SCHENECTADY COUNTY - The county Legislature has dropped a local law that required applicants for most county government jobs to have lived in the county for one year before their hiring.
The Legislature this week unanimously approved repealing the law, which officials say has limited the county's ability to attract candidates to its workforce. The requirement has been waived for specific in-demand job titles in recent years, but has not been dropped for the entire workforce.
“What we’ve seen in the last couple of years is a profoundly significant issue with attraction and retention of the workforce," county Manager Kathleen Rooney told the Legislature last month. "We’re in nearly constant recruitment mode, trying to cajole people to stay, trying to keep a stable workforce.”
Previous policy, in place since 2000, was that employees must have lived in the county for a year before being hired, and remain county residents while on the payroll. The rule has previously been waived for public safety dispatchers, health care workers and social services caseworkers, because of difficulties hiring or retaining people in those jobs.
"At this time, the difficulties with recruitment and retention now involve a much broader range of titles," Rooney wrote in a memo to the Legislature. "Examples of other positions involve those requiring knowledge and experience in such areas as information technology, finance, accounting, library sciences and engineering."
County Attorney Christopher Gardner noted that the current policy applies to positions appointed by the county manager, so it already doesn't apply to those who are appointed by the sheriff, district attorney, county clerk, county attorney, county Legislature or who work at SUNY Schenectady County Community College.
At the time the policy was adopted, Gardner said Schenectady County's population was declining – but it is now growing. At this point, he said the county doesn't need to require employees to live in the county to keep the county's population growing.
The county government has about 1,450 full- or part-time employees.
The Legislature also approved what advocacy groups say is the state's first county-level plan to fight the hemlock wooly adelgid, an invasive insect species that can be deadly to hemlock trees, one of the region's major evergreen species.
The hemlock woolly adelgid has been found in hemlock trees throughout the county, including in the county-owned Plotterkill Nature Preserve in Rotterdam, where the county has chemically treated infested trees. This year, plans call for expanding those efforts to the Indian Kill preserve in Glenville, another scenic county-owned nature preserve.
The county is at the northern edge of the insect's current range, and everyone involved would like to prevent it from infesting trees in the Adirondacks.
Chemical treatments have some success against the invader, which has been found throughout much of the Northeast and whose impacts result in the slow death of infected hemlock trees, one of the Northeast's most common evergreens.
The adelgid feeds on their needles, drawing nutrition from the tree and eventually causing death. Signs of infestation include dry or discolored needles, loss of needles, and dead branches.