State Senate Agricultural Committee votes down farmworker bill

On Tuesday the State Senate’s Agriculture Committee voted down the Farmworkers Fair Labor Practices Act. Among features of the bill, farmers would have had to pay over time to laborers who work more than 60 hours a week or 10 hours in a day and farm workers would gain the right to form a union if they work at the state’s largest farms. Some farmers protested that the mandates in the bill would be costly. Six of the committee’s nine senators — Darrel J. Aubertine, Michael H. Ranzenhofer, James L. Seward (who represents Greene County), David J. Valesky, George H. Winner Jr. and Catharine M. Young — voted against the bill. On Seward’s website he says, “Defeating the so-called, farm worker labor bill is a clear victory for our upstate farmers, farm workers and the agriculture industry,” said Senator Seward. “The bill, supported mainly by New York City politicians, would have forced farms to close, while driving up costs for the few survivors.” The bill would have granted collective bargaining rights to farm laborers; required employers of farm laborers to allow at least 24 consecutive hours of rest each week; provided for an 8 hour work day for farm laborers; required overtime rate at one and one-half times normal rate; made provisions of unemployment insurance law applicable to farm laborers; provided a sanitary code that would have applied to all farm and food processing labor camps intended to house migrant workers, regardless of the number of occupants; provided for eligibility of farm laborers for workers’ compensation benefits; required employers of farm laborers to provide such farm laborers with claim forms for workers’ compensation claims under certain conditions; required reporting of injuries to employers of farmworkers.

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Greene County factory will not close, sparing 200 jobs


From Chris Churchill in the Times-Union:

GlaxoSmithKline announced this evening that it would shift its toothpaste manufacturing from New Jersey to Greene County preventing the shutdown of its plant in Oak Hill. The British pharmaceutical giant had planned to shutter the Oak Hill plant by 2012, following its $3.6 billion acquisition last year of Stiefel Laboratories, which made skin products there. Glaxo will still shift skin-product manufacturing to a plant in Canada, as originally planned. But it will invest $56 million to remake the Oak Hill factory to manufacture Aquafresh, the company and Greene County officials said. The move will not save every Glaxo job in Greene County. After the transition, the Oak Hill plant will employ about 200 workers, down from the more than 260 who work there now. And some of the jobs will be taken by workers transferring from the plant in Clifton, N.J., which will close in 2012. “It’s going to be a mix and match of current employees and new employees,” said Alexander “Sandy” Mathes, the executive director of the Greene County Industrial Development Agency, which worked to save the plant. Glaxo’s decision to close the plant stunned Greene County officials, who have depended on the factory as a stable source of employment in the mostly rural area. Officials described Thursdays announcement as a victory resulting from a long effort by several local and state agencies including Empire State Development, the Division of Housing and Community Renewal and others to keep the factory open. In part, they did that by targeting the factory for nearly $7 million in grants designed to boost energy efficiency and modernize the plant. Also, the Greene County IDA will freeze property taxes at the site and exempt Glaxo from some sales taxes. The Oak Hill plant consists of 250,000 square feet of manufacturing and laboratory space along Route 145.

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Today’s local headlines

Brown replaces Scheer as deputy on county board
From Parry Teasdale in The Columbia Paper

HUDSON — Chairman of the Columbia County Board of Supervisors Art Baer (R-Hillsdale) shuffled the leadership of the board, with Germantown Supervisor Roy Brown (R) replacing Gallatin Supervisor Lynda Scheer, as a deputy chairman of the board. Baer’s announcement of the move Friday said that Ms. Scheer resigned from the post “for personal reasons.” Brown stood with Baer on his controversial plan to buy the Ockawamick School building on Route 217 in Claverack and, initially, move much of the Department of Social Services there from Hudson. The change takes effect September 1.

Copake board finds ways to agree except on the deficit
From Diana Valden in The Columbia Paper

COPAKE – This is the sort of amazing story about local town meetings that is almost never written ’round these parts. Instead of deciding one of the night’s actions constituted a story and the rest did not, Valden bullet points 10 items that the usually contentious-across-party-lines town board agreed on last week. Then she writes how Councilman Bob Sacks, who has advocated cutting the town’s police force to cover the recently discovered large deficit, reported he was told by the Sheriff’s Office that patrols from that office cover Copake and all of Columbia County 24/7. Sacks also quoted the supervisors of other towns saying they could not afford their own police force and had no need for one because of coverage by the Sheriff’s Office and State Police. Copake Town Police Commissioner Jeff Nayer, then shouted, “Other towns don’t set what we do!” Mr. Nayer said that the Police Department had offered to cut 17 percent of its budget to help the town deal with the deficit, while other departments offered nothing.

New parties make ballot for November
From Jim Planck in The Daily Mail

Have A Voice candidates Karen Deyo, Keith Valentine, Linda Overbaugh, and Joseph Izzo will appear on the November ballot, as will Grassroots of Durham candidate Les Armstrong. The Have a Voice folks are Republicans, joining fellow GOPer Overbaugh in this bid to stay on the ballot for the four Catskill Greene County Legislature seats, after errors in her previous petitions kept her off the Republican line. Likewise with Armstrong, a Republican attempting to primary against Elsie Allan but now facing Allan and Democrat Sean Frey for the Durham seat on the legislature. Overbaugh and Armstrong’s third-party bids went unchallenged by opponents.

State parks in Columbia County fare better than most
From Mike McCagg in ccScoop

The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation shows attendance at parks in the Taconic Region of the state park system, which includes Columbia County, is down 3.7 percent in the period from July 2008 through July 2009. Across New York, park attendance is down 4.5 percent, to 27.2 million visitors. Attendance dropped at the Clermont State Historic Site 18.5 percent to 43,456 visitors, at the Clermont State Historic Site 4.1 percent to 61,896 visitors, at the Olana State Historic Site 14.1 to 61,896 visitors, and at Lake Taghkanic State Park, 5.2 percent, to 95,862. At Taconic State Park in Copake attendance was up 12.9 percent to 13,313, and in Copake Falls attendance rose 5 percent to 73,066 visitors.

Farmland Protection on the way
From Francesca Olsen in The Register-Star

Last Tuesday the Planning and Economic Development Committee passed a resolution to apply for state grant funding for developing a Farmland Protection Plan, with matching funds to be provided by the Columbia Economic Development Corporation (CEDC), as Columbia County is one of the few in the state without such a plan. The Columbia County Agricultural and Farmland Protection Board submitted drafts of a plan to the state Department of Agriculture and Markets, but was not approved.

Mario’s moves forward with new warehouse
From Paul Crossman in The Register-Star

VALATIE — Mario’s True Value Home Center is planning a new 20,000-square-foot lumber supply warehouse, and hopes to have closed on the new location by sometime in early September, with winter construction.