, it was one of their own who came up with an inexpensive way to make it happen. When he isn’t working as a county legislator, Queensbury at-Large Supervisor Brad Magowan works as a mechanical contractor and owner of Bilt Well Construction with 40 years of experience fixing just about everything. Supervisor Magowan worked with the Warren County Buildings & Grounds Department over the summer to put together plastic pipeand-Plexiglas dividers that are perched atop the desks and run to the floor to separate supervisors. Buildings & Grounds staffers put them together and installed them in a matter of days, and supervisors have been returning to the meeting room in the weeks since. With price quotes for dividers running in the hundreds of dollars, the in-house solution that was built on site by county staff cost just a fraction of the commercial price tag. These functional, invaluable additions to the board room were created weeks after Supervisor Magowan worked with Buildings & Grounds and Warren County Board of Elections to create a prototype plastic divider to protect election inspectors during the June primary.


NYSAC News | Fall 2020

Elections staff had priced the necessary dividers from a vendor at about $10,000, but the locally made versions were about a third of the price. He also helped design pumps and stands to dispense hand sanitizer from the one-gallon bottles that New York State sent to counties around the state, as counties struggled with ways to dispense the sanitizer. “Working as a team together with our county employees and letting them use their talents in getting it done was awesome,” Magowan explained. “I can’t take much credit for what our hard working DPW and Buildings & Grounds workers did. After so many years of being self-employed, I have found there is no 'I' in team. Working quickly together our team was able to create and save money for our county. These dollars add up over time and trying to keep our county constituents in mind when trying to save and be safe means a lot to all involved.” His colleague on the board, Queensbury at-Large Supervisor Rachel Seeber, said Magowan’s fiscal conservatism is an asset on the board year-round, not just during budget time. “Supervisor Magowan brings a nononsense, common sense approach to everything he encounters,” Seeber said. “You can often find him with a notepad, pencil and suspenders sitting in the board room, drafting out a way to repair, build or replace something and he will make sure it is done inexpensively and is done inhouse.”

NYSAC News | www.nysac.org



NYSAC News | Fall 2020

Adapting County Workforce for Safety without Sacrificing Effectiveness By Albany County Executive Daniel P. McCoy


he confluence of the Coronavirus pandemic and the economic fallout from it have forced county governments to take a long, hard look in the mirror. Though COVID-19 is inherently a national and international issue, the ramifications of the lack of a coherent national strategy are increasingly being passed from the State onto New York counties.

The necessity of providing services remotely pushed the county to re-evaluate workflows and how services are provided. COVID-19 response work carried out by our Department of Health can be completed remotely now. The development of a centralized, case management system for all of New York State helped in this regard.

In our efforts to stop the spread of the virus, Albany County government has in many ways reinvented itself to become more remote based and safer for its workforce. The importance of government transitioning to a more digital form is not just smart for right now, it’s also important as we prepare for potential future disasters.

Additionally, our Department of Mental Health transitioned inperson client and patient visits to telemedicine, our Probation Department rolled out training modules through Zoom, our Department for Aging relaxed eligibility criteria for home delivered meals and our Human Resources Department fully transitioned payroll to direct deposit. A significant component of the county’s adaptation to COVID-19 involved shifting the majority of Albany County’s workforce to working from home. The logistics of this took a good deal of effort, and bringing employees back was even more complicated because the county had to ensure staff members were not carrying the virus. To mitigate this danger, we offered COVID-19 testing to employees at one of our mobile test sites, and we implemented restrictions for those returning, including verbal health screenings and temperature checks.

Unlike schools and many businesses, county government did not have the option of shutting down operations at any point during the pandemic. The programs and services we offer, along with those we administer for the state and federal governments, are essential and serve many of the most vulnerable in our communities. But not all systems and workflows were immediately ready for virtual service delivery. They needed to be reviewed and our Information Services Department needed to implement new processes. On top of this, the county identified "needs gaps" and had to develop real-time systems to assist with the COVID-19 response, including partnering with the Natual Guard to provide food delivery to families placed under mandatory quarantine, as well as our mobile, walk-up COVID community testing sites. 26

NYSAC News | Fall 2020

With these systems now in place for remote work, it begs the question of how many workers should we return to an office setting? Currently, and for the foreseeable future, Albany County will maintain a contingency of its workforce working from home to ensure adequate social distancing in our offices.

