County eyes development of shovel-ready sites

FONDA – Montgomery County’s goals for this year include developing shovel-ready sites and marketing the region.

Matt Ossenfort, the Montgomery County executive, mentioned the goals for 2016 during his State of the County address Friday at the Winner’s Circle Restaurant.

Ossenfort said other goals in the county include educating and training the region’s workforce, extending utilities and broadband service in the region and making improvements to the county government’s organization.

Ossenfort said the county will work on redevelopment of the Exit 29 site, the former Beech-Nut facility. The former baby food factory has stood empty since the company moved in May 2011. Ossenfort said a task force has been created to try and identify funding possibilities and create a plan for the site.

“I guarantee that we’ll make progress at this site in the coming years,” Ossenfort said.

Regarding education, Ossenfort said the county has supported Fulton-Montgomery Community in multiple ways. In 2015, the county provided $250,000 for FMCC’s capital project.

The county has also provided professional support for the college’s Global Village project – a proposed development near the campus that would include housing and retail space.

Ossenfort noted education will be helped by the planned agricultural Pathways in Technology Early College High School program, which will be located at the D.H. Robbins school in the Oppenheim-Ephratah-St. Johnsville Central School District. The program will be focused on agriculture and agribusiness, giving high school students the chance to earn an associate degree.

Montgomery County is expected to complete a strategic plan this year and enhance promotion for agriculture, along with continuing to promote itself via social media and its updated tourism website.

The county also will focus on expanding broadband access to areas, such as parts of the towns of Charleston and Amsterdam, as well as improving the quality of life through a variety projects that will be aided by funds from the state, including a countywide bike trail, canalside improvements and the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Park.

“We’ve done some great things in this county,” Ossenfort said. “It’s not about me, it’s about the team. This day is a chance for me to stop the daily grind and take stock of what we’ve done.”

Budget issue

Ossenfort said the county will likely face a difficult budget year in 2017. He said current estimates by the Montgomery County Treasurer’s Office show the tax cap increase at less than 0.5 percent, “which would result in a less than $135,000 increase in the county tax levy.”

At the same time, the county has seen its sales tax collected from fuel sales plummet right alongside gas prices. Ossenfort said this is bittersweet, since residents are paying less to fuel their vehicles.

The county saw a 6.7 percent drop in its sales tax collected during 2015; from $29.1 million in 2014 to $27.2 million in 2015. Motor fuel sales tax collected dropped by 32.8 percent, roughly $1.88 million.

Ossenfort said he plans to give a version of his State of the County speech at the towns and villages in the county.

Kerry Minor can be reached at [email protected]

By -