Montgomery County

Amsterdam council weighs spending priorities

The Amsterdam Common Council is still wading through a long list of proposed capital projects, debat

The Amsterdam Common Council is still wading through a long list of proposed capital projects, debating how many will receive its stamp of approval.

During a Committee of the Whole meeting Thursday night, 3rd Ward Alderman Ron Barone urged the council to prioritize the projects that need to be completed this year. He also said the council should be wary of the amount of money it is willing to spend, noting the toll the past winter has taken on city roads.

“The roads are in terrible shape,” he said. “We got everything leaking all over the place and we may be looking at close to $700,000 in repairs. So we really have to sit down and look at what needs to be done before we approve it.”

But Barone also warned his colleagues that if they decide not to do anything this year it will hurt the city in the future.

“We definitely have to do something,” he said, adding the city is roughly $21.5 million in debt and will need to borrow money to complete any capital projects. “The city is depleted and it will deplete more than it is now if we keep passing the buck onto the next council and that is why we are in the position we are in right now.”

The council has been discussing 2015 capital spending for about three weeks, but it has never specifically listed the projects it is considering. Building repairs, particularly for the aging Public Safety building, are expected to be a major component of whatever is decided on. The council may start to finalize some of the projects at its next meeting.

On Thursday, Mayor Ann Thane suggested the city try picking up garbage for neighboring villages such as Hagaman and Fort Johnson.

“This way money will be coming in, instead of going out,” she said, noting that the city would need to purchase a garbage truck worth roughly $700,000 to pick up that garbage. “We could be generating revenue this way and eventually it would turn a profit.”

Fifth Ward Alderwoman Diane Hatzenbuhler proposed the council bond for $1 million immediately to complete any emergency projects.

“Then after we complete the budget process in a few months, we can go back and look at our finances at that time,” she said. “At that time we will have a better picture of our finances and in this immediate $1 million it would be the [emergency projects].”

Barone told Hatzenbuhler it makes more sense to do all the projects at once, saying if “you piecemeal it, it’s going to cost you more. And quite a bit more.”

Corporation Counsel Gerard DeCusatis said it “doesn’t make sense” to delay the expenditure.

“The expenditures are unavoidable,” he said. “It may make you feel better right now but it will drive up the interest rate and the administrative fees. It makes much more sense to consolidate everything.”

Cab Company concerns

In other business, Stacy Sefrin and Madeline Sampson, owners of two different taxi companies in Montgomery County, told the council that new Fulton County-based cab services have started operating in the city and are stealing their business.

“They are based in Fulton County and my question is, are they even paying Montgomery County sales tax,” Sampson said, noting there are eight taxi companies that serve Amsterdam but three are based in Fulton County. “With so many of them in Amsterdam they will hurt the business of the companies that have been here for so long.

Sampson asked the council and the Police Department to limit the amount of taxi companies that operate in the city. The council and the mayor said they will look into the issue.

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