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Madison County ad hoc energy group to weigh heating program

Topping the agenda facing the newly created ad hoc energy committee this week will be whether the county should establish a $25,000 fund to help its poorest residents this heating season.

Department of Social Services Commissioner Michael Fitzgerald proposed the local home heating assistance program at the July meeting of the Madison County Social and Mental Health Committee. The proposition was formalized into a resolution presented to and unanimously passed by SMH at its Aug. 25 meeting and forwarded for consideration by the county's Finance, Ways and Means Committee.

The proposed stop-gap program for the county's neediest residents hit a roadblock Aug. 29 when members of the finance committee, among them Supervisor John Salka (R,C,I -- Brookfield) who serves on both committees, declined to put the proposition to the full Board of Supervisors after Chairman John M. Becker (R,C,I -- Sullivan) cautioned committee members about agreeing to fund a program that is " never going to go away."

Despite a compelling presentation of the proposed program's purpose and structure by Personnel Director and Interim Budget Officer Mary Krause, supervisors chose not to forward the matter to the full Board of Supervisors, instead referring the matter to the ad hoc group appointed by Becker.

Salka also is a member of that committee. He joins fellow SMH member James Goldstein (D,C,I -- Lebanon) and FWM member Russell Cary (R -- Fenner) in that group, which is comprised of members of the public and county government.

Salka said it has always been his intention to look out for the disadvantaged. He said in this case, having an issue discussed by different committees results in discovering new perspectives of those different committee members.

"When John [Becker] brought up his concern that it could turn into something that would place a large burden on taxpayers, it swayed me," Salka said of his conflicting votes between the two committee meetings four days apart. "I thought, 'He does have a point there.' And finance didn't just defeat the resolution; we sent it to another committee."

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