Village earns strong financial audit by state comptroller

The Village of Stillwater has received an “A+” fiscal rating, according to a two-year audit of government finances by the New York State Comptroller’s Office.

The report, which covers fiscal years which ended on May 31, 2014 and 2013, gave the village a “no fiscal stress” designation on its Annual Update Document (AUD), which all municipalities are required to submit for state evaluation.

“The village is in excellent shape financially,” Mayor Ernest Martin told the village Board of Trustees at its Feb. 17 monthly meeting, where the report was released to the public.

In 2013, Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli implemented a statewide system to identify local governments experiencing financial strain. Since then, this system has been presented an objective picture of the fiscal challenges facing local governments so that corrective action can be taken to avoid fiscal crisis.

Any score below a 44.9 percent is considered a “no designation” of fiscal stress, according to the comptroller. The village’s fiscal stress score of 21.3 percent for 2014 and 11.3 percent for 2013 were well below that mark.

More questions for apartment project developers
In other business, the Village Board voted to designate itself as the lead agency for the State Quality Environmental Review (SEQR) process for a proposal to construct luxury apartments at the old American Linen property on North Hudson Avenue.

Back in August, Camelot Associates pitched the proposal to erect five, two-story apartment buildings on the long-vacant factory land, each building containing eight one- or two-bedroom modern living units. There would be a total of 40 apartments in all built on the property that would lease for about $900 a month. The buildings would feature a vinyl sided and brick exterior and be modeled after a similar development in the Town of Colonie.

Camelot made a different proposal for the former American Linen site about eight years ago which included a strip mall and a bank. But after the developer got all of its approvals the country went into a recession and the project was abandoned.

The Village Board held a special meeting on Feb. 10 to review the new application for the project and ask questions of the potential developer. Following that meeting, the board submitted a written request (pdf) for further information on the project before the application would be voted on.

Some board members have said publically they would prefer a mix of business and residential construction on the site versus residential only as the village has had trouble drawing small business like a laundromat, drug store and/or small restaurants to the area.

In other action Feb. 17:

  • Trustees voted to renew a plan for employee health insurance with CDPHP for the new fiscal year. The plan includes the exact same benefits for employees but at a higher cost of 3.75 percent or $2,200 a year. Trustees had originally chosen to change plans with CDPHP, but found out the one they had chosen was with Healthy New York, and the village does not qualify for that plan.
  • Trustees also discussed what to do to correct problems with the 117-year-old firehouse. The building needs a new gutter system to prevent ice buildup, said Assistant Chief Anthony Conte, as well as mortar repairs, a backup generator and generally more space. Trustee Ellen Vomacka said the board will continue to seek grant monies for the repairs, but some renovations will be considered when Trustee put together the 2015-16 village budget. Ideally, the village would like to construct a new municipal center but doesn’t have the money to do it, explained the mayor.
  • Trustees also discussed what to do to enforce its sidewalk maintenance law, which would find residents $50 on first offense for not removing snow in front of their properties. The law was passed in 2013when the new sidewalk project was completed on the north end near Stillwater Central School. Much of the work was funded through federal “safe schools” money to keep children from walking in the streets. “My biggest concern is getting our children out of the road again,” Vomacka said. “The law calls for a fine within 24 hours and the public has been well informed by now. The board has to make a decision. Safety is first as far as I’m concerned.” Trustees went on to discuss purchasing a snow blower attachment for its DPW tractor and using it to remove snow from sidewalk areas that aren’t properly maintained, something done in other municipalities. Estimates for a new attachment could cost up to $100,000, said Trustee Timothy Campbell. The board agreed to review the matter again during budget time in the spring.
  • Also at the Feb. 10 special meeting Trustees voted to spend up to $3,000 to purchase surveillance cameras for the village sewer treatment plant to help prevent vandalism and monitor operations. Such measures have worked out well when cameras were installed near the village ice rink and playground behind the American Legion Post 490.