Representatives from Montgomery County’s isolated communities gathered Wednesday in a sweltering Old Fonda Court House conference room to discuss joint solutions to their separate problems.
The county is linked together by the Mohawk River. Many of the communities were built around similar industries and face identical challenges, like crumbling infrastructure and soured economies. Despite the similarities, according to County Planner Doug Greene, communities just a few miles apart tend to handle things on their own.
“I’ve worked with a lot of communities in the county on waterfront revitalization over the years and one thing keeps cropping up,” Greene said, addressing the sweaty room. “There are a lot of separate things happening.”
It’s a problem he tried to fix through Wednesday’s countywide Local Waterfront and Community Revitalization Summit.
Most waterfront projects rely on state grant funding and he said the state is more willing to give grants to regional projects rather than individual villages.
His point was borne out with a quick survey of the room. Micki Lieber of the Fort Plain planning board talked about the village’s bike path and effort to refurbish a potential interpretive center at 47 Main St. Canajoharie Mayor Francis Avery mentioned the historic West Hill School project. The Village of St. Johnsville is looking to work with private buyers to turn the old industrial park into camp sites.
Such projects, Greene said, might be eligible for grants through Consolidated Funding Applications. Applying as a region might improve the odds of success.
“There’s a trend toward regional funding,” he said.
A few state-level officials were on hand to talk about future grant opportunities. Canal Corp. spokeswoman Sharon Leighton said her agency is looking to move from industrial usage toward recreation. She talked of possible assistance in building boat launches and making waterfronts more accessible.
“We’re willing to work with you on community building projects,” she said.
Kevin Millington of the Department of Coastal Resources also touched on CFA grant application techniques and talked about a new Regional Main Street Revitalization grant program that would focus on downtowns.
“There are three parts to building an economy,” he said. “Court high-paying jobs, train the workforce and care for our downtowns.”
The Main Street program is still being ironed out, but he told the village representatives to “be thinking about the next generation of projects.”
Through the summit, Greene hoped to gauge interest in forming a more permanent organization of local governments and citizens. Besides the initial priority of obtaining grants, there would be some advantages to such an organization.
For example, Hagaman’s new mayor, Michael Shover, attended the meeting even though his village isn’t exactly on the waterfront. He came to get ideas about how to fix the crumbling water and sewer infrastructure under his village.
With regular meetings, he could get advice from Fonda Mayor Bill Peeler, who has been working on similar problems in his own village, or Avery in Canajoharie. They’ve all faced similar problems.