Archive for December, 2008

  “When I despair,   

I remember that all through history
the ways of truth and love have always won.
There have been tyrants, and murderers,
and for a time they can seem invincible,
but in the end they always fall.

Think of it – always.”

mahatma gandhi – early 20th century


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enough said.

“I’m not sure I want popular opinion on my side — I’ve noticed those with the most opinions often have the fewest facts.”

– Bethania McKenstry

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wish list

The City of Amsterdam has assembled a project summary list of capital projects to upgrade the City’s infrastructure. They are critical for the proper and essential operations of the City. All of these projects are advanced to the point that they can be completed in the 2009 construction season if funding becomes available in the proposed Obama Stimulus Package. This list has been forwarded to Senator Chuck Schumer to present in the new year.

City of Amsterdam, NY – Priority Capital Improvement Projects
December 23, 2008

1. Water Distribution System Improvements

According to an earlier engineering report, approximately 65 miles of cast iron water mains exist in the City of Amsterdam. Many of the aging waterlines are in extremely poor condition, limiting the hydraulic capability of fire flow to various sections of the City. Additionally, many lines dead end, causing poor water quality – a public health concern. Due to the age of this system, it is reasonable to assume that at least 50% of the system is in need of replacement. It is proposed that new waterlines be installed in deficient areas throughout the City. In addition, approximately 30 hydrants are in immediate need of replacement and are currently out of service. The cost for this amount of water line replacement is estimated at $21.5 Million. Immediate repairs as outlined above are necessary to provide proper fire safety and for public health of our community.

2. City of Amsterdam Sanitary Sewer Line Improvements
Most sections of the sewer infrastructure serving the City were built in the early 1900’s. The vast majority of the sanitary sewer lines are constructed with vitrified clay pipe, which has joints every two feet. The close proximity of rock to the ground surfaces means that much of the sanitary sewer trenches are in rock and would collect groundwater that can enter the joints as they open up over time. Leaking joints have significant impact on the aging structure, allowing infiltration and inflow (I/I) into the sanitary sewer system. This in turn affects the City’s wastewater treatment capability. The City is under consent order with DEC to identify and reduce the amount of I/I that enters the sewer system. The City WWTP records base sewage flow rates that are more than double the expected flow rate based on population, due to the large amount of I/I to the system. It is recommended that the sections of the deteriorated clay tile sewer system be replaced with modern, properly installed sewer lines. Rehabilitation of only 5% of the system (3 miles of the most compromised line) is expected to cost approximately $6-8 Million.

3. Water Transmission Main/Air Relief Valve Access Improvements
The fourteen mile transmission line that runs from the Glen Wild Raw Water Reservoir to the City Water Filtration Plant is over 100 years old. While most of the 24-inch transmission line appears to be in good structural condition, there are various improvements that are necessary to protect the integrity and essential operation of the single transmission line that feeds the City of Amsterdam and surrounding towns with potable water. Sections of the main are located underneath creeks and/or wetlands, making repair work impossible. These sections should be realigned outside the difficult access areas. New line valves should be installed at strategic locations in accordance with modern waterworks standards to facilitate emergency repairs. Access along the route of the main in remote areas should be improved so that repairs crews can gain quick access. Many air valves should be replaced. The total cost is estimated to be $2 Million.

4. Raw Water Source Improvements
In the early 1970’s, one of the existing raw water reservoirs was abandoned when the dam failed. This dam, referred to as Cook’s Dam, served as a valuable component in the pretreatment of the City of Amsterdam’s potable water system. It is proposed that the Cook’s Dam be rebuilt to restore the reservoir. The total cost estimate for the dam replacement is $3 Million. Dredging of Ireland Vly Reservoir is also necessary to improve the quality of the City’s main raw water source. The estimated cost for dredging the bottom five feet of the reservoir is $4 Million.

