Supervisor Gromack's State of the Town Address
Thank you and good evening.
First, I would like to extend my best wishes to every Clarkstown resident for health and happiness in the New Year.
I would especially like to thank my colleagues on the Town Board, John Maloney, Ralph Mandia, Shirley Lasker and Frank Borelli for their dedication to the town and their cooperation throughout the year. I am proud that we work together so cohesively for the residents of Clarkstown. I could not have better partners and friends.
May we all be reminded of our fellow Americans bravely serving overseas. We pray for their safety and hope that we can find a way to bring them home quickly.
Last year, we were saddened by the loss of County Legislator VJ Pradhan. VJ was a dedicated public servant and a dear friend who will be sorely missed.
We were also saddened by the loss of another dear friend, the honorable Judge Joel Flick. Although we all miss Joel deeply, this year, we are happy to welcome our newly elected Judge, Rolf Thorsen. We congratulate you and look forward to working with you Rolf.
Our other elected officials, Superintendent of Highways Wayne Ballard, Town Clerk David Carlucci, Receiver of Taxes Loretta Raimone and our Judges Ugell, Johns and Gerber continue to provide excellent and accessible services.
I also want to thank all of our Town Department Heads and Town employees, who work so hard each and every day to serve the people of Clarkstown. Their efforts truly make Clarkstown a better place to live.
As Supervisor, I know how important it is for the Town to work with our Governor, David Paterson, and our State and Federal Legislators. I would like to thank Senator Chuck Schumer, Congresswoman Nita Lowey, Congressman Eliot Engel, Senator Tom Morahan and Assemblyman Ken Zebrowski for their assistance in funding various
The State of the Town address gives me an opportunity to share our accomplishments of 2008 and our goals for 2009. I will talk briefly about some of our accomplishments of the past year but for more details please look at the end of my written address being distributed tonight.
Under the leadership of our Town Attorney, Amy Mele, we sold the Town's transfer station to the Rockland County Solid Waste Management Authority for a $15 million dollar purchase price and a host community fee that will produce revenue for the town each and every year.
These funds will be used to continue our successful efforts to reduce and stabilize Town property taxes.
The sale puts the 'Authority' in charge of the facility giving the Town more time to focus on providing the constituent services that we do best.
Once again, Clarkstown was rated as one of the top ten safest communities in the nation. I applaud Chief Peter Noonan and the 173 officers and 13 civilian dispatchers that comprise the Clarkstown Police Department.
We are completing the construction of the new emergency communication tower which will enable all of our emergency service volunteers and national, state and local law enforcement agencies to respond to emergencies quicker, potentially saving lives in Clarkstown and throughout the region.
In addition, the most recent report released by CNN's Money Magazine ranked Clarkstown one of the '100 Best Places to Live', with only three other New York Towns placing.
We commenced a Recreation Master Plan, which will help us manage our 196 acres of open space and move recreation in Clarkstown in a new direction.
Through our Drainage Task Force, which I created in 2004, we have completed and funded 77 drainage projects and 30 more are in the design or bidding phase.
Clarkstown, a leader in the movement to make local governments environmentally responsible, signed on to the United States Mayors Climate Protection Agreement. We were also the first town in Rockland County to pass a law that will lead to more energy efficient building and construction.
We are excited about our plans for Clarkstown's first Energy Conference called 'Greening Clarkstown', which will be co-chaired by Council members Shirley Lasker and Frank Borelli. It will be held early this year and will help residents learn how conservation can benefit them, from lowering their utility bills to applying for tax incentives.
The 'Special Board' we established to work on the Comprehensive Plan continues its work on examining topics from bio-diversity to sidewalk construction, from the future of our volunteer emergency services to the use of open space, from the development of vacant commercial land to making our downtowns more pedestrian friendly.
Over 600 residents attended comprehensive plan workshops. In addition, 1400 high school juniors and seniors took written surveys and another 600 residents participated in a phone survey on housing issues.
When completed later this year, the Plan will be our Town's road map for the next five to ten years. I want to personally thank the 'Special Board' and all the residents who participated in this process.
The Town of Clarkstown has invested substantially in its hamlet centers, embarking on several 'downtown revitalization' projects. We are revitalizing the spirit of our community, bringing new life to our neighborhoods and making our downtowns more pedestrian friendly and economically viable.
To date we completed the revitalization of downtown Congers, Nanuet and Valley Cottage. And under the leadership of Ed Lettre we are finalizing bid preparation for the New City project, which is expected to break ground this year.
