A divided Orange County Legislature authorized $7 million in requested spending on furniture and equipment for the revamped county Government Center on Thursday after lawmakers from both parties questioned the need to replace every piece of furniture in the complex and criticized the administration’s shifting cost estimates.
County officials initially had asked for permission to bond up to $9 million to furnish the Government Center, which has been closed since 2011 and is undergoing a $74 million overhaul and expansion that is expected to be done this fall. That projected cost was later revised to $8.25 million, and then cut again to $7 million after legislators questioned the administration’s figures in two committee meetings last month. The estimate covers the cost of desks, computers and phones for the 423 full-time employees the complex is expected to accommodate, plus other expenses such as security cameras, magnetometers and shelving.
The final version cleared the Legislature on Thursday in a 15-6 vote, just one vote above the minimum of 14 that was needed to pass a bond resolution.
Mike Anagnostakis, a Town of Newburgh Republican who voted against the proposal, argued before the vote that buying everything new was an extravagance that wouldn’t be indulged in the private sector. “If it was my business, I wouldn’t be doing that,” he said.
Myrna Kemnitz, a Monroe Democrat, also opposed the spending, after recalling being told in committee that existing furniture couldn’t be moved into the Government Center because it might not fit or might get damaged in transit. Three lawmakers – Kevin Hines, a Cornwall Republican; Matt Turnbull, a Hamptonburgh Democrat; and Michael Amo, an Independence Party member from Woodbury – all voiced chagrin at how the cost shifted so much after lawmakers questioned it, and at the shaky presentation they said county officials gave. “It just seems really sloppy to me,” Amo said.
James Burpoe, the county’s commissioner of general services, defended the proposal, saying that much of the county’s furniture is 20 years or older, and some of it is falling apart. Trying to use old desks in the revamped Government Center could reduce the number of employees that will fit there if those pieces don’t conform to the new floor plan, he said.
“We’d be penny-wise and pound-foolish if we don’t get the right stuff in there,” he said.
Furthermore, the county would lose its volume discount if it bought new furniture for the Government Center over time in phases, as some lawmakers suggested, Burpoe said. He also said the county would try to salvage some current furniture by moving it to other county buildings with even older furnishings.
Katie Bonelli, a Blooming Grove Republican, supported that idea. “There are a lot of departments that have very, very old furniture,” she said, citing the Community Development office in Middletown as an example.
Warwick’s phone app celebrates one-year anniversary
Warwick’s free “Hey Warwick” mobile phone app, that offers a host of information, alerts and connections about the town and the village has been downloaded onto more than 500 smartphones and the app recently celebrated its one-year anniversary.
Hey Warwick is compatible with all Apple and Android smartphones. The app allows for direct dialing of key phone numbers and contains a GPS-enabled directory of events, restaurants, stores, recreation activities and locations and classifieds throughout the Warwick area.
The app also features daily text notifications to alert the app’s users to important community events and announcements. And users save money using the coupons tab, and they can earn shopping rewards using the loyalty tab. App users can also share photos via the galleries tab.
For a small fee, businesses can reach this same audience through the Hey Warwick “push notification” service, which sends a text message to all app users at a specified time.
Hey Warwick was developed by the Web technology firm Searchlight Consulting, located at 60 Main St. in the Village of Warwick, which was founded in 1998.
Searchlight Consulting owners Steve and Lisa Laico and their staff joined with Warwick Supervisor Michael Sweeton, Warwick Mayor Michael Newhard and the Warwick Valley Chamber of Commerce executive director, Michael Johndrow, to celebrate the app’s one-year anniversary.
“In our current mobile world, users are best reached via their smartphones,” Steve Laico said.
The app’s slogan says, “If you want to know what’s happening in town, then Hey Warwick is the app for you!”
For more information about Hey Warwick or to download the app, go to heywarwick.com.
Richard J. Bayne