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Ulster County Executive Jen Metzger delivers State of the County address

Ulster County Executive Jen Metzger delivers State of the County address in Ellenville, February 15, 2023
Ulster County Executive Jen Metzger delivers State of the County address in Ellenville, February 15, 2023

Newly-elected Ulster County Executive Jen Metzger gave her first State of the County address Wednesday evening.

Metzger says she chose to speak in Ellenville because the town is often overlooked and presents a “stark picture of both challenges and opportunities.”

"Like so many communities across the country, industry and manufacturing jobs dried up here," Metzger said. "And the local economy has struggled to fill the voids they have left. Over 21% of this community lives at the poverty level. That's about three times the county average. Nearly 20% of Ellenville residents don't own a car, which really limits your opportunities unless there is robust public transit. And the disparities are not just economic. They are racial, as the county comptroller's 2022 racial equity report makes clear. Like many other communities in our county Ellenville also faces a severe shortage of housing that people can afford."

Metzger, a former state senator, was elected in a special election in November to complete the final year of Pat Ryan's term after Ryan was elected to Congress. During her address the Democrat spoke of two current housing-related projects rolled out under Ryan's watch.

"Converting a former boarding house in Kingston called Elizabeth Manor into a family shelter that can house up to 35 people," Metzger said. "The county will also begin work this year on water and sewer infrastructure to support a RUPCO project to convert the Quality Inn in the town of Ulster into 81 apartments for our most vulnerable residents."

She also gave a nod to Ulster County Housing Trust and Land Bank, which has a dedicated housing reserve of $15 million to foster development of affordable housing options now and in the future. Metzger adds the county has the resources and tools to ease the housing crunch.

"I'm very pleased to report that the county is in a very strong fiscal position," said Metzger. "While we won't have the final figures for 2022 until later this spring, we know that as of now sales tax revenues exceeded our budget by over $20 million. This is on top of an excess fund balance of over $84 million from the previous year due to a stronger than expected recovery from the pandemic. Thankfully, because of the strong financial footing we're on now, we can put funds away for a rainy day and still have significant resources to invest in what our county needs now. Things like housing, transportation and investments to improve climate resilience and reduce waste."

Metzger also mentioned nearly $2 million in grant funding available for small local businesses thanks to the federal American Rescue Plan Act.

She detailed green energy efforts including a goal of diverting 100 percent of countywide organic waste from landfills and incinerators along with a study of the efficiency of the Ulster County bus system, looking to fully electrify the fleet.

You can watch the complete address HERE.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.