March 26, 2014 —
MONTICELLO, NY — Four Sullivan County legislators voted to move now on the creation of a food hub in Glen Wild, but five of them ultimately voted to table the matter until it can be further investigated.
The decision was made at a meeting of the Sullivan County Legislature on March 20 in Monticello. The food hub, which is technically called the Less than Trailer Load Local Food Distribution Network, would allow farmers to reach markets to which they might otherwise not have access.
It’s a project of the Sullivan County Industrial Development Agency (IDA), which has already secured more than $500,000 in state and federal grants, and has committed to investing $250,000. Because funding from the state came in at less than had been asked for, the IDA requested that the county legislators agree to allocate up to $110,000 for the project.
Told that the project would be located in Mountaindale, Legislator Alan Sorensen asked if it could instead be located on property that is already owned by the county, which could possibly reduce the amount that the county would have to allocate.
In the executive committee meeting, the measure passed five to four, but an hour later in the full board meeting, a move to table the measure passed five to four, with Legislator Gene Benson providing the fifth vote. Along with Benson, legislators Cindy Gieger, Alan Sorensen, Cora Edwards and Kitty Vetter voted to table; legislators Kathy LaBuda, Jonathan Rouis, Ira Steingart and chair Scott Samuelson opposed tabling the measure and wanted to pass it immediately.
Supporters of the measure were clearly disappointed. LaBuda said, “It’s going to help the farmers and create 16 new jobs, which we desperately need, so I was wondering if we could call a special meeting, or if those who are uncomfortable with it can get the information they need so we can proceed forward.”
Gieger responded, saying she had requested a budget summary of what the $110,000 will be used for, and she also had questions on the location of the facility. She said when she gets the budget summary she will review it, and consider the matter again.
Rouis said, “It’s really unfortunate, because we had an opportunity today to move something forward, that has been fully vetted, and it’s extremely positive…. We talk the talk about agriculture, and it gets in the news and makes headlines, but when it comes time to walk the walk we just don’t follow through, and it’s unfortunate for a large segment of our population.”
Edwards explained that she had seen a presentation about the proposed food hub at the Mid-Hudson Regional Economic Development Council. She said, “I believe this legislature deserves a presentation… I think that any time we’re asked to appropriate taxpayers’ money to the tune of $110,000, we deserve a budget breakdown.”
Vetter said she believed in the idea of a food hub, but she had concerns about its proposed location and the cost.
Sorensen said, “I support the concept of the food hub. I think there are alternative locations and alternative approaches that we can explore rather than just writing a check for $110,000, and I’d like the opportunity to do that. I think we could do that rather quickly over the next month or two.”