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Dear City of Oswego Residents,

It’s hard to believe that we’re approaching the end of the first year of my administration, and what a year it’s been!  2016 proved to be a productive and successful year for the City of Oswego, as we took office and began working immediately with the Common Council to tackle many of the challenges facing our community.  I’d like to thank the Common Council for their support and cooperation throughout the year and I look forward to continuing our work together as we build upon the momentum that exists throughout our City.

As Mayor, I believe it’s important that our City government make an honest effort to keep our residents informed about what we’ve accomplished and what we will continue to work on at City Hall as we move forward.  I am pleased to outline and explain some of our biggest accomplishments this year and to keep you up to date on what’s happening in City government. 

Congratulations Oswego!

One of the most notable accomplishments of 2016 was our selection by Governor Andrew Cuomo to receive $10 million in funding from the Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI) to transform Downtown Oswego.  The DRI was a competitive grant application that was sought by many local communities, including the Cities of Fulton, Cortland and Auburn – and we won!  Our team submitted a dynamic proposal that included six economic development projects, or “anchor projects,” and identified opportunities to move our planning and Complete Streets projects forward.  The State of New York recognized the momentum that currently exists downtown and throughout our City, was compelled by the plans and vision outlined in our application, and selected the City of Oswego as the winning community.  I am proud to report that we constructed our entire proposal in-house with City staff and worked for months to capitalize on this opportunity.  Our entire application and proposal can be viewed on our website at: www.oswegony.org/government/downtown-revitalization-initiative.  We owe a very special thank you to Governor Cuomo for providing the City with this extraordinary opportunity and for visiting our community in July.   I invite and encourage you to attend the second Downtown Revitalization Public Engagement Meeting on January 3 from 6:00pm – 8:30pm at the McCrobie Civic Center.

Sewer Projects

The City of Oswego continues to make progress on the approximately $85 million Consent Decree project addressing our City sewer system.  I recognize that City residents are burdened by very expensive water and sewer bills and that’s why our administration took action to raise revenue from the sewer rates of our largest users, without affecting ordinary residential homeowners.   Historically, the more sewage that an entity used, the less expensive it was.  That model was unfair to homeowners who were essentially subsidizing the sewer bills for large entities, most of which do not pay full property taxes to begin with.  I worked with the Common Council to implement an adjustment that forces the largest users to pay their fair share for the resources they use, without affecting rates for homeowners or small businesses.  This is just one strategic step in working towards stabilization of water and sewer rates, and finding relief for our residents.  In addition to making the sewer rates more equitable, we applied for two New York State Water Grants to assist the City in funding mandated projects.  I am pleased that we were awarded $3.6 million in funding assistance for these projects.  In addition, we applied for and received $600,000 for our Sewer Rehabilitation project.  By taking the initiative, seeking out and applying for these grants and other opportunities, we have taken another step in preventing future water and sewer rate increases.

Code Enforcement Efforts

Earlier this year and with a unanimous vote from the Common Council, we established a City Code Enforcement Office.    The office has taken a hard stance against blighted properties in our neighborhoods and we’ve aggressively confronted negligent landlords in our community, many of whom own several blighted and dilapidated properties. We have a handful of landlords who have no regard for the appearance of their properties, the affect their properties have on neighboring home values, the impact of their properties on neighbors’ quality of life and who take no responsibility for the behavior of their tenants.  These are the landlords we’ve confronted and the landlords we will continue to hold accountable for their negligence.  To assist in these efforts, we’ve passed several pieces of legislation strengthening our City Code and giving our Code Enforcement Department more authority when enforcing the law.  Lax code enforcement efforts over the past thirty years have detrimentally impacted the condition of our neighborhoods, but slowly and surely we are, and will continue to hold property owners accountable and reclaim our neighborhoods. We also successfully pursued and received $150,000 in State funding to combat “zombie” properties in our neighborhoods.  This funding will go towards our Code Enforcement efforts in addressing vacant and blighted bank owned homes in our City, further helping us improve our neighborhoods and enhance the quality of life of our residents. 

CODE ENFORCEMENT SUMMARY

Year                                                          2015               2016                  CHANGE

Reported Complaints                             526                1,582                  (+300%)

Reported Violations                                974                2,106                  (+216%)

Rental Permits Issued                              120                  902

*Data as of 12/5/16

 

Economic Development

In 2016 we focused on laying out and executing a vision for the City of Oswego.  To accomplish this, we needed to take advantage of available funding opportunities.  In addition to securing the $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative grant, we secured nearly $1 million through Consolidated Funding Application (CFA) opportunities, including:

  1. $590,000 to design and construct eight capital projects focused on enhancing the Oswego Wright’s Landing Marina, West Side River Walk and the Harbor Trail;
  2. $245,077 to install traffic calming devices and bicycle accommodations along West Seneca Street between First Avenue and Route 104 to the River Walk, including curb extensions with rain gardens, signs, planters and new pavement markings identifying pedestrian crosswalks;
  3. $68,000 to conduct a feasibility study for developing a multi-purpose athletic community facility at the existing Crisafulli Rink location;
  4. $40,000 to develop an Arts and Cultural Master Plan in incorporate artwork throughout Downtown Oswego, collaborating with the Downtown Revitalization Initiative and other investments being made by our local small business owners.

