With 2020 finally behind us, hopefully 2021 will bring some normalcy back to our lives. The year certainly wouldn’t go away quietly!
Forty inches of snow, followed by three inches of rain, caused some minor flooding. The storm led to flooding in Hickories Park, and caused some minor flooding in areas along the river and creeks. The area really dodged a bullet.
I was very thankful the community was spared the devastation of another flood, especially on Christmas Day. I hope your Christmas and holiday was blessed with family and friends. Our way of life has certainly changed this year. We may not have been able to celebrate exactly like we wanted, but the Reason for the Season remains constant.
As I begin my 26th year in office, I look to the many challenges that still lie ahead. COVID will remain front and center, the economy will remain fragile, and we will still face obstacles as the year progresses. How we deal with those obstacles is what will determine how successful we will be, as individuals and as a community.
The Town government has been determined and prepared in dealing with COVID. At the same time, we have not lived in fear. Most in the community has followed safe practices and the results of that are evident.
If you drive by the Town Hall, you have noticed the Shared Services Facility is in its final phase of construction. There have been delays due to COVID and the availability of timely delivery of materials and supplies. Overall, the project has moved smoothly.
The cost of construction is still projected at 9.4 million dollars with a plus or minus of $250,000. The process during construction has created some cost savings. There have also been some additional costs incurred as well. We have to see at the end of construction what those costs net out to be.
It is anticipated that the Parks Department and the Administrative offices of the Utilities Department will be moving in late January through early February. The Highway Department will move in at the end of the snow season as to not have to operate out of different locations during storm events. I will have a financial update on Phase One of the project at the completion of construction.
Phase Two of the project is going to be completed in 2021. The Board is currently discussing the financing and final design. It is estimated to be a cost of about 3.3 million dollars.
The Town has secured a $500,000 grant so far for the construction of the salt storage facility. Phase Two is projected to consist of the new salt barn, cold storage for equipment not used in the winter, a storage yard for highway materials and a drop off for Town of Owego residents to drop off brush. The final costs and design will be forthcoming.
When this project is complete, the Town will be better prepared for emergencies as well as be able to respond quicker and more efficiently. You only have to look a few weeks back to see that the Owego Creek almost flooded again. This could have resulted in the flooding of the current highway facility for the third time in 14 years.
You can also see the advantage of moving the Parks Department to the town hall site. After 2011, the Town along with FEMA completed restoration and replacement projects, which included electrical replacement, the new entrance, directional drill for the water and sewer lines and a new Park Office at the camping sites. All other assets have been moved to the Town Hall and now will be part of the Shared Services Facility. While the recent flooding was not nearly as severe, it was evident how quickly the park was able to reopen. There was also no worry about equipment being damaged.
The town budget can be found on the town website. We were under the tax cap for the fourth year in a row. Although many believe the tax cap is 2%, it is actually 2% or the rate of inflation, whichever is lower. This year it was 1.56%. It has been lower.
Many of you know I refer to this as the “tax cap scam.” It is Albany political gamesmanship pointing the fingers at everyone but the one who has the deficit, Albany. You can’t be under the tax cap and have over a 15-billion-dollar deficit. (Other than in Albany and Washington!)
One of the negative effects on the budget was a net loss of about 1.1 million dollars in assessed value of the Town. This was caused by challenges to assessments. Fortunately, there was less pressure on the budget in other areas with a minimal increase on most insurances and a couple with no increase. We were also fortunate to experience little impact on our sales tax revenue compared to 2019. Lastly, we set a record in Parks revenues, collecting $248,000 dollars.
If you live in the Village, the Town wide tax rate is $1.212007 per $1,000 of assessment. That is an increase of .13 cents from last year. A home assessed at $64,033 will pay $77.61 in total Town taxes. That is an increase of $8.21 from 2020.
If you live outside the village you pay both, Town wide and Town Outside taxes. The total tax rate is $4.214917 per $1,000 of assessment, an increase of .15 cents from last year. A home assessed at $96,992 will pay $408.81 in total Town taxes, an increase of 15.03 from 2020. Please feel free to contact me with any questions. With the use of social media, facts have a miraculous way of getting misrepresented.
Dutchtown Road and Long Creek Road had severe damage during the rain event of August 2018. Dutchtown Road replacement is completed at an approximate cost of 1.2 million dollars. FEMA will cover 75% and the State will cover 12.5% of the cost. The Long Creek Road Bridge is open and near completion. It is anticipated it will be completed mid-spring. That cost is about 1.5 million, with a majority of that cost being covered at the same rates.
I’d like to welcome Joann Lindstrom to the Town as the new Planning and Zoning Administrator. She has hit the ground running and has quickly become an asset to the Town.
I want to thank Peter Gordon for volunteering to be the Town Historian last year. He has taken on projects throughout the Town and has much enthusiasm in preserving our history. I want to thank all the Department heads for their continued hard work. They find ways to be innovative and save costs.
I was not surprised when I asked for budgets to come in at 10% less than last year, they were all at or near the mark. As always, thank you to the employees who help make the Town successful every day.
Lastly, I want to thank all of you for the privilege to serve as the Town Supervisor. As I mentioned last February, I will be running for my last term in 2021. Politics aside, it is a rewarding job. There are good and bad times but I am blessed to have good people around me to help make this a great community to live in.
Many people have helped my family and myself over the past 26 years. Whether it was school functions, the kids playing two to three sports a year, or support and friendship, I have always felt blessed. It is the reason why I try to give back to the community when I can.
I ask that you continue to take precautions during these trying times but do not live in fear. Keep safety first and take care of your neighbors. I wish all of you a Blessed, Healthy and Happy New Year! God Bless.