Town of Saratoga
Supervisor State of the Town Address
January 10, 2005
At this time I would like to present my annual State of the Town address. It is my intention to review the current status of the town and identify the direction and some goals upon which we would like to focus.
The state of the town address provides an opportunity to reflect back on developments in the town during the past year and to project forward to identify areas and issues upon which we must focus our resources. In a brief time I cannot cover every event, activity, organization, individual or program so I apologize in advance to anyone or group that I have not mentioned.
I begin my second year as supervisor in a town that in most every respect continues to be in excellent condition. Many of the issues that we will be facing in 2005 result from the fact that we live in a town that is a very desirable place in which to live and do business, and the fact that we have low taxes, and that economic conditions and climate are healthy. Current town officials and employees are to be recognized and commended for devoting their knowledge, energy, and expertise to serve the town. They do it with a passion, commitment, and excellence.
Our Town also continues to be blessed with a multitude of individuals that generously donate their time and talents to serve the town through a countless variety of organizations and committees. Through the General Schuyler Emergency Squad the delivery of emergency services to the town residents continues to be the best it has ever been. The ALS program has been well conducted and received by residents of the town. This past summer the town board received a letter from an individual that suffered a heart attack whose life was saved as a result of squad efforts. The squad has out grown its facilities and is in the process of planning and building new facilities. The three fire districts serving the town have well trained members and excellent equipment. Recruitment of new members must be an ongoing, high priority activity. Incentives to recruit and maintain members needs to be investigated. The Quaker Springs Fire department is in need of a satellite Fire station from which they can better meet the needs of the residents of their fire district. The town is prepared to support and assist this effort. A strong, cooperative working relationship between all departments must grow and continue. Review and refinement of some of the 9-1-1 numbers must be done.
Organizations like our churches, the Old Saratoga Historical Association, Lions, Rotary, the Garden Club, Farm Bureau, our senior citizens organizations, the library board, youth commission members, Old Saratoga Athletic Association, the American Legion, Fish and Game Clubs, and the cemetery association, are recognized and highly praised for all of the outstanding work that they do. The Schuylerville Area Chamber of Commerce is recognized and supported for sponsoring events and activities and for promoting our area businesses and opportunities. The Quaker Springs Park, the LWRP, the Lakes to Locks and The Old Saratoga on the Hudson plan and all of its components will be supported as well as events and activities such as the Turning Point Parade and Eighteenth century events. This past year the town assisted local organizations in the creation of a law which made games of chance and bell jars legal activities. This makes it possible for organizations in the town to raise money by legally conducting these activities. A strong working relationship with the National Park Service and the National Cemetery will be supported and encouraged.
Town spirit and pride will be stimulated and emphasized. Cooperation and relations with our neighboring towns and Saratoga and Washington Counties will be built upon and expanded. Our town has great cooperation and relations with our representatives such as our Congressman John Sweeney, our state senator Joseph Bruno and our Assemblyman Roy McDonald. A close working relationship with Schuylerville Mayor John Sherman and Victory Mayor George Sullivan will be continued.
The Saratoga Lake Association is recognized for their efforts in protecting Saratoga Lake. As a result of their efforts, the City of Saratoga Springs has recently voted to cooperate with Saratoga County and pursue a regional approach to supplying safe drinking water. The SLA has conducted a number of studies and research activities relative to Saratoga Lake. The results of these studies has and will continue to improve the quality of the lake. The lake association is further recognized for their efforts in creating a lake historical calendar and promoting efforts to protect and preserve historical areas of the lake.
Financial the town is in good condition. This has resulted from sound financial management, strict adherence to state policies, accurate record keeping, and frugal decision making emphasizing getting the maximum benefit for every dollar spent. A prosperous county economy has generated sales tax revenue that exceeded expectations and brisk property sales and refinancing of homes have resulted in increased mortgage tax revenue. Extensive thought and research has gone into all town business transactions. You don't spend money because you have it, you spend it because you need to and the expenditure meets the needs and desires of the town residents. When compared to our neighboring similar towns we have a low tax rate. The county tax rate to town residents was reduced by using some of the sales tax revenue.