Planning for West Nyack is underway and will continue to develop throughout the year. And designs for Central Nyack are scheduled to begin shortly after the completion of a drainage project in 2009.
Clarkstown is at the forefront in planning for economic development and attracting new businesses. Our Economic Development Specialist, Catherine Nowicki, is an effective advocate for potential new businesses relocating to Clarkstown and existing businesses expanding. Many towns like to say they are business friendly but to Clarkstown that is more than just a slogan.
A vibrant economic environment spreads the burden of property taxes among home owners and businesses, while providing more jobs for our residents right here in Clarkstown.
We should all be proud of these accomplishments. Our Town Board and Town employees, our Police Department, our Civic Associations, our Residents all work together as a community to make Clarkstown a place where families and businesses flourish together.
Despite our emphasis on economic development in Clarkstown, our country as a whole has fallen on hard economic times.
We are all well aware of what is happening to our federal government and what is happening to our state, but what everyone really wants to know is what is going to happen right here in our own backyards?
In times like this, many believe in the 'slash and burn' approach. But that is not always the right approach. The people who support layoffs are never the ones getting laid off. The people who say cut services want everything cut except for the services that benefit them.
In Clarkstown, the last thing we want to do is put more people out of work and take away essential services that define our quality of life.
Leadership is more than making hard decisions...leadership is about making the right decisions.
I have created a three step plan to lead us through these difficult times.
First, through my office and with the Town Board I will continue the internal review of every town department's operation. I will increase our efforts to look at how things are done, how much it costs and how many people it takes. I want to see how we can do things better and more cost effectively.
We have already begun doing this. When we sold the transfer station we took a major operation that was costing the town money and sold it to the 'Authority' for 15 million dollars and established a revenue host fee for the Town. That was the right decision for Clarkstown, that was the right decision for our taxpayers.
During our budget review process we reduced department budget requests by $5 million dollars and we were able to reduce our total number of employees by fourteen through attrition and consolidation.
Since I took office we combined our Purchasing and Insurance Departments, we transferred the street light tracking responsibility to our Highway Department, and we eliminated the Assistant Superintendent of Recreation position and four Deputy Town Attorney positions.
We are currently reviewing how we handle fleet management and repair of our vehicles and are looking for additional savings and efficiencies in those areas.
Through our audit and research of Orange and Rockland Utilities billing we have received $115,000 in credits for street lights outages.
And we will continue with our economic development because it helps stabilize our tax base.
These plans will have no negative impact on services but will save the Town money and ease the burden on every Clarkstown citizen.
Second, I will continue to build on our strong commitment to partnerships both public and private. Working with other agencies and authorities will allow us to continue to provide the best services and resources available.
I will be meeting with my fellow Supervisors in Rockland County and I challenge all five of us to review every opportunity in which we can work together along with the County to save costs while continuing to provide quality governmental services.
Third, I will look for money any place we can find it.
Last year, we worked to obtain grants for projects such as the revitalization of New City, hiking trails, road resurfacing, drainage and more totaling over $5 million dollars.
We secured $10 million dollars from the Rockland County Sewer District to update our town sewer pump stations.
My efforts to secure additional funds to reduce the property tax burden on Clarkstown residents will not stop there.
As the host community of the Palisades Mall, the largest producer of sales tax in the County, which uses our resources, our services and our Clarkstown Police, the Town of Clarkstown does not receive its fair share of sales tax from the County of Rockland. I will continue to fight on behalf of every Clarkstown resident to achieve greater equity.
I will work even closer with our State Legislators to get funding to complete important projects.
I have spoken to Senator Chuck Schumer about the federal government's newest economic stimulus plan to fund infrastructure projects like drainage and road improvements in communities that have 'shovel ready' projects.
We will take advantage of every opportunity we can for assistance to rebuild and keep our infrastructure current in Clarkstown. The federal government is looking for local municipalities to participate with essential projects - Clarkstown is ready to respond.
As bad as things are all around us, we have strengths here in Clarkstown. We are not looking at any budget deficit, our money management is sound and we have a balanced budget. In fact, Standard and Poor's recently raised the Town of Clarkstown's credit rating to 'AAA', the highest rating a Town can receive.
But we can not rest on that. Our Town Board will continue to work every day balancing your needs and desires with the finances to make them available.