As we've transitioned more county programs, services and workflows to the virtual world, cybersecurity has become an increasingly pressing issue. The frequency and scope of cyberattacks have both increased dramatically in recent months. Alarmingly, the FBI has reported that complaints have jumped a shocking 400% since the outbreak of the Coronavirus in the United State to 4,000 each day. That includes major corporations, governments and critical infrastructure. Criminals are even exploiting the fear that exists in our communities right now with COVID-themed phishing attacks and obtaining sensitive data related to the world’s response to the pandemic. This is something that should give all county leaders pause.

Aside from the threat of cyberattacks, possibly the most important part of adapting county government and services to a digital form is understanding which programs simply do not work without in-person interactions. This is another lesson that all levels of government are continually learning as we embark on this new journey. For example, can Child Protective Services and Probation Department home visits maintain their efficacy through Skype, Zoom and other communication platforms. These will be challenging questions and scenarios that we will continue to work through in the days ahead as we strive to maintain balance between protecting our workforces and constituents from the virus, and ensuring we continue to provide services and programs effectively.

Providing timely advice and solutions to local governments across the State on: » Labor Relations

» Employment Law

» GML § 207-a, 207-c

» Municipal Finance

» Employee Training

» Contract Negotiations

» Anti-Harassment Policy

» Housing Redevelopment

For information, please contact John R. Mineaux 13 Columbia Circle Albany, New York 12203

(518)464-8911 jmineaux@rwgmlaw.com

NYSAC News | www.nysac.org


How Did We Do? Madison County hosts “Mid-Action” Review of COVID-19 Response By Samantha Field, Public Information Officer


indsight is 20/20. That is why after every incident it is recommended that an After Action Report is created. It is an exercise for jurisdictions to look at what they did right, what went wrong, and how they can improve for the next time. Even though we are still in the process of response and recovery when it comes to the COVID-19 pandemic, Emergency Management Director, Dan Degear, believed that a “Mid-Action” review would benefit Madison County and help us improve in the event of a second wave. On August 28, 2020, members of Madison County’s incident response team from the Office of Emergency Management, Public Health Department, Board of Supervisors, County Administrator, Public Information Officer, Finance, Purchasing, Personnel, IT, and Facilities Departments all came together in a socially distanced setting with an outside moderator. Dale Currier, former Oswego County Director of Emergency Management, met with the Madison County’s incident response team to evaluate and document the past six months. Everyone came with an open mind and with a unique perspective of how the events leading up to the closure of the county, the response to COVID-19, and the reopening of the county transpired. “This is what Madison County has prepared for, why we do trainings with the Office of Emergency Management, why the Public Health Department holds exercises and has plans for pandemics,” said Madison County Administrator Mark Scimone. “The challenges of COVID-19 were the uncertainty of how wide-spread the virus was, the constant changing guidance, and the duration of the response. With the help of Dale Currier we were able to critically look at what we did, what we didn’t do, and what we still have to prepare for.” At the end of the exercise it was refreshing to know that we all agreed that Madison County’s response so far has been a good one. From day one we recognized the need to keep our employees, the public, and our stakeholders all informed as


NYSAC News | Fall 2020

the latest information became available. Madison County began having meetings with schools and hospitals in February about COVID-19. With the assistance of County Information Technology, the Madison County Public Information Officer Samantha Field opened the county’s first-ever Joint-Information Center (JIC) to ensure an open line of communication and consistent messaging was kept throughout the event. One takeaway from the review is the importance of a Continuity of Operations Plan (COOP). Going into this event, Madison County had a COOP but it was limited in its applicability to an event of this magnitude. While not an ideal time to do so, County OEM staff and departments spent the early days in March building an annex to the COOP for the pandemic conditions we anticipated were coming. This annex addressed what services and employees may not be essential for two weeks may become essential after that and our plans to make that work? The “Mid-Action” review addressed questions of what needed immediate review, what does our plan look like the first 2 weeks, 30 days, 60 days and so on; and what needs to change? Another big takeaway was the need to address staff burnout, which became a serious problem about several months into our response. Madison County is working on a plan to make ensure everyone has a bench and the ability to unplug for 24 hours. In order to have a bench we need to evaluate the strengths of our workforce – does someone else have skills to be the PIO, can anyone else run a testing site, does someone have the skills to assist with contact tracing? These were invaluable insights gained from both our experience during the pandemic and from the review process; we now recognize that our county needs to deepen our bench by training more employees in the Incident Command System (ICS). To better prepare our workforce for a potential second wave, Madison County has already stepped-up training of ICS100 all management positions and has plans to begin training all senior management staff with ICS-200. As Public Health Director Eric Faisst said in a press release on March 5, 2020, "We are prepared to react and respond." Now more than ever that is true in Madison County.

