Letters: State Funding

As the state Senate and Assembly sponsors of individual State and Municipal Facilities (SAM) grants for the county Senior Center at the Butterfield site, we enthusiastically offer our support for the project, as it fulfills a critical need in the community (State Money for Senior Center?, Sept. 8).

However, as was shared with Putnam County officials from the outset, the state and municipal grant process is a lengthy procedure in which the Dormitory Authority performs many checks to ensure that taxpayer money is being spent correctly by the grant recipient. The process is designed to prevent misuse of state funds, and is incredibly thorough.

We expect the county will meet its fiduciary responsibilities to qualify for these grants and as such, the Senior Center will ultimately receive SAM funding. To further clarify, these grants are not tied to the state’s budget proceedings, and are to be dispersed upon receipt and approval by the Dormitory Authority, Senate and Assembly.

We look forward to the completion of the Senior Center, which will provide a wonderful new opportunity for Philipstown seniors. As always, if you have any questions, please contact Assemblywoman Galef at 914-941-1111 or Sen. Serino at 845-229-0106.

Assemblywoman Sandy Galef and Sen. Sue Serino, Albany

I wanted to clarify the role of Assemblyman Frank Skartados in securing funding for the restoration of the Tioronda Bridge ($500K for Tioronda Bridge, Sept. 15). In my experience, I’ve seen a number of elected officials take credit for grants they did very little to make happen. In this case, it was the opposite. The Assemblyman did not just communicate a grant from the state Department of Transportation, as was reported. He allocated the funds.

The Tioronda Bridge award originated from a funding stream called “multi-modal,” which received its funding in the 2017 budget for both the Assembly and the Senate. It is limited to bridge and road construction. In the Assembly, Speaker Carl Heastie allocated a part to Assemblyman Skartados to be used for his district at his discretion.

Assemblyman Skartados chose the Tioronda Bridge because it is the focal point of several nature trails, parks, and economic development — all reasons he gave before the City Council in September for the bridge to be a single vehicular lane with pedestrian walkways. The Department of Transportation will have to approve the project and oversee the funds, which is why the Assemblyman made certain DOT wouldn’t object to its mixed vehicular and pedestrian design. The city will have to find additional funding sources to complete the project.

In other examples, Assemblyman Skartados assigned $250,000 in 2016 to Beacon for two dump trucks with plows and upgrades to the water treatment plant.

SAM and Capital Projects grants follow a similar path as the multi-modal but are broader and can be allocated to municipal and not-for-profit organizations.

Over the past five years, Skartados has awarded many of these grants, which range from $125,000 to $500,000, to such projects as building a library, purchasing fire trucks, new school buses, workforce housing construction, park and trail development, and municipal infrastructure projects, to name a few.

Steve Gold, Beacon
Gold is Skartados’ chief of staff.

Editor’s note: The SAM program, referenced in both letters above, was created in 2013 and is funded by state bonds. It has been derided by critics as a “slush fund” or “pork” because it allows legislative leaders to distribute funds to members of the state Assembly to use at their discretion for local projects. (Because the Assembly is controlled by Democrats, fewer Republicans receive these earmarked funds.) One man’s pork, of course, is another man’s progress.

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