Thane portrays city emerging from adversity in State of City speech

Mayor Ann Thane began her annual State of the City speech with a vivid depiction of the historical struggles that Amsterdam has endured followed by highlights of the progress made in the past year in developing its economy and culture. The speech, which was delivered yesterday at City Hall, concluded with an outline of work she expected to happen this year.

The full transcript of the speech can be read on the Thane’s blog.

An excerpt from the beginning of the speech:

Ours is a typical, twenty-first century, post-industrial American city that has experienced difficulty and true struggle over the decades. The beating heart of our downtown was ripped out, businesses and jobs fled the state, traffic patterns were hopelessly scrambled, and government’s frequent response had been to cut away funding for critical infrastructure, equipment and workforce. Amsterdam was vigorously torn apart in a physical way and the soul of this community tore in ways that have been ceaselessly painful and difficult to mend.

Thane praised Controller Matt Agresta for his work in improving his department’s operations.

We continue to heal years of chaos in our Department of Finance thanks in great part to the diligent work of our new Controller Matthew Agresta. I cannot say enough about the tremendous job Matt is doing. He is skillfully progressing the many tasks identified in our Corrective Action Plan that the prior council, city attorney, Matt and I scripted in response to an audit done by the Office of the State Comptroller. He’s readily taken command of staff, process and remedy. He’s successfully shifted his department from antiquated accounting software to the state-of-the-art municipal system that will allow for prompt reporting and analysis. He’s recommended an upgrade of the city’s computer and telecommunication systems, and will see to it that the technological needs of city government are met. He’s overseen the dissolution of the insurance trust and is finally progressing the foreclosure that had languished in the hands of his two predecessors. He has been directing reconciliations of internal records, bank statements, and the general ledger necessary to complete our reports to the State.

Thankfully, it looks like we will be in good stead at the end of this process, with a fund balance that is trending in a positive direction. This trend indicates that this administration has confidently led us through the global recession at a time when State government has limited our revenues and expenses have escalated at alarming rates. These crushing realities have devastated other communities economically.

The most important quality that our young Controller presents is that he is a consummate team player and puts partisan politics aside for the betterment of this community. It has been a pleasure to have a partner that willingly takes up the mantle of his office and works peacefully toward the goal of making Amsterdam thrive. Thank you, Matt.

Thane, who said that “revitalization is an incremental process that takes time, patience and extreme effort,” highlighted the following progress in the past year:

  • Two $400,000 community development grants received for property improvements in the Reid Hill neighborhood.
  • Rehabilitation of the Colonial Gardens and Roosevelt Garden apartment complexes.
  • The downtown traffic pattern was re-routed
  • Footings to the Mohawk Valley Gateway Overlook are in place
  • Artificial turf installed at Shuttleworth Park
  • Phase IV of the city’s storm sewer infrastructure project was completed
  • City-wide litter pickup
  • Continued repair of the city’s fire hydrants, with only 6 out of over 1,000 out of service
  • Partnership with the City of Schenectady in the Capital District Land Reutilization Corporation (Land bank) from which Amsterdam has received over $500,000 in funding from.
  • Partnership with Cities of Schenectady, Troy, and Gloversville to develop software to track code enforcement issues
  • Exploring shared service opportunities with Montgomery County
  • Sludge disposal agreement with Madison County to save the city $125,000 per year
  • Solar energy contract that will save the city $264,00 per year
  • Talks with FMCC, Montgomery County, Fulton County and CDTA to establish a regional transportation strategy.
  • Grants from the regional economic development council for $225,000 for repairs to City Hall, $325,000 for public artwork on the pedestrian bridge.

Thane also mentioned the continued success of the city’s youth recreation program, and the Creative Connections arts center.

Projects for this year highlighted in the speech include:

  • Continued efforts to market property available for commercial development including the Chalmers property on the south side.
  • Resumption of work on the pedestrian bridge
  • Construction of the Concordia assisted living facility
  • Rehabilitation of the downtown hotel building
  • Opening of a new business at the old FGI building
  • Repair of the collapsing wall along Dove Creak and reconstruction of Route 5 to alleviate flooding problems
  • Continued work on plans for a new recreation center
  • Improvements to Isabel’s Field to accommodate children with special needs
  • Repairs to city hall
  • Launch of a mobile phone application to help residents report suspicious activities in the city
  • Enhancements to code enforcement, employee training,

At the end of the speach, Thane asked members of the common council to work with her for the success of the city.

It is the duty of this government to reconstruct the tattered quilt of this community into a colorful, well-constructed patchwork of hope. We must take the torn pieces of our physical reality and repurpose them into an environment that is vibrant and growing. This takes sincere good will, ingenuity and willing compromise. I humbly ask my fellow members of the Council to work WITH me and do all in their power to see that we succeed.

Tim Becker

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