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Guest Column: Mayor Keith T. Pierce
“Main Street, soccer and other issues”
ODESSA, Oct. 31, 2012 -- It has been a very busy summer here in Odessa -- noted by the fact that this is my first column in many months. I have let you all down on my futile pledge to do this article every month. I'll try to do better!
We tried to make a concerted effort to dress up our Main Street area this summer. We have tried to keep the area around the overpass looking much better and, in part, I think we have done this. It is the "gateway" to our village and should, accordingly, be a welcoming sight to visitors. We were able to adorn our streets with American Flags this summer which is something I have been wanting to do for years. We even had enough to go part way down Church Street. We even had a village resident donate several more flags for College Avenue. If anyone else would like to follow suit, just contact the Village Offices and they will be more than happy to help you out.
The park areas we have planned for Main Street are also moving along. The park area at the end of College Avenue is almost complete. This project has been done entirely by Lee Sidle for his Eagle Scout program. Lee has done a great job and is very close to finishing up. All that's left is to install a couple benches and a few signs. The Village DPW has also been busy in that area cleaning all the brush away from the creek bank so people can actually see what a beautiful area we have there. The gentlemen from the nearby Monterey Shock Camp aided in bringing up all the brush that was cut down.
Our other park project has not moved along as quickly as I had hoped. Paperwork and a few legal snafus have caused many delays, but we hope to be started on that project very soon, weather permitting of course. I am speaking of course of the park area we will create in the area of our viaduct. Of course the biggest change to our Main Street area was the loss of an old friend, the VTO building, which came down this summer in an unceremonious cloud of dust. I was there for the entire process, along with many other residents, and felt a very bittersweet kind of moment. We all agree we need to keep moving forward, but seeing part of our rich history disappear was at moments very difficult.
There has been significant progress in some of the "big picture" projects on tap for our village. These projects have been helped along from steps our Village Board has taken over the past few years. The Main Street plan we all worked on has helped us immensely in regards to opening us up for grants. In the past few months, we have had several meetings with SCOPED and Hunt Engineers to come up with a plan for both a village-wide sewer system and a business district. Both of these are very expensive. The aspect we have going for us now is our comprehensive Main Street Plan that we finalized last year. This is a requirement for any grants or bonds. This plan has also helped us have an outstanding chance at receiving a Safe Routes To School Grant in the near future. We were turned down for this several years ago. The Village Board had to choose an area that could be done within the confines of the monetary grant total. The Board chose to concentrate on one area this time in hopes of doing other areas under grants in the future. The area we chose was the entire length of College Avenue. This made sense to us because it is the most widely traveled area in the village. The grant would include money for new sidewalks, new curbs, and electronic speed monitoring signage, among other things. This is a huge opportunity for us and from what I've heard through the grapevine, Odessa stands a very good chance of receiving these funds!
I'm sure you have all heard about the other opportunity that has arisen in the village in relation to the proposed soccer fields. This has become yet another hot-button issue within the village. A petition was circulated around the village when this proposal was first mentioned. The petition was filled with many inaccuracies. I will try to clear those up. The first glaring one was that your Village Board had unanimously voted to clear the way for this project, leaving an unstoppable path for the project to move forward. Not true. What we did was vote to change the zoning requirements for that land so that they could start the process moving forward. The entire project will have to be approved and voted on by the Village Planning Board -- and not until the entire project has been planned out to the last detail and all concerns addressed. It appears now that the biggest hurdle will be the access to the fields themselves. The first stages of the plan called for an entry road between two existing houses. This of course is not an ideal solution, so other possibilities are being discussed. As far as how I personally feel about this opportunity, I think it would be a great opportunity for both the youth of our community and for the community as a whole. I will say, though, it has to be done slowly, correctly and with the utmost concern for the residents in that area. I will say it is sometimes difficult to weigh the benefits for the village as a whole and that of those affected the most. Where do you draw that line? I have a little understanding with this issue because every night there's a sporting event at the school, the lights light up my house like its daytime, and I always seem to have participants parked in my front lawn to save themselves a few steps. I will say the first few years it bothered me. Now I look at it as a minor inconvenience I have to live with in order for our community to prosper.
