Bellone's State of the County to focus on crime, Sandy aid
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone will use his "State of the County" address Tuesday night to announce efforts to reduce criminal recidivism and investigate the best ways to use federal superstorm Sandy aid.
Bellone's office provided Newsday with excerpts of his speech describing two new panels to tackle the issues. Another working group would seek ways to eliminate "outdated, unenforceable or obstructionist" county rules and regulations.
The speech also will address the stalled sale of the John J. Foley Skilled Nursing Facility in Yaphank, said Deputy County Executive Jon Schneider, who declined to provide further details. The legislature last fall approved a $23-million deal to sell Foley to private operators, but litigation and the denial of a necessary special permit have put the sale in danger.
The administration has said closure is an option, as it won't let Suffolk taxpayers keep subsidizing operations at a cost of nearly $1 million a month.
"I will not allow this to be dragged out," Bellone said last month. "In my view, to do that will be an abuse of taxpayers."
The panel Bellone will announce to examine ways to spend the county's federal Sandy aid will consider razing homes in communities that suffered the most damage, and purchasing wetlands to act as buffers in flood zones.
"We need to assist homeowners in rehabilitating their homes, those who have gaps in the funding available from FEMA or private insurance," according to a draft excerpt of Bellone's speech.
"We need to provide assistance to homeowners in making their homes more flood resistant," it says. "We need a combination of grant and loan programs to assist small businesses in rebuilding. We also need to pay particular attention to those seasonal businesses that are vital to our economy and quality of life, but are particularly vulnerable in the aftermath of this storm."
Another working group will review existing county programs that attempt to prevent convicts from reoffending. Bellone wants to investigate merging the efforts of several departments, such as probation and social services, and eliminating ineffective programs.
"Rather than these programs and agencies operating in a vacuum, let's get them working together in a focused way to attack recidivism," Bellone says in draft remarks.