Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Getting Their Way . . .

Interesting reading in the Rome Sentinel for New Hartford residents.  Among the list of grants from the Community Foundation of Herkimer and Oneida Counties (nee the "Utica Foundation").

• $10,000 for the New Hartford Central School Foundation to purchase land in New Hartford that will be developed into Higby Park.

"Higby Park" was previously blogged about. I guess the "powers that be" have already decided that the NH taxpayers need a new park shoved down their throats. . . . Although a grant will purchase the land, you can be sure that the NH taxpayers will have to develop it, maintain it, and staff it.... more infrastructure to be maintained by a Town that is not growing population-wise, and a region that is shrinking and has older parks that could probably use some sprucing up. 

.    .    . 

This is reminiscent of the NH Town Library . . . a truly beautiful facility that is well-used, was pushed through with sizeable donations from very well-meaning people, but which is now a significant drain on the Town Taxpayers...

Meanwhile, the historic and architecturally significant Utica Public Library, which is conveniently located for the entire region (being less than 4 miles from the NH Town Library and actually easier to get to for some Town residents), is relatively dated, being short of money. . . .

From a regional perspective, the NH Town Library was an unneeded indulgence. The money spent would have benefitted more people if it were spent on the Utica facility ... This is an example of the waste of public resources caused by our "Balkan States" form of local government.

11 comments:

Mrs. Mecomber said...

Funny, we just visited the Utica Library today, and I plan on doing a post about it at my blog.

I visit the local libraries a LOT, several times a week. The New Hartford one is closer to me, and much more comfortable than Utica. But I love the Utica library because the staff is much friendlier, more competent, and Utica has a much, much better selection of books and videos.

New Hartford is THE library for people in the NH, Sauquoit, Clayville, Cassville, and Bridgewater areas. The Clayville library is much too tiny and is only open a few hours a week; there is no Sauquoit or Cassville library. I think Utica is much too far for these people to travel. So if NH did not exist, the southern Oneida County residents would be high and dry. And getting to and through the city of Utica is a terrible hassle, especially in the winter. So the NH library has its purpose, and it's a good one.

Anonymous said...

Another view is that the Utica Library is a white elephant of antiquated design and expensive to maintain. Repairing it's roof generated costs on the same order of magnitude as building the entire New Hartford Library. It's landlocked, with inadequate parking, and located in an area to which I never felt comfortable letting my children travel. This was before it had a burned out shell for a neighbor.

Why not consolidate in the other direction? You could then have a modern building, with room for expansion and parking, located in a safe neighborhood.

It's only 4 miles away and actually more convenient for many city residents.

It would make that $100K spent on roof repair a big waste of public resources.

Strikeslip said...

The bulk of the regional population is in Utica, so it does not make sense to consolidate in NH.

Mrs. M is correct that for Clayville, Sauquoit, Cassville and Bridgewater, the NH Town library is more convenient to them than the Utica library . . . But why should New Hartford residents be put on the hook to build an maintain a library for the benefit of these places which are NOT in NH, but in the Towns of Paris and Bridgewater?

Anonymous said...

Yes, Utica does have about 20% of the county population (roughly the same as New Hartford and Whitesboro combined) although I don't know if it has 20% of the library usage... but why should I be on the hook to maintain an expensive old building in Utica? Particularly one that is subject to the budgetary whims of the Utica Common Council.

It's easy to envision a scenario at the next budget crisis in which fees for "out of city" users are raised while hours and services are cut.

Strikeslip said...

Anon -- Utica actually has more than 20% of the county population - roughly the amount of people in NH, Whitestown, Deerfield and Marcy combined. . . . and is centrally located to all.

I don't blame you (presumably from one of the suburbs) for not wanting to contribute to a building that may be subject to the whims of the Utica Common Council . . .

. . . but would you feel the same if you were represented on that Common Council?

Mrs. Mecomber said...

Back to the NH library issue-- for some reason, most rural residents in Sauquoit and south seemed to prefer the NH library (although I would prefer an independent local library in my own area, which we do not have). Residents in the Sauq, etc area had the opportunity to raise the budget of the Clayville library and chose not to, preferring to use New Hartford's facility. And NH seems to want to be the all-in-all for the area. The library system is all interconnected, anyway, into the Mid-York system; therefore there is already a lot of sharing of the resources and spreading of the funds amongst all the libraries in the network (Oneida, Madison, and Herkimer counties).

In reference to your question you proposed to Anonymous, would he/she "feel the same if you were represented on that Common Council?" My own answer: ABSOLUTELY NOT. I don't understand this desire by Uticans to slurp up the surrounding towns of the area, and yet bash New Hartford for its wanting to do the same... I don't care if Utica has the "infrastructure" (which is a debatable argument, after all these years of dilapidation and mismanagement)-- Utica very obviously does not have the leadership nor a strong, educated majority in the populace to rule the southern Oneida County roost. Just say NO to consolidation!

"The spirit of encroachment tends to consolidate the powers of all the departments in one, and thus to create whatever the form of government, a real despotism. A just estimate of that love of power, and proneness to abuse it, which predominates in the human heart is sufficient to satisfy us of the truth of this position." George Washington, Farewell Address

Strikeslip said...

Wow, Mrs. M. I can always count on you for a good discussion on this issue, because you are a good advocate for the opposite perspective!

I do not think there is a desire by Uticans to slurp up the surrounding towns. . . . they are too oblivious to what is happening around them . . . and I hate to agree (but I do) that Utica very obviously does not have the leadership nor a strong, educated majority in the populace to rule the S. Oneida County Roost. . . . But neither does New Hartford.