In addition to these awards, we worked to secure $132,500 to develop our Waterfront Development Planning Initiative, which will help the City to capitalize on one of its most underutilized but most valuable resources, its waterfront.  All of the funding opportunities I’ve outlined will offer our City the tremendous opportunity to leverage public funds to spur private economic development – something that my administration is committed to. 

A key element of my administration’s economic development policy is making Oswego more developer-friendly.  We were determined to create an easy, “one stop shop” for local developers and business owners to use when looking to perform work on or construct a business in the City of Oswego.  To accomplish this, we created a system within our Code Enforcement Office that streamlined the permitting and development process to help aide residents and business owners, and to encourage investment and development in our City.  By walking users through the process and answering questions or addressing concerns, we have minimized confusion and assisted in breaking down what constituted barriers to economic development.

Department of Public Works

Our City DPW had a visibly productive 2016.  We created and carried out a $850,000 paving plan to battle years of neglect and lack of street paving.  We worked closely with the New York State Department of Transportation, which allowed the City DPW to pave the State Route 104/Hillside Avenue Intersection which was in dire need of attention.  We have dedicated more resources to Downtown Oswego by having a constant presence to help aesthetically beautify the core of our community.  The DPW also spent time repairing light fixtures and painting light poles in Donald R. Hill/Civic Plaza, as well as improving the grounds and appearance of City Hall.  We have worked tirelessly to improve our parks, expedite brush pick up, improve constituent services, increase overall efficiency, restore employee morale and enhance operation of our Marina and Ice Rink facilities.

 

2016 – A Year of Accomplishments for the City of Oswego

  • Welcomed Super Dirt Week 2016 and will host in 2017
  • Created the Anti-Poverty Steering Committee and Anti-Poverty taskforce
  • Restructured the Community Development Office emphasizing economic development
  • Significant investment in our wastewater facilities and introduced the Camden Group to manage our operation and ensure regulatory compliance
  • Created and executed a 5 year Comprehensive Capital Investment Plan to better anticipate projects and ensure fiscal responsibility
  • Established an independent, bi-partisan Ethics Board to enforce accountability and transparency throughout City government
  • Revamped the City of Oswego website showcasing our entire community
  • Addressed the collapse of Route 48 by pursuing and securing funding for 95% of project cost with construction slated for Fall 2017
  • Unanimously passed an on-time 2017 City budget absorbing a $1 million deficit
  • Reinstated the Winter Parking Ban

Sincerely,

Mayor William J Barlow Jr

Dated: December 21, 2016


Friends,

As promised, I want to continue to provide monthly updates on City government happenings and inform the residents of the City of Oswego what we are doing to continually make our community a better place to live, work and play. During the last month, we continued with the momentum from our first 100 days in office and worked hard to accomplish some more initiatives that we set before taking office. 

Some of the biggest accomplishments from the last month include the paving of State Route 104, primarily at the major intersection at Hillside Avenue.  With the help of the State Department of Transportation and Assemblyman Will Barclay’s office, we were able to pave the surface of State Route 104 in that section and will be reimbursed for the expense of material.  We were able to complete the project in a single day, limiting the amount of impact on traffic patterns and congestion.  This project demonstrates how helpful and useful an open line of communication is to our State agencies who are always willing to help.  It is worth mentioning this project was not included in our original paving plan and will not affect the already generated list of projects. 

Secondly, we worked diligently to come up with creative ways to raise revenue from sewer rates, without affecting the ordinary residential home owner.  We implemented a change in the rate schedule and adjusted the billing, basing the quarterly bill on usage.  Historically, the more sewage an entity used, the cheaper it was.  This became unfair to homeowners who were essentially subsidizing the sewage bill for big business, most of whom do not pay full property taxes to begin with.  We worked to implement an adjustment that will force the large business and entities to pay their fair share for the resources they use, making it much more fair for our homeowners. To be very clear, this change will not affect home owners or smaller businesses.    Oppositely, in addition to applying for two NYS Water grants, this is another strategic step working towards stabilizing the water and sewer rates and finding relief for our residents. 

