They say hindsight is 20/20, but town officials here are hoping a little foresight will help shape Bethlehem’s vision for the future.
A group of residents, professionals and town officials past and present, known as the 20/20 Committee, has been piecing together a sort of planning report on what can be expected by the year 2020.
Supervisor Jack Cunningham said the committee’s name is a play on words, but the work it is conducting is a very serious look at how the town’s aging infrastructure should be replaced and maintained over the next decade, what kind of development patterns can be expected and the overall fiscal future of the town.
One of the overall themes is to address the infrastructure, he said of the committee. `The name refers to having 20/20 [vision] in looking forward at our needs and the competing principles involved.`
An update was given at a town board meeting Wednesday, May 13, by former town supervisor and co-chair of the committee Theresa Egan. Board members were told they can expect a final report sometime in the end of June.
The committee’s final report will be used to help guide the town’s future fiscal decisions.
Part of the committee’s report will include a survey that was sent out to 1,500 town residents, out of which 22 percent, or roughly 322 people, responded. Cunningham said the survey asked for opinions on issues such as infrastructure needs and the costs associated, as well as the satisfaction of current town services. It also asked about residents’ feelings on the consolidation and sharing of services and asked people to rate the town on various aspects.
The research institute conducting the survey told the board that the numbers could serve as a litmus test for residential opinion and could be sufficiently reliable to include in the 20/20 Committee’s final report.
`They were very comfortable that the numbers reflected an adequate representation of the town,` Cunningham said.
However, at least one resident disagreed and identified himself as a Siena College employee before telling the board that there wasn’t a broad enough spectrum used in creating the survey.
`He argued that the polling wasn’t large enough to effectively represent the town’s view,` said Cunningham.
Councilman Kyle Kotary, who as public relations specialist has experience with polling himself, said the survey would serve the final report well.
`It wasn’t done as a public opinion poll, it was done as a community survey,` said Kotary. `It’s a snapshot of time.`
He said the work being done is important.
`It was great to hear the presentation from a large contingent of the 20/20 committee. I appreciate all of their hard work,` Kotary said. `In a nutshell, the community responses indicate that the town is heading in the right direction as a result of its leadership.`
Continuing, Kotary said the supervisor is a big part of Bethlehem’s positive outlook.
`I have to give Jack [Cunningham] credit on this one,` he said. `This was his idea to put together a bi-partisan committee like this.`
Bethlehem planning board Chairman George Levielle said the committee was initiated by Cunningham and the Town Board to get residents more involved in the town and help gauge financial decisions.
`The committee was created to bring in some ideas on how does the town face financial challenges in the future,` Levielle said. `The survey was to get broader insight into the residents’ views and try to help the town think about more broad issues as it thinks about its fiscal health.`
Cunningham said the survey results would be interpreted by the 20/20 Committee and included in their final report due for June. He thanked the committee and said the work will be an important tool to help lay out Bethlehem’s future.