Operation COVID Response Military Training Pays Dividends During Pandemic By Justin Rodriguez, Assistant to Orange County Executive Steven M. Neuhaus and Director of Communications and Media Relations


trong, precise leadership is never more important than during times of crisis. Leaders typically lean on their experience, their smarts, and sometimes their gut instincts. Orange County Executive Steve Neuhaus has relied on another effective and time-tested tool in leading county residents through the COVID-19 pandemic, his military training. Neuhaus was deployed on active duty with the U.S. Navy in November of 2018, serving with the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force. He spent most of his deployment in various locations throughout Iraq in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, the U.S. Military Campaign against ISIS. Previously, he had served overseas in South Korea in 2017 and North Africa in 2011. Throughout the pandemic, every facet of his in-depth training as a Navy reserve officer would play a role in the county’s response. Stints in Iraq and other locales have given him calm resolve and excellent communication skills, which have enabled Orange County to become a role-model for emergency response as the COVID-19 pandemic swept across New York State. Well accustomed with the requirements of deployment, County Executive Neuhaus quickly turned Orange County’s Command Room at the Emergency Services Center (ESC) into a militarystyle operation. In managing the county’s COVID-19 response, a situation report, or “sit rep” – modeled after his daily briefings in Iraq – was generated daily. The one-page report provided facts only (at the County Executive’s insistence) and timely information about new cases, deaths, hospitalizations and available resources. Next, he set about creating a COVID-19 response management team, which included himself, his Deputy County Executive, the County’s Health Commissioner, County Attorney and Commissioner of Emergency Services. Neuhaus tasked his Deputy with running day-to-day operations at the County’s Government Center and kept in daily contact with him. At County Executive's direction, local hospitals and major medical providers were embedded at the ESC, providing his team with daily updates about hospitalizations and COVID-19 trends. Neuhaus, well versed in detailed communication, also held regular calls with County Department Heads, and

municipal Mayors and Supervisors, while directing policy and initiatives with the Orange County Chamber of Commerce, Orange-Ulster BOCES, the county’s economic development team and other key stakeholders. With the response team created, the next order of business was to set about implementing a communications strategy that used the communicating skills honed during his time in the military to help put residents at ease and keep them well-informed. This was accomplished by providing daily videos on social media and the county’s website, detailing the virus’ prevalence and effects on the county and its residents. This communication method proved to be exceedingly effective, with views of each video published during the height of the pandemic receiving 15-20,000 views. He continues to provide these videos daily during the work week with each video averaging between 5–7,000 views. To help mitigate the economic impact of the pandemic on local businesses, the County Executive put together a COVID-19 Economic Development/Small Business team to work with small business owners and job seekers to answer their questions and connect them to resources available during the pandemic. He also urged the Orange County Funding Corporation to implement a program to offer much-needed low-interest loans to small businesses in Orange County impacted by COVID-19. Another key component to the county’s pandemic response was the distribution of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). The County Executive oversaw the county’s distribution of PPE, directing the county to create a strategic stockpile so that local first responders, medical personnel, schools, hospitals and nursing homes had the equipment to perform their duties on the front lines of the public health emergency. This put Orange County in the best possible position to provide critical tools to help those on the frontline to combat the disease. As we navigate these unknown and frightening times, Steve Neuhaus continues to provide strong but calming leadership that county residents have come to rely on and greatly appreciate. NYSAC News | www.nysac.org


Responsive and Responsible Ulster County By Hillary Harvey, Ulster County Innovation Team


ust three days after the first positive case of COVID-19 was announced in Ulster County on March 8th, at the direction of the County Executive, the County’s Innovation Team set up a COVID-19 Hotline. We knew we’d need to provide guidance on public health questions and help handle unprecedented call volume so that our Department of Health (DOH) could focus on the most critical needs. The hotline served as a crisis response center and delivered immediate action on one of Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan’s key initiatives, Responsive and Responsible Government, at a moment of frightening uncertainty for all county residents. As we learned more about coronavirus, and fears about potential workplace exposures made it clear that it was no longer safe for call center staff to work in physical proximity, we embarked on a 1-week sprint to take a team of 16 county employees to 100% remote operations by March 26th. Now more than ever, COVID-19 has highlighted the importance of local government and the daily role that we must play in assisting our residents

We put together a solution that integrated Google forms with the user-friendly spreadsheet software Airtable, plus Microsoft Teams and a cloud-based phone app called Telzio, allowing for fully web-based operations of the hotline.

