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Paul Ochal, candidate for 2nd ward alderman

Paul Ochal is the incumbent candidate for the second ward city council position. He will appear on the Republican party line on election day, November 5, 2019. He faces challenger Dave Gomula.

Background

Ochal is a long-time Amsterdam resident who graduated from SUNY Albany and previously worked at GE in Schenectady for 25 years. For most of that time he worked in a unit called “government instruction books” which created publications and technical manuals for generators used on U.S. Navy ships. The job entailed fact checking and coordination with engineers to make sure the information in the manuals was accurate, as well as the production of marketing materials for salespeople in the field.

On the issues

The candidate’s answers to five questions are listed below. The answers are in the candidate’s own words, with minor edits for clarity.

  1. Question: What specific steps must the city take to correct the problem of over-estimation of revenues and under-estimation of expenses?
    Answer: I believe that the City budgets have been reasonably crafted based on the submissions of the Department Heads, which are in turn based on historical experience of actual expenditures. There are, however, areas of expenditure, including snow plowing, water and sewer system repairs, and health insurance costs, which can sometimes vary considerably from the historical numbers either higher or lower. The revenue side (actual tax collections, share of sales taxes) can also see similar swings. Going forward, budgets will have to be subject to additional scrutiny, and will probably require additional funding of contingency lines. Making revenue better match expenditures will likely require some increases in taxes, in order to continue providing residents with the services they want and deserve.
  2. Question: What are the next steps the city needs to take to correct the fund balance deficit problem?
    Answer: Reduction of the deficit will require certification of the size of the deficit by New York State, and working with the state’s financial restructuring board to develop a solid action plan. It will be necessary to secure funding to pay down the debt on the best terms possible, and develop budgets which will provide sufficient revenue to permit timely payback of deficit reduction funding.
  3. Question: Where do you currently stand on moving forward (or not) on the KCG Development residential project?
    Answer: I believe that the city needs the kind of housing that the KCG Development project will provide, in order to expand the stock of apartments available to support the city’s workforce. There are some who would like to see the project replaced with one which would provide more upscale or even luxury housing. The site has been available for a long time, and it’s reasonable to believe that if a developer believed that the site could lend itself to such an upscale project, proposals would have been made to the city. I hope that KCG can navigate the roadblocks it currently faces and complete the project.
  4. Question: What have been the top 3 successes for your term in the past year?
    Answer: Securing $10 million in state funding for the Downtown Revitalization Initiative has to be the major highlight of the past year. Completion of large portions of the rebuilding of the city’s wastewater handling system has greatly reduced the amount of untreated sewage entering the river as a result of runoff during heavy rain events. Last Fall’s resurfacing of Church St. has provided residents of the area some relief from the effects of heavy truck traffic that runs on the street, while anticipating further relief when the route is completely rebuilt next year.
  5. Question: What are your top 3 goals if elected to another term?
    Answer: If returned to office a major focus would have to be to work closely with the administration to affect the reduction/elimination of the deficits in the fund balances. Continuing the ongoing improvements to the city’s infrastructure (water distribution and wastewater systems) and streets will also be a priority. Also, continuing to work with the engineering department and the land bank to fight blight through the demolition of more unsightly and dangerous structures.

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