State of the Town

State of the Town


JANUARY 19, 2011

Colonie Town Supervisor Paula A. Mahan

Good morning and thank you for inviting me to join you today. I especially want to thank Mark Egan,

President of the Albany-Colonie Regional Chamber of Commerce and his staff, and Alan Krafchin, Chair of the Board, and his Board members for extending this invitation for many years now. I also want to thank everyone attending today’s event and for your commitment to our community. You all truly help to make Colonie one of the greatest towns in the nation. As this is my fourth State of the Town address, I am honored to continue to have the opportunity to serve all the members of the Town of Colonie, and I am proud to say that together we have achieved many major accomplishments. And we will continue to work together in a collaborative manner as we move into the future and strive to maintain our excellent quality of life here in Colonie.

Time rushes by, but we’ve come a long way in three short years. I really want to emphasize the strong progress we’ve made so far by working together. Today, our Town government is leaner and more efficient than ever. Although we’ve been experiencing the worst economic times since the Great Depression, we have managed to reduce the deficit while keeping taxes low. And we’ve preserved the excellent services that make Colonie such a great place to live and do business.

One of the lessons I learned from my years as an educator is that we must always build on our strengths and our weaknesses will come along. I have always tried to remember that as we worked to rebuild the Town. As a result of focusing on the positive and identifying our strengths, we’ve made great progress – and we are still building!

Speaking of strengths, HOW ABOUT THE COLONIE POLICE DEPARTMENT! This year, Colonie has been ranked the safest community of its size in the nation for the second year in a row! That’s an amazing accomplishment and certainly one for the record books.

Public safety is a top priority; one of the most basic elements of a good life. It involves a commitment on the part of our whole workforce and community. Our entire community shares this high honor…thank you to all who helped Colonie earn this award. Chief Heider is here with us today, and I’m sure you will all want to join me in recognizing him and all the members of the Colonie Police Department for a job well done. (APPLAUSE)

In addition, our Colonie EMS Department was recognized this year for excellence in emergency cardiac care. Cardiac arrest victims in Colonie now have an astonishing 22% survival rate – a result of new protocols implemented by our EMS staff. Let’s all take a moment to express our appreciation to our EMTs and Paramedics for

embracing the changes that have brought about such unbelievable success. (APPLAUSE)

Also in the area of public safety, our Fire Services Division staff and our 12 volunteer fire departments throughout the town continue to do an outstanding job. We are getting closer to expanding training opportunities at our Municipal Training Center on Wade Road. I would like to thank Chief Peter Lattanzio for his continued efforts on this important project. I would also like to thank Assemblyman Bob Riley, Assemblyman Jack McEneny and District Attorney David Soares for their support on this project.

I also want to say that I owe a huge debt of gratitude to our Town employees. As you know, we have worked hard to reduce the size of Town government to make it

more sustainable. We could not have accomplished all that we have without the cooperation of our workforce. They’ve all had to do more with less and I truly appreciate their efforts and commitment to our Town.

For openers, let me just say that we have reduced the size of the Town budget for the second year in a row! This year’s budget, at $92.7 million, is $1.4 million less than last’s year’s. And last year’s budget was almost a half million dollars less than the year before. That means we’ve reduced operating costs by almost $2 million in just two years. Saving that much money took a lot of hard work and flexibility on the part of all involved. Our strength was in our collective determination to find new ways to reduce the cost of Town government.

This year we will also save almost a half million dollars in debt service, partly as a result of having the negative outlook removed from our bond rating. That was a goal I worked for since taking office in 2008. In removing the negative rating, Moody’s Investor Services said their action was based on the expectation that we would continue to build on our “two consecutive years of favorable operational and budgetary results.” Again, our strength was our resolve to make the kind of progress that could move us forward – and listening to various financial advisers to learn what we had to do to improve our financial condition.

In addition, we will have 37 fewer full-time employees this year, a reduction we achieved through attrition, early retirements and departmental consolidations.

Eliminating those 37 positions will save the Town almost $1.2 million this year alone. And these are savings that are carried forward every year, not only in future savings on salaries and benefits, but also on retirement costs down the line. We are fortunate to have a Town workforce that was willing to step up to the plate and accept change, which I think we all know is not always easy.