Continuing its work, the remote hotline also acted as the contact center for the county’s emergency food assistance program, Project Resilience, and as a liaison between the public and the medical facilities that were providing COVID testing in Ulster County. On April 11th, County Executive Pat Ryan asked us to revisit the concept of the COVID hotline and evolve it into a longer-term COVID recovery center. Knowing that the hotline had become instrumental in understanding community needs during the pandemic, the idea was to expand access to services, beyond DOH. “We found that the call center had put us in direct contact with constituents in ways that they really appreciated,” said Timothy Weidemann, Director of Innovation. “The idea was to expand that into broader services that are offered by the county.” So we started from scratch again. Revisiting tech requirements, we prioritized the capture of repeat callers in persistent records, advancing a multi-channel solution and a forced structure for tracking and reporting data. We implemented QAlert, a 311 request management application designed for reports about the physical world and configured it to handle informational requests and referrals. We expanded the menu of services to include programs that could help with the broader impacts of the pandemic, like housing assistance and economic recovery, and onboarded other county departments into the software for cross-departmental coordination. The new Ulster County Recovery Service Center (RSC) is a friendly front door to county government.

RSC Fellowship 2020 30

NYSAC News | Fall 2020

During its more than 190 days of activity, Ulster County’s call center has received over 28,700 calls, resulting in about 10,500 service requests – a responsive, responsible, and personalized relationship with Ulster County constituents.

Any effort to implement change runs the risk of going too far too fast. But with a global pandemic forcing an immediate response, Ulster County had to move quickly. While the saying goes, it’s a marathon not a sprint, Ulster County has been sprinting a marathon every day during the pandemic. What might have remained in the planning phase for six months in the old paradigm, now sees implementation of three iterations in the same time period. As we like to say, we’re building the plane while flying it. We also took steps to lessen the complexity of county government bureaucracy so that anyone in Ulster County can call up county government and find meaningful next steps. “You earn trust by doing difficult things well,” says Deputy Director of Innovation Jeff Kalpakis. “Whenever we would show up and insert ourselves into a difficult problem, we found a seat at the table with other departments.” “Now more than ever, COVID-19 has highlighted the importance of local government and the daily role that we must play in assisting our residents,” said County Executive Pat Ryan. “The Ulster County Recovery Service Center makes it easier for our residents to get the support they need, and it does it in a way that is more streamlined and efficient. I’m proud that Team Ulster County has continued to innovate throughout our response to this crisis, and I am certain that the transformative impact of the RSC will continue to help make county government more responsive and responsible, even during the challenging financial conditions we face in 2021.”

County Conversations Podcast Tackles Timely and Pressing Issues Impacting Counties To listen to the podcast, visit www.nysac.org/podcast. Each episode features discussions with leaders from across the state that are focused on providing innovative solutions to local issues. NYSAC has recently expanded its County Conversations podcast to be updated weekly, with updates being released each Monday morning. Recent episodes have featured Congressman Anthony Brindisi to discuss rural cellular coverage, NYS School Boards Association Executive Director Robert Schneider to discuss the challenges the pandemic presents for school districts, and New York City Commissioner of Sanitation Kathryn Garcia to discuss food insecurity and emergency distribution. Listeners can contact NYSAC Multimedia Specialist Kate Pierce via email (kpierce@nysac.org) to provide feedback and ideas for the podcast, or to become a guest on the show. NYSAC News | www.nysac.org


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Montgomery County Will Come Back Stronger Aiding Local Businesses and Boosting Tourism By Morgan McClary, Montgomery County Communications Specialist


or several years Montgomery County and its Business Development Center have been focused on encouraging economic growth and development in the 50-mile region. Now, amidst the Coronavirus pandemic, the focus hasn’t changed---just shifted. New businesses such as Dollar General, the Microtel by Wyndham Hotels and the last-mile Amazon facility have been built in the 5S corridor---leading to job growth and further expansion to the industrial park which sits just off of Exit 27 of the New York State Thruway. In mid-March, when COVID-19 shutdowns began impacting this small Mohawk Valley community, the Business Development Center and County Executive’s Office started several new initiatives intended to promote existing Montgomery County businesses during the most dramatic economic decline in recent history. These initiatives are highlighted below.

