Mouth That Roars

Bill Liblick has made a name for himself of National TV Talk Shows where he spouted his outspoken views from the front row. Now he offers you his opinion every week in the "MOUTH THAT ROARS" Column in the Sullivan County Post.

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December 10th, 2015

Return Apollo “BOCES” Building

In a few short weeks the new members of the Sullivan County Legislature will be seated and one of their first acts will be electing a new chairman.

Scott Samuelson the current chairman of the legislature has accelerated his efforts to remain at the helm. This past week he held an orientation for new legislators and acted as if it was a fait accompli that he would remain in the position.

Those people with most to lose have also intensified their lobbying efforts behind the scenes to keep Samuelson.

All of our incoming legislators need to look at the sale of the Apollo Plaza as a perfect reason as to why it would be disastrous for us to keep him as chairman.

I want to make it perfectly clear – the Resnick Group should be applauded for their commitment to Sullivan County – And they had every right to negotiate the deal they did to purchase the property along with much of the surrounding area.

I also understand there are always delays in construction and even with the best laid out plans things do not happen overnight. I wish them well with their efforts to construct a shopping center and a possible truck stop at the Apollo.

What is contemptible however is how Samuelson as Chairman allowed the former BOCES building to be included in the purchase when he knew Sullivan County needed the space and that Sheriff Michael Schiff along with other officials were pleading that the property be used to house the Sheriff’s Patrol.

Although the building is still being used to store our voting machines and the County is currently not paying the Resnick’s any rent for its usage, under agreements that would change in the future if the County continues to use the space for storage.

Sheriff Michael Schiff told me that he strongly feels that the new legislature should take the building back from the Resnick Group either through new negotiations or under Eminent Domain laws to correct the error of the current legislature. Schiff is adamant that the building should not have been part of the Apollo purchase.

Legislators Alan Sorenson and Kitty Vetter along with former Town of Thompson Supervisor Tony Cellini worked hard not to have the building included in the purchase but their pleas went on deaf ears.

It was clearly irresponsible for Samuelson and the majority of our legislators to give up the building when there were plans to renovate the property for the Sheriff Patrol and use it for other things such as storage of our election machines.

At last month’s Charter Review Meeting District Attorney James Farrell spoke about the need for additional office and storage space. He noted that files are presently stored in the hallways of his offices.

The BOCES building could also be utilized for child protective services division which is presently located in Liberty at the Department of Health and Family Services.

This building is a perfect location to house our Public Safety division because it is centrally located and is directly off Route 17. It is also near the proposed new casino.

Sullivan County started renovations on the building to move the sheriff’s patrol years before the sale. Workmen put up the studs for new lockup cells, and drywall, but work was halted once county officials found the HVAC unit needed to be replaced.

I obtained the plans to renovate the building and they can be visible here.

The current building that houses the Sheriff’s Patrol on Bushnell Avenue is not only deplorable but it is a hazard for our law enforcement community to continue to use as our Public Safety Center.

It is shameful that our County has such total disregard for our hard working members of our law enforcement community – When they had the opportunity to do something as simple and logical as to renovate the building for much needed use – They refused.

Former Town of Thompson Supervisor Tony Cellini at the time pleaded with the County to keep the building and not include it in the Apollo sale. He said at the time, “For the sake of the taxpayer, let us not give this property away.”

Discussing the matter with me this week, Cellini remained steadfast in his position. “The building in question at the Apollo has already had county taxpayer dollars expended to set up the Sheriff’s Patrol at that location. Petitions were in place, some electric was underway and all the infrastructure; sewer and water are there. It stores the electronic election machines in the climate controlled building, has a loading dock. My request and the request of other county and town officials at the time went on deaf ears. Now I understand that the entire Apollo project is for sale for $6.5 million. Good return on your investment for a $600,000 purchase.”

Legislator Alan Sorenson at the time of the Apollo sale said “There is a need for a facility for the road patrol and that building is a good geographical location, but it’s also a building that we own. I have been trying to get them to use that building for years. It has fallen on deaf ears.”

Legislator Kitty Vetter who voted against the Apollo sale said she was upset over the pressure from certain people to vote for it. She pointed out that the day the vote was taken people were there with signs as if it were a “demonstration and not a vote.”

Vetter called the current location that houses the sheriff patrol a “Dungeon” and said the BOCES building should be returned to the County.

But, the outgoing legislator did not stop there, Vetter would also like to see the Apollo sale made null and void. “They should take the whole Apollo back – they did not meet time frame, they did not live up to their end of lease and it should be considered broken.”

Sheriff Schiff told me he is not done with his mission to get the County to take the building back for the Road Patrol, he says he plans to raise it again in the near future with the new legislature. Hopefully it will not fall on deaf ears again.

Bill Liblick has made a name for himself of National TV Talk Shows where he spouted his outspoken views from the front row. Now he offers you his opinion every week in the “MOUTH THAT ROARS” Column in the Sullivan County Post

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