Budget review meeting briefs

The Amsterdam Common Council held a budget review meeting Tuesday with discussion covering the Department of Public Works, Sanitation Department, Sewer Department, Golf Course, Recreation Department, and the Corporation Counsel. Discussion on the mayor’s line items was re-scheduled for tonight’s meeting which will also include review of the assessor’s office, City Hall Custodian, Director of Community and Economic Development/City Historian, Civil Service, and Employee Relations.

  • While discussing the Sanitation Department, Alderwoman Diane Hatzenbuhler asked DPW General Foreman Ray Halgas about the possibility of allowing residents to use larger sized garbage containers. Halgas pointed out the current weight limit on garbage cans and that he doesn’t want his workers reaching into containers to pull individual bags out due to safety concerns. When asked about installing apparatus on the garbage trucks that would pick up the larger containers, Halgas said that such devices were available for $5000 each.
  • During review of the golf course, Maintenance Supervisor Jim Derrick pointed out the Recreation Department often sent machinery to the golf course mechanic for repairs, and therefore should be charged from their budget.
  • Golf Course Commissioner Pam Ritter said that because so many details of the course’s operation, including Golf Pro Joe Merendo’s contract, had only recently been finalized, that she was not yet able to provide accurate budget numbers. She agreed with the council to provide updated numbers at next week’s meeting.
  • Hatzenbuhler expressed disappointment that Recreation Department Director Rob Spagnola had not provided detailed reports that she had asked for on the income and expenses of each individual park. Spagnola said that the information specific to each individual park was not readily available on computer records. He suggested that the accounting system be changed to make that possible in the future.
  • Hatzenbuhler asked a multitude of questions to Spagnola. When she asked about whether he had a degree in sports management, Alderman Ed Russo urged her to move on, saying it was getting “personal”.
  • Hatzenbuhler expressed a desire to see lights installed for the softball fields at Shuttleworth Park. Spagnola said he was in favor of the idea, but that recent lighting projects including the Little Giants field and Isabel Park were funded by fundraisers, not by taxpayer money.
  • Hatzenbuhler also expressed desire to see parks or playgrounds built on Milton Ave and in the Reid Hill area. Spagnola said he was agreeable to those ideas, however he reminded the council that maintenance costs, as well as the initial cost to build a playground was an important factor to consider. Others on the council took issue with the potential cost. Controller Matthew Agresta said he could think of “100 different things” that the city needed before it considered building more parks.
  • Finally, the council heard from Corporation Counsel Gerard DeCusatis, who provided a two page sheet outlining what he says are his accomplishments to date which have impacted the city budget. He cited a number of issues including negotiating favorable sales tax distribution and revenue sharing agreements with the surrounding towns, stopping the sale of tax liens, and restructuring retiree health insurance. DeCusatis requested a 2% raise for his own salary and for his assistant.

Tim Becker

Tim Becker is the owner of Anthem Websites Inc. which publishes The Compass. He serves as both editor and a writer.