Fulton County

Fulton County official upbeat in annual address

The 2016 State of Fulton County address, held Friday morning in Johnstown, delivered a very clear me
Fulton County Administrative Officer Jon Stead delivers the 2016 State of the County address Friday morning at the Holiday Inn in Johnstown.
Fulton County Administrative Officer Jon Stead delivers the 2016 State of the County address Friday morning at the Holiday Inn in Johnstown.

The 2016 State of Fulton County address, held Friday morning in Johnstown, delivered a very clear message before Administrative Officer Jon Stead even opened his mouth: This year will be about positivity.

The message, “Fulton County Posi+tive,” the result of a new branding initiative launched earlier this month, was plastered on the doors of the Johnstown Holiday Inn and on the stickers and mugs awaiting guests at the conference center.

Stead’s first order of business in his 24th State of the County address was to ask the gathered community and business leaders to carry that message away from the meeting — literally, by displaying the stickers in businesses and cars, and figuratively by singing the county’s praises and encouraging others to do so.

“We need you folks to get out there and be Fulton County positive,” he said.

This year, the county is well into its Jump Start Fulton County initiative begun in 2013, with most of the initiative’s five major projects more than halfway complete.

The “number one” project under that umbrella, a countywide water and sewer delivery effort called SMART Waters, had a major breakthrough last year when the county signed a deal with the city of Gloversville to buy excess water for use in other parts of the county.

This year, Stead said, the county will begin to put that to use with expanded water and sewer service in the developing Hales Mills and Vail Mills areas. The initiative will also involve exploring the possibility of the Great Sacandaga Lake as a water resource, developing wells at the Tryon Technology Park and identifying key areas for infrastructure build-out across the county.

“[SMART Waters] is the foundation for all these other things that we now have underway,” Stead said.

He called the Tryon Technology Park, which currently hosts medical cannabis manufacturer Vireo Health of New York, the “number two” priority in the coming years. This year, he said, the county will be investing about $2 million to complete water and sewer infrastructure at the park to achieve shovel-ready certification, as well as conducting a target industry analysis.

The county is also going to begin work this year on a long-term, countywide vision statement — “basically a comprehensive plan for the county,” Stead said.

The county has set aside more than $100,000 to survey all the municipal comprehensive plans “from one side of the county to the other,” with a particular focus on downtown revitalization and input from the CEO Roundtable, the county’s business advisement council. That information will be used to create a master plan for the county.

In the long view, Jump Start Fulton County came after a “survival budget strategy” period from about 2012 to 2014, which focused on cutting expenditures. Jump Start then focused on stabilizing and expanding the county’s economic base.

As evidence of success, Stead pointed to a few private sector highlights: New Age Renewables, a company that plans to build a whey-processing plant near Fage USA in the Johnstown Industrial Park; a commitment by Century Linen & Uniform, formerly Robison & Smith, to remain in Gloversville and expand operations; the proposed Global Village at Fulton-Montgomery Community College; and grant-funded expansions at Nathan Littauer Hospital.

Altogether, they represent between $15 million and $20 million in investment, Stead said.

In 2015 and 2016, Jump Start Fulton County is giving way to the next umbrella strategy, the “New Neighborhood Plan,” which will invest $200,000 in public safety over the next two years.

Last year, that program meant new license plate cameras for police departments across the county, Stead said. This year, it will pay for traffic cameras at key intersections, as well as “Operation Green Scene Plus,” an effort to demolish blighted properties that attract crime and improve neighborhoods.

The county will continue to work with Montgomery County to develop the proposed Regional Business Park, which would require the annexation of about 260 acres of land from the town of Mohawk into the city of Johnstown.

Although the two counties agreed to an even split on revenue from that park, similar negotiations broke down between the town and city, and the park and annexation have been a source of some tension between the town of Mohawk and Fulton County.

Noting that cross-county plans are “a challenge,” Stead said the park nevertheless is a unique opportunity to attract a large, “game-changing” company to the area.

“Real growth in a community doesn’t come from government, it comes from the private sector,” he said. “County governments and local governments, we have to lay the groundwork for that and create the atmosphere, but over the long haul, it’s going to be private sector business leadership that gets us there.”

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