Will state cuts beach the Marine Patrol?

Gwen Chamberlain
One of the Yates County Marine Patrol boats on duty.

County officials say Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s budget could sink a program that’s important to the area’s public safety — the Sheriff’s Marine Patrol — and re-direct the funds to the state highway and bridge trust fund.

On Monday, the Yates County Legislature unanimously adopted a resolution urging Cuomo to reconsider removing financial aid for marine patrol units.

Sheriff Ron Spike told the legislators that since 1959, New York State has provided financial aid to help cover the cost of marine operations. Using revenue from registration fees, the state previously reimbursed the county for between 50 and 75 percent of the cost of the program.

The governor’s proposed budget includes repealing the section of the state navigation law that requires the state to reimburse counties for a portion of the cost of operating the marine patrol unit.

Spike said in addition to cutting the funding for 2011, the state budget proposal would eliminate funds for the 2010 reimbursement, which will in effect, shift the $35,719 cost to the county taxpayers.

“The thing I don’t understand is the revenue (on the state level) has never come from the taxpayers. It comes from the users of the waterways, from the registered boat owners,” said Spike.

Spike said the cut will reduce the county’s leverage for federal grants through the Coast Guard.

District I Legislator Donna Alexander, chair of the Public Safety Committee, noted there were some very serious tragedies on the lakes in 2010. “Had the marine patrol not been available, they might have been worse.”

Legislative Chairman Taylor Fitch, also from District I, noted that most of Yates County’s tax base is found on the 65 miles of lakeshore, and those property owners might want more marine patrol. “But if this goes through, it will make a significant difference in what we’re able to do. This is a safety issue. I do not understand why the state would do something like this. The whole purpose of fees is to redistribute them,” he said.

Fitch encouraged legislators and others present at the meeting to contact state legislators to express concerns about the proposal.  

A copy of the resolution will be sent to Cuomo, Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy, New York State Senate and Assembly, New York State Association of Counties, Keuka Lake Association, Canandaigua Lake Watershed Association, Inc., Seneca lake Pure Waters Association, Inc. and Ontario, Steuben,?Seneca and Schuyler County Legislatures or boards.

This innertube -- pulled by the boat seen at the end of the dock being inspected 
by the Yates County Sheriff's Office's marine patrol -- crashed into a dock off 
South Lake Road in Middlesex, in the area known as Oregon Point, on Friday