Small Business of the Month Series The new “Small Business of the Month” award was launched in March. The six businesses who have been recognized so far demonstrate a commitment to the community and the Montgomery County economy. Each business selected is nominated by the public. Selected businesses receive a visit from the County Executive, an appreciation award and promotional recognition.

“Buy it in Montgomery” Campaign Many businesses, especially small businesses, suffered severe and unexpected economic hardship from the COVID-19 pandemic. In an effort to help promote local businesses and get them back on their feet, the Business Development Center launched the “Buy it in Montgomery” Campaign in June. The campaign included a new logo as well as an online business directory,


NYSAC News | Fall 2020

which is being developed to help connect consumers with local Montgomery County businesses, products and services. Businesses who participate are given a special “Buy it in Montgomery” logo to display in their windows to let customers know they’re patronizing a place unique to Montgomery County. Billboard advertisements have been placed throughout the county as well as lawn signs. The Business Development Center is working to raise the profile of these local businesses so they can exceed their pre-Coronavirus position.

Be a Tourist in Your Own Town Travel restrictions and safety precautions have been keeping many people close to home. To promote Montgomery County tourism and showcase the area’s attractions, the County Executive’s Office, Business Development Center and Fulton Montgomery Regional Chamber of Commerce kicked-off the “Be a Tourist in Your Own Town” initiative in late August. The campaign features a series of suggested Montgomery County day trips. Each trip includes a suggested itinerary with places to visit and explore, as well as restaurants to stop at along the way. Officials promoted the campaign on social media looking for participants. Response rates have exceeded expectations, with a museum, apple orchards and several restaurants on the docket to be featured. The Business Development Center creates short videos of each trip. These videos, as well as a blog post and photos, will be promoted through each organization’s social media account and website. While there is no way to predict what the future holds for our community during these unprecedented times, Montgomery County is confident that the efforts to promote local businesses will ensure that Montgomery County will come back stronger.

Moving Your County Forward Leverage the Right Tools to Regain Momentum By Gary DeBaise, Account Executive – Enterprise Sales, Systems East, Inc.


e all know that 2020 is shaping up to be one of the most transformative years in modern history. The effects are finding their way to every inch of the globe and into the homes of every American. The challenges we’re facing today couldn’t have even been imagined just a few months ago. Businesses and government offices, like yours, have been shuttered for months. Residents are being sequestered in their own homes. Schools are closed. Our daily lives have been upended in almost every way. Needless to say, this has been quite the year. With so much turmoil, how do you move your county forward when you can’t even open your office doors? That’s 2020 for you. Every day presents a new challenge, and cringe-worthy headline. Murder Hornets? Really? Not to worry, it’s not all bad news. 2020 has been tough for so many of us, however, if there’s one thing this year has shown us, is that even when we’re forced apart, humans will find ways to stay connected. At our core, we’re social beings. It’s built into our DNA. We need to stay in touch, so we will seek out new ways to stay connected. Luckily, 2020 also landed at a time when the Internet has had time to mature. “We wanted a tax collection solution that was simple to use for us and our local collectors, and powerful and flexible enough to meet our needs. TCS checked all the boxes, and more.” Robin Fisher, Property Tax Specialist, Cattaraugus County Since the initial lockdowns in March, which feels like a lifetime ago, services like Zoom, TikTok, Facebook Live, Amazon, and other web-based services have seen astonishing growth recently. It’s no surprise either, as we still need to eat, repair things, and make a living. By now, you’re probably wondering, “This is all true, but how does it help me move my county forward?” As I mentioned earlier, the Internet has grown exponentially in the last twenty years, and is now the driving force for virtually all commerce. This will shift how municipalities operate as well.

