EASTON — Just one day after the federal government shutdown ended, U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik toured the Hollingsworth & Vose manufacturing plant and heard concerns from a growing industry.
Stefanik talked about her efforts to work out DACA and how using the program as a bargaining chip during budget discussions is not her preferred way of getting things done in Washington.
“I oppose government shutdowns and I think it is Washington at its worst. I voted in support of keeping the government open when it passed the House, and I voted in support keeping the government open when the Senate finally got its act together and the Senate Democrats stopped playing politics with our government funding,” Stefanik said.
She noted the 2013 shutdown and heeded that U.S. Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand should take their own advice, which was “stop playing politics when it comes to keeping the government open.”
When it comes to DACA, Stefanik said, “DACA conversations are ongoing. I am part of a bipartisan bill that has been introduced to solve DACA, but also increases border security. I do think we will come to a resolution; we have to come to a resolution. We have to fix DACA and it is part of our job as a member of Congress, but we should not be shutting down the government.”
She expressed concern about border security and Fort Drum, which reside in the 21st Congressional District. Local attractions, such as Saratoga National Cemetery contacted her office with concerns caused by the shutdown.
Stefanik also proposed the need for a two-year budget process and for the federal government to “stop managing from crisis to crisis.”
With the shutdown behind Congress until the next deadline on Feb. 8, Stefanik focused on local matters which included a visit and tour of the air filtration and battery separation manufacturer on the banks of the Batten Kill.
Hollingsworth & Vose Operations Manager Ron Zimmerman led a tour expressing the need for a skilled workforce for an ever-changing industry.
“We need mechanics, instrumentation experts and people that can trouble shoot,” Zimmerman said.
Technical Manager Stephanie Picard said, “The industry has seen a lot of activity and a lot of growth.”
She said research is underway to expand into the solar and vehicle markets and new plants are coming online in Georgia and outside of Boston for the international company.
“Manufacturing needs talent. Shift work is tough, but it is a personal choice,” Picard said.
Picard noted the competitive industry and neighboring companies such as GlobalFoundries, Essity, Finch Paper, Irving Tissue and International Paper seeking similar help.
The company employs about 200 workers at its two Washington County locations. It has formed an apprenticeship to train its own workers and has teamed with SUNY Adirondack and high schools to bring students in for tours interested in STEM.
The program officially got underway this month in hopes to fill the necessary “skilled labor force.”
During a question and answer session, Plant Manager Stacey Campbell said a “skilled labor force is a primary for a company that combines old school with new technology.”
Zimmerman said electrical workers — otherwise known as instrumentation workers — are the most difficult to find.
“Problem solving, critical thinking to solve problems is necessary,” he said.
The facilities also operate on renewable energy. Campbell said the plant produces 40 percent of its own energy by hydroelectricity and solar. The company owns three of the five dams on the Batten Kill, as well as a large solar farm on Old Schuylerville Road.
Zimmerman said they have hydroelectricity units down and would like to refurbish them, but the capital investment does not match the return on investment.
Stefanik noted that “hydro has not been given the same incentives as solar and wind.” She vowed to help introduce more hydro grant programs.
The plant also faces an uncertain future besides its workforce. The impending replacement of the historic county Route 113 bridge that connects Easton and Greenwich is set for the summer. The county and state effort will go out to bid shortly, Zimmerman said.
Concerns exist if water will be diverted away from the company’s hydroelectric dam.
SOUTH GLENS FALLS — A South Glens Falls resident will watch the State of the Union speech from the audience with Congresswoman Elise Stefanik.
Every member of Congress can bring one guest to the speech. Stefanik, R-Willsboro, chose Sarah Pratt this year.
Pratt’s father, Trooper Timothy Pratt, died in the line of duty in 2016. He was struck by a car while helping a tractor-trailer driver who had missed his turn.
Stefanik said she chose Pratt because she knows it’s not just law enforcement members who make sacrifices. They are supported by their families, who are often not acknowledged for the work they do.
“Our law enforcement families make incredible sacrifices each day on behalf of our communities,” Stefanik said. “I am humbled by the opportunity to host Sarah in our nation’s capital and know that she will greatly enjoy the opportunity to hear the president address the nation.”
The State of the Union speech will begin at 9 p.m. on Jan. 30.
Stefanik praised Trooper Pratt as a local hero and said she joined the community in mourning his loss in 2016.
Troopers and other first responders lined the overpasses along the Northway as his body was brought home, and businesses throughout the village and town hung signs remembering him. Many thanked him for specific acts he had done to help them in his 30 years as a state trooper.
Hundreds of people turned out for a candlelight vigil and hundreds more lined up to pay their respects at the wake.
He has been remembered since at the Marathon Dance at the high school where he graduated, and where he came back to volunteer as a security officer year after year. Last year’s Marathon Dance was dedicated to his memory.
QUEENSBURY — Four Warren County employees will lose their jobs and three others will have their hours cut after Warren and Washington counties worked out an agreement to have Washington County produce senior meals for the Glens Falls/Queensbury area.
Seniors who get home-delivered meals in southern Warren County will get meals prepared by Washington County Jail staff, starting in late March or early April.
The move to have the meals prepared at the jail will save about a dollar per meal, and add up to a savings of $74,000 per year, said Deanna Park, director of Warren County’s Office for the Aging. The office for the aging will pay $5.55 per meal, compared to meals that were being prepared at a cost of $6.55 each at the Queensbury site, Park said.
The employees affected are all part-timers, but their positions carry fringe benefits, Park said. They work from the meal site at the Cedars Senior Living Community in Queensbury. The Cedars will still serve as a distribution point for home-delivered meals.
Washington County’s jail kitchen has been preparing meals for the senior meal program there for 15 years, with no complaints, Park said. The food has passed all state testing requirements, she added.
Washington County Sheriff Jeff Murphy said the jail kitchen staff believes the additional meals can be prepared without hiring any additional staff.
“It won’t impact the staff or have any added costs for us,” Murphy said.
Senior meal preparation is not a money-maker for the department but is done to help the community, Murphy said. The food is produced separately from meals prepared for prisoners.
“It’s not the food made for the inmates. It’s a totally different menu,” the sheriff explained.
The four people who will lose their positions in Warren County were involved in the preparation of food.
Glens Falls 4th Ward Supervisor William Loeb questioned whether the county could find other work for those who would lose their jobs.
“I understand the cost savings, but it’s someone’s livelihood,” he said. “Can we find something else for them within the county?”
Officials said there did not appear to be any positions open for transfer, but the employees can apply for other job openings.
Hague Supervisor Edna Frasier, chairwoman of the county board’s Health and Human Services Committee, which oversees the Office for the Aging, said the supervisors asked Park last fall to look for ways to cut costs. Frasier and Queensbury at-Large Supervisor Matt Sokol, chairman of the county board’s Finance Committee, praised Park for finding savings.