MAHOPAC, N.Y. - County Executive MaryEllen Odell gave the fifth State of the County address of her administration last week declaring 2016, the Year of Business Development.
“We want to show companies why they should call Putnam County home,” she told the packed auditorium at the Putnam County Golf Course on Thursday (March 10) evening. “Putnam County has the lowest unemployment rate—4.3 percent— in the Hudson Valley region.”
Odell said the county has plenty to offer commerce and that developing it would involve promoting local businesses as well as encouraging others to consider relocating here. That, she said, would increase the property tax base, sales tax revenues, increase the employment rate, maintain the infrastructure, and develop the workforce.
“To continue to keep Putnam County as a residential and business destination we must continue to support and maintain our infrastructure,” she said. “Water and sewer; transportation, medical services—just to name a few.”
Odell cited the need for the county to work closely with its towns and villages to exploit opportunities that will drive business and broaden the tax base.
She extolled plans to revitalize the Village of Brewster—a plan that calls for 400 to 500 covered parking spots; 25,000 square feet of retail space for restaurants and services; a village green for public gatherings; bicycle-friendly pathways, and 250 to 300 apartment units.
As part of a plan to work closely with the county’s neighbors, Odell announced a partnership with the city of Danbury, Conn. She introduced that city’s mayor, Mark Boughton, calling him a “champion of people over politics.”
“[Boughton] has been committed to the revitalization of downtown Danbury, infrastructure enhancement, improving quality of life issues, and expanding citizen’s access to government,” she said. “Borders shouldn’t stop neighbors from helping neighbors. Tonight, we erase the borders.”
Odell said the county will team with Danbury to enhance the public transportation system, share recreational services, and explore the expansion of the sewer system from Mill Plain Road in Danbury to Danbury Road in Southeast.
Odell said that the expansion of the sewer system could help bring the proposed State Line retail center in Southeast to fruition. The plan for the seven-acre subdivision retail space on Route 6 was approved six years ago but was never built.
“Working with Mayor Boughton, the border between Danbury and Putnam County will just be a line on paper,” the county executive said.
Odell also announced a $1.1 million county investment in the new Tilly Foster Farm Educational Institute so it can “realize its full potential and deliver to the people of Putnam County a destination for all to benefit from.”
Tilly Farms was acquired by Putnam County in 2009 for $3.8 million and includes 199 acres of unused land. The county will team with Putnam /Northern Westchester BOCES to provide culinary education, and bioscience education there. It was also, Odell said, “keep Putnam farming,” through education and training for farmers, and by promoting Putnam County farms and products.
The Institute will also feature early intervention and pre-K programs.
“It will build on the organic farming and use it as a venue to change eating habits, which have been identified as one of the major causes of autism,” Odell said. “It will provide better services to the children who need it and utilize the skills of the millennial generation that has focused on attaining education degrees to specifically address children with special needs.”
Odell noted that increasing commerce throughout the county will help boast sales revenue, which has been in decline of late. She cited the growing trend of Internet shopping and the downward spiral of gas prices as contributing factors for that.
She said that 2015 sales tax revenue had deficit of $785,000, which will impact the counties 2016 fiscal operations.
“However, by managing our budget and anticipating lower fuel costs, we were able to cover the sales tax shortfall in 2015 by implementing cost-containment measures,” she said. “We will continue our commitment to our social and fiscal responsibilities.”
Odell said to stabilize the county’s sales tax platform and meet its mandated obligations, it must create a diversified sales tax revenue stream.
“And we do have a plan,” she said.