I want to be able to tell every resident that I run into at the supermarket or that calls my office that the services you have come to expect and deserve will not be in jeopardy.
In bad times like this, government should not make things worse. It is our job to help people.
These are not normal times. We have to take the challenges of the year ahead and change them into opportunities.
I always say that government should be like a menu. There should always be something for everyone on that menu. Some want open space, some want their roads repaved, some need flood mitigation, some need handicapped accessible busing, some participate in our senior club trips and the list goes on and on.
The one thing we all want is to keep and use those quality services that make Clarkstown one of the top 100 best places and one of the safest places to live. However, we all want these things while keeping our costs down.
Today every family is looking at how and where it spends money. The Town is doing the same.
I want to assure the people of Clarkstown that this Town Board and I will work even harder at reducing the cost of government while keeping those services intact that make Clarkstown one of the best places to live.
A place where residents get what they expect and deserve.
A place that we can all be proud to call home.
A place where families and businesses flourish.
Clarkstown residents want the best from their government...and that is exactly what our residents will get.
Thank you, God bless you and God bless America.
Notable 2008 Accomplishments
- The Town Board and Recreation Commission offered a 50% discount for emergency service volunteers and their families at Germonds Park Mini-golf and a 10% discount on town sponsored full day summer camp programs. Recreation drastically decreased the cost of pool passes this past summer making it easier for families to enjoy our three state of the art pool facilities.
- In response to fatal pedestrian/rail accidents in Clarkstown this year, I created the Rail Safety Coordinating Council with representatives of New Jersey Transit, CSX, Operation Lifesaver, all the public school districts in Town and a number of private schools and community organizations. The purpose was to coordinate plans to bring existing rail safety programs to our schools and community organizations and train our School Resource Officers to teach rail safety.
- Superintendent Wayne Ballard and the Highway Department used their updated website and computer software to process 5000 requests for pothole and catch basin repairs, right of way maintenance, drainage, road resurfacing, litter cleanup, yard waste and leaf pick up, and plowing. Highway paved 38 streets throughout the Town.
- In an effort to protect the safety of our residents and to beautify Clarkstown, we launched Operation Double Utility Pole and called on the three utility companies in Clarkstown to work together to move their services and remove old utility poles. As a result, Verizon has removed well over 200 of those double utility poles in just six months and will continue throughout this year until they are all removed.
- We completed major road projects on Dustman Lane in Bardonia and First Street in Nanuet. We also constructed a new road, Cambridge Road, in West Nyack that connects West Nyack Road with Route 59 via Crossfield Avenue providing more direct access to Route 59 for surrounding businesses and residences as well as the Salvation Army and JCCY.
- We are always trying to make government more accessible for residents. We now accept credit cards for recreation registration and tax payments, Loretta Raimone our Receiver of Taxes provided a night drop box, David Carlucci our Town Clerk instituted evening hours, we put forms and applications online and we continue to update our website to better serve our residents.
- Through our Town Attorney's Office and Planning Department we are in the process of revamping our historic preservation law making sure we preserve the valuable historic nature of Clarkstown and work with residents in protecting historic homes.
- The Town Board adopted a local law, which amended the Town's zoning law to allow for a Hospice Residence by Special Permit of the Town Board. The local law paves the way for United Hospice of Rockland to open a ten-patient hospice residence home in Clarkstown.
- The Planning Board reviewed over 250,000 square feet in commercial site plans including Stop and Shop (former Bradlees) in New City, Lowe's Home Improvement Center in Nanuet, Kohl's Industrial Park in Congers, and Cambridge University Press in West Nyack.
- Our Technical Advisory Committee is in the process of reviewing an additional 876,457 square feet in commercial site plans and residential subdivisions (totaling 73 lots). Planning and TAC examine every aspect of what is proposed to be built in our Town while being environmentally responsible.
- Applications for the Active Adult Residence Floating Zone (AAR) created in 2007 are currently under review and will result in approximately 800 additional residential units to residents 55 and older, and provide tax revenues to our local school districts without adding additional students to the school system.
- Ridership on Clarkstown Mini-Trans has increased 6% and we have 350,000 accident free miles.
- We continued our quest to replace chemicals with environmentally friendly products including cleaning supplies and paper products. Several economical 4 cylinder vehicles were added to the Town's fleet. We made changes to some lighting fixtures in Town Hall to reduce energy usage.
- The Building Department issued 1,500 building permits and 3,300 fire permits collecting $1.5 million dollars in fees.