By County Executive Ed Day
We are making progress. Over the last few weeks, your County Government has taken major strides towards reinvigorating itself and the services we provide for you. Earlier this week I signed four bond resolutions to continue the methodical repurposing and rebuilding of Rockland County’s facilities.
The first was an authorization to bond $29.5 million for the construction of new Highway Department facilities in Chestnut Ridge. Also signed off on were three bond resolutions one for a document management software system that will modernize government and save taxpayer dollars ($2 million); one for a playground for court-ordered visitation at the Pomona complex in service to child and parent visitation requirements ($375,000); and one for the continued repurposing of the Pomona complex with an eye on ensuring a complete one stop shopping hub for health and human services here in Rockland ($300,000).
As I said in this year’s State of the County address we are moving forward, remaking our government, making it more effective, more streamlined, less costly. Rockland County has been given a chance to do something great; a golden opportunity to reimagine and reinvigorate our government and the services we provide.
Our fiscal discipline has paid off. We are paying down bonds that we took out years ago and thanks to our conservative fiscal management over the last 4 years, Moody’s Investors Service recently rated Rockland’s bonds A2, a double category increase! This is the county’s seventh consecutive bond upgrade since 2014, when Rockland’s bonds were rated just above junk and the county had a $138 million deficit.
Now is the ideal time to begin investing back into our County. Our bond upgrade provides a unique window of opportunity to stay in front of rising interest rates and we can accomplish this investment without raising additional taxes. And while the cost to fund these projects is significant; transforming our government’s infrastructure while we have the chance will provide lasting value to our county and leave a legacy for future generations to build upon.
County government will not take the politically expedient way out by delay. We will take on these challenges now as we will not allow our infrastructure to decay and saddle our children and grandchildren with a cost three, four or five times what it is now. That would be unconscionable.
In keeping with our fiscally restrained approach, the bonding will be phased in as market conditions warrant over the next two to three years so as not to overly tax our debt service.
The new Highway Department Facilities will include an Office Building, a Large Vehicle Storage Building, a Repair Shop, a Cold Storage Building, a Salt Shed, a Truck Wash and a Fuel Station. Having proper storage and cleaning facilities for all of our equipment is expected to extend the life expectancy of our vehicles by 20% (5 years) which translates to savings of about $190,000 a year.
Additional savings will be realized during snow storms, relocating to Chestnut Ridge puts our plow trucks and drivers closer to where they need to be. 165 additional hours of productive plowing and salting will be converted from down time per year. That translates to just under $200,000 ($199,650) worth of productive time per year.
Whenever we consider actions such as these, how we pay for them is the top priority. Since I first took office, we have applied private-sector strategies in government; cost-benefit analysis and return on investment are two phrases most often mentioned before we begin any new project. The previous administration’s plan for new Highway Department facilities was $5 million more expensive and 12% larger. We worked to modify the plan and considered economies of scale and expected growth to save tax dollars. That is how we can accomplish this critical upgrade to Rockland’s infrastructure without raising your taxes.
This is just the latest step in our renaissance, over the last few weeks with the Legislature’s partnership we have passed and signed bond resolutions to fund the relocation and upgrading of our Medical Examiner’s Office; funding for the new Sheriff’s Police Academy; money to turn more of Building “A” into useable office space; funds for the relocation of the District Attorney’s Special Victims Unit; plans for construction of a Board of Elections Storage Building and a bond to fund the replacement of the Samsondale Avenue Bridge in West Haverstraw.
I want to thank the County Legislature, Rockland County Sheriff Lou Falco, District Attorney Tom Zugibe, Board of Elections Commissioners Zebrowski Stavisky and Giblin, and the Medical Examiner for their involvement and support of these projects from the beginning. These projects are the key to Rockland’s renaissance, and by continuing to work together we will forge a future we can all take pride in.