COLONIE — Supervisor Paula Mahan, during her 12th State of the Town address on Tuesday, Jan. 15, touted stable finances, positive public safety statistics and infrastructure improvements.
“In all these, areas, you can see your tax dollars at work,” she told the crowd enjoying breakfast sponsored by the Albany Colonie Chamber of Commerce. “We work very hard to prioritize the needs of the town to ensure your dollars are being spent wisely. Our neighborhoods are safe and welcoming, our schools are excellent, our business climate is thriving, and there is a great spirit of community and citizen involvement at every level.”
She said the in 2018, crime was down across the board: violent crime dropped 4.7 percent, serious crime was down 1.3 percent and less serious crime was down 6.5 percent.
To view a slideshow of the speech and its attendees click here.
At the same time, she said, the number of service calls is up. To accommodate, she said, the town added eight new full-time EMS positions and it can now “cover the majority of shifts with full-time personnel and staff an additional ambulance during peak hours seven days a week.”
She said the town has invested $33 million in its drinking water and sanitary sewer systems since 2014, and in 2019 the Latham Water District will invest another $3.1 million.
In 2018, a mile of water mains along Route 9 and Maxwell Road was installed, replacing 1930s-era pipe that had become “increasingly prone to breaks.” This year, an additional 3,800 feet of water main along Route 9 from Maxwell road to Old Loudon Road is slated to get replaced at a cost of some $1.6 million. Another $1.74 million is budgeted for improvements to pumps, motors and screening equipment at the Mohawk View Lift Pump station.
“New mains are expensive, but not as expensive as emergency repairs,” she said.
Also, the town is in the process of tying into the City of Albany’s water system, and allowing Albany to tie into Colonie’s, so each will act as the other’s back up water supply.
Currently, the town’s backup is the Stony Creek Reservoir in Clifton Park, which was built in 1952. When the connection with Albany is complete, plans are to sell the nearly 1,000 acres off Crescent Road.
The town’s $1.6 million share of the project was offset by a $960,000 state Water Infrastructure Grant.
The Pure Waters Division, or the sewer department, recently completed a $3.1 million upgrade to the town’s Mohawk View Water Pollution Control Plant and the Wolf Road Pumping Station. There is also a $1.9 million renovation slated for the Albany-Shaker Road Pumping Station Rehabilitation and a $4 million project to renovate the Mohawk View Pollution Control Plant.
Also, she said, the town is in its 10th year of its paving schedule and spends some $2.5 million to pave sections of roads per year. Last summer, all or part of 50 roads were paved at a cost of about $184,000 per mile.
“We have been very aggressive with our investment, because the need to update our aging infrastructure is a major priority,” Mahan said during her speech. “Much of it was built in the 1970s or long before that. Now, we are well ahead of the curve when compared to many municipalities.”
Phase I of the some $3.5 million project to renovate town library is also well underway and a new entranceway and lobby configuration should be completed within the next few months.
In 2018, the town opened the $900,000, 11,000-square-foot splash pad at the Mohawk River Town Park and also updated the pool mechanics including new liners, filtration systems and American with Disability Act lifts.
Next, there are planned renovations to the 1970s-era pool house.
Also, in 2018, the town chipped away at work on the 12 pocket parks, which taken together provide nearly 60 acres of land. There is new fencing and playground equipment being installed and some athletics courts are getting a needed facelift, Mahan said. That work is continuing this year.
Also, a playground at the south end of the crossings is being installed which will work to alleviate some of the crowd at the front of the park and maybe even some traffic congestion on Albany Shaker Road.
Colonie’s relatively low tax rate, reputable schools, central location and other amenities make it attractive to developers and there is a constant stream of residential and commercial projects before the Planning Board.
Mahan took the time in her speech to make note of just a few of the larger projects:
Tobin’s: The town received a $1 million Restore New York grant to help demolish the old meat packing plant visible from I-90 off Everett Road. The long time eyesore was sold to Richbell Capital, a local company looking to use the site as a mix of residential, commercial and entertainment.
Ayco: The new headquarters for the financial institution under the Goldman Sach’s umbrella is well under way at the former Starlite Theater site off Route 9. The plan is for Ayco to consolidate operations and 600 jobs at in the new building and add up to 160 more. The developer, the Gallessi Group, will also build a new road bifurcating the site from Route 9 to Route 9R.
Northway: One of the largest projects is outside the scope of town government but could help alleviate traffic congestion in town. The state funded reworking of Exit 4, which is already underway, should help traffic flow on Wolf and Albany Shaker roads and provide better access to Albany International Airport.
A $16 million plan put forth by the state Department of Environmental Conservation to clean up the long dormant and heavily polluted Al Tech steel site on Lincoln Avenue along the border with Watervliet.
With the big projects and scores of smaller ones, Mahan and her administration have been criticized for allowing developers to pave over the town’s home town feel with little regard for existing neighborhoods or the environment.
“Through all my years in office, we’ve emphasized a well-balanced environment that supports a diverse economic base,” Mahan said. “We’ve focused our development efforts on redevelopment of existing properties, and have been successful with some of our most difficult sites, including the Latham Mall and Starlite sites.”
As a “reminder,” she said, the town currently has 1,155 acres of land dedicated to recreation and open space and has added more than 185 acres of open space during the last 11-plus years. Also, she said, there were 157 acres of town land to the Pine Bush Preserve.
There was a somewhat contentious budget process in 2018 that culminated with a bypass of the state imposed cap and a tax levy increase of 5.48 percent, or about $30 more a year for the owner of an average home.
“Financially, we continue to be on firm ground. Our budget is balanced, and our fund balance keeps growing,” she said. “Keep in mind that with Colonie’s low property tax rate, which is $3.90 per $1,000, a 1 percent tax increase yields the General Fund only about $225,000 dollars in new revenue.”
There are a number of pending grant applications that, if successful, could have an impact in 2019.
They include a $9.5 million application to the Transportation Improvement Program to busy roadways like New Karner Road, Watervliet Shaker Road and another $800,000-plus grant to do work along Albany Shaker Road.
“Having said that, we must still remember that more than 200,000 cars pass through Colonie each day, the great majority of them coming from or heading to the north,” she said during her speech. “Unfortunately for us, if traffic gets backed up on the Northway, it’s going to spill over onto our roadways. While we are working aggressively and strategically to address traffic issues, it is difficult to be able to totally eliminate the problems sometimes created by the heavy volume of pass-through traffic.”
Also, some two years in the works, the town should be wrapping up proposed modifications to the 2005 Comprehensive Plan in the first few months of 2019.
The town will also invest in hydroelectric power, which will allow it to earn green energy credits. It will offset a portion of the town’s energy usage and “stabilize energy costs for the next 20 years,” Mahan said. And it is in the process of adding unified permits for solar installations.
“Going forward, I will continue to focus on creating a Town that welcomes new projects while at the same time preserving all the its best aspects – welcoming neighborhoods, great recreational facilities, abundant open space, and beautiful vistas,” she said.