Montgomery County

Amsterdam council wary of bridge pact

Poverty, unemployment, gangs and homelessness are among issues facing the city of Amsterdam.

Poverty, unemployment, gangs and homelessness are among issues facing the city of Amsterdam.

But for months, the city’s Common Council has been poring over another topic: a maintenance agreement for the $16.5 million pedestrian bridge New York state is planning to build.

The council has refused to sign off on a maintenance agreement for the 475-foot Mohawk Valley Gateway Overlook, which will be constructed with money from the 2005 transportation bond act at no cost to the city.

City officials expect to learn more from representatives of the Canal Corp./Thruway Authority during a meeting at 7:30 this evening.

The maintenance agreement was sent to the city for approval early this year as a standard pact between the Thruway Authority and the city.

It says the state will build the bridge but the city has to remove snow and perform other maintenance.

But since then, the issue nearly has reached the level of a conspiracy, with at least one alderman wondering what sinister after-effects signing the agreement could mean.

“It is my responsibility to ensure that the people that live in the city of Amsterdam, all the people in the city of Amsterdam, are not taken for a sleigh ride on this one,” said 4th Ward Alderman David Dybas.

Since he first saw the agreement in February, he has pored over it, demanding answers from the Canal Corp. on exactly what it means.

It asks that the city be responsible for removing snow and ice. Dybas said he wants to know if that means the city needs special equipment.

Another provision in the agreement asks that city officials keep confidential information confidential, whether it be in written or oral form.

Dybas said he wants to know what the Thruway Authority/Canal Corp. confidentiality rules say, and he’s unsure if the city needs to craft its own confidentiality statute in order to comply with it.

He said Tuesday that he’s not “against the bridge.”

“I don’t want the cost inherited by the bridge, and nobody’s defined that for me yet,” Dybas said.

Amsterdam Mayor Ann Thane, frustrated by the council’s inability to agree on the maintenance contract, issued estimates Tuesday suggesting that the cost of maintaining the bridge — hiring a seasonal worker for roughly six months — would be outweighed by the revenue the city would earn from tourists coming to visit the unique, curvy span being designed as a park over the Mohawk River.

By Thane’s estimates, Amsterdam would spend about $12,450 each year to maintain the new pedestrian bridge once it’s built.

The bridge, expected to highlight the culture and history of the city and region, could draw 30,000 visitors during a six-month tourism season — guests Thane estimates would yield $12,824 in sales tax revenue. On Tuesday, the mayor said 30,000 is a conservative estimate, low compared with other pedestrian bridge visitor counts.

“We’re expecting many, many, many more,” Thane said.

She said she is not concerned about any backlash if the city agrees to maintain the bridge. “This is just a good project for us — this is only a good project for us,” she said.

Canal Corp. spokesman Shane Mahar provided the following statement via email Tuesday:

“We look forward to continuing the dialogue with the Common Council on Wednesday so that a maintenance agreement may be reached. At their request, the Canal Corporation has provided additional details to the city and we are eager to hear their feedback at the meeting.”

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