MOSA, charter to get attention
County Executive-elect Matt Ossenfort could be referred to as the George Washington of Montgomery County after he takes office on Jan. 1.
At the start of the new year, the county will be shifting leadership from a Board of Supervisors to a legislature with an elected county executive. Ossenfort, who overwhelmingly beat St. Johnsville supervisor Dominick Stagliano for the position, will, like Washington, be the first of his kind.
“I’m very excited for this change in government,” Ossenfort said. “I think it’s time for a fresh start, and I’m feeling very confident going into this position.”
The county executive has a term of four years and an annual salary of $85,000. The nine legislators have three-year terms with annual salaries of $10,000. The chairman of the legislature will earn $15,000.
The county executive’s duties include executing and enforcing laws and resolutions of the legislature and exercising supervision and control over administrative departments, offices and agencies of the county government.
The executive will have the ability to approve and veto any votes by the legislature.
Ossenfort said there are a few items at the top of his agenda that he plans on tackling as soon as he takes office.
“The future of solid waste is one of the top items on my list,” he said. “We’re looking toward the dissolution of [Montgomery Otsego Schoharie Solid Waste Management] and there’s a number of things we need to take care of moving forward … what are we going to do with our solid waste [and] what are we going to do with our transfer stations post-MOSA and all of the assets? We’re discussing and looking into all of these things right now.”
Thomas Quackenbush, District 2’s legislator-elect and Minden’s current supervisor also said that creating a solid waste plan was a top priority in the new year.
“MOSA is dissolving and we need to concentrate on a solid-waste plan,” Quackenbush said. “It’s right at the top of the list of things that need to get done.”
Another item on Ossenfort’s agenda is an assessment of county facilities and office buildings for health, safety and energy reasons. He said a lot of facilities, especially the county office annex building in Fonda, are in need of updates, “not only in the brick-and-mortar aspect, but also in the technology aspect.”
Terry Bieniek, the District 5 legislator-elect said evaluating certain county buildings for safety was a top priority for him.
“There’s a couple of buildings we have right now in the flood zone, one is the Public Works building and the other is the Annex building,” he said.
“In 2006, when the first flood happened, I remember everyone said something needs to be done, and nothing but small changes have been done since then. I want to take a look at those buildings. I’m going to try to tackle a plan for those two and see what my fellow legislators think,” he said.
Ossenfort said issues involving county charter will be addressed in the first couple of months of the new government:
“There are some questions on the charter regarding some appointments and whether they need to be made or don’t depending on state law and local law,” Ossenfort said. “We have to talk about what things we can fix in the charter through legislative action and what needs to go to a public referendum, and that’s going to be a very important process that the legislature will be involved in, and I’ll be involved in hopefully.”
Roy Dimond, who beat John Thayer, the Root supervisor who chairs the Board of Supervisors, for the District 3 legislator position, said his biggest goal in the new government is to involve the community in politics more.
“I want to build a sense of community and create openness in government. I think the first step is listening to what the taxpayers say,” he said. “I signed a pledge to hold regular meetings in my district and I intend to do just that. Those meetings will be important; they’ll present a forum to hear what the taxpayers have to say and draw on their expertise, and to tell them what we’ve done and what we plan on doing in the future.”
Barbara Wheeler, District 7 legislator-elect and the 4th Ward supervisor in the city of Amsterdam, said she doesn’t want to limit her goals for the new form of government right now because “they’re endless.”
However, she said she hopes the legislature can successfully work together.
“I think it’s going to be hard and the meeting of the minds is always the biggest task, but that’s what we were elected to do,” Wheeler said.
Quackenbush, who’s spent 12 years working on the Board of Supervisors said he’s hoping the county will support the new government as well.
“There are definitely going to be some bumps in the road but I think you’ve got nine committed legislators, no matter what party they are, and the county’s executive, and we all want this to work,” Quackenbush said. “I’ve spoken to every one of them, and I truly believe they all want this to work. I just hope the people of Montgomery County gives us the tools and support to be successful.”
Ossenfort said he’s optimistic about the legislature. He thinks they’re ready to start working for the county and he said they’ve been very positive toward him. He said everyone needs to have patience with the transition until everything gets settled.
“I’m confident we’ll get through this and brighter times are ahead for Montgomery County,” he said.
The nine legislators and Ossenfort will meet at noon Jan. 1 for their first organizational meeting where they will discuss meeting times, organize plans and name the legislature chairman.