Irene: Change in Schoharie County flood recovery leadership disputed
Team disbanded by county board over slow pace of progress
SCHOHARIE COUNTY Last week’s abrupt disbanding of the team organizing Schoharie County government’s flood recovery upset many of its members.
But despite the sudden nature and poor planning of the transition that leaves County Treasurer William Cherry at the head of recovery, County Board of Supervisors Chairman Harold Vroman said all those involved with the Recovery Team should be applauded for their efforts.
Vroman, who voted against disbanding the team Friday, was among its several members, which consisted of county supervisors, county employees and consultants.
Supervisors on Friday expressed frustration and impatience over slower-than-anticipated progress getting county buildings up and running and called for an end to the team’s role. The move put Cherry at the helm. He intends to find answers to questions that are stalling a decision on reopening the county jail.
Deliberation on decisions will then go to Board of Supervisors committees and then to the full board.
Vroman said the recovery process, thanks to the team, is at a stage where it can be disbanded. But doing it abruptly Friday was just bad form, he said.
People on the Recovery Team were taken aback by the move — they’ve been meeting on what started out as a daily basis and moved to a weekly basis, often with follow-up meetings, team member and Cobleskill town Supervisor Thomas Murray said. Their work ended at a point where some supervisors were criticizing the pace of recovery, so some took the way the team was dismissed as an insult.
Murray expressed his desire to keep the Recovery Team operating to see the whole project through to the end. So did Wright town Supervisor William Goblet, a team member who said after seven months of work, he’ll remain as involved as he can be despite the team’s end.
“You can never stop. It gets into your blood,” he said.
Internal disagreements and personality clashes that existed before the natural disaster weren’t washed away by the flood. So for some who don’t get along with Cherry — an outspoken guardian of county money who has clashed with supervisors in the past — seeing him take over the recovery effort was a sore point.
Cherry on Tuesday said those involved in the team are all working toward recovery. But he described team meetings as “trying to fit a square peg in a round hole,” with different members having different preferences.
The meetings drew as many as 25 people, some with different opinions, Cherry said, which he saw as stalling decision-making.
One of the most important projects is getting a decision on the county public safety facility, he said. But on the team, there are some who believe the county doesn’t need a jail, others bent on fixing it and leaving it where it is and still others who think a new one should be built far out of the flood zone, he said.
For those who blame the Recovery Team for the pace of progress, Vroman in a prepared statement responded that the team faced its own hurdles, including not having all pertinent information because not everybody showed up to meetings.
“What also made it difficult was some county officials undermining what the team was trying to accomplish,” he said.
Despite what Vroman called distractions that hindered progress, he said architects and engineers and plans are all in place to forge ahead with getting county offices — now scattered about the county — centralized.
Ultimately, Cherry said, there really isn’t time for hard feelings among members of the disbanded team. They’re all Schoharie County employees, whether supervisors or department staffers, and they were doing their jobs.
“Now we need to move forward,” Cherry said.