Thursday, March 24, 2011

OTHER VOICES: Tackling Cooperstown’s ‘Crisis In Infrastructure’

Editor’s Note:  This is the introduction to Mayor Booan’s proposed budget, which he planned to discuss with the Village Board at a special meeting at 5 p.m. Wednesday, March 23.

The economy is weak, sales tax revenue is in question, the costs to do business have increased, the cost to heat our facilities has increased, the cost to fuel our vehicles has increased, and our village population has declined.  All have stressed this budget, our village and our county.
I do not have to tell everyone that our infrastructure is in need of serious and significant repair.  The status of infrastructure in the Village of Cooperstown is nothing short of a CRISIS.  We must address infrastructure, namely streets, as a priority.  Street repair, in my opinion, is the single most important priority that we have before us that we have complete control over.
The budget process has been challenging to this point, and I anticipate much discussion by this Village Board and by the new board entering.
While revenue generation is important and we must continue to explore options to generate revenue, I have focused on decreasing spending, reducing budgets, and eliminating waste.  These recommendations before you will not be easy to consider.  I appreciate your commitment to review this budget over the next few days.
To address street repair, I believe that we need to have a two-step process:  First, immediate and short-term relief to address the poor and deteriorating streets that are in the worst condition.  Our residents deserve instant relief from this situation. Second, a strategy to save for complete, high quality and thorough repair.
In summary, we need a short-term fix, and a long-term plan.
The short-term fix will provide residents  with immediate but temporary relief.  While this is less costly than a complete project, it can be applied quickly, but it has short life.    We should mill-and-fill and oil-and-stone targeted streets that are in the worst shape to provide immediate relief.
At the same time, perhaps as little as 1-2 years from now, when we have built up a reserve to do a significant and complete project, we will be back to repair water, sewer and street tops.  This phase is much more costly, takes longer time to develop, but is higher quality and longer lasting.  This approach also gives us time to save, time to study traffic usage, safety routes, and cost.
Our focus should be to put together a responsible budget that suspends growth  in light of reduced revenues, poor economy, while prioritizing,  planning and addressing a deteriorating infrastructure.
Study of past budgets have indicated an attempt to come up with a short-term budget with long-term issues.  Those budgets did not reflect enough savings going into streets.  This has created a longer-term structural problem to fix.  It has created, today, a situation that can only be described as a crisis in infrastructure.  We have lost the capacity to deal effectively with street repair, let alone any other infrastructure emergency.  This has to be addressed  now else we will lose our ability to control our future proactively.
I have made deep cuts across the board.  All departments will feel the burden that we are under.  Cuts have been recommended in materials, supplies, conferences,  longevity and, yes, personnel.  Department heads must be better managers, find efficiencies, watch the bottom line, and do more with less.  We can not have everything that we want, and sometimes need.  We are choosing between bad options. 
I have pledged to keep taxes as low as possible and I remain committed to this goal.  However, we must address our infrastructure crisis. 
We need to get smaller before we can grow.  We will look differently than we do now, however, if we are committed to the future, we can improve our infrastructure, save better, and provide a higher standard of quality.

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