The Ontario County Board of Supervisors met May 7th for their regular monthly meeting. The meeting was held via WebEx conference call due to the COVID-19 crisis. For the second month in a row, the public and media were excluded from the meeting due to what Ontario County has described as technical glitches with the conference call system.
Ontario County Public Health Director Mary Beer updated the Board regarding COVID-19. Beer indicated that the Finger Lakes Region has met all 7 of the Governor’s criteria for beginning to reopen and consequently the region would begin Phase 1 of the reopening process May 15, 2020. Beer stated that Phase 1 would permit construction and manufacturing companies to resume operations. Phase 1 reopening would also include some curbside pickup for some retail outlets. Beer indicated that the County had been working with local businesses to prepare them for the reopening process. Beer also informed the Board that the State wants all nursing homes to have 100% of their patients and staff tested for COVID-19. She emphasized that at this point the testing program is voluntary and will require the cooperation of facilities. The Department of Public staff is working to get the supplies necessary, including 790 test kits from the State, and coordinate with facilities to implement the nursing home testing program. However, Beer stated that the Department does not have enough staff available to actually conduct the testing themselves. Consequently, the actual testing will have to be conducted by others.
Interim County Administrator Brian Young also presented a COVID-19 update. Young stated that the County is projecting 2020 revenue loss due to COVID-19 to be just over $24 million. Young informed the Board that the County had received the first sales tax payment for 2020 and it was 27% lower than usual. Young stated that department heads were working on ways of trimming 2020 operating costs and the County has identified $5 million in the Capital Improvement Plan that can be deferred.
Young also told the Board that County staff continued to work on a reopening plan. However, Young stated that department heads were also looking at ways to continue remote work or how the County can take advantage of blended remote/onsite work process. Young anticipated continuation of remote work practices for some time. Young also stated that Ontario County received roughly 39,000 face coverings, which the County has distributed to high traffic areas such as convenience and retail stores. Young believes the County will receive additional face coverings for future distribution.
In the official action portion of the meeting, the Board continued its longstanding practice of blocking resolutions together by subject matter.
In COVID-19 related actions, the Board approved three resolutions to address the financial fallout from the Crisis. First, the Board unanimously approved to resolutions that ratified agreements with the Ontario County Police Benevolent Association (PBA) and the Ontario County Sheriff’s General Unit (SGU) which permitted voluntary temporary layoffs. The resolutions provided that the County can, subject to operational needs, offer voluntary layoffs that could last through July 31, 2020. The resolutions provided that the County would maintain employee health insurance benefits during the layoff.
In Other COVID-19 related actions, the Board approved a resolution that ratified an agreement with the County employees’ union (CSEA) to permit temporary layoffs due to COVID 19. The Board also approved a resolution to permit 60-day notices to County employees should permanent layoffs become necessary, but Interim County Administrator Young emphasized that this resolution was submitted only as a precautionary measure. The Board also extended the County’s COVID-19 Workforce Reduction Plan and transferred funds to cover COVID-19 expenses for the Probation Department, and implemented vacancy review policies for County positions for both 2020 and 2021.
The Board designated May as Older Americans Month. The Board felt this was particularly appropriate given the impact COVID-19 is having on older members of the community. The Board also designated May3-9, 2020 as National Tourism Week. However, Supervisor Kristine Singer (Canadice) indicated she hoped that the County would do something additional to recognize the important contribution of tourism to the community once tourism venues begin reopening following the COVID-19 crisis. Singer felt this was particularly important because of the dramatic impact the COVID-19 crisis is having on the tourism industry.
The Board also unanimously approved a resolution to accept a $146,212.22 grant from the State of New York to fund the State mandated mailing of absentee ballot applications and other election safety issues that arise due to COVID-19.
