The Yates County Dark Fiber project is approaching completion ahead of schedule and under budget, report representatives of ECC Technologies, the company that is designing and building the network.

Representatives from the company and from Southern Tier Network presented a quarterly report to the Yates County Legislature July 11, and said the fiber network within Yates County should be complete by the end of August. However, since there is over $200,000 in grant ($168,000) and Yates County matching funds ($42,000) available, county officials may want to add more work to the project.

As it stands, when the project is complete, Yates County will have a backbone network of 74.1 miles, a bit more than the 68 miles originally planned, since additional work has already been tacked on to the network.

Construction of the network is being funded by a grant from New York State and matching funds from Yates County. The network, which will be owned by Southern Tier Network, is already being used by internet service providers and at least one other company is interested in using the network to reach retail customers. The excess funds could pay for an additional four to five miles of fiber network.

As part of the agreement between the county and the technology groups, Yates County will have the use of some strands of the fiber for county operations.

Legislators asked ECC Technology to explore options to use the excess funds to extend the network into under served areas of the county, or to connect emergency communication towers or the county highway department facility in Benton.

The ECC Technologies and STN representatives met with legislators in executive session to discuss specific businesses that want to use the network.

Other business on the legislature’s agenda Monday included:

• BENCHMARKING: Legislators unanimously agreed to remove a benchmarking requirement for the position review form that department heads must complete when seeking legislative approval to fill a vacant position. The form had required department heads to present information about similar positions in other similar counties to the legislators. Using the review process, legislators had not denied a department request to fill a position. The resolution was offered by District IV Legislator James Multer. District III Legislator Mark Morris, who has lauded the practice of comparing counties agreed with the move, saying benchmarking should be used as a tool, but separately from the position review process.

Legislative Chairman Timothy Dennis charged Morris’s Government Operations Committee to clarify the position review form and policy in August.

• SUPPORT: Legislators authorized Dennis to send a letter in support of the Yates Cultural & Recreation Resources application for a grant to expand the Yates Community Center.

• DISTRICT ATTORNEY SALARY: With a lone “no” vote cast by District I Legislator Terry Button, legislators agreed to increase the District Attorney’s salary from $152,500 to $183,350. Finance Committee Chairman Douglas Paddock said the motion is in recognition that the county is required by law to pay the increased salary despite not receiving additional funds from the state to cover the cost of the raise. He said this increased unfunded mandate alone will account for 30 percent of the allowable tax levy increase in next year’s budget. After this year’s county budget was finalized, state officials recommended increasing all state judge salaries to $183,350. District Attorney salaries are linked to judicial salaries by state law. In the past, the state had reimbursed counties for the salary cost above the county’s base DA salary. Those funds were not included in the state’s 2016-17 budget. Since the judge’s salary is paid through the Seventh Judicial District budget, this is the highest Yates County salary, more than twice what most other department heads earn.

• PUBLIC HEARING: The legislature set a public hearing on the renewal and revision of the local law that established the local occupancy tax. The public hearing will be held at 1:05 p.m. Aug. 8 during the August legislature meeting. The law was effective Jan. 1, 2008. Dennis says this version of the law includes some revisions.