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Highlights from the mayor’s State of the City speech

Mayor Michael Villa delivered his second State of the City speech at City Hall yesterday. The full text of the speech is available on the city’s website.

Villa opened by saying, “I am pleased and eager to share a number of our successes and talk about some of the challenges that lie ahead. First I want to thank the common council for working proactively together this past year – a hands on working relationship that I am confident will continue through 2016. The same appreciation to the city’s department heads who step up to the plate daily and ensure that internal business of the city is conducted professionally.”

Some highlights of the speech include:

Finances

Villa commended Controller Matt Agresta for his work on the city’s financials over the past year in which the required state reporting for years 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 were filed. An independent audit for the 2013-2014 financials was completed, and the audit for the 2014-2015 financials is underway. Villa said that Agresta is anticipating the state report for the 2015-2016 financials will be complete in April. Villa said that the city is now the “closest to current” with it financials that it has been in six years.

Villa said that continued work is needed to reconcile the city’s capital project account. According to Villa, money from capital accounts was used for general fund expenses in previous years. According to Agresta, a re-payment from the general fund to the capital project account may be required. Villa said that some projects may be cancelled or delayed until the finances can be worked out.

Economic Development

Villa touted the cooperation between the city and the county on economic development projects, citing the recent award of $500,000 in state funding toward a business incubator program at the Clock Tower building and $200,000 in state funding to form a micro-enterprise grant program. Both projects are being spearheaded by the county.

Two projects led by the Amsterdam Industrial Development Agency were also cited, including the expansion and relocation of Memory Lane Daycare from Perth to Amsterdam, which is expected to create 14 jobs, and work to secure a Restore NY grant for Cranesville Properties to renovate the former Wrestling Hall of Fame building.

Other projects currently being pursued include a feasibility study for the relocation of the train station, for which requests for proposals have been issued, the Chuctanunda Creek trail, and the creation of a culinary incubator.

Parks and Recreation

Villa commended the cooperation between the city, county, and local businesses who contributed to the creation of a new basketball and skate park behind Centro Civico on East Main Street. Future plans for the park include an addition of a “half pipe” for skaters, additional playground equipment, and a splash park.

He also highlighted successful events held in conjunction with the newly opened Mohawk Valley Gateway Overlook pedestrian bridge, such as the Italiafest, trick or treating, and the Christmas tree lighting.

Other successes cited were the completion of the 9-11 monument, renovations at Sirchia Park, Spring Fling, National Night Out, and the city’s summer camp.

According to Villa, Union College will begin playing all their home games at Shuttleworth park in 2017.

Transportation

Villa commended the new transportation director, Fabrizia Rodriguez, for setting up new routes for the city’s buses which connect residents to the area’s major employers, shopping centers, and schools. Service to Schenectady’s casino is also planned for 2017.

Infrastructure

Villa said that design work for a $5 million project to upgrade the city’s sewer system and prevent discharges of untreated waste is currently underway. He expects construction will take place later in the year.

Other projects he expects to begin in 2017 include a project to reduce potential contamination to the river from the wastewater treatment plant, reconstruction of the Dove Creek flood walls, and improvements to storm drainage on the West End of the city.

In conclusion, Villa said, “In the year ahead, we will continue to work for a thriving and innovative future for Amsterdam. The challenges are not insurmountable. I know this by the successes we have achieved this year.”

About Tim Becker

Tim Becker is the owner of AnthemWebsites.com LLC which publishes The Compass. He serves as both editor and a writer.

3 Responses to Highlights from the mayor’s State of the City speech

  1. Thom Georgia says:

    I’d suggest everyone on that council, including the mayor, cancel their subscriptions to ‘Day Old News.’ These accounting discrepancies were brought to the attention of many people several years ago…yes, several years… by the former administration.

    In fact, the council that was seated form 2009-2011 was not only alerted to the problem, they decided to make political-hay out of the Thane-administration’s calls for immediate remediation. I personally recall being lambasted by the then-council and the ever-superfluous Recorder Newspaper for holding “secret budget meetings” with key staff. The mayor, corporation counsel, former Controller Brumley and executive staff, myself included, requested, in fact begged, for then-Controller Reynicke to work with us to determine how much of a cluster@&$# it actually was and for how long it had been an issue.

