2017: Year to implement grants, county executive Ossenfort says

Looks forward to taking on bold initiatives, reaping benefits

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FONDA — As 2016 comes to a close, Montgomery County Executive Matthew Ossenfort looks toward the future and thinks of one word for the county: implementation.

Ossenfort said 2016 was a big year in terms of getting grants, and 2017 will be the year to implement them.

Ossenfort said the past year moved at a fierce pace for everyone at the county, as the year consisted of taking important steps and taking on multi-year projects.

“We’ve really taken on some bold initiatives and got the ball moving. Now as we head into 2017 and beyond, it will be implementing and hopefully reaping the benefits from these initiatives,” Ossenfort said.

Ossenfort said one of the biggest initiatives the county took on was the reorganization and consolidation of the county offices, including:

In October, a new Public Safety Facility and Emergency Operations Center was opened in Fultonville, connecting departments of emergency management, probation and public defender to the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office.

In November, the county secured a grant to move emergency equipment out of Fonda to the public safety building.

“(These projects are) just another example of something that started years past, and will continue to go on year-to-year,” Ossenfort said.

Construction to begin

Along with the five-year plan, other grants and paperwork were secured and completed over 2016, but 2017 is set as the year when construction begins.

One grant includes funding to repave the canalway trail, a county-wide bicycle path, which is set to be resurfaced this coming year. Further work on the former Beach-Nut site, including site cleanup, located in the village of Canajoharie, will also continue through the approval of grants. The Dollar General Distribution Center in Fonda is expected to create 500 jobs and is set to begin construction mid-year.

“A lot of the initiatives are multi-year projects,” Ossenfort said. “My outlook is very positive and optimistic.”

Another step to be implemented includes a partnership with St. Mary’s Healthcare for an ambulatory detox facility to provide outpatient detox and address the growing heroin epidemic, Ossenfort said.

A shared-services grant for record management is also planned. Ossenfort said records management was something that came out in the government efficiency plan. Grant funding was secured, which will go to digitized records to help save space.

As a shared-services grant, three other municipalities within the county will also benefit from the digitized records. Ossenfort said the process with working as a shared service is going to take some time, and will be something the county will continue to work on.

“I believe that there is really some momentum building in the region. When you look at Montgomery County, private sector job growth is up above the state average and our unemployment is at the lowest rate its been at for over 10 years,” Ossenfort said.

The latest unemployment rate for the county is 5.1 percent as reported in November, according to the New York State Department of Labor site. Job growth numbers are up to 1.6 percent for the county, while the state average is 1.1 percent.

Reflecting back on 2016, Ossenfort said his most memorable moment was not the approval of grants, but rather the presentation of a bronze star to Thomas Williams, who served in the Army during World War II and participated in the Battle of the Bulge.

Williams’ records were burned in a fire, and he never received a number of medals including a bronze star. Ossenfort said through working with the county’s veterans office, Williams was honored during a visit to the area.

“It was the most meaningful day in my life either professionally or personally. You can ever see, how decades later, how raw the emotion was and how it was really something this man carried with him his entire life,” Ossenfort said.

Opal Jessica Bogdan covers rural Fulton County and can be reached at obogdan@leaderherald.com.

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