Our assessor and her clerk have maintained the assessment roles at an equalization rate of 100%. Since the county distributes sales tax revenue based on assessed property value, maintaining accurate assessment roles will be critical. This will insure a fairness to all residents and result in maximum county sales tax distribution to the town. This past summer our assessor, the county real property tax service director, representatives from the state assessors, Mayor Sullivan and Myself worked with the Hydro company in Victory to develop a plan which the assessment of the hydro company was fair and changes in assessment would be phased in over a period of years rather than abruptly. Our Town tax collector is efficient, organized, respectful and courteous when dealing with residents and performing her duties. When questions arise she eagerly obtains answers.
The Town board is experienced, broad based, and eager to conduct the business of the town. Our members are returning with 33 years of total experience. This experience will prove very beneficial in our dealings with difficult issues that have an extensive background. Our town board members also bring with them a diverse background and broad based track record and experiences.
Our Town clerk and her deputy continue their positions with increased and enhanced working knowledge of the job responsibilities. Their computer skills, knowledge, and human relation skills are superb. Their goal is to serve all residents in an efficient, prompt, and professional way.
The Town of Saratoga Highway department superintendent and the members of the town highway crew continue to be second to none. They have years of experience with knowledge that is extensive in both breadth and depth. The crew is experienced, dedicated, hard working, and professional They take their job seriously and do the very best job possible. Again this year I have personally observed them on several occasions and will attest to their high skills and professionalism. Our roads are in great shape. They are well engineered, maintained and cared for. The recent upgrades to Burgoyne Road illustrate the skills and knowledge of our highway department employees. The town has adequate equipment with a maintenance and replacement schedule that insures that it is up to date and operates at top performance. This past year new equipment was acquired to replace worn out equipment.
The planning board and zoning board of appeals are composed of members with years of experience. They are motivated to promote the best interests of the town reflecting the comprehensive plan, common sense, and good judgment. Members are regularly attending training sessions.
Our town justices, court clerks, town attorney, and constable have experience, training, and motivation to conduct the legal business of the town in a fair, just, and responsible manner. Expanded computer systems, internships programs, new office equipment, and alternative sentencing programs such as the science of speeding make for an efficient and productive court.
Our Animal control officer attended training conferences and is current on regulations and procedures.
Our Historian and deputy historian have been working hard to obtain record management grants needed to organize and secure town materials.
Having touted all of the strengths and assets of the town one would think that this is utopia and no work remains to be done. If this was the case we could adjourn the meeting and go home. The reality is that there is still much work to be done.
The town is under great development pressure. Last year the zoning ordinance was amended twice. The amendments changed allowed uses, increased the fees charged, and changed specific requirements for allowed uses. In addition, as recommended by the 2002 comprehensive plan, a PUD regulation was established. This was done with the involvement of several town and county representatives over a several month period and was recognized by the Saratoga County Senior Planner as one of the best PUD ordinances in the county. One of our priorities will be to continue review and update the zoning ordinance. Initial steps have already been taken to establish an Individual Water Well Requirements and Regulations section that will be added to the zoning ordinance. We must protect the rights of residents without being unfair to other property owners that wish to sell or develop their property. We also will be making our zoning law and forms more user friendly and more complete. We plan to codify all current laws and town documents ultimately making all of them available on the internet by everyone. This past year we have made serious attempts to see that the town zoning ordinances were enforced. Violators were brought to town and county court and violations were remediated. These included operating businesses without permits in unauthorized zones, bringing other businesses into compliance, condemning unsafe properties, and cleaning up lots and removing trailers and unlicensed cars. More remains to be done and will be done in this area.
A cooperative working relationship between the Schuylerville-Victory joint water commission and the town of Saratoga will be fostered. We want to investigate ways in which the villages and town can work together to service the water and sewage needs of residents of the town.
Last year we initiated property tax relief for disabled residents and increased the amount of allowable exemptions for eligible veterans.
We have initiated the development of a town personnel manual. This should be completed shortly.
A new cable TV Contract with Time Warner was negotiated. The town hall now has three tv outlets.
The phone system in the town hall has been expanded. New computers have replaced older outdated computers.
Our insurance policy has been amended to increase the liability protection for the town. A broker has been appointed to represent the town and its employees when MVP Health Plan concerns arise.