    What did then-controller Reynicke do? Sent an email to the council saying she was being circumvented and refused to meet! The then-council’s response was to erupt with anger and indignation at the executive staff for daring to address a problem stemming from not only a deficient Finance Dept., but one that spanned multiple Controllers as far back as the Emanuele administration.

    Lest we also not forget the grand idea of lumping all monies, all accounts, and all contingencies into ONE singular account when the Council approved the finance dept to purchase new accounting software. Instead of migrating the old info systematically into the new, it was just thrown in a giant pot and everyone went along on their merry way, again resisting the admonishment and prediction from the Executive staff that this would lead to a mega-issue down the road…yeah, I’m available for palm readings Wednesday and Friday nights now too if you’re interested.

    So when I hear the bull— platitude from the current administration & council regarding “getting finances in order”, let us remember that the Thane administration for six (6) years clamored for the council to approve additional finance staff and outside consultants to bring this bear back to the hunting lodge.

    Those calls went unasnswered. Why? Because before relations with Controller Reynicke went sour, the council thought she was the greatest thing since Mott’s apple sauce, and that and the Executive staff needed to mind their own business. SMH

    • Alayne says:

      I would be bitter too if I supported the prior mayor who evidently did not have the ability to manage a lemonade stand…then along comes Michael Villa…no more clown shows at CC mtgs., he acts in a professional manner, works well with others and the city is not only moving forward at full speed, but looks better than it has in eight long years. I’m finally proud to be an Amsterdamian again.

    • Thom Georgia says:

      I don’t know how you read ‘bitter’ out of any of that. I’m hoping it is not a result of blind loyalty to this mayor. My tone, carefully conveyed, was sincere concern for the operations, and well, dignity of city hall.

      By ‘looking better’ I assume you mean ‘cleaner’? I’m pretty certain I’ve noticed city hall literally falling apart. The portico is crumbling, held together by some 2×4’s and crazy glue, despite there being plenty of money set aside for improvements. The exterior of the DPW building looks like a war-torn country…a good manager would be on top of the care of city property.

      You see, Alayne, running a lemonade stand has some basic principles that actually are quite applicable to running a $30M city operation. There is quality of product, the ability to follow a certain prescribed order aka the recipe, and of course, being able to make real change at the end of a transaction. It’s a lot more complicated than you trivialize it to be. If I were to compare bad management to a particular industry, I’d really have to akin it to a less-than-reputable electrician; power can flow through a dedicated line, but unless there’s a proper balance of circuitry, a fire just continues to smolder under some electrical tape until there’s a blackout or electrical fire altogether.

      Oh wait…doesn’t there seem to be a problem with electrical systems in important sanitation infrastructure that can’t seem to be figured out by anyone at city hall? I wonder just how many gallons of literal $#!£ are flowing into the environment, even as I type.

      You see, at least the well-run lemonade stand had a purpose; increase of consumer base, raising of revenue to offset costs of production, and, of course, a detail-intense, measured sweetness added to improve the quality of life.

      The only thing being sold out of city hall right now is just the lemon.

      As for working together and without discourse, it can be a lovely thing, but it is kind of subjective. Just because some people have, oh let’s say, work, and can’t be marching around town carrying pitchforks all the time does not a happy kingdom make. People have a responsibility to family, raising good kids, teaching morals and values, and dare I say, respect to others. Government’s purpose is to care for all the things that the average citizen has neither the time nor ability to address. And running government like a business doesn’t give it profit motive to make any meaningful change.

      Without quality of life or consequence of product in mind, it’s like showing up to a job where the electrician has a cigarette in one hand and a drink in the other. You’re under the influence, concentration is lacking, a house made of a wooden frame is a sitting pile of kindling, and well…you might just be criminally negligent when innocent people are harmed because of carelessness.

      But thank you for making my point about throwing around imagined platitudes of absolute grandeur based on one’s own subjective view and personal motivation.