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Montgomery County Executive Delivers First State Of The County Address

Lucas Willard

Montgomery County Executive Matt Ossenfort gave an energetic presentation at a breakfast hosted by the Fulton-Montgomery Regional Chamber of Commerce, discussing his first two months in the new position and what he’s looking forward to accomplishing throughout his term.
Ossenfort is the first county executive in Montgomery County, and with seven of nine county legislators new to the board, he pushed his campaign message of launching a “fresh start” in county government under its new structure. Ossenfort spoke about investing in infrastructure, modernizing facilities, adjusting the tax code, conducting a branding study for the county, and most importantly, working with the surrounding region.

“Montgomery County isn’t one of the biggest counties that has the most resources in New York State, that’s a big part of why working regionally is important,” said Ossenfort. “And I think there’s no greater example than the potential regional business park where different municipalities within different counties, and you have all these imaginary borders, but we need to all understand that we are one as a region and by working together across these imaginary boundaries, we’re going to do better for the  region and better for taxpayers in general.”
The regional business park would occupy a 300-acre space on the Fulton-Montgomery County border line in the town of Mohawk. Ossenfort said the county is engaging with local governments across the county line to make things happen.
“We just have to work out some details,” said Ossenfort. “The revenue sharing deal is going to be the lynchpin of the success whether we are able to get this done or not. So we are going to focus on the revenue sharing, the legal work, what we need to get the studies to make sure that site is rail ready, and we’re going to take it from there but I’m optimistic at this point.”
Michael Julius, mayor of the Fulton County city of Johnstown, is also supportive of establishing a regional business park.
“It’s a great opportunity for Johnstown, for the Town of Mohawk, for Fulton County, for Montgomery County. It’s jobs,” said Julius.
Ossenfort acknowledged the elephant in the room at the gathering was the activity surrounding casino development in the region. Over the past several weeks, the Montgomery County legislature, the town of Florida, and the City of Amsterdam have all passed resolutions in support of casino development on a site located off Route 30.
Florida Supervisor Eric Mead said the town took necessary steps to invite the possibility of a Capital Region casino.
“We did what was asked of us by the county and by the state, to explore the possibility of siting the casino,” said Mead.
While Montgomery County voters approved New York’s casino ballot measure in November, and municipalities have legislated their support, Ossenfort said the economic development goals of the county must not hinge on a casino, since only one casino license will be awarded in the Capital Region under the casino law.
“I think it’s smart not to put all of our economic development eggs in the casino basket,” said Ossenfort.
Ossenfort said both Fulton and Montgomery counties will begin their discussions on the regional business park on Monday, and he will meet with the town of Mohawk at next month’s board meeting.

Lucas Willard is a reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011.
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