The Board also scheduled two public hearings. First, the Board scheduled a public hearing to consider Local Law 3 related to the Ontario County Self Insurance Plan. Supervisor Jeffrey Gallahan (Manchester) stated that the proposed new formula for the insurance fund makes the program fairer and more equitable for all participants. Second, the Board scheduled a public hearing for the consideration of Local Law No. 2, which would override tax levy limits for Fiscal Year 2020. Both hearings are scheduled for Thursday, March 28, 2020, at 6:30 P.M. and will be held via WebEx conference call.
The Board also considered and approved unanimously resolutions for contracts with the University of Rochester Strong Center for Developmental Disabilities and Judith Hoke for the Ontario County Children with Special Needs Program, and Planned Parenthood of Central and Western New York for the diagnosis and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases. In addition, the Board approved new sliding fee schedules for the provision of lead testing and immunization services. The Board also appointed Aaron J. Morrell to the Community Services Board.
The Board next approved a new contract with TenEleven Group, LLC for electronic case record services, and a contract amendment with TenEleven related to add electronic prescribing system licenses for new staff. Supervisor Daryl Marshall stated that although it looks like a money grab by TenEleven Group LLC to require new prescribing system licenses each time a new staff member is hired, the company is actually the best alternative available.
The Board also renewed professional consultant contracts with the Mental Health Association of Rochester- Monroe County, Inc., Unity of Cayuga County Inc., and Clifton Sprints Hospital and Clinic for mental health services. In addition, the Board approved the use of a sliding fee scale software application to determine the fee for mental health services. The Board also voted to cancel $6,221.83 in uncollectable debts for mental health-related services.
The Board also awarded a contract amendment to Causewave Community Partners in the amount of $1762 for the development of a strategic plan for the Department of Sustainability and Solid Waste Management.
In other actions, the Board approved a contract in the amount of $50,000 with the law firm of Hodgson Russ, LLP to represent the County in connection with Casella Waste’s operation of the Ontario County Landfill. The resolution that the Board approved indicated that the County desired to address the continued odor issues and recent Notices of Violation issued to Casella Waste by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).
Resolutions were also approved appointing Deborah Brown to the Ontario County Industrial Development Agency and the Ontario County Local Development Corporation.
The Board also unanimously approved payment of an invoice from Finger Lakes Institute and a $5,000 contract with Hobart and William Smith College related to the Seneca Lake Watershed project. The County also accepted a $30,00 grant for the Honeoye lake aeration destratification system feasibility study.
The Public Safety Committee presented four resolutions for consideration. Three of the resolutions approved contracts with Glove House, Inc., the Youth Advocate Program, and the Center for Dispute Settlement for probation related services. The fourth resolution approved a contract with the Finger Lakes Area Counseling & Recovery Agency (FLACRA) for counseling and transition services provided at the Ontario County Jail.
The Public Works Committee submitted a total of 9 resolutions for the Board to Consider. These resolutions awarded contracts and bids to:
- American Equipment LLC for Skid Steer Brush Cutter Rental – $250
- Cahill resources, LLC for rental of a tracked off-road hauler – $26,800
- Billitier Electric, Inc. for electric work – $53,100
- Various vendors for the Department of Public Works for materials and services.
- Town of Farmington for use of a fueling station – Per gallon cost per New York State contract.
- Department of Veterans Affairs for sewage treatment services – The agreement related to five properties on Bushwood Lane. The approved resolution did not identify the cost of the contract.
- Arrow Contracting, Inc. for removal of an underground fuel storage tank and installation of an above-ground fuel storage tank for the back-up generator at the County Human Services Building – $16,390
The Board also voted to reject a bid from Kistner Concrete Products, Inc. for precast concrete drainage units. The bid was rejected because Kistner Concrete Products, Inc. did not submit the proper bid form.
Finally, the Board approved actions to distribute property taxes to local school districts, modify purchasing procedures to comply with current law, and call upon the State of New York to release Enhanced Federal Medicaid Matching Funds.
The Ontario County Board of Supervisors’ next meeting is scheduled for Thursday, May 28, 2020.
Todd covers local government in the Finger Lakes. He has a JD degree the Lincoln Law School of Sacramento. Send tips to [email protected].