5. Storm Water System Improvements
The Dove Creek retaining wall has collapsed and needs to be replaced. Excessive storm water from the Town of Amsterdam flows through Dove Creek as it makes its way to the Mohawk River. Currently, the banks have severely eroded and are undermining the foundations of several commercial and residential buildings. Funds are needed to avoid an emergency situation. In 2004, a study was conducted by McDonald Engineering and funding was sought to replace the retaining walls. The estimated cost of the project is $1.6 Million. Other storm water improvements are necessary in this section of the City, particularly in the Henrietta Avenue catchment area, which drains upland areas of the Town of Amsterdam. The estimated cost for these improvents is $1.4 Million.

6. National Grid/Bridge Street Underground Utility Project
Extensive improvements will be made to Bridge Street on Amsterdam’s South Side this coming Spring. New curbing, lighting, and blacktop will improve the aesthetic character of this historic neighborhood and inspire commercial and residential revitalization. To truly meet this goal, we must also bury utility lines. The estimated cost for burying the National Grid Utilities is $1 Million.

7. Extension of Water and Sewer Service – City’s South Side
The City of Amsterdam may have the opportunity to develop property on the south side of the City in the Route 30 area near the Thruway interchange. Water and sewer only extend to the north side of the thruway in this area. It is proposed that water and sewer be extended under the thruway to inspire potential commercial and residential development. A study was completed in 2006 by McDonald Engineering which estimated the cost of this project to be $1.2 Million. This figure could easily reach $1.5 Million today.

8. New DPW Facility
It is proposed that the existing DPW Facility, which was built during WPA’s, be replaced with a modern, efficient DPW Facility at a new, central location in the City. Based on similar building projects, the cost for a new building is estimated at $6-8 Million.

Total cost of projects: $49 Million

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honing in on a zone

Okay, so it’s 5 minutes until Christmas, the whole family’s coming to town with Santa, and the house is in dire need of cleaning.

What we need, my dear, are tunes. So try this:

the mad funk album, London by The Crystal Method,

the head-bangin’ like we use-ta album, Revelations by Audioslave,

or the acoustical bliss of Unreleased Sessions by Scratch Track.

Do yourself a favor for Xmas. Visit iTunes. You’ll never have more fun cleaning the throne.

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The City has been presented with a proposal from Saratoga Associates (TSA) to update our zoning ordinances and maps. At the Common Council meeting on Tuesday, December 16th, attorneys Paul Wollman and Bob Going offered to provide these services for “free” and at one point, for “minimal cost.”

I must express my discomfort with awarding this critically important task to two of the chief advocates for locating the overwhelmingly unpopular C&D landfill (aka, “the Dump”) within City limits.

As this process is critically important to future development in the City, I assert that this project should be objectively directed by an entity that is experienced in the technical and legal concerns necessary to draft a lawful zoning ordinance and new maps.

As landscape architects, architects, engineers and planners, TSA’s mission is to “ensure projects are carried out with imagination, intelligence, technical mastery, and a strong environmental conscience.” They have extensive experience in environmental regulatory planning, public policy and compliance issues. They work with federal, state and local agencies to design and implement creative measures that balance economic development with environmental protection for numerous communities in this state and across the nation.

TSA will facilitate the formation of a working committee comprised of planning, zoning and legislative representatives, along with code enforcement staff and volunteers from the public to ensure a healthy cross-section of participants in this process. Their comprehensive proposal promises deliverables in the way of committee meetings, agendas, public hearings, concepts and completed documents. In addition, they will draft a full environmental assessment in conformance with SEQRA and assist in the preparation of all required forms and other regulatory requirements. They will work with the Council to ensure the final draft is approved and all necessary steps are taken to file the document with the Secretary of State pursuant to State Law. TSA will complete all work in a six (6) month period.

It is my hope that all interested parties show support for this initiative and that the Council will proceed to contract with TSA. Implementation of these zoning changes had been identified as warranting immediate action in our Comprehensive Plan of 2003. This project has languished for five years. It is time to achieve this goal.

For more information about TSA, visit: http://www.saratogaassociates.com/

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give it some thought

Politics is perhaps the only profession for which no preparation is thought necessary.