You reside or resided in NH, Mrs. M . . . I reside there now . . . Can you honestly say it has been run well? I cannot.

Try reading the town's final environmental impact statement for its updated comprehensive plan. It is totally devoid of useful information needed for sound decision making ... probably because the Town officials really don't want any information because they think they know it all.

The only reason why development is occurring in NH is because that is where there are "greenfields" that can be easily built upon, and the water and sewer infrastructure Utica had previously built merely needed to be extended into these developable areas.. . . and because Utica is next door ready to supply a steady stream of customers.

The only "leadership" exercised by NH, from what I can see, is that its leaders are friends with the developers -- the same developers who are now getting the taxpayers to foot the bills for roads and other improvements that THEY should be paying for.

How's your storm water situation Mrs. M? That's what NH leadership brought you . . . and that stormwater bond that you and I are paying for . . . don't hold your breath waiting for your problem to be solved. $800K of your taxpayer $ is going to be spent to build a detention basin to take runoff from one newly developed area AND an adjoining area that is yet to be developed . . . but which is owned by a prominent local official. I don't see any "educated majority" putting a stop to these shenanigans.

Believe it or not, I actually SHARE your fear of consolidation.. . which is why I am opposed to any of the consolidations being proposed to have the County take over certain functions. I fear it because I believe that the PEOPLE will lose control.

. . . But the people have already lost a large measure of control by growing beyond a set of borders . . . We've become a house divided where the bedroom (community -- eg NH) is ruled separately from the living/dining rooms and kitchen. Refrigerators and dining tables do not belong in a bedroom, but we are putting them there (eg all the retail development in NH) because we cannot make the master of the rest of the house maintain those things for us where they do belong (downtown).

This is where this region is at . . . . we are a house divided. Consolidation should only occur where it makes sense, where it gives the people MORE control, not less. I actually think if Utica and its burbs became one, people would have MORE control, not less, because we would no longer be a house divided against itself. We could tell the developers to leave our apple orchards and organic farms alone and to put their offices, hotels, and stores downtown on Whitesboro Street. We could make the mayor (because it would be OUR mayor) cleanup downtown, get the drugs run out of town, and make it safe for us to enjoy. We, in the suburbs, could have a say in defining what downtown should be -- and in that respect reduce the pressure that would otherwise relocate some of those activities to our front yards.

The key to making consolidation work is to not do it until all the reasons for not consolidating are recognized and resolved in a fair an honest manner. The public has to understand exactly what it will get out of it, and directly participate in the planning process. Consolidation should not take place before a majority really feel that it is the right thing for them.

Mrs. Mecomber said...

My stormwater problems have been better, actually. :D I don't know why, not exactly; but my yard no longer fills up like a swimming pool. Is it due to terrific NH leadership? Haha, no... But it's also definitely not due to better Utican or County or state leadership.

This entire area is an enigma to most average Upstate "town" dwellers, including yours truly. The stretch of communities all along the Route 8 corridor blend together as one, yet everyone (generally speaking) is horribly clannish. So your anecdote about bedroom/kitchen/living room doesn't mean much to me (or to typical town government, in the general sense and practice) because townships are generally not considered "houses" un-divided. And I don't think Utica and this surrounding area were ever considered that way until the dunderheads of the 40s, 50s, and on came into power. Utica was Utica, NH was NH, Whitesboro was Whitesboro, etc.

These towns along Route 8 are joined together in some ways, but the residents of various towns do still retain a very healthy and traditional proportion separate from the others. Still, in this area, amongst the politicians, there is a constant battle over who (or what township) is going to be the king of the hill. It is foreign to me and probably foreign to most people not from this specific area. Very "tribal" here. Much of the problems arise because the townships and borders are slammed up next to each other, so closely, and because there is this insatiable lust for control for the seat of Oneida County.

You know, perhaps if Utica could prove itself a more qualified and respectable leader with a more qualified and respctable populace, fewer people would hesitate over consolidation. But it would be a backwards kind of consolidation-- after the fact-- whereas cities usually grow out. Utica has shrunk and expects everyone around her to join in. That's a really tough course to follow.

NH sees the discrepancy and seems to think it can pick up the slack and perhaps surpass Utica (there are certainly more connections between powerful Syracuse and NH than Syracuse and Utica). But if you ask me which township is less competent to rule the southern Oneida County roost, I would have to grudgingly say Utica. NH is not much better, but it is better. For now. If only by reason of less time spent in the power play.

Sorry if I sound cynical, but the same dunces keep getting elected, over and over and over, and they all keep doing the same things over and over...

And just for the record, I know that you are in good faith espousing ideas and policies to make Utica a better place. I have no doubt of that. It's always good to hash things out with a thoughtful and respectable fellow NYer. :D

Strikeslip said...

Likewise and Thanks Mrs. M :) . . . but here's a parting thought:

Perhaps that qualified and respectable leader of Utica you are looking for . . . resides in New York Mills !!! :D

Surprised said...

Color me surprised. After all the posts extolling the virtues of Utica, I never would have thought you didn't live there.

Perplexed said...

The Town of New Hartford Library, supposedly built with private donations annually REQUIRES a taxpayer subsidy in excess of $549,000 annually.

Sounds to me like the proverbial wool being pulled over the town residents?

This Library has an endowment account with millions of dollars earning interest and dividends. Why are not these monies being used instead of mandating the elderly town residents paying for the library's operating expenses.

New Hartford appears to be experiencing more flatulence than affluence?