Sigler on State Forest, Broadband and Health Insurance

Jan172014
mikesigler2013_120County Legislator Mike Sigler told the Lansing Town Board Wednesday he is already working on a number of issues that impact the Town in the first weeks of his new term representing the Town.  Sigler said he has scheduled a public meeting on the proposed state forest on the Bell Station property, has remained in contact with power plant officials as they develop a new repowering plan, and is gathering information on the county-wide broadband project.

Last February Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Regional Director Kenneth Lynch came to Lansing to answer questions and explain the process of turning approximately 490 acres of landincluding 3,400 feet of shoreline into a wildlife management area or state forest.  Sigler says there is confusion as to what a state forest allows and doesn’t allow for the community.  He has invited Lynch to come back to discuss the project further.  He will host a public meeting January 24th at 4pm at the Lansing Town Hall.

"It's important for the State to know what's important for the Town," Sigler said.  "I also thought it appropriate to put a County resolution forward as well as the county will be losing tax money regardless if this is a State Forest or Wildlife Management Area.  I’m told that the county may be able to retain that tax money within any PILOT with the state so that will be my goal. My objection at the time of the vote was not to the forest, but in that fact that a public meeting hadn’t even been held on the issue.  At last check the school district was against the move, but I imagine it wouldn’t be today."

He said a use agreement with the State will be critical to help insure that the Town's wishes are honored if a state forest is created there.

Sigler said Clarity Connect’s wifi broadband service costs $45 a month and $199 startup cost.  He said that is more than some services available locally, and that cost would put broadband beyond some people's reach.  Sigler met with Clarity Connect's Chuck Bartosh, who clarified that families with children in the subsidized lunch program are eligible for reduced rates, and in some cases the startup fee would be forgiven.

"One of the things Clarity Connect had said was to increase access," Sigler said.  "Part of that access was access for poor people.  My main concern was $45 and the startup puts broadband out of reach.  At our meeting, Clarity Connect told me they are offering service at a discounted price for those who are on subsidized school lunches.  If you would like broadband, but thought it was out of reach, this may be an option for you.  Even if you’re children aren’t in the subsidized lunch program, I urge you to inquire about the discounted rate as I was told income facts will also be taken into account.

Sigler concluded by saying he is working on an initiative that could help local businesses offer affordable health insurance for their employees. 

"Our health care consortium was a really brilliant idea, to become self-insured as a county," he sai.  "The County has about 700 employees.  Now there are about 2,000 people in that consortium because of the towns that have joined.  It would seem to me that if we could allow our Chamber Of Commerce to join, if you were a small business owner you could go to your Chamber."

Sigler noted that the Syracuse Chamber of Commerce participates in such a program.  He said he is in contact with state legislators, who would have to change legislation to allow it in Ithaca.

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