As College students ended their semester, the Bridge Street run took place without major incident and we are proud of the effort of the Oswego Police Department, Fire Department and DPW, and all other law enforcement agencies that helped, did to ensure it was a safe event for all and had minimal impact on our residents.  I also authorized the OPD and City Code Enforcement office to strictly enforce the City code during move out week, holding landlords accountable for removing debris from the yard and maintaining code compliance with their properties.  We avoided the large stockpiling and noticeable evidence of move out week by taking a proactive approach and putting local landlords on notice. 

Lastly, we are very excited to compete and apply for Governor Cuomo’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI).  The DRI is a competition for $10 million in State funding to revitalize a local downtown.  We have been working hard to submit a thorough and strong application and I appointed a committee of local stakeholders, chaired by Justin Rudgick and Amy Birdsall, to help compile information and insert creative, unique ideas into our application to increase our chances of being awarded this funding. 

I hope this update and message keeps you updated on current affairs and ensures that City government is indeed working hard for you! As always, please feel free to contact my office with any questions, concerns or ideas at 342-8136 or mayor@oswegony.org and again, thank you for the wonderful opportunity to serve this community!

Sincerely,

Mayor William J Barlow Jr

Dated: May 31, 2016


As we mark our official first 100 days together in office, we can all look back and be extremely proud of what we have already accomplished.  For the first time in a long time, our residents are excited about our community.  They are encouraged by their local government.  They are paying attention and taking note of the changes and decisions we are making.  And that is precisely why we have been aggressive and hard charging through these first 100 days and will maintain that pace for the foreseeable future. 

Let me first once again congratulate the newest members of City government; DPW Commissioner Tom Kells, City Attorney Kevin Carraciolli and City Clerk Deana Ascenzi Lafond for transitioning into their roles quickly and competently, and I am extremely grateful for the work they took on and carry out on a daily basis.  Also, I believe we owe a job well done to our new Council leaders, President Shawn Walker and Vice President Rob Corradino as they serve in their respective roles and work together to make sure the two separate branches of City government function in unison. Also, I’d like to thank all of our Council members who took office in trying times and have worked together to settle into office and passionately serve our constituents.  It hasn’t been an easy first few months as we walked into office facing a previously implemented water fee increase and a tough budget on the horizon, but we rolled up our sleeves and immediately got to work doing exactly what our constituents asked us to do.  I’m happy to work together with each of you and I am grateful to be joined by such a capable, sincere group of people who truly want to do what is best for our community.

When I decided to run for Mayor, I ran because I felt the City needed a drastic change.  We needed a jolt of energy and we needed a “Can-Do” attitude.  And when I won the election, I vouched to myself and to the residents of this City, that I would use the same amount of energy and passion it took to win an election, to represent and move our City forward, because the leadership in City Hall was stagnant and absent for far too long and it showed.  It is also precisely the reason why we entered the New Year with incredible momentum and with the help of the Common Council we have carried that momentum through the first 100 days and have made considerable progress in several different areas.  Because of that momentum, I believe the State of the City is strong, energetic and active…and although we certainly have some challenges ahead, I believe we have reason to be optimistic. 

We’ve already made progress on many different fronts.  From creating a new city website that we will launch next week, to initiating the process of using debit and credit cards at city hall, to taking unprecedented steps by creating an ethics board to ensure a transparent government, to establishing worthy relationships with Senator Ritchie, Assemblyman Barclay, Congressman Katko and DOT Commissioner Matt Driscoll who have all been extremely helpful already, we’ve already proven that we aren’t afraid to lead, make changes and be productive.  We accomplished overhauling systems and departments in City government that previously could’ve been considered broken.  We started with creating a separate Code enforcement office, delivering on a promise that most of us had made.  In addition, we established a permit coordinator position to facilitate and encourage growth and investment and it has been successful.  The feedback we’ve already received has been positive and we will continue to streamline and simplify the processes, enhance communication between our departments and ensure that should somebody want to invest in our community, we encourage them to do so and assist them in completing their desired projects, offering solutions rather than setbacks.  This culture change in City Hall will certainly repair our reputation and prove to prospective investors and residents that we are indeed open for business.

Our Community development office led by Justin Rudgick has experienced some changes within the department and we are seeing the product of those changes.  In our first 100 days working together, we delivered on another campaign promise and initiated and engaged in a waterfront feasibility study so we can finally begin to capitalize on our waterfront and determine how to best approach real development and investment.  We also worked swiftly to avoid a grant recapture that could’ve cost the City $400,00 because of past non-compliance.  We have already transitioned the Community Development office into a local economic driver of our community, specializing in economic development and small business, and again, repairing a reputation and creating a culture that will surely help move our community forward.  

