~ State of the City Address ~
In many ways one could only characterize the year 2008 as a stellar year for the City of Johnstown. Certainly there were very regrettable moments such as the fire that we witnessed on West State Street last spring. However, even there we saw in action very capable city and personnel community volunteers working together to protect our city during a very difficult time.
The year was highlighted by the 250th Anniversary Celebration events. The activities were educational, fun and served as a good marketing tool for our local economy.
Each and every event was extremely well attended and helped to add to a great sense of community.
I would like to express a special thanks to Noel Levee, our City Historian, Peter Betz our County Historian, staff at the Johnstown Public Library, the Johnstown Historical Society and members of our local DAR for the extra time and effort they gave throughout the year. These individuals have for many years always been the skillful keepers of our history.
I also would like to thank all the individuals and their respective city organizations who participated in the Celebration 2008 committee. Our meetings were always spirited, enthusiastic and purposeful. Without the support of the local media, we would never have been able to have such success and a special thanks to Bill Ackerbauer for the wonderful celebration publication entitled Celebrating Johnstown—A Community Looks Back On 250 Years.
Many of the year’s events required the complete, and sometimes spur of the moment, coordinated services of city departments. My special thanks go to each department head for their willingness to address the unique needs of the celebration events while all the time maintaining their normal levels of daily work.
Looking forward, based on what we are seeing in the national economy, the coming months will be marked by continued economic stress for small cities like Johnstown. It is my opinion that, although we can not avoid being greatly affected by these times, we have positioned ourselves over the last few years to absorb at least some of the initial negative fiscal impact. We have maintained a very high level of efficiency by thoughtful and necessary equipment purchases, dealt with foreclosures and demolitions in scheduled sequence, and found ways to save significantly on operational costs.
For example, new windows at the fire station and city hall, installation of a used oil furnace for the DPW barn and continued training and upgrading of procedures within the departments are all improvements to help make us more efficient. Even the new addition of Spike, our highly trained police dog, will give the police department an edge to better do their work.
In addition, we are in the process of putting the finishing touches on a new city guide, not only to become a more user-friendly government, but to also minimize staff time now used to field daily inquiries.
We will continue to move forward with good government practices and goals even though the economy may force us to move at a much slower pace. Although we believe we have a solid budget in place for 2009, we will very likely make adjustments throughout the year as we adapt to the rapidly changing economic landscape. There are many unknowns in today’s governmental financial world, but I know that the city council members will continue to be vigilant about their elected responsibilities and that the Johnstown community will do what it must do to survive in the best way possible.
I could not ask for a more thoughtful, respectful and conscientious council to work with and I look forward to your guidance, inspiration and sincere oversight of our city in the year 2009. Thanks also to our city treasurer, Mike Gifford, who bears the huge responsibility of managing a tight budget in a difficult fiscal environment.
Aside from cleaning up blight and leaving the city cleaner than it has been in decades, old leather mill demolitions have opened up areas where development can occur. I believe we have created a very business friendly environment in the city and given the right circumstances, we are prepared to efficiently facilitate new housing, commercial and industrial growth.
Under the leadership of Councilperson Chris Foss, we have an updated Comprehensive Plan and are well on our way to the completion of appropriate zoning that will serve as an overlay for that document.
We are also presently working with the City of Gloversville to update the 40 year old Inter-Municipal Wastewater Agreement. It is very likely that the document will be completed in 2009 thus giving us the legal structure to operate the plant to meet the demands of our cities for many years to come.
While we are working here in city hall on a daily basis, the water board and sewer boards are also making sure that our residents are receiving cost effective and reliable services. Many thanks to them and I look forward to working with them throughout the coming year. We should never underestimate the value of their service to the community.
We will continue to work with other municipalities in the region to benefit the taxpayers of Johnstown. We face many tough decisions that will affect the immediate future of our city but also have an impact for many years to come. Only by cooperative efforts, honest discussion and fair negotiations can we bring this city and region to its greatest potential.
Please know that we maintain a very informative City of Johnstown website and that each department’s annual reports will be filed there in February.
In a very informal way, I would like to declare that 2009 will be the “Year of the Bicycle” here in Johnstown. I invite the various organizations, businesses and private citizens to engage in whatever activities they might enjoy based on the simplistic beauty surrounding the use of bicycles.
My family and I wish the entire community the very best for the coming year.
Thank you very much.
Sarah J. Slingerland