January 9, 2012
City strikes cooperative tone
Aldermen open lines of communication with county, city, school officials
Bob Ellis/staff photographer
Fred Pierce, director of public relations at SUNY Cortland, top center, and Nasrin Parvizi, SUNY Cortland associate vice president, top left, speak to the Cortland Common Council during a retreat Saturday morning.
Garry VanGorder urged the city Common Council Saturday to work with county, city, school and business officials to help accomplish common goals.
“The city being at the table with us is critically important,” said VanGorder, executive director of the Cortland County Business Development Corp. and Industrial Development Agency.
Other community officials who spoke during the council’s weekend retreat at SUNY Cortland echoed VanGorder’s message of partnership. Representatives from SUNY Cortland, the Downtown Partnership, Thoma Development and the city school district attended the retreat on Saturday.
County Administrator Martin Murphy was scheduled originally but could not attend.
The council has established a list of objectives for the upcoming year. One of those is to coordinate more with the county, school district and economic development officials.
How well that goal translates into reality remains to be seen, but city and other local officials hope they can build off Saturday’s meeting.
One of the goals for the retreat was to introduce new members of the council to some key local officials. Another was to let those officials know the city is interested in collaborating with them, said Mayor Brian Tobin.
“In municipal government, no entity stands alone,” said Mack Cook, the city’s director of administration and finance.
VanGorder said the BDC/IDA and other local organizations are working on projects that impact the city. He cited the building at the corner of Main and Court streets as a potential project that would concern the Common Council and the IDA.
The IDA is considering taking over the building — which was gutted in a 2005 arson — through eminent domain and is soliciting proposals from local developers for the project.
VanGorder said he thought the retreat was a good way to meet members of the new administration.
“It’s a good opportunity to come in and give a little briefing about the things we’ve been involved in,” VanGorder said.
Adam Megivern, executive director of the Downtown Partnership, spoke about the partnership, marketing downtown and some of the events that take place throughout the year.
The city was caught off-guard last month when the New Year’s Eve celebration was abruptly canceled a week before the event would have taken place.
Megivern said efforts are already underway to bring the event back for next year.
Megivern said everyone needs to work together to improve the city. He cited putting Christmas tree lights up along Main Street as a possible example.
The cost of putting the lights up along Main Street is about $20,000, which includes the price of buying the lights and maintenance. If the city maintained the lights, it would make the program more sustainable from year to year, Megivern said.
“I need everyone to advocate for downtown,” he said.
Larry Spring, superintendent of city schools, discussed the challenges facing the district, from increasing poverty rates to decreasing state aid.He said the city and the district already work together in some areas. The district has a school resource officer and contracts with the city for snow plowing. He said the city and school district have common interests because the district creates the work force and because nearly all of the students in the district come from the city.
SUNY Cortland President Erik Bitterbaum, Associate Vice President Nasrin Parvizi and college spokesman Fred Pierce discussed the proposed $56 million student life center at the former Carl “Chugger” Davis Field, a business-innovation center on Main Street and a proposed 220-bed residence hall on campus.
Aldermen John Bennett (D-4th Ward) and Katy Silliman (D-2nd Ward) had a few questions about the student life center. The project has drawn some concerns from residents about its impact on the neighborhood and the local water supply since it is located adjacent to the city’s sole-source aquifer.
After about 10 minutes of discussion on the life center, Tobin interjected to keep the conversation moving forward.
“This is something we should have done a long time ago,” said Alderman Tom Michales, (R-8th Ward). “I think it’s a great thing for us to meet with these guys.”
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