HALFMOON, N.Y. — There can be little doubt that the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic caused havoc with families and businesses this year. Its long term presence resulted in changes that may take years to overcome.
But local governments in southern Saratoga County continued to operate in ways that not only maintained services but produced some successes.
The supervisors of the towns of Halfmoon and Clifton Park jointly agreed it was comforting to see the end of the year arrive and with it, vaccines that may give hope there is an end in sight to the scourge of the coronavirus.
In email conversations with Halfmoon Supervisor Kevin Tollisen and Clifton Park Supervisor Philip Barrett both men were eager to discuss their respective town’s successes and take a peek at what may be ahead.
Tollisen noted that despite the pandemic Halfmoon continued to pave town roads, complete a new ramp for the justice building at town plaza, and finalize the installation of a major public water trunk line that will give long term potable water security to all town residents.
Additionally, the town held facemask and sanitizer giveaways and quietly established a food pantry that saw much activity thanks in large part to the generosity of town residents.
He noted also that even with the pandemic raging, his administration’s policy of conservative budgeting and its continued spending freeze had resulted in Moody’s Investments Services upgrading the town’s bond rating citing its healthy reserves and the ability to save money.
In its notice to the town about the rating upgrade, Moody’s labeled the town’s robust reserve and liquidity levels and its demonstrated ability to maintain surplus operations during the pandemic in fiscal 2020 as key strengths while navigating the impacts of the coronavirus.
Moody’s release said, “The upgrade reflects the town’s strengthening reserves, which have more than tripled since the end of 2014. The rating also considers the town’s moderately-sized tax base, above average resident wealth and income, and manageable long-term abilities. The rating also reflects the town’s heavy reliance on economically-sensitive sales and mortgage tax revenues.”
In speaking to that reliance on sales and mortgage tax revenue, Tollisen said despite lower sales tax numbers “the town will remain in a terrific financial position and will end the year with a small surplus”.
He thanked town residents for their kind words, encouragement, and generosity throughout the year and noted the hard work of all town employees.
“I am incredibly grateful to our town employees and the department managers for the incredible job they do for the residents of our town,” he wrote. “Their dedication and loyalty truly showed this year as all departments faced a spending freeze and had to cut their budget but everyone worked together.”
The situation of succeeding despite the confines necessitated by COVID was true in Clifton Park as well.
There, town Supervisor Barrett noted accomplishments in the fields of response to the virus, improvements to parks and infrastructure, town operations, and continued growth in private investment.
In an email Barrett said in response to COVID’s disruptions the town held multiple food drives for CAPTAIN, purchased and distributed (in partnership with the town IDA) nearly 200,000 face masks, helped seniors with their food supplies and errands, and continued to offer programs and activities safely where possible such as the summer day camp program, swimming pools, and activities at the Clifton Park Senior Community Center.
In the area of improvements made to parks Barrett pointed to new courts off Bernini Drive, a new pool liner for the Locust Lane swimming pool and the completion of a pedestrian bridge in the Vischer Ferry Nature and Historic Preserve.
Infrastructure or capital improvements included a new roof for town hall, plans for the same at the Senior Community Center, a new structure for the Building and Grounds Department and the completion of the Sitterly Road Improvement Project.
In the area of operations the town successfully assumed ownership of the last privately-owned sewer system in town, consolidated the Transfer Station into the Buildings and Grounds Department, and completed the purchase of streetlights which will reduce costs and soon get brighter with new LED bulbs.
The town continued to see growth to its economic base by attracting health care providers Ortho NY and St. Peter’s Health Care to add to its growing health and wellness sector.
As he looks forward to a better 2021, Barrett said there are plans in the works for a bridge replacement on Ashdown Road, traffic improvements at the intersection of Grooms Road and Vischer Ferry Road, starting work on the Town Center Park, expansion of the Town Center perimeter eastward beyond the Northway, additions to the town’s trail system, continued planning with state DOT for a roundabout at Tanner (Miller) Road and Route 146, and the expectation that CDPHP will open its own healthcare site in town.