Our DPW department has also gone through many changes this summer. Mark Candido, our superintendent, has moved on to the Town of Fleming in a similar role. This was a purely financial decision as the offer he received could not be matched. Our new superintendent is Steve Sipptrott. Steve lives on County Route 11 in Alpine and has an extensive background in all areas of the job. Steve is a member of the Odessa Fire Department and has strong roots in our Village. We hope he will stay around for many years to come. We are at this time looking for a new worker to help Steve, and hope to hire someone in the next couple of weeks. Steve has quickly brought himself up to speed on our village and has some great ideas for improvements in many areas.
I have always made an attempt to keep these articles limited to the business of the Village of Odessa. Of late that is getting harder and harder to do. Events that are happening within our state and county have been leaving me to scratch my head of late. I have decided that anything happening on those levels most surely affect the business of Odessa. Therefore I believe it only right to comment on them here. If you disagree, please feel free to let me know. First of all, I'm sure you have all heard the budget problems our county is having. Their first idea to help fix this was to charge back, to the towns, the money that the surrounding counties pay to help maintain Corning Community College.
This is kind of like the unfunded mandates the county is saddled with
from the state. The reason given for this approach was that the Legislature
didn't have enough time to do what they really wanted to do, which was
take some of the sales tax revenues away from the towns and villages and
put it towards their budget gap. They didn't have time because they must
give six months notice to the towns before they can take the tax revenues
away. At a Council of Governments meeting I attended last week, given
the arbitrary way the chargebacks for CCC were figured, the town supervisors
decided maybe the better way of doing this would be to voluntarily give
back some of the sales tax revenues. Apparently this can be done as long
as all the towns, and I guess the villages (though this is somewhat still
up in the air!) agree to it by way of resolution. For the Village of Odessa,
this means a reduction of roughly $1,700 for our 2012-13 budget and a
loss of roughly $7,000 for the 2013-2014 budget. Doesn't sound too bad,
right? Except when you realize what a tight budget we work on within the
village. The board works very hard to keep our budget within our means.
That's why we have not had to raise taxes in many, many years.
In closing, I will get on my soapbox one last time. We spend a lot of time complaining about budget problems with the county, towns and villages. In my mind the problem does not lie there. The problem we have is at the state level. If we don't fix that, we can't fix what's wrong locally. I think consolidating things, like our schools, is just a quick fix used to quiet the masses. The answer is to get people to stop leaving New York State in droves. Make New York a place business and families want to come to again to live. We can't do that by taxing our people or businesses to death. We have to cut spending drastically at the state level or none of our actions locally will work. So, when you're down on your local governments, try to remember that the root cause is located Albany.
Keith T. Pierce
Village Board members
Pictured below, from left: Mayor Keith Pierce and Village Board Trustees Robin Thoman, Shawn Crane, Thomas Letteer Jr. and Sally Hill.
Mayor: Keith Pierce
Trustees: Robin Thoman, Shawn Crane, Thomas Letteer, Sally Hill
Village Clerk: Kristi Pierce, 300 E. Main St., Odessa, 594-2100
Department of Public Works: Steven Siptrott
Village Justice: Ronald Goossen
Municipal Building: 300 E. Main St., Odessa, 594-2100, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Dutton S. Peterson Memorial Library: 106 First St., Odessa, 594-2791
Schuyler County Officials
Top row (from left): Thomas Gifford, Dennis Fagan, Doris Karius, Glenn Larison
Bottom row: Michael A. Yuhasz, Barbara Halpin, Phil Barnes, Stewart Field
Dennis Fagan, Tyrone
Michael A. Yuhasz, 535-4967
Doris L. Karius, 546-5544
Barbara Halpin, 594-3683
Glenn R. Larison, 594-3385
Thomas Gifford, Montour Falls
Phil Barnes, Watkins Glen
Stewart Field, Reading Center
County Clerk: Linda Compton, 535-8133
Sheriff: William Yessman, 535-8222
Undersheriff: Breck Spaulding, 535-8222
County Treasurer: Margaret Starbuck, 535-8181
District Attorney: Joseph Fazzary, 535-8383
State, Federal Officials for Schuyler County
Sen. Charles E. Schumer
United States Senate
United States Senate
U.S. Rep. Tom Reed
United States House of Representatives
State Senator Tom O'Mara -- Chemung, Schuyler, Steuben, Yates, western Tompkins, Enfield, Ithaca (Town and City), Newfield, Ulysses(Trumansburg)
Room 415, Legislative Office Building
Assemblyman Christopher Friend
-- Chemung, Schuyler, Tioga
P.O. Box 365
Odessa, New York 14869