Johnstown on right track to stay strong, mayor says

JOHNSTOWN – Mayor Sarah Slingerland said a multimillion-dollar expansion by a yogurt manufacturer, land annexation at the Johnstown Industrial Park and a proposed revenue-sharing deal with two other municipalities are among key initiatives that will help keep the city strong in the face of economic hurdles.

During her eighth state-of-the-city address, delivered to the Common Council at Tuesday’s business meeting, Slingerland discussed Johnstown’s reinvention since the decline of the local leather industry, pointing to recent projects and proposals that will require cooperation from other municipalities and governing bodies.

The city is working with the Joint Sewer Board and its Water Board to help Fage with its $120 million expansion at the Johnstown Industrial Park, which will include construction of a whey pretreatment plant that eventually will allow the yogurt maker to triple production. To expand the industrial park, the city is seeking to annex land from neighboring Mohawk, even though the city will see some of the tax benefits go to the neighboring Fonda-Fultonville school district.

To increase the potential development opportunities, the city is pushing ahead to forge a deal to share property-tax revenue with Gloversville and the town of Johnstown, which also own developable land along Route 30A.

“Things of this nature must make sense for all parties involved, and I am hopeful that with a sense of commitment by the involved civic leaders, some much-needed advancement of the concept can take place,” she said.

She said development in the last decade along Route 30A has been rapid. It includes new retail spaces housing a car dealership, restaurants, a hotel, a furniture showroom and a bank, to go with renovated shopping centers on each side of the road. The city Planning Board recently approved a building plan for a new TJ Maxx clothing store and is considering an expansion proposal from Aldi, a grocery store.

“The intense transition is not only economic in nature, but in more subtle ways, social and cultural. Recent change can be seen in our religious and school communities,” she said, pointing to church mergers and the school district’s decision four years ago to close one elementary school and its current discussion about ending the idea of neighborhood elementary schools in favor of grade-level grouping.

She said Johnstown is on a positive trajectory, with an increase of 232 residents in the last decade and an increase in the number of homes and occupied homes. She said two old glove factories recently were renovated into loft-style apartments.

Government remains productive and efficient despite declines in state funding, with small, steady tax increases providing not just basic services but also a thriving public library and senior center, she said.

“We must be mindful that while the core mission of any government is to provide for the health and safety of its citizens, it is the complete list of services that we fund that provide a great quality-of-life aspect for our community,” she said.