– Robert Louis Stevenson

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thirty days and counting

November 2008

1. – Re-instituted the Waterfront Commission to review and revamp the Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan;
2. – brought together staff, Planning Commission members, and Waterfront Commission members to review proposed plans for the Chalmers rehab and move the project forward;
3. – made advances in our capital budget planning initiative in collaboration with the Local Government Assistance Program funded through OSC;
4. – went to Albany to the Office of the Attorney General to propose investigation and prosecution of out-of-town landlords guilty of mortgage fraud;
5. – hosted the monthly department head meeting to ensure all city governmental operations are coordinated (met with each department head individually as well);
6. – pulled together Greater Amsterdam School District representatives and a group of interested parties willing to advise in the battle against low graduation rates, truancy, and low test scores regionally;
7. – coordinated Downtown Development Committee meetings and clean-up efforts;
8. – initiated inventorying of all Holiday decorations for the City and directed that beautification efforts begin; and
9. – entered into discussions with the County to provide technical support for the computer network at City Hall;
10. – reviewed initial marketing strategies, concepts and logos from Zone 5;

I’ve also met with:
11. – representatives from the Governor’s office and the Department of Transportation to address transportation issues (traffic pattern rehabilitation according the Comprehensive Plan; and possible relocation of the train station to a multi-modal transportation hub downtown);
12. – the Via Ponte Committee to discuss brownfield remediation and neighborhood revitalization;
13. – Congressman-elect Paul Tonko to review City projects, needs and opportunities;
14. – the CEO of Fiberglass Industries and staff to discuss their $3M expansion on Edson Street;
15. – Port City Preservation to move Esquire Building Rehabilitation forward;
16. – Diane Kinard of Amsterdam Housing Authority to develop collaboration strategy for neighborhood revitalization;
17. – Senator Chuck Schumer and members of the County Board of Supervisors to discuss infrastructure needs and federal assistance;

18 – 26. – I’ve been on the radio five times, performed three marriage ceremonies, and presented one eagle scout with a proclamation of achievement on behalf of the City.

27 – 1000. On a daily basis, I receive approximately 30-40 emails, 15-20 phone calls, and track an ever-changing, nine-page, typed operational task list.

November also brought us my mother-in-law’s broken hip and the seven-hour drive each way (normally a five-hour trip) to Delaware to visit my family for three days over the Thanksgiving Holiday.

So you see, I have been offered many gifts beyond examination of Golf Course operations and in keeping with the holiday, I am tremendously grateful.

As far as the Muni goes, we have debt to consider and costly capital projects loom. Personalities must not be a part of this picture. In this instance, we should be making business decisions about a contracted service, not a particular individual.

My goals of accountability, transparency, budgeting and long-range planning remain unchanged, regardless of department. You may count on it.

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food for the soul

I’ve just finished the Amsterdam Free Library’s annual selection, Murder in the Adirondacks, by Craig Brandon. It’s a satisfying read; fattened up with enough meaty detail to impress and yet served swiftly enough that interest in the story never wavers. It is a classic tale of intrigue – innocence lost, murderous self-interest, righteous indignation and political pandering – stuff that inspired Theordore Dreiser’s novel, An American Tragedy, and the torrid 1949 film, A Place in the Sun, starring Elizabeth Taylor, Montgomery Clift and Shelly Winter.

All-in-all, it is a very good read and I encourage all to give it try. The library is conveniently selling copies and will be hosting special events that invite discussion and greater community involvement.

I must admit, the story of a wronged, young girl and the dandy that brought about her demise is compelling, as is the ensuing trial. The characters are well researched and developed wholly, from protagonists to villains, policemen, socialites, hotel clerks, farmers, factory workers and religious zealots. In this cauldron, I find an intense fascination for the portrayal of the press and the impact it had on the lives it so cavalierly touched.

The 1906 press was as judgmental and deliberately incendiary as they were uninformed. It hardly seems possible, does it not? I look forward to upcoming library events to discuss this subject at greater length with my fellow literary enthusiasts. I send a hearty message of gratitude to the organizers of this year’s annual read, for the selection they have made and the opportunity for healthy discourse this will inspire.

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