Supervisor Barry A. Weinstein painted a positive portrait of economic development and governance in his recent State of the Town address, highlighting incoming businesses, cost containment, mergers and privatization of government services and assets, and reductions in town staffing.
“We’ve cut at the top, we’ve cut in the middle, and we’ve cut at the bottom,” said Weinstein, who is widely expected to run for re-election this fall.
Weinstein cited the move of PHH Mortgage from Depew to Amherst, the expansion of Geico, and most recently, the announced arrival of the Trader Joe’s chain among other examples of recent business growth in town.
He also touched on the town’s controversial six-story development projects on Main Street – the Ellicott Development mixed-use building at Main Street and South Forest Road, and the planned Hyatt Place hotel behind the existing Lord Amherst hotel.
In regard to town governance, Weinstein said the town’s Republican majority, elected in 2009, has kept true to its word not to raise property taxes, though expenses are expected to climb this year because of state pension fund increases.
“We promised not to raise taxes for four years and have one budget left on our promise,” he said at the Amherst Chamber of Commerce’s annual luncheon.
Town employee ranks have fallen through buyouts and attrition, without requiring layoffs, he said, and the consolidation and privatization of town services continue. He referred to the town’s former compost facility, which used to lose money but was sold for $1.5 million last year to C.J. Krantz Topsoil.
Weinstein gave an update on the town’s year-old trash and recycling contract with Modern, highlighting a graph that showed a savings of $2.6 million from 2011 to 2012, when the new contract was put into place.
The town continues to promote redevelopment efforts and has worked closely with the Eggertsville Task Force and Distressed Property Task Force to improve quality of life in the town, he said. He also listed rodent control, flood control and town park expansion and improvement projects among the town’s accomplishments.
“We are proud to be one of the safest communities of our size in America year after year,” he said.
Finally, Weinstein referred to big plans on the horizon: a possible request for proposals for a hotel at the Northtown Center, formerly the Pepsi Center; unresolved discussions regarding the proposal by Mensch Capital Partners to swap the Westwood Country Club for the town’s Audubon Golf Course; and the lingering Bissell case lawsuit against the State Insurance Fund, involving a roofer who fell from a town-maintained building, which continues to threaten $13 million in town reserves.
“We believe we will win and collect someday,” he said. “Ten years is not unrealistic.”
The town’s aging Wastewater Treatment Plant also continues to be a tremendous money drain, in need of outside government grant support, he said.
In light of so many open-ended and unresolved issues before the town, Weinstein said, “I am giving serious consideration to running again and hope for a decision and announcement in the near future.”