U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand met the officials of Oswego County’s various governments Friday afternoon for a brief give-and-take on economic issues that produced offers to help bring more money to the area.
Gillibrand hosted a discussion at Fulton City Hall with nearly two dozen local, county and state leaders.
Their message, whether the issue was stimulus funding, farming or a new nuclear plant, was simple: We need money.
Oswego Mayor Randy Bateman asked Gillibrand to find money to help bring a fourth nuclear plant to the county. County legislator Mike Kunzwiler added his plea, saying, “the community is endorsing the plant being built.”
Gillibrand said an energy bill Congress will take up in the fall “may be an avenue” for funding the plant.
Constellation Energy, owner of Scriba’s Nine Mile 1 and 2, has put on hold for a year plans to seek federal approval for a third plant. Constellation and its partners will build a new plant in Maryland instead.
County Legislature Chair Barry Leemann asked for help funding a sewer district in Volney that would stretch to the county airport. The airport has water service, but not sewer service.
Gillibrand promised to see whether money appropriated for the project has been awarded and if it hasn’t been, to then help local government applys for grants for the project. “You just can’t grow if you don’t have water,” she said. “Water and sewer is just too expensive for (local) taxpayers to fund.”
She promised county legislator and farm owner Morris Sorbello to make sure the any health insurance reforms do not harm small businesses.
SUNY Oswego President Deborah Stanley made a plea for help, saying higher education has suffered uniquely. “The largest disinvestment in higher education ever has taken place in the last year,” Stanley said. She added that SUNY has been forced to increase tuition and fees, but 80% of that money is going to the state treasury and not to the schools.
Gillibrand said she’s heard about this issue everywhere she’s gone, and hopes that an education bill planned for next year will help.
She told Assemblywoman and Congressional candidate Dede Scozzafava, in response to a question about farming, that the federal hearing she held yesterday in Batavia brought hundreds of farmers out to tell her that farming, particularly dairy farming, is in crisis. Gillibrand said she’s fighting for changes in milk prices supports to help bridge the gap between what farmers make and what it costs them to farm.
Assemblyman Will Barclay wanted to know why there’s no accountability in the federal stimulus funds system and why counties like Oswego County do not appear to be getting a fair share of the funding. She told him that efforts are underway to account for the money, and that the county has many projects in the pipeline. She said only 10% of the stimulus money has been spent and less than a third has even been appropriated. The county may be losing out, she said, because so many of its projects are not “shovel-ready”, meaning that the work can begin immediately.
She said that many grant programs have more money than applications and asked the local governments to “work with my office to get it funded with a grant.” She offered to hold a grant writing seminar in Fulton to help local governments tap into the thousands of grant programs.
A gallery of photos from Gillibrand’s visit: