---- — In the upcoming elections for the Village of Cooperstown, the candidates for mayor and two trustee positions are running unopposed. This situation spares voters from listening to and reading a lot of electioneering rhetoric. However, it unfortunately denies voters an opportunity to question the candidates on issues facing the Village and also denies candidates an opportunity to explain the actions they have taken and to state their views and positions on upcoming issues. Although board meetings frequently find us debating the best way to accomplish our goals, the three of us have common views concerning the needs of the Village. We think clarifying our positions on some issues might be useful.
Much of our time as trustees is spent trying to deal with the large and aging infrastructure of the Village, including: ancient sewer and water pipes under many of our streets, six parks, a national landmark baseball field, an historic village hall, a water treatment plant, a sewer plant, a fire hall, and several miles of streets. Maintaining all this requires careful balancing and prioritization to make sure Village taxpayers get the most for their money.
For example, state and federal law require us to reduce seepage from our old sewer pipes. We are continuing to consolidate sewer projects, along with replacing old water pipes in several streets in the same area, and then completing the sewer and water line replacements. We then completely resurface those streets and replace curbs where necessary. While this process creates detours and disruptions for nearby residents, it is by far the most cost-effective way to address these projects. Replacing all the old pipes is an enormous task, and building up enough funds in the reserve accounts takes several years. We completed a major project on Walnut and nearby streets last year. The next major sewer, water, and resurfacing project will probably be in 2015-16. To extend the life of streets not due for major work, we have developed a planned maintenance program to coat several streets each year with oil and stone.
Another area showing its age is Main Street, where the sidewalks are deteriorating rapidly and tree roots have heaved the sidewalks to the point that the Village crew has had to grind them down repeatedly to minimize tripping hazards. Also, some trees have died and others have outlasted their life expectancy. The village has managed to obtain two grants to cover the major portion of the cost of upgrading the Main Street sidewalks, replacing the trees, and restoring the street lamps and converting them to cost-saving LED bulbs. The first construction phase of that project will start as soon as the weather breaks. Several people have questioned the timing of the project and the need to remove the trees. No time is perfect for going through the disruption of a project like this or seeing old trees come down. This year we expect a large crowd for the Hall of Fame induction. However, a few years from now we will probably see a much larger influx of visitors for some really huge inductions. We have ensured that our contract requires the Main Street work to stop during the peak summer tourist season. Our target is to get all sidewalk work completed on the north side of Main Street prior to Memorial Day, with any uncompleted area cleaned up and accessible during the summer. The new trees will be planted as soon as the landscape subcontractor determines that they will have the best chance of survival, even if that means planting during the tourist season. The sidewalk work will start up again in the fall.
A number of less visible aspects are involved in keeping the Village going. For instance, last year we redesigned the employee appraisal system to help make clear to employees that part of their job responsibility is to help hold down Village expenses. While a direct link between such initiatives and subsequent benefits might be difficult to prove, we have seen a reduction in the amount of salt used, and the village crew has plugged up interior vents in the Village Hall to reduce the amount of heat escaping.
Another example of behind-the-scenes work is the budgeting process currently under way. We see several opportunities to reduce costs while maintaining services, through outsourcing some activities, by streamlining some operations and possibly by sharing equipment with other municipalities. Some of these ideas are in the early stages of discussion; however, one plan that we hope to implement this year is the outsourcing of trolley operations.
We spent much of last year investigating how to replace the Village’s aging DOS-based accounting system, in terms of what software is most appropriate, who would install the new system and how we can assure backup and a smooth transition between the old and new systems. We are now ready to move ahead and will be requesting bids on the new system. In addition to streamlining the accounting process, the new system will make analyzing expenses much easier and will assist in planning beyond the next budget year.
The Village board has frequently discussed the need to improve communications with residents. We hope you have seen increased information in our local papers about upcoming projects and explanations of our infrastructure challenges. We will try to do more—in the media, online, and at Village board meetings. The board welcomes comments at public meetings and will try to respond to comments and questions raised from the floor while also ensuring that our board meetings run smoothly.
The inequitable distribution of both the sales tax (one percent to the village) and the county bed tax (zero percent) has been a sore subject for many years. With our large village infrastructure and small tax base we must continue advocating for our fair share of revenue. Recently we have been extraordinarily successful at seeking out and obtaining grant money to assist with infrastructure projects. We intend to build on this success and expand our efforts to increase funding sources.
A major factor in our seeking reelection is the common focus of the entire board of trustees on finding sensible, cost-effective solutions to the many challenges the Village faces and being an advocate for Cooperstown throughout our region. We value the commitment of our fellow board members and the cooperative atmosphere of our board and committee meetings. Even though the three of us are running unopposed, we believe support of the voters is vital to our continued efforts. We hope you will show your support by voting on March 18.
Jeff Katz, candidate for mayor
Ellen Tillapaugh, candidate for trustee
Lou Allstadt, candidate for trustee