ALBANY COUNTY — At its monthly meeting on Monday, May 8, the Albany County Legislature passed a law banning tobacco in county-owned parks and recreation facilities, including the use of liquid nicotine and other vaping products.
The legislation, Local Law A for 2017, was introduced by Legislator Paul Miller (D-32) from Guilderland, and co-sponsored by nearly every member of the Legislature’s Democratic Majority, as well as some Republicans. It prohibits cigarettes, tobacco products, liquid nicotine and electronic cigarettes in Lawson Lake County Park, a 420-acre park on the border of New Scotland and Coeymans, the Albany County Helderberg-Hudson Rail Trail, which extends from Albany to Voorheesville, and the Ann Lee Pond Nature and Historic Preserve in Colonie.
“This law is being enacted to help protect the health of our county residents and guests that use these facilities,” Miller said. “Additionally, I expect it will help reduce some of the litter that is being left — cigarette butts and other products — which can be harmful to wildlife and pets.”
Local Law A, which came out of the Legislature’s Law and Health committees with positive recommendations, builds on public health laws instituted by the Albany County Legislature and county executive over the last several years. Last year, the Democratic Majority voted to raise the legal age to buy tobacco and nicotine in the county from 18 to 21. Prior to that, the county banned the use of “e-cigarettes” from most workplaces, bars and restaurants.
The vote was 34 in favor, Republican Peter Crouse (R-24) abstaining and four members absent. Those who violate the law are now subject to a $50 fine, and a $200 to $500 fine for each subsequent violation.
At the end of the meeting, Majority Leader Frank Commisso introduced legislation to take advantage of an initiative included in the enacted state budget that rewards cost-savings resulting from the formulation of a plan to consolidate county-wide services. The resolution, which was approved, would authorize an agreement with the Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government to provide “technical expertise and other services essential to develop the Plan.”
“I just want to note the irony that the state of New York is lecturing counties on government efficiency,” said Legislator Mark Grimm (R-29) “In the name of government efficiency, we’re spending $75,000 to study government efficiency.”
The resolution passed easily with no dissenting votes, not even from Grimm.
In an address to the residents of Bethlehem at a May 10 Town Board meeting, County Executive Dan McCoy also expressed displeasure with what he characterized as an unfunded mandate, noting that the county has been exploring cost-sharing options since he took office in 2012. “It was the right intention,” he said of the state initiative. “Wrong execution.”
McCoy said that he would rather have seen the state sit down with county executives and municipal leaders when developing the efficiency scheme. ‘I wasn’t happy with the way they did it,” he said. “But it’s done and now we have to live with it.”
At the May 8 meeting, the County Legislature also:
- Approved an amendment to the Albany Airport Capital Plan, doubling a $15 price tag on plans for a new garage, terminal improvements and loading bridges (actual construction on the project, for which airport officials are hoping to receive additional funding through Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Upstate Airport Economic Development and Revitalization initiative, would require further legislative approval);
- Appointed Natisha Alexander, a Budget Examiner for the state with a master’s degree in Public Administration, to the Albany County Land Bank Board of Directors;
- Appropriated $610,060 to complete a project to replace the Creble Road bridge over the Vloman Kill by mid-September;
- Authorized a data-sharing agreement between the Albany County Department of Mental Health, the state Department of Health’s insurance office and Central New York Health Home Network (CNYHHN), as well as a Memorandum of Understanding with CNYHHN to continue providing mental health care for recommended county youth aging out of the system;
- And approved the donation and installation of a “little library” on the Albany County Helderberg-Hudson Rail Trail near Adams St. and Hudson Ave. in Delmar. Little libraries are small, mailbox-like structures where anyone can leave or borrow books. On the trail, pointed out Albany County Department of Recreation Commissioner John D’Antonio, trail users may simply want to stop for a break and enjoy a book right there on the path. “We feel this is a unique opportunity to partner with a community member to offer a useful and convenient service to our residents and visitors who utilize the Rail Trail.