Town Supervisor Paula Mahan and Town Comptroller Craig Blair hosted the Town’s second financial information session Thursday, July 31, to discuss Colonie’s projected $18 million deficit.
The meeting, held at the Public Operations Center, lasted about two hours, and was structured so that the supervisor and comptroller presented a slideshow to the public, outlining the cause of the deficit and the Town’s long- and short-term plans, and allowing for a question and answer session where residents would put their concerns on 3 x 5 note cards and Director of Town Operations Peter Gannon would moderate the questions.
While the bulk of the questions asked by the crowd were directly related to the deficit, others seemed to be about other issues in the Town, including residue in the Mohawk River, which one resident complained is becoming an ever-growing issue.
Others had questions about allegations that County Waste and Recycling had committed fraud and robbed the Town of around $15 million, to which Gannon, speaking on behalf of the supervisor, had said that allegations is all that they were at the time, and as such would not be appropriate for the Town to comment on.
One note card asked why the town’s two villages, Menands and the Village of Colonie, need two forms of government as they overlap in the town, which the supervisor said the villages had chosen to have, and as such, pay higher taxes for both forms, and another card asked whether the future rate of tax increases will reflect inflation, be greater or lower, to which the supervisor replied, I live here too Our goal, as I said, is to stabilize.
Another note card asked why town police officers are allowed to drive the police cars home to have lunch, or overnight. Mahan joked about the police officer in the room, saying he might be able to answer the question, and then replied that sometimes officers are on-call, and it is quicker for them to have their cars with them at all times.
Later, a card questioned the comptroller on a rumor that Siena College, located across the street from Memorial Town Hall, had offered to purchase Town Hall, and that the offices inside would be re-located to the buildings at the Crossings at Colonie. Blair said that at this point, that would not be financially feasible for the town, though it has been discussed.
Though many of the note cards did not actually say the word `deficit,` Mahan said, `The Town is in a serious situation,` and that `you can find links.`
Gannon, who had promised to read every single card, read aloud one note card which said, `I refuse to pay for corruption. Where is the accountability?`
After the presentation, residents seemed mostly pleased with the program.
One resident, Nancy Macy, of Latham, said, `I thought it was factual, yet evasive.` Macy said she did think the format of the program was appropriate, and that by putting questions on the note cards, residents feel less intimidated about asking questions, but that she had wanted to hear more about the Mohawk River pollution.
Another, Carolyn Chabot, also of Latham, said she thought it was a `good meeting` and that it went much smoother than a forum for questions, like a public hearing, would go.
Mahan said she was pleased with the turnout of the meeting, and there was no differentiation between which meeting, this or the last, went better.
`I think they were pretty equal,` she said, `People are attending because they are really interested.`
There are three meetings left: Aug. 19, 7 p.m., Crossings Meetings Room, 580 Albany-Shaker Road; Aug. 20, 7 p.m., Menands Fire House, 250 Broadway; and Sept. 3, 7 p.m. Standford Heights Fire Department, Station 1, 2240 Central Ave.“