Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Mayoral candidates Q&A: Infrastructure, Parks and Recreation

The following questions were sent to mayoral candidates in mid-August, along with a number of questions on other city issues. See our previous posts with Q&As on public safety and economic development.

Republican candidate Jim Gordon did not submit answers to these questions.

What specific improvements to city infrastructure would you prioritize?

Madden: This will need to be determined and reflected in a comprehensive multi-year capital plan.

Cox: We have many infrastructure issues citywide. My highest priority would be our water and sewer systems. We all saw this past winter how dire situations can get without water. Water is a basic necessity for life and much of the existing infrastructure has reached the end of its lifespan. Unless we make aggressive investments upgrading our existing antiquated system, we will spend twice the cost of the new system repairing the old system with half the efficiency. The current sewer system is also deteriorating and overloaded due to extensive storm water runoff dumped into the sanitary system during periods of rain. There are many opportunities citywide to accommodate some of this excess water without putting it into the sanitary system. Removing excess water from the sanitary system will allow it to run more efficiently saving money. A modern reliable underground infrastructure is just as important as any potential investment above ground. This type of investment comes with a heavy price tag but I assure you if we don’t spend as much time and money on our underground utilities as we do our downtown and neighborhood development, we are wasting our time and money.

Wiltshire: Water, Sewer, and Sidewalks. I would remove the politics from the process of infrastructure development, make sure everything was well-planned and budgeted, and make sure all services were available city-wide.

How can those priorities be funded?

Wiltshire: As Council President I work with the Commissioner of DPU to apply for a grant to improve both the water and sewer infrastructure. And we will continue to use CDBG funding to fix and maintain sidewalks.

Madden: These are the difficult decisions we need to make. Our finances will remain remarkably tight for the next several years. Success lies in fully understanding exactly where we are, setting priorities and developing multi-year plans that move us in that direction. There are no quick fixes.

Cox: Major municipal infrastructure investment is typically funded by bonding the money and I am sure this practice will be involved. This is the easiest and fastest way to achieve project completion while spreading the cost over time. I dislike the idea of the city going further into debt but unlike wanting a road paved, water and sewer are a necessity. I will of course seek out State and Federal grants to help fund the upgrades. I am also hopeful that every year I have the ability to work our budget I will continue to find money that is wasted or being used in an unproductive manner. This money will be reallocated to support infrastructure development, park development and debt relief. The city has many issues, most of which require money to resolve. Finding the funding to solve any one of our problems is in question let alone all our problems. As a hands on, non-party affiliated Mayor I can trim the fat in City Hall. With my diversified education and work experience I can get all our departments running in a cost effective manner.

What is your plan for the future of telecommunications infrastructure and services in the city?

Cox: It is my understanding that the telecommunication industry is a private sector industry. I don’t know what, if any, ability the Mayor has to enhance telecommunication services in the city. I support the expansion of this infrastructure but am uncertain as to what the Mayor can do to help. If it is an issue of finding a location for a communication tower or similar hardware I can resolve that problem. If it is a corporate issue that involves demand versus cost and profitability it would be beyond the Mayor’s scope of authority.

Madden: Telecommunications, like all other infrastructure priorities, need to be assessed based on what we have, what we need and what we can afford.

Wiltshire: As City Council President I’ve worked with CWA (whom I’m proud to have the endorsement of Local 1118) to actively pursue citywide FIOS through Verizon in Troy and I’ll continue to push for this if elected Mayor. I’ve also worked with local business Massive Mesh to see their internet service network deployed throughout the city.

Parks & Rec 

What do you think of the current conditions of the city’s parks? How can they be improved? 

Wiltshire: Some of our parks are immaculate and an incredible resource for neighbors. Others are neglected. Our parks are a public, city-wide resource for all. Parks allow community activities, keep kids off the streets, and add to the beauty, morale and home values of our city as a whole. We need to have a maintenance and improvement plan for all of our parks, so that all of our communities have the clean parks they deserve.

Cox: There are no words to truly express my feelings of dissatisfaction with the current condition of our city parks. Parks that will remain part of my oldest and fondest memories of life in Troy. Parks that once brought the community together are now just wasted space. Restoring our parks to their former glory is one of my highest priorities as Mayor. I have many ideas on how to enhance our parks including but not limited to an indoor racquetball and tennis facility, indoor/outdoor rollerblade/skateboard park and my favorite a year round miniature golf course. What improvements are actually made will rely heavily on input from the community.

Madden: Our parks like so much of our infrastructure could use investment and a facelift – some more than others. I have fond recollections of our parks from when I was a youth. I would love to bring them back but we do not have the resources to do that quickly. We will need to create a plan, prioritize, and pursue the plan. Anything short of that dooms these gems to continual decline.

Do you think the city’s parks should be used to create additional revenue for the city?

Madden: My goal is to look for ways to harness the truly fantastic resources we have in our city and to work with those who care most about them to not only sustain them but to improve them. 

Wiltshire: I’d like to see programs similar to Holiday Lights and the Park Playhouse in Troy. That being said, the city parks themselves should be free to all residents. \

Cox: Yes, I do.  Many of the improvements I will recommend for our larger parks will be focused on generating revenue. The improvements will not only accommodate our local population but hopefully bring people in from other communities like the golf course. I haven’t visited a Troy public pool in almost 40 years but the last time I did it cost a dime. It didn’t matter whether it was the Knickerbocker pool, Prospect Park pool or the South Troy pool it cost a dime. The cost of construction and maintenance of higher end recreational amenities should not fall on the shoulders of the taxpayers but on those that use the amenities. Improvements in the smaller neighborhood parks of course will be free and focused on improving quality of life not revenue.

What opportunities do you see to further improve recreation on the riverfront?

Cox: The sky is the limit. We have over seven miles of riverfront and I believe this to be one of our city’s biggest assets. Its current uses range from residential to heavy industrial. What form of recreational opportunities emerge will be based on investor interest as a majority of it is privately owned. I will continue to support events like the Riverfront Concert Series, Victorian Stroll and the Troy Pig Out. Restoring our Independence Day fireworks presentation is on the list but will take a few years before I can fit it back into the budget. I believe there are many opportunities to improve recreation on the riverfront. What opportunities I pursue will be based solely on input from the community. You tell me what you want, as Mayor I will do my best to make it happen.

Wiltshire: I’d like to open up our riverfront to more boat access, seasonal amusement attractions and other amenities. I would love to solicit plans from local businesses, large and small, to undertake this projects on this.

Madden: I think we need to revisit the opportunity to partner with local businesses and those who use the river to maintain and improve the waterfront for recreation while making sure its access remains available to all our residents.

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