COLONIE — The State of the Town is solid, said Supervisor Paula Mahan at her 13th address on Thursday, Jan. 9 at the Red Roof Inn on Wolf Road, and the future is looking bright.
The supervisor, who won her eighth two-year term in November, spoke of private investment and the investments the town has made in its infrastructure, its parks and in public safety services.
Without our dedicated and hard-working employees, department heads and Town Board members, these accomplishments would not be possible,” she said at the packed house event hosted by the Albany-Colonie Regional Chamber of Commerce and sponsored by HMS Agency and CBRE/Albany. “As we look ahead to a new decade, I think you would all agree that Colonie is primed for even greater success. Our neighborhoods are safe, our businesses are thriving and our community is active and involved.”
Finances and infrastructure
During the rough and tumble campaign against Republican George Scaringe, Mahan made much of the town’s financial wreckage of 13 years ago when she first took office. Today, she said the town has a bond rating of “A+ with a positive outlook,” up from a “Baa1 with a negative outlook.
“Once we stabilized our finances, the next step was to begin investing in the town’s most essential infrastructure — our roads and our drinking water and sewer systems,” she said.
She said the paving and stormwater improvement program started in 2010 with a $2.5 million investment. Since, 101 of the town’s 320 miles of roads have been paved and miles have been repaired. In 2019 an additional $250,000 was added and this year an additional $500,000 was added to the town budget.
Since 2014, the Latham Water Treatment Plant and the Mohawk View Water Pollution Control Treatment Plant have been undergoing major upgrades. By the end of 2020, the investment will stand at just shy of $40 million.
Also, the town and the City of Albany established a joint back-up water connection and a second will come online this spring. A $960,000 Water Infrastructure Grant helped offset the town’s $1.6 million share of the project. When complete, the project will provide a more cost-efficient, effective back-up system than the Stony Creek reservoir in Clifton Park and allow the town to sell the more than 1,000 acres that surrounds it.
Since 2016, she said, the town has invested some $3 million in the Town Park on Schermerhorn Road and last year unveiled improvements to the town’s 12 pocket parks. In 2020, she said, pickle ball courts will be coming to the Kiwanis Park on Route 2.
Also, this year, there are plans for improvements to the bike path, a new pavilion at Town Park, a new playground and parking lot at the south end of The Crossings and major improvements at the West Albany Pocket Park including new bathrooms and seating at the football complex that will be paid for with $1.2 million of state money through Assemblyman Phil Steck.
Other milestones include completing Phase I of a $3 million renovation project at the William K. Sanford Town Library and beginning a $900,000 renovation project at the Pruyn House.
“We were able to achieve these capital improvements only through sound financial management and good planning,” Mahan said. “Currently we bond to only about 11 percent of our constitutional debt limit and we plan to keep the debt limit low. It is essential that the town continue to live within its means.”
Two project undertaken in 2019 will cut the town’s energy costs.
The first is a 20-year agreement to purchase power from the Schuylerville Hydroelectric Facility located 37 miles north of Town Hall. The town will get credits from its own electric bill for the power generated there which in turn offsets town cost.
It is expected to save upwards of $400,000 in the first year alone.
The town is also purchasing more than 4,000 streetlights, currently leased by National Grid, and converting them to more energy efficient LED lights.
When the project is complete, the town will save more than $570,000 a year in combined energy and facility charges. The New York Power Authority estimates a 25-year savings of $1.2 million.
“Both reduce the town’s energy costs, while at the same time increasing our profile as a good environmental citizen,” Mahan said.
The Mahan administration has come under scrutiny for what some see as rampant development without any regard for neighborhoods or the environment. But, she has maintained the process now is more transparent and more fair to everyone involved — neighbors and residents alike — than it was 12 years ago.
During her speech, she touted the redevelopment of vacant or underutilized properties since she took office, the Fresh Market Commons, the Latham Circle Mall and the former Starlite Theater site.
The last is now home to the Ayco headquarters, a financial management company under the umbrella of Goldman Sachs, and along with it came the long awaited road that bifurcates the site and runs between Route 9 and Route 9R. Earlier this year, the road opened and the Planning Board approved the construction of solar panel car canopies at the site.
“And we are finally making progress on the old Tobin site, easily the most difficult of these four properties to redevelop,” she said.
Little has happened at the site in 2019, but previously the City of Albany and the town created a joint Planning Board to shepherd a plan by Richbell Capital to raze the massive eyesore and build a mixed use community.
She also touted the new Northway Exit 3, opened by the state late last year ahead of schedule and on budget. While the Exit 3 will help traffic in and out of the airport, it will also alleviate congestion along Wolf and Albany Shaker roads.
A final point regarding development is completion of the 2019 Comprehensive Plan, which was three years in the works and updates the 2005 Comprehensive Plan.
“Many of the recommendations reflect goals we have been actively working on throughout my tenure,” she said. “Some lay out new directions for the future, such as increasing open space and better protecting neighborhoods that border commercial zones.”
Crime, she said, decreased for the second year in a row according to the 2018 numbers, the last full set of data available.
According to the state Department of Criminal Justice Services, in 2016 there were 91 violent crimes committed in town. In 2017 there were 84 and in 2018 there were 80. Over the same time frame property crimes dropped from 1,966 to 1,902 to 1,856.
In 2017, police fire and EMS were dispatched 89,597 times with police being dispatched 74,735 times. A year later personnel from the public safety departments were dispatched 92,126 times with police being dispatched 77,735 times.
In 2019, the EMS Department celebrated its 30th anniversary and now has the highest number of full-time staffers in its history.
Steck and Sen. Neil Breslin combined to provide $500,000 to replace the 40-year-old mobile command post and Steck provided $250,000 for a new ambulance and $500,000 for upgrades to the Municipal Training Center on Wade Road.
“I would like to close simply by saying the town has had a successful year in every way,” she said. “In 2020, we will continue to move forward with the goal of keeping Colonie the best place ever.”
“The Town of Colonie is in good shape and Supervisor Mahan has been doing a great job in keeping the town in a leadership position of the Capital District. Our relationship with the town is great. We have a relationship where whatever she needs she calls and whatever we need we call her.
—Village of Colonie
Mayor Ed Sim
“As a 40-year resident of the town I think the town is healthy right now. We do a lot of business in the town with our clients. Space is tight. The market is good and people want to be in Colonie for all the reasons Paula mentioned today. Nothing stood out and that’s a good thing. When a politician talks about how good things are instead of throwing curve balls and red flags it’s a good thing.”
—Richard Sleasman, managing partner of CBRE/Albany
“There is no doubt local governments provide vital services with limited resources. That said, Colonie has a strong track record of leadership and success. Colonie has made tremendous progress, but a community can’t make progress without the private sector. What makes a prosperous community is people have jobs and they wouldn’t have jobs without all the folks in this room today.
—Mark Eagan, present and CEO of the Capital Region Chamber