Restructuring, EMS support among proposals

Dutchess County Executive Sue Serino delivered her first State of the County address on Thursday (March 15) at Red Hook High School.

“The state of Dutchess County is strong,” she said. “We are truly fortunate to live and work in this vibrant and thriving community, but we must commit ourselves to always striving to do more.”

Sue Serino
Sue Serino delivered her first State of the County address on March 14. (Dutchess County photo)

Serino, who took office in January, is a Hyde Park resident and former state senator whose district included the Highlands. Here are some of the initiatives that she proposed:

■ Undo a 2016 merger of the Health and Mental Hygiene departments that created the Department of Behavioral & Community Health. The commissioner, Livia Santiago-Rosado, would head public health and Jean-Marie Niebuhr, a deputy commissioner, would oversee mental health. “We’re giving both mental health and public health their own seat at the table,” said Serino.

■ Contract with a private ambulance service to cover remote areas, strengthen regional collaboration among providers and team with Dutchess Community College to attract people to first-responder medical jobs. Serino also proposed re-establishing a critical incident team to help first responders who experience traumatic events. She said that it takes ambulances in Dutchess more than nine minutes to respond to nearly 50 percent of calls involving life-threatening emergencies, far more than the industry standard of 10 percent. In 11 percent of priority calls, ambulances take more than 15 minutes to respond. “The average person will call 911 four times in their lifetime, with an expectation that an ambulance will arrive to help them through their emergency,” said Serino. “But the reality is, that’s not always the case, especially in our rural communities.

■ Dedicate hotel-tax revenue from short-term rentals such as those made through Airbnb to the Housing Trust Fund, which was launched by the county with an investment of $12.3 million to spur affordable housing development. (An 18-unit development at Main and Cross streets in Beacon received $1.6 million from the fund.) Dutchess has asked the state for the OK to raise its room tax from 4 percent to 5 percent.

■ Partner with Dutchess Outreach and the United Way of the Dutchess-Orange Region to launch a Food Security Council and expand access to locally grown fruits and vegetables at the county’s 65 pantries.

■ Create a Community Engagement Office that would hold mobile office hours around the county, host community events and liaison with county employees.

■ Partner with unions and Dutchess Community College to recruit students for jobs in the building trades and fields like car maintenance, mechatronics and aviation maintenance. (A skilled trades fair for students is scheduled for April 18 at Ketcham High School in Wappingers Falls.) “I didn’t take the traditional path, which is why I think it is so important to show students there is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to determining your future,” said Serino.

■ Launch a public awareness campaign to support residents and visitors with physical disabilities and encourage retailers to make their small businesses more accessible.

Behind The Story

Type: News

News: Based on facts, either observed and verified directly by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

The Peekskill resident is a former reporter for the Times Herald-Record in Middletown, where he covered Sullivan County and later Newburgh. He holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Morgan State University and a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Maryland. Location: Cold Spring. Languages: English. Area of Expertise: General.

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