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Byrne Touts Opportunity in First State of the County Address
Putnam County Executive Kevin Byrne offered an optimistic vision in his first State of the County address last week. Byrne, a former state assemblyman, delivered his hour-long speech March 9 in his 68th day in office at the County Courthouse in Carmel in front of the Putnam County Legislature and standing-room only crowd of family, friends, department heads, employees and other onlookers.
“Tonight, I am filled with many of the same feelings I had on my first day in office just over eight weeks ago. I am energized, optimistic, and excited for what lies ahead,” Byrne said. “And I can tell you that what I see ahead of us is nothing short of an incredible opportunity. In my first 60 days as your county executive, I have observed opportunities to build and significantly improve upon affordability, accessibility, and accountability in our county government.”
Byrne, who was unopposed, succeeded fellow Republican MaryEllen Odell, who was term limited after serving 10 years in the position.
During his first two weeks in office, Byrne said he presented a plan to the Legislature to consolidate and restructure personnel that saved more than $104,000 and reevaluated the county government’s utilities contracts that are expected to save about $185,000 annually. Volunteer firefighters and ambulance workers were also given a 10% property tax exemption.
Delivering on a pledge, Byrne said he was asking the Legislature to consider creating a Taxpayers Bill of Rights in Putnam to implement guardrails that will help control county government spending. If passed, the legislation would require a two-thirds majority vote of the Legislature when the annual operating budget results in a property tax levy increase.
Byrne is also asking the Legislature to pass the Taxpayer Transparency Act that would provide live video and audio streaming of all legislative public meetings, and establish a budget transparency website.
One new position Byrne is looking to create is the Coordinator of the Office for Individuals with Disabilities that will be funded from two currently vacant, part-time slots in the Mental Health and Department of Social Services Department.
In addition, he’s calling on the Legislature to use $85,000 from the county’s opioid lawsuit settlement to fund Putnam’s Prevention Council’s programming.
“Under my administration, we’re going to refocus on those core responsibilities and functions of county government, and at the top of that list is providing for our resident’s health and safety,” Byrne said.
In the area of children safety, Byrne said Putnam will be following through on an initiative from Odell and the Legislature to enter into an agreement with a company to install exterior cameras on school buses to crack down on drivers who endanger students by passing stopped buses.
Meanwhile, Byrne said he will requesting a $2 million budget transfer from the Legislature to pay for some County Facility Improvement projects, including upgrades to county buildings, roof repairs, structural repairs to the Board of Elections facility, and repairs to the outside of the Koehler Memorial Senior Center.
“It is my sincere promise to the nearly 100,000 residents that call this county home, that during my tenure as your county executive, for however long you will have me, I will ensure the American Dream lives on in Putnam County,” Byrne said. “Today, and every day of my administration, this government will work to empower individuals to succeed. We will continue to embody that spirit of opportunity and optimism. We are a county of entrepreneurs, innovators, and hardworking people who are dedicated to building a better future for ourselves and our families.”
“As we embark on this new chapter in our county’s history, the opportunities before us our tremendous. Our potential for evolution and growth is at our fingertips. A prosperous future for all our residents is possible,” he continued. “So let us embrace these opportunities with open arms and work together, collaboratively, and yes with healthy debate and discussion, but to build a county that we will all continue to be proud of. Opportunity calls.”
Legislative Chairman Paul Jonke had a positive reaction to Byrne’s message, stating on Facebook, “We are looking forward to great things for Putnam County. Putnam County’s future is looking great.”
State Assemblyman Matt Slater also praised Byrne, stating, “He presented a clear vision of responsible and innovative government that will protect taxpayers, grow the economy and protect the beauty of Putnam County.”
Emails sent to Legislator Nancy Montgomery, the lone Democrat on the board, and freshman Legislator Erin Crowley seeking comment on Byrne’s speech were not returned.
Rick has more than 40 years’ experience covering local news in Westchester and Putnam counties, running the gamut from politics and crime to sports and human interest. He has been an editor at Examiner Media since 2012. Read more from Rick’s editor-author bio here. Read Rick’s work here: https://www.theexaminernews.com/author/pezzullo_rick-writer/