With only five weeks left in the legislative year, the Essex County Board of Supervisors this week swore-in a new chair and vice chair to the panel.
Each January, the 18-member Essex County Board of Supervisors selects one of their members to serve as chair and another to be vice-chair. In June 2015, Town of Keene Supervisor Bill Ferebee took the position when former Town of Jay supervisor Randy Douglas left the post to take a job with NYS Unemployment Insurance Appeal Board.
Last week, Ferebee officially submitted his resignation as Town of Keene Supervisor, which also removed him from the Board of Supervisors. “I was given an opportunity to work for New York State, you know work for the governor. I did some deciding with my family and my wife and I’m thrilled at the opportunity.”
Ferebee leaves as the Board of Supervisors is finishing deliberations on the annual budget. It’s based on a five-year plan developed by the county manager to bring the county in line with the state tax cap. Town of Wilmington Supervisor Randy Preston, who has been sworn in as Board Chair until the end of the year, hopes it’s approved at next Tuesday’s meeting. “I have always been a firm believer in the tax cap. I, quite frankly, haven’t supported the five-year plan because I thought it was just too much of an increase. However I will say this year the tax cap for the county was point-67 percent. Which to be perfectly honest even though I’m a supporter I don’t know as if that is really a realistic number. And I have told Dan that if you could get that down to between 2 and 3 percent for the first time in 4 years I probably could support that. And he’s got the budget at 2.87 and if it stays at 2.87 I am going to support that budget. Next year we are on track to meet the tax cap.”
Ferebee supports the county manager’s five-year budget plan. “I have to say that Dan Palmer’s doing a fantastic job with his trying to get Essex County back to a lower tax increase each year. His five-year plan is coming together well. What has happened to us in the last few years with the tax cap is that it’s actually caused the county and the towns to really tighten their belts. You know it shows the taxpayer that we’re trying. If people would really look at the bottom line, look at how we get to where we are, I think they would get a better feeling of what a good job that Dan Palmer is doing. And the finance board and the county supervisors as well.”
New chair Preston says the departure of Ferebee won’t create problems during the one month left in the legislative year. He also says he plans to seek the chairmanship in January. “I became vice chair for a reason. That in theory that the day would come that I would step up to chair and I’m going to handle it for this month and then I do plan on running for the position in January.” (So why do you want it?) “I’ve been very fortunate that I’ve made I think some very, very good contacts and work closely with the governor’s office and the DEC has been a great partner with the county and the town of Wilmington on various projects. I know a vast array of people from the 9 years that I’ve been in office so far and I think that brings a lot back to the table of understanding how the system works.”
Meanwhile, Ferebee notes that he and his predecessor are now working for the state and continue to foster contacts for the county in Albany. “I kind of look at it as fortunate for Essex County, fortunate for the town of Keene, because now we have two local voices in Albany to help out with concerns that towns have. You’ve got myself and Randy Douglas both now working for the state. So I think that’s a good move.”
In his new job, Ferebee will help municipalities and small businesses obtain grant funding through the Environmental Facilities Corporation, a lending institution of the state, to help with drinking and clean water infrastructure.