With that, you need a solution that keeps your team and constituents connected no matter what. Thankfully, there’s one system that’s provided these tools for officials like you across New York for years now: The Total Collection Solution (TCS) from Systems East. TCS has a lengthy history in New York, and was first released in 1984 as a DOS-based system that helped counties handle tax collection and receipting through delinquency enforcement, tax sales, land auctions, and more. Today, TCS is now in The Cloud to give you unparalleled access to countywide data in real-time. With an intuitive interface, TCS also allows you to deliver up-to-date parcel details to anyone at any time. Plus, along with its sister product, Xpress-pay, TCS lets you accept secure online payments from residents for virtually anything. Payments are instantly reconciled, and funds reach your bank in one business day. Your team can also be granted access to any or all of the functions, allowing them to perform their duties remotely. Whether your employees work in the office or at home, TCS gives you the tools needed to keep your (virtual) office running smoothly. Regarding security, TCS hosts your data in the cloud on high performance, protected servers that are housed in remote, secure facilities to help keep your data safe from hackers. Gone are the days of buying and managing expensive hardware, too. All your team needs to access your account is an Internet connection, printer, and logins. Regain control of your life, and leverage the only solution that can help keep things moving forward. Why trust us? Since 1981, Systems East has been a pioneer in New York State municipal accounting and finance software. We’ve spent the last forty years understanding our clients’ needs and delivering solutions that make your life easier. Contact us today to discuss your needs and schedule a free virtual demo to see exactly what TCS will do for you. Gary DeBaise is a 10-year industry veteran, who’s worked with a variety of county and local officials across New York.

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Tompkins Legislature Invests in COVID-19 Testing Key Part of a Successful Local Pandemic Response

By Dominick Recckio, Tompkins County Communications Director


xpanding COVID-19 testing accessibility has been a key strategy in stopping the disease from spreading in Tompkins County. As of mid-September, the county had about 400 total COVID-19 cases and had completed over 115,000 tests. This wide-scale testing availability is a reflection of early decision making, collaboration, and investments by the local hospital network, Cayuga Health System, higher education institutions, the Tompkins County Legislature, and the County Health Department. In August, the County Legislature unanimously approved the use of contingent funds to make testing through Cayuga Health System available at no cost for Tompkins County residents. Legislature Chairwoman Leslyn McBean-Clairborne stated, “With this investment, our community, regardless of income ability and insurance coverage, will continue to have wide-scale access to a critical tool in stopping the spread.” The Legislature plans to assess the testing program after 10 weeks and evaluate the arrangement moving forward. The funding ensures that all county residents can access testing without meeting previous criteria, though testing for individuals who are close contacts or symptomatic will still be covered by insurance providers.


NYSAC News | Fall 2020

This follows a previous commitment by the Legislature in May to purchase locally developed Rheonix rapid molecular testing equipment to help increase Cayuga Health System’s testing capacity and ability to pool samples for greater efficiency. “Our collaborative work led to one of the first mass sampling sites in New York State to open in mid-March,” said Dr. Martin Stallone, CEO of Cayuga Health. Tompkins County Public Health Director Frank Kruppa added, “The benefits of having an engaged, proactive local community hospital system is paramount. Cayuga Health System started looking at what they could do to keep our community healthy from day one – and they’ve run over 100,000 tests in our small county.” With the use of Rheonix machines, Cayuga Health System was one of the first medical providers in the state to pool samples and increase the number of tests that could be run in a given day. Reflecting on the recent investment, Tompkins County Administrator Jason Molino said, “Cayuga Health System stepped up early to test the community when it wasn’t widely available across the state and country, and the county’s investments in their work have proven to be good ones. We’ve seen so much local adaptability and innovation, and today we’re seeing turnaround times for results within a day, which is remarkable relative to many other communities across the country.”

Dr. Stallone added, “The Tompkins County Health Department has done an outstanding job leading the tracing and tracking of the virus in the community, which has helped keep the incidence of COVID-19 low. We are very appreciative of the Tompkins County Legislature’s decision to expand coverage for all residents by supporting needed funding. This will continue to keep us safe by allowing more people to be tested.”

In September, Cornell University administrators visited a meeting of the County Legislature to share updates on their Ithaca campus reactivation. Joel Malina, VP for University Relations at Cornell, shared, “We would not be in the position we are in if not for the remarkable partnership with the Tompkins County Health Department and Legislature. This is a complicated endeavor, and it has been critical and rewarding to work closely with the county.”

In addition to the collaboration with Cayuga Health System, Tompkins County has worked closely with local higher education institutions, including Cornell University, Ithaca College, and Tompkins Cortland Community College. With the addition of a surveillance testing program instituted by Cornell University, the number of tests in a given day in Tompkins County consistently average in the thousands and sometimes reflect as much as 10% of testing state-wide and 1% of testing completed in the entire United States.

Echoing Cornell’s sentiments, Ithaca College’s director of public health emergency preparedness Christina Moylan said, “We are fortunate in Tompkins County to have strong partnerships with both the Tompkins County Health Department and Cayuga Health System. It’s clear that leaders in our community support the availability of frequent testing and close collaboration across traditional boundaries.” A comprehensive document outlining the Tompkins County’s COVID-19 response can be found on the Tompkins County Health Department website.

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Swift Action Taken to Help Families Stay Healthy and Safe By Jennifer Rodriguez, Livingston County Public Health Director


he Livingston County Department of Health (LCDOH) administers the Livingston-Wyoming Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program – a federal nutrition initiative that provides monthly benefits for healthy foods, nutrition counseling, and referrals to health care for pregnant women, breastfeeding and non-breastfeeding mothers, and infants and children who are at nutritional risk and live in or near poverty. Livingston-Wyoming WIC covers two rural counties – Livingston and Wyoming – that encompass over 1,200 square miles combined. The program works closely with state and local partners such as Headstart (a program of Livingston-Wyoming ARC), Noyes Hospital, the Maternal and Infant Community Health Collaborative (MICHC), maternal and child health services, and a variety of community outreach programs. As unemployment has increased due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so has the number of those eligible to enroll in Livingston-Wyoming WIC. The number of program participants has increased by 5.47% since the beginning of the pandemic. Low-income participants in the program have been negatively impacted by the loss of family income, limited work opportunities, a lack of access to healthy food, an inability to meet childcare needs due to school closures, and the added stressors of keeping the most vulnerable populations safe.

By incorporating additional technological enhancements into its program, Livingston-Wyoming WIC has been able to swiftly and efficiently adapt to remote services. Here is a summary of some recent technological successes during the pandemic. •

Livingston-Wyoming WIC transitioned to virtual appointments at the beginning of the pandemic, and the show rate – the rate at which participants show up for their appointments – has actually increased since then. The show rate for the month of February 2020, when services were still provided face-to-face, was 74% (399 appointments) while the show rate for July 2020, using remote services during the pandemic, was 90% (529 appointments).

In August 2020, a virtual World Breastfeeding Week celebration, including trivia and coloring contests, prizes, and mini-commercials from community partners, was held. Livingston-Wyoming WIC staff, including Certified Lactation Counselors and a Registered Nurse, collaborated with maternal child nurses and MICHC to provide this celebration.

Breastfeeding support and breast pump assistance continued via texts and phone calls with Breastfeeding Peer Counselors throughout the pandemic. A Breastfeeding Coordinator was available to assess needs and issue breast pumps to Livingston-Wyoming WIC participants as appropriate.

Livingston-Wyoming WIC often collaborates with maternal and child health services and community outreach programs to provide breastfeeding support through Breast Feeding Friends (BFF) weekly gatherings at two sites. During the pandemic, the decision was made to shift to virtual gatherings, combining both locations into one weekly meeting. Initial feedback from participants has been positive.

The challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic have provided new opportunities for Livingston-Wyoming WIC and its partners to collaborate and provide services in unique ways while still meeting the social and economic needs of participants.


NYSAC News | Fall 2020

Other notable successes include: •

The Farmer’s Market Nutrition Program (FMNP) begins on June 1st of each year. As part of the program, every Livingston-Wyoming WIC participant – 6 months of age or older – is eligible to receive five (5) $4 farmer’s market checks – in a booklet – to purchase fresh, locally-grown fruits and vegetables at participating farmer’s markets. FMNP helps participants gain access to food while also supporting local farmers. Since June 1, 2020, LivingstonWyoming WIC has issued almost 900 farmer’s market booklets to participants. Mailings and curbside pickups – a popular social distancing practice – are used to distribute the booklets.

A pilot program led by Livingston-Wyoming WIC and Head Start has garnered recognition from New York State. In 2019, Livingston-Wyoming WIC began doing enrollments onsite at Headstart. This has helped enrollment by having onsite availability and allows families to participate without having to come for inperson visits.

In sum, Livingston-Wyoming WIC is a shining example of how county programs can quickly and efficiently adapt in times of need and continue to provide exceptional service. While new to both participants and staff, this new way of doing business has created great synergy and has led to improved outcomes for residents.