A great deal of time and effort has gone into developing new ways of doing business. As I’ve mentioned department consolidations, we’ve saved $400,000 by combining Youth Services with Parks and Recreation, and Fire Services with our Building Department. These internal operational changes allowed us to cut the cost of service delivery, but I want to note that the level of services we provide will not be diminished. Although we continue to make great progress, we all know times have changed and we will continue to be challenged in years ahead. The uncertain economy persists. Sales and mortgage taxes, two of the Town’s biggest revenue sources, have been down for a while; however, we are slowly beginning to see a positive change. At the same time, costs beyond our control continue to rise. This year we face unprecedented increases in mandatory contributions into the NYS retirement system…and, I’m sure it’s no surprise to you that our health insurance costs continue to rise, perhaps by as much as 15% this year. But I am happy to report that for the first time ever, this year all Town employees will be helping to offset these costs by contributing 10% of their premiums. This is a huge step

forward; one my administration has been working toward since 2008. We have seven different negotiating units representing Town employees; getting all of them to agree to a uniform contribution was a huge accomplishment.

We continue our efforts to make progress to reduce the deficit. As a result of the worst financial downturn since the Great Depression, we were not able to pay it down as much as we had anticipated. At this point, we have eliminated $5.5 million of the deficit. This past fall

we received our most recent audited financials, and unfortunately our auditors identified an additional $1.2 million which is part of the inherited deficit. Hopefully,

at this point it has all been identified. We knew from the beginning that the Town’s financial situation was a major

challenge; however, on a positive note, I am proud to report that the ten-year financial plan we implemented in 2008 has been very successful and we will continue to stay on this structured path of good financial management.

As business people you know that a healthy tax base is as important to our bottom line as good management practices… and I have made it a priority for my

administration to make Colonie more business-friendly, not only as a way to encourage more businesses to locate here, but to keep the ones we already have! We have made many positive strides. Keeping taxes low is a great way to do that. But we have also worked hard to streamline the approval process for new projects so developers will see that Colonie is truly a great place to do business.

The use of Town Designated Engineers to oversee major projects has proven to be successful in reducing the amount of time it takes to bring major projects to completion. Also we’ve put new procedures in place to

shorten the time it takes to obtain final review of smaller projects. And our new online tracking system allows us to monitor ongoing progress on projects much more efficiently. We have made big strides, but we’re still looking to do better. Currently, we’ve implemented a team to work on a plan to improve the project permitting process to make it more user-friendly for our customers.

We have also continued our focus on redevelopment of under-utilized sites, and who among us has not been impressed by the redevelopment spurred on by the location of the Fresh Market in Latham! The Fresh Market has

opened to great reviews, and now the rest of the plaza is being rebuilt. This is a perfect example of a team of our staff members coming together, aggressively seeking new businesses and opportunities for our town, and following through with excellent results. The Fresh Market location is now a focal point in Latham, one that we can all be very proud of, and it represents the type of development we want to attract to our town. It was also wonderful to hear the positive comments from the developers of this project as they worked through the planning process with our staff. It’s great to have our hard work recognized.

In addition, we have completed several other sites around town. Precision Valve Automation is up and operating at the 115,000 square foot facility at One

Mustang Drive. This facility, which was a vacant manufacturing property, was retooled for PVA’s needs.

PVA is doing very well in their new location, and I predict they will be looking to expand in the near future.

Another major redevelopment project has been completed at 1839 Central Avenue. Central Square Plaza is an attractive site that fits in nicely with our redevelopment of the Route 5 corridor. Also on the corridor, Green’s Appliances has completed a major addition and next door at 1225 Central Avenue, the owners of Paesan’s Pizza have taken down four abandoned buildings to prepare for their new restaurant. This entire block has been greatly improved and we appreciate the efforts of these businesses working with us to help reduce the number of abandoned properties in our town.

In addition to the sites I’ve mentioned, we have been working with developers and residents to bring smart development to various areas throughout the town as well as to clean up several areas that have been neglected. Some of the new development includes Angio Dynamics, a new Residence Hall at Siena College, a new office building on Albany Shaker Road, the new Papa Johns on the corner of Route 2 and Old Loudon Road, and the new Berkshire Bank on the corner of Route 9 and Glennon Road, to name a few. Also, we saw much-needed clean-up at the corner of Osborne Road and Albany Shaker Road and the abandoned Clays Seafood site on Sand Creek Road.

