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Council hears, discusses multitude of issues

Wednesday, April 17, 2013 - Updated: 3:52 PM

By REBECCA WEBSTER

Recorder News Staff

The city of Amsterdam Common Council met in City Hall Tuesday evening for its monthly meeting, hearing everything from land bank updates to concerns regarding the Recreation Department.

The public participation segment brought a few individuals to the podium regarding various topics involving the Recreation Department.

Robert Spagnola, director of the Recreation Department, spoke in regard to the need for volunteers as the summer approaches. Spagnola said the summer will bring a day camp for kids, which will include meals and extensive programing at the Bacon Recreation Center.

There will also be programming at the Creative Connections Arts Center, as well as nutrition programming starting from a partnership with St. Mary's Healthcare, Spagnola said.

Nearly $26,000 has been donated through sponsors for the two centers, Spagnola said.

"It shows people are yearning for this to take off," he said, adding later that "what we're looking for are volunteers."

Spagnola also brought up the partnership with Union College to utilize Shuttleworth Park. The college's baseball team played at the park last weekend.

"They enjoyed the park immensely," he said. "And we are still going forward, hopefully, with the turf project.

"Union is planning on playing here long-term," he said.

Spagnola said the long-term benefits are "tremendous." But the topic did bring some concerns from one other resident during public participation.

As David "Nyle Nelson" approached the podium, he told the council he has been in Amsterdam for 59 years, but raised issue with "borrowing money and giving huge raises."

Nelson called Shuttleworth Park the "last treasure in Amsterdam," and told the council he felt it was being given away for an extensive amount of money a year; he also said that Recreation Department staff shouldn't be maintaining the field.

Citing his background, Nelson said he felt the turf could be installed for less of an expense than has been proposed.

Following the meeting, Spagnola said the amount of money to be spent on the turf is a good deal, as the turf will last in the park for anywhere from 15 to 20 years.

He said the park brings benefits to the city, and added that the Mohawks take care of the park during their use of the field as per their agreement.

Aside from recreation discussion, council members also heard from Robert Hoffman and Steven Strichman, both Schenectady men on the Land Reutilization Corporation of the Capital Region, the partnership between the city of Amsterdam, the city of Schenectady, and the county of Schenectady.

Hoffman, a Schenectady attorney who sits as president of the land bank group, told the council it is required by law to give the parties involved an annual report and overview of where the land bank is in the process.

Hoffman reminded the council that New York State officials passed a law back in January 2011 approving the creation of land banks in the state.

"It took a year to sift through applications before they allowed five to be created in early 2012," Hoffman said. "Our application, which was put together by Steve Strichman, was one of the five."

Since then, Hoffman explained, the three entities have entered into an intergovernmental agreement and established a board of seven members, as well as individual disposition committees from each entity.

Some of the members of the Amsterdam disposition committee sat in the crowd at the meeting.

An application has been submitted for the organization to become a 501(c)3 organization, which is "a critical element," Hoffman said, but they are still waiting to hear back as to whether that status has been granted.

Strichman, director of planning and economic development for the city of Schenectady, told the council that right now they need funding to really get things going and though Schenectady County has fronted some operating funding for the first few years, the land bank is the "baby" of each entity.

"Any money that Amsterdam does bring to the table would be earmarked for Amsterdam projects," he said. "The land bank is a tool. It's a tool with some great benefits."

Hoffman later told the council that the same rules and procedures will apply for each entity, but the individual disposition committee will be making recommendations for their own municipality.

Ultimately, Strichman said, the land bank is meant to get properties back on the tax rolls.

Following public participation and presentations, council members voted on a handful of resolutions, some relating to budget amendments, but others dealing with Amsterdam Industrial Development Agency (AIDA) projects.

AIDA Executive Director Jody Zakrevsky took the podium to clear a few things up for the council before they voted on resolutions that authorized public hearings to be scheduled to discuss and consider applications to the New York State Office of Homes and Community Renewal.

The hearings will be to discuss the possible submission of applications for assistance with the expansion plans of GIANT Solutions, Mohawk Architectural Products, East End Market, Vida-Blend and Saratoga Horseworks.

The first hearing, scheduled for April 22 at 3 p.m. will be to generically discuss the program and eligible activities, Zakrevsky said, while the second April 24 hearing at 3 p.m. will be to discuss more of the specifics surrounding each business.

Fourth Ward Alderman David Dybas questioned Zakrevsky on why the council must vote on this if it is an AIDA project.

"Under the Small Cities grant program, only municipalities can apply," Zakrevsky said. "The IDA applies on behalf of business expansions."

The second resolution on the table under this subject was authorizing the mayor to enter into "sub-recipient agreements" with AIDA for the Small Cities Economic Development grants.

Zakrevsky said although only municipalities can apply for this grant, this sub-recipient agreement puts ownership back onto AIDA to comply with all the laws and regulations, as the administrator of the grants.

The council passed both resolutions.

     

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