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Chautauqua County Works with Community Partners to Address COVID-19 Outbreaks By PJ Wendel, Chautauqua County Executive


n late August, Chautauqua County experienced two separate clusters of COVID-19 cases. One involved employees at Fieldbrook Foods Inc.’s food manufacturing facility in Dunkirk, N.Y. and the other was among college students at the State University of New York (SUNY) at Fredonia in Fredonia, N.Y. As of September 22, 2020, there were a total of 89 individuals, either employees or community close contacts of employees, who were associated with the outbreak at Fieldbrook Foods and a total of 102 students at SUNY Fredonia, who tested positive for COVID-19. Of these totals, 85 have recovered and 4 cases are still active for Fieldbrook Foods, and 90 have recovered and 12 are still active for SUNY Fredonia. In both of these outbreaks, when the Chautauqua County Health Department and County Executive’s Office saw a potential uptick in cases, they contacted and worked collaboratively with each entity’s management and officials from the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) to mitigate the further spread of the disease.


NYSAC News | Fall 2020

The county worked tirelessly to isolate those testing positive for the virus, and identified and quarantined the close contacts of all positive cases to help contain the virus. At Fieldbrook Foods, the county along with community partners and staff from the NYSDOH, Chautauqua County Department of Health and Human Services, the county Office of Emergency Services, ALSTAR EMS, Fredonia Fire, and The Chautauqua Center, conducted a proactive wide-scale testing event at the facility for all employees who wished to be tested. Of the 393 individuals tested conducted at the event, 24 tested positive for COVID-19. The County Health Department also conducted a walk-through inspection with the NYSDOH and New York State Ag & Markets, which verify that the company was in compliance with most of the prevention guidance. There were a few recommendations that were made pertaining to common areas, break times, and handwashing, which the company readily implemented. Health Department staff also worked collaboratively with the Office for Aging Services and Sheriff ’s Office to compile

and distribute packs of food to individuals impacted by the Fieldbrook Foods Inc. outbreak who were required to isolate or quarantine. Many individuals lacked family or community resources to assist them during this time. These individuals and families had many other needs, including the provision of baby formula, diapers, and cleaning supplies. Health Department staff collaborated with partners in the nonprofit and faith sectors to pull together resources and meet these needs. Several COVID-19-positive individuals required alternative housing solutions to safely isolate from their loved ones; this need was also met by the County. With the cluster at the college, the County Health Department and SUNY Fredonia issued a joint statement to students and faculty about the recent uptick of cases at the campus and several scenarios they believed contributed to the spread of the virus on campus. In the statement, they called on individuals to limit assembling to less than 10 minutes in common areas when face coverings are not continuously worn, have no visitors in the residence halls, and not attend large off-campus gatherings that are in violation of the State’s Executive Orders. After New York State deployed rapid testing machines to address various clusters of cases in the Western New York region, I asked during one of the Region’s Control Room meetings if some of the machines could be returned and kept

in the County’s possession in order to help contain future outbreaks. He received approval from the state to keep four of the rapid testing machines in the county and as a result of this request, every county in Western New York now has at least one machine. In consultation with my team, which includes public and private partners, we have created a Rapid Response Plan. Now, if we have future clusters of COVID-19 cases in the County, we will be able to quickly deploy these machines and setup a rapid testing site where someone could be tested for COVID-19 and have their results in 15 minutes. This would allow us to quickly identify and isolate positive cases and their close contacts to further mitigate the spread of the virus, which will be an especially critical asset with the opening of grade schools this fall. I thank the staff of the Chautauqua County Department of Health and Human Services, Chautauqua County Office of Emergency Services, Chautauqua County Emergency Medical Services, Chautauqua County Sheriff ’s Office, first responders throughout Chautauqua County and all of our dedicated partners who have worked tirelessly around the clock to carry out our common mission of protecting the health and safety of all Chautauqua County residents and visitors during this pandemic.

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Profile for NYS Association of Counties

Fall 2020: Counties Moving Forward  

This issue of NYSAC News focuses on stories of counties facing sets of challenges that have arisen from the COVID-19 pandemic, and how they...

Fall 2020: Counties Moving Forward  

This issue of NYSAC News focuses on stories of counties facing sets of challenges that have arisen from the COVID-19 pandemic, and how they...

Profile for nysac