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DEC cuts hit Catskills and far beyond

Nov 19, 2010 11:07 am
It seems every media outlet in the state is trying to pay attention to just where the final state staffing cuts being called for by outgoing Gov. David Paterson in his final weeks will be hitting. The Watershed Post summarizes that The Times Herald-Record has the scoop on the first wave of DEC layoffs: 140 workers at the agency got their pink slips today... and that residents and environment groups in the western Catskills and Southern Tier are watching closely to see how many layoffs hit the division of mining, which is the branch that monitors gas drilling (the affected areas DO NOT come under the Eastern Catskills, Capital region, or Hudson and east, according to noted regional geologist Robert Titus of Hartwick College, per interviews published earlier this year).

“There’s a lot that’s still murky about this, other than that it stinks all around,” said Steve Madarasz, spokesman for the Civil Service Employee Association.

One pol quoted in the article says the DEC is being "decimated," but actually, it is worse than that. Decimation, a punishment the Roman Army used for deserters and cowards, killed off one out of every ten soldiers in a mutinous unit. The story notes that the DEC is losing 21 percent of its workforce, compared to 2008.

Jay Braman of the Kingston Daily Freeman has also reported that Belleayre Mountain Ski Center Superintendent Tony Lanza told employees on Tuesday, Nov. 17 that state Department of Environmental Conservation officials have directed him to make “substantial cuts” to the workforce.

He said he doesn’t expect the staff reductions to affect programming planned for the 2010-11 ski season.

Lanza said rumors that as many as 48 employees will be laid off are inaccurate. “There is no number yet,” he said.

Lanza said the state agency, which owns Belleayre, will determine how many employees have to be cut and that he will decide who specifically gets laid off.

Earlier this month, state Environmental Commissioner Pete Grannis was fired in a public disagreement with a plan by Gov. David Paterson to cut the agency’s staff and budget.

According to the Albany Times Union, Grannis told the state Assembly on Thursday that the pending cuts will be disastrous to the state's environment.

"DEC is in the weakest position that it has been since it was created 40 years ago."

The agency stands to lose 140 jobs as part of Paterson's plan to lay off about 900 state workers by year's end.

Among those getting layoff notices are 48 of the 55 full-time year-round employees at the state-run Belleayre Ski Center in the Catskills.

Assemblyman Kevin Cahill of Kingston said the Belleayre job cuts would have a negative impact on a community where the ski center is a big economic driver.

"One of the great successes is that Belleayre is turning into a year-round resort," Cahill said. "This will have a tremendous impact on that, and on the ability to have a successful ski season."

Iwanowicz said the employees would be re-hired as part-time seasonal workers, giving the ski center the same staffing level as last year during the winter season. Stuart Gruskin, executive deputy DEC commissioner, said there would be further discussion of future staffing levels at the resort.

Grannis told reporters before the hearing that the environmental impact review of natural gas development in the Marcellus Shale region in southern New York will slow down as a result of budget and staff cuts. Permitting of new gas wells in the region has been on hold since 2008, pending the completion of the review.

"We can't do as much work with a lot fewer people," Grannis said. "The work will continue but it will take longer to complete that task."

Stay tuned as this story reaches across into local parks and other state departments over the coming weeks...

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