Communication and input by residents at town board meetings has been increased by adding an opportunity prior to board action on agenda items.
Bryants Bridge will be replaced this summer. A presentation will be made at the February 14th meeting to share information with town residents.
Justice clerk hours were increased to catch up on back work and meet the increased court load. New computers and software were placed in service. A court internship program and alternative sentencing programs such as the science of speeding were established.
Twelve issues of a town newsletter and town calendar were printed and posted on the internet. In addition all town board, planning board, and zoning board of appeals minutes were posted on the internet.
We want to preserve, protect, and foster the things that make the Town of Saratoga a great place in which to live and work. We recognize that change is inevitable. It can not be stopped, but can be controlled and monitored. Creating a strong economic base, increased tax assessment, and creating jobs for town residents will be important. We want development that does not place demands on our infrastructure including the school district. Being a lifelong resident and growing up and working on a farm has given me a strong appreciation for the land and lifestyle of our community. We need to focus on and protect our environment. We need to protect and preserve open spaces. Although at least temporarily safe from the use as a reservoir by the city of Saratoga Springs, Saratoga Lake will continue to be defended from being a source of water for the City of Saratoga Springs. I will work so that the voice of the Town of Saratoga will be heard by working with the community leaders in both Saratoga and Washington Counties.
A committee to discuss a new town hall is being formed and will meet monthly throughout the year. The reality of the current town hall is that the building has some serious structural problems that are cost prohibitive to repair and that the current building is too small to meet the growing needs of the town. A series of public forums will be sponsored to first of all gain input from the residents regarding what they did not like about earlier town hall propositions and what they would like to see in a new proposal. Given this information the committee will research best practices and develop some preliminary possibilities. There will be several meetings to review the action plan and exchange ideas and information with all town residents. Although the process will take time we will end up with a proposal that will meet the needs and desires of the town residents.
We will continue to promote economic growth and development taking full advantage of our Empire Zones. The two villages and the town must continue to work cooperatively on community development and other issues of mutual concern. Cooperation in the areas of water and sewage systems must be continued. The cooperative efforts in areas such as highway work recreation, and water service is recognized and appreciated
The recently adopted town comprehensive plan has established the goals and priorities of the Town. These will serve as the guide for the town. Promoting agriculture and maintaining open spaces will be both a priority and a great challenge. The development pressures within the town are great and will most likely increase over time.
We must recognize that we do not live in a microcosm, and that it is important to have a strong, vibrant business community. We will promote economic growth and development taking advantage of our empire zones and working with the villages to encourage development in our downtown areas. The town will work together with the Schuylerville area chamber of commerce in promoting our area businesses and opportunities.
Staff development for all town officials and employees will continue to be encouraged. This training is an investment in our future and will insure a town government that is current, efficient, and productive.
Communication needs to be enhanced and expanded. Communication by everyone needs to be complete, accurate, truthful, and not misleading. Town government is the level of government that is closest to the people and therefore must be the most responsive. We will Listen to the residents to determine their needs and wishes. We Can't do all things for all people. I will continue to emphasize research based, data driven Shared decision making. Shared decision making takes longer but gives constituents ownership of the decision and results in better decisions.
The internet and e government will be expanded. Minutes of all town board meetings, planning board and ZBA minutes will continue to be published monthly on the internet. The monthly town calendar and news letter were published and will be expanded this year. E mail and voice mail will be expanded and responded to in a timely manner. Residents in all areas of the town will be sought out for input.
As openings become available for town boards and positions they will be filled by appointing responsible qualified people to town positions. I encourage anyone interested in being a member of town committees and boards to notify myself, town board members, or the town clerk.
Another focus of the town will be to implement the goal set by the town comprehensive plan to establish a town park. We must provide better town sponsored recreational facilities for all of our town residents.
I want to encourage organizations within the town to report regularly to the town board with regard to accomplishments, concerns, and needs. With this information the town board can become involved and help meet the needs of the organizations.
In summary I encourage all residents of the town to be informed, to participate, and to work cooperatively with spirit and enthusiasm. We all want to see our town be the best possible town that it can be.
We have great things happening and we are going to build on these successes. Shared decision making is the process that we will use to make our successes. It is with enthusiasm and excitement that we will move forward and meet the challenges in 2005.