AMSTERDAM -- Mayor Michael Villa has announced his selection of an 18-member "Local Planning Committee" to select projects that will be submitted to New York state for funding through the recently awarded $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative.
The planning committee includes a mix of public officials and private-sector leaders and will be co-chaired by Villa and Fulton Montgomery Community College President Dustin Swanger.
Panel members from the private sector include:
• Chad Majewski, vice president of sales for Noteworthy. Majewski was also formerly the deputy mayor and 3rd Ward Alderman.
• Dan Weaver, owner of downtown bookstore "The Book Hound."
• Andy Heck, president and general manager of Alpin Haus.
• Dominic Wade, a real estate developer who also owns Mohawk Fabric.
Several non-profit private-sector entities and companies are also represented, including:
• Gina DaBiere-Gibbs, who does marketing and tourism for the Fulton Montgomery Regional Chamber of Commerce and for both Fulton and Montgomery counties.
• Landon Alomar, director of Centro Civico.
• Nicole Hemsley, director of the Amsterdam Public Library.
• Jennifer Saunders, CEO of Liberty Enterprises ARC.
Current and former public officials appointed to the planning committee include:
• John Duchessi, Amsterdam Industrial Development director and District 6 Montgomery County legislator. Duchessi is also a former mayor.
• Joseph Emanuele, an AIDA board member and former mayor of Amsterdam.
• Michael Whitty, Amsterdam Fire Department chief.
• Paul Gavry, Amsterdam Planning Board member and Waterfront Foundation chairman.
• Damaris Carbone, Amsterdam Housing Authority director.
• Gina DeRossi, former alderwoman and current AIDA and Zoning Board member.
• William Baaki, 1st Ward Alderman until the end of 2018.
• Kelly Quist-DeMars, aide to U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam.
Weaver said he wasn't sure when the first meeting for the planning committee will be, but he's eager to begin the process of evaluating economic development projects to be submitted to the state. He said he's had Amsterdam's 44-page DRI grant application for several months, and he's familiar with many of the project ideas.
He said he's been a downtown business owner for nine years and hopes the planning committee will try to focus on helping out the downtown area.
"I'd like to see us finish what we've started on Main Street and Bridge Street on the south side, before we start spending anywhere else," he said.
One project he'd like to see tackled is burying utility infrastructure on Bridge Street.
"That would really make bridge street look a lot better," he said.
Emanuele said that, when he was an alderman, before serving as mayor between 2004 and 2007, he helped create the city's master plan, and he's hoping some of the DRI grant money can be used to achieve the goals laid out in that document. He said Amsterdam has long had economic project ideas that simply lacked the capital to be achieved.
"Personally, I like the idea of a recreation center," he said. "That's something that's needed in the downtown area. Just east of the [Riverfront Center] mall, we've got some hopes that we can possibly join with a private-sector partner to make that happen," he said.
The parking garage area near Riverfront Center could see some changes, including demolition, if some of the DRI projects are to be realized, he added.
"I know there are some AIDA projects where we'd like to acquire some delinquent properties downtown and put them back into use so we can have more people in downtown Amsterdam, and that is certainly the thrust of the DRI," he said.
Montgomery County Economic Development Director Ken Rose has said the Local Planning Committee will be tasked with approving the final list of projects to be submitted to the state by the end of March.