Congressman visits the Glove Cities, meets with officials

GLOVERSVILLE – U.S. Rep. Bill Owens, D-Plattsburgh, was treated Friday to a tour of City Hall, where he met with several employees and representatives of the city and got his first glimpse of the new office space for his staff in the building.

Later in the day, the congressman, who represents Fulton County, toured the Townsend Leather business in Johnstown.

The Common Council passed a resolution last month to authorize Mayor Dayton King to lease office space in City Hall to Owens.

While having the office filled will benefit the city monetarily, it also will allow local officials and the public direct access to make the congressman – or his staff – aware of the problems the city faces.

“I think [Gloversville] is a great community and one that has obviously had some issues economically, and we are hoping to work with the mayor and council and other folks to see what we can do to be helpful,” Owens said.

While visiting, Owens talked with officials about several issues facing the city.

King told Owens that much of the infrastructure within the city is more than 100 years old so he would like to see some sort of help on the federal level for a city like Gloversville.

“We have seen a lot of businesses come and go, and I think we would like to see some federal programs to help businesses here,” King said.

Owens said the federal government passing the Department of Agriculture Appropriations Bill could help, because much of the infrastructure work for rural communities comes through the USDA.

“I think that could be helpful, but that is clearly an area where I think we need to figure out some new ways to do these things because we are not going to get fully-funded federal government programs,” Owens said. “There is going to have to be something along the lines of the infrastructure bank idea that has been floated a few times.”

Lexington Center, which helps support people with development disabilities, are among agencies across the state facing millions of dollars in cuts under a proposal by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

In the amendments to his budget proposal, Cuomo proposed a 6 percent reduction in funding to not-for-profit providers that operate under the Office of Persons with Developmental Disabilities, which includes Lexington Center. The move is expected to save $120 million.

The 6 percent reduction comes after a $500 million budget gap was created due to a reduction in what the federal government will pay the state to care for the developmentally disabled under Medicaid. Federal officials had concluded the state was being reimbursed too much for some Medicaid costs.

Lexington officials have said they are analyzing the potential effects of the roughly $5 million cut to the agency.

“If we lose that funding for Lexington services that would be a huge loss,” 1st Ward Councilwoman Robin Wentworth said. “We lost Tryon a few years ago and that took a lot of the financial ability of our taxpayers away and I am hoping that can be resolved.”

Owens said he believes the government is heading in the right direction, and while decreases are to be expected they shouldn’t be as dramatic.

Owens said this week he has seen a real increase in discussion in Washington between representatives from different parties.

“I haven’t seen anything until this week,” Owens said. “It really seems to have gotten some momentum and I actually think sequestration may have been the driver in changing that momentum. The president has started to reach out to people.”

Fire Chief Beth Whitman-Putnam told the congressmen the department has a serious need for a new ladder truck.

The city Fire Department has applied for federal grant money for the fifth year in a row, hoping to receive funding to replace the old ladder truck that was sold as scrap metal in June.

The department fights fires in all buildings regardless of height, but the aerial device is needed for elevated master streams and reaching heights greater than two stories for rescue, fire suppression, and other operations, Whitman-Putnam said.

Gloversville has 129 buildings that are three stories or taller.

While other departments with aerial trucks can help, the chief said, waiting on another department’s equipment is still a real concern.

“Time is crucial so waiting on another department to get here during a fire could create problems,” Whitman-Putnam said.

“We have talked about a ladder truck today and we are going to be looking around to see if there is anything we can do to assist in that area,” Owens said.

Owens said he hopes having an office in the city will bring him closer to the constituents living in the area.

Owens staff will use the office in Glens Falls four days of the week and use the Gloversville office once a week. Matt Scollin, one of Owens’ district assistants said he will be at the office every Thursday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and can also be available by appointment if needed.

Owens now has offices in Watertown, Plattsburgh, Glens Falls and Gloversville.

Owens, whose congressional district includes Fulton and Hamilton counties, was elected in November for his third two-year term in Congress.