Perhaps the biggest challenge City government faces financially is the infamous Consent decree.  Without question, in the first 100 days, the administration has taken a head on approach to this document and we have taken gigantic steps to ensure that we remain on track and in compliance to avoid further penalty.  On January 1st, we privatized the management of our Wastewater plants.  Camden Group has done an excellent job taking control of the plant and transforming the plants into facilities the City and State can be proud of.  We have established a Safety Committee and a Mission and Work Quality Committee to improve the work being done and the culture at the Wastewater Plants.  We have quickly embarked on several projects and repairs at the plant, like submitting plans of improvement to the DEC, to installing new equipment and repairing old equipment within budget.  We have invested in tools and resources at the plant instead of outsourcing, creating a significant and immediate Return on Investment.  And most of all, since taking office the administration has reached out to our State and Federal Representatives to finally ask for financial help with the Consent Decree.  We finally made some progress and through talking to Senator Schumer’s office, we can now apply for funding through the NYS Water Grants, which Community Development is working on as we speak, to provide relief for the City and our taxpayers.  Having this opportunity is long overdue, but is welcome news to the folks in City government who have worked on this project for years. 

Finally, of all the improvements we have made and all the successes in our first 100 days, of all the things I just mentioned, still the most complimented department and the most improved department is our DPW.  The feedback I have received from the public on the visible and undeniable difference we’ve all seen in our parks and streets has been relentlessly positive.  The culture, attitude and morale at the DPW among the employees is at an all time high and you can see it in the work they do and in the results they are producing.  This administration is serious about responding to our constituents and we have made an honest effort and substantial progress in responding quickly and providing them with the most basic of services that they not only expect, but deserve.  The department is much more visible, spending significantly more time in our parks, neighborhoods and downtown.  And again, we will continue to work on customer service.  Customer service for our taxpayers is the top priority of the DPW and this administration City wide, and being friendly, being responsive and being helpful to the general public is our most sought after goal and the progress we have made and will continue to make within the DPW is exceptional.  The DPW is essentially the backbone of City services and I couldn’t be more proud of how far we have come, from the top down, in that department, and I owe that to the new Commissioner, the Supervisors, and every single employee of the department. 

Now despite our many quick victories or our undeniable progress, some folks probably still question if we will succeed or if we can keep up this pace.  But I took office eager to get things done and make changes and move forward, knowing that not everyone will agree with me or us all the time.  When you make significant changes and deviate from the quote unquote “way we’ve always done it”,  and you look at things from an unorthodox or different point of view…people are going to question you, and they’ll be loud and they’ll be passionate and it’ll get quite heated and controversial at time but I refuse to be the Mayor or be an administration that plays it safe and watches everyone else do all the work.  We have to much too lose by sitting around and waiting for a solution to arrive or to worry about the next election.  More importantly, we have too much opportunity in front of us that we cannot let slip away. 

Moving forward, we will be focused on continuing to enhance our code enforcement program to help revitalize our neighborhoods.  We will continue to instill the mentality that City government is here to encourage investment, in residential and commercial property and we can solve the problems for our constituents, not create them.  We will emphasize customer service and being user friendly and streamline processes and be consistent in enforcement and compliance.  We will continue to forge relationships with our State and Federal representatives and agencies so we can continue to make progress on the daunting Consent Decree that will continue to be our biggest challenge moving forward.  We will present a plan to help recover and rebuild our City’s infrastructure and neglected buildings and equipment.  We will look for and consider reforming and restructuring fees with the intent to ease the burden on our taxpaying homeowners.  We must make a serious attempt to capture the available Downtown Revitalization Initiative Funding from Governor Cuomo that was passed in the State budget and focus on developing our waterfront and utilizing our natural resources. We’ve made a commitment to our homeowners to restructure City water rates in order to provide relief. Soon I’ll be rolling out a long term capital budget plan to the Common Council, so for the first time in 8 years the City can forecast and plan the large projects and purchases we need to get done ..so there is still plenty more work to do.  We know that this year’s budget will be difficult and that is why we must keep this momentum and continue to exude the same amount of leadership that we did in the first 100 days.  

There isn’t a group of people I’d rather be working with to accomplish our goals.  We have such capable, competent department heads that I know will face the challenges ahead with strength and determination and I am certain we will overcome any adversity.  I’m thankful again, to have such a sincere and hard working Common Council, and I can’t begin to put into words how honored I am to serve the residents of this great community.  We are 100 days in and have already accomplished a lot and we must keep working hard.  I for one, can’t wait to get to City Hall everyday to serve this community and I look forward to what I know we will accomplish together for the City of Oswego. 

Thank you and a thank you to the public whom we proudly serve!

Dated: April 11, 2016

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