As you can see, we have been working hard to turn our economic development goals into realities and we still

have a lot more work to complete. The Planning Department has been working for several months on redevelopment of the abandoned Starlight Music Theatre into a new office park designed to attract high-tech companies. And we haven’t given up hope for redevelopment of some of our more challenging sites, such as the Latham Circle Mall, Tobin’s First Prize, and Adirondack Steel. We continue to dialogue about these areas, and perhaps as the economy improves, we will have more interest in the future.

Although we are faced with extremely difficult economic times, we have not lost sight of the fact that our Town has so many wonderful assets and much to offer new businesses. We’ve maximized our efforts to succeed in these tough times and I’m happy to say we continue to achieve our goals. In addition to our new business development and redevelopment, we have several residential developments in the process throughout the

town, offering a variety of styles of homes to meet the varying needs of our residents. We are fortunate to live and work in such a desirable area.

I would like to take a moment to thank our Planning and Economic Development Director, Joe LaCivita, and our planning staff as well as the Town’s Planning Board for their continued efforts toward bringing smart growth and positive change to Colonie. (THANK YOU JOE)

Future efforts to redevelop areas in need of new life will be aided by our Route 5 Corridor Inventory Study, which has now been completed, and corridor studies focusing on Railroad Avenue and Route 32.

Our Small Business Advisory Council continues to offer suggestions and has helped to identify some areas in our processes that needed improvement. Also, the Town Board authorized creation of an LDC, which would provide a dedicated loan fund for small businesses. These efforts are still works in progress, but we will keep working on them. We recognize the importance of small businesses and we all know they are the backbone of job creation.

I think we would all agree that we are fortunate to live and do business in such a desirable town. But the Town, like any property, needs constant attention and upkeep. We must be sure that we are maintaining our infrastructure to meet future needs. Our roads in particular suffered from the neglect of past years, with almost half of them needing repair or nearing the end of their useful life.

To correct this problem, we began an ambitious five-year, $10 million paving and drainage program last year to bring the Town back to a consistent repaving schedule and to address some pressing stormwater issues. Last summer repaving projects on 51 roads and 56 stormwater management projects were completed. Next year we anticipate another successful and productive season.

Another major project in Town, the Water Tank Relocation Project, is almost complete. This $11.5 million endeavor provides an upgraded water line system that will take us far into the future. Fortunately, this project has been paid for by the FAA, the Airport Authority and stimulus funds.

We have also been fortunate in realizing several infrastructure improvements as a result of successful partnerships with our federal, state and county counterparts.

The redesign of the Route 7 interchange (Exit 6) by the state, known as a Single Point Urban Interchange, is a stand-out…greatly improving traffic flow at a notoriously congested interchange. I want to commend the staff of the State Department of Transportation for doing an outstanding job with a very challenging project. They walked us through the project step-by-step, which allowed

us to provide a safe environment for our travelers and an understanding of the dynamics of the entire process. We thank everyone involved with this project for their hard work and excellent service. In addition, a new roundabout at Maxwell Road and Albany Shaker Road and another at Route 155 and Old Niskayuna Road, are a result of partnerships with Albany County. I want to thank Mike Breslin and his team for their leadership on these successful and much-needed projects.

Regarding an update on energy projects, we were fortunate to receive a federal energy block grant for new HVAC units at the Town Library and a new boiler at the Community Center. These projects have been completed, and we are already saving energy and saving money. In the

first quarter alone, we saved $9,000 in energy costs at the Library. As I mentioned last year, Congressman Paul Tonko helped us receive more than $660,000 of federal stimulus funds which helped us to complete these energy projects and I thank him for advocating for our needs.

It is imperative that we continue to explore all opportunities to advance our Town forward as we move into the future. We’ve identified our landfill as an area to explore for potential opportunities to increase revenue generation, utilize new technologies, and extend the useful life of this very important Town Resource. By exploring our options, we will have a better vision for one of our most valuable assets and an opportunity to make it more profitable and productive.

As we continue on our journey into the future, we need to be sure we are doing everything we can to position the Town for success in the high-tech arena. That is why I was happy to see that the committee charged with reviewing the Town’s 2005 Comprehensive Plan recommended that it be updated to address high-tech development. Here, we can also build on our strengths, which in part can be summed up as location, location, location. We have unparalled access to the airport and all