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Ossenfort delivers State of the County

Thursday, March 06, 2014 - Updated: 10:04 AM


For the C-S-E

FONDA -- Early Friday morning, Montgomery County Executive Matthew Ossenfort delivered the first State of the County address since the new government started in January.

"We have a chance to put the county on the map, on a statewide basis, and I am excited about that," Ossenfort said.

The youngest county executive in the state, Ossenfort boomed with enthusiasm at a breakfast event at the Winner's Circle. There he relayed future plans for the county, a few of which he said will come into fruition over the next couple of months.

That includes the beginning stages of a Regional Business Park, a collaborative project between the city of Johnstown, town of Mohawk and Fulton County. Ossenfort hopes the project will help lower local property taxes, create a surplus of jobs and provide more commercial services to the public.

"We know what we need to do, now is the time to do it -- now is the time to start acting on the Regional Business Park," said Ossenfort. "This could be a game changer."

In order for the park to be successful, Ossenfort said the municipalities first need to work together to create a shared revenue deal. He said officials will begin planning with Fulton County Monday, and meet with Mohawk town representatives later in March.

Ossenfort said the site in the town of Mohawk could be "the premier shovel-ready, large lot, railside site in the Northeast."

He said the lot is viable because of its rail spur or connector off of the main rail line. Interested developers and companies could have direct access to the rail, which he said is a huge selling point for national site selectors.

Currently, Ossenfort said this is the most substantial project for the area this year.

"Without a shadow of a doubt this is the number one opportunity in Montgomery County," Ossenfort said.

The Regional Business Park is a small part of his larger plan to set a professional tone for the county through economic development and regional expansion.

Other ongoing initiatives he included are completing the Hampton Inn & Suites this year and prospective new industries, like a distillery in the town of Florida and possibly Fort Plain.

Ossenfort was enthusiastic as he spoke of the possibility of local farmers growing their own hops and brewing craft beer in the county.

"This is an industry that is taking off," Ossenfort said. "Imagine that day you are looking at a bottle of beer ... and you know it was made right here. I think there is a certain level of pride with that," Ossenfort said.

Ossenfort also spoke briefly about casino gaming, and the moves the county, the city of Amsterdam and the town of Florida have recently made in support of siting one locally.

He said it is still an evolving opportunity, and he urged people to remain level-headed about it.

"Let's be clear here: We are not putting our economic development eggs in the casino basket. It could happen, it could not happen; a lot of it is not in our control."

Town of Florida Supervisor Eric Mead, who attended the address, agreed with Ossenfort. Mead said town officials did what was asked of them by the county, the state and the voters who acted to pass a resolution in favor of a casino. He said the rest is up to Economic Development and Planning Department, and the county to decide the next step.

"We are just trying to leave that door open so if something can come along in the future we will be receptive to it," said Mead.

Although Ossenfort boasted about plans for the future, he also reminded the audience of what its local government already accomplished within a few short months -- a sign of what lies ahead.

Ossenfort talked of how they addressed solid waste disposal issues that existed before the new government formed.

He said when officials learned Montgomery Otsego Schoharie Solid Waste Management Authority was dissolving, it was their job to figure out what the county's short-term solid waste strategy is.

"I understand this isn't a sexy issue, this isn't something that is going to get you all excited, but let me tell you I am pretty excited," he said.

Ossenfort said it was a million-dollar problem for the county, and knew it had to be resolved right away. They are dealing with post-closure management and who is going to run the transfer stations this May.

He is proud of what they worked through and said they made the best decision for the taxpayers by partnering with Fulton County for the use of its landfill.

"We have what I like to think it is a landmark, intermunicipal deal. Here we have two counties, riding a situation where we can work together and benefit both counties," Ossenfort said.


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