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Cohoes Mayor Bill Keeler delivers State of the City address

William Keeler
William Keeler
Cohoes Mayor Bill Keeler delivered his State of the City address this week.

Cohoes Mayor Bill Keeler delivered his State of the City address this week.

Keeler began Wednesday’s speech at the Cohoes Senior Center with a look back at promises he made when first elected three years ago. The Democrat says early meetings with state lawmakers laid the groundwork for progress taking place today on some of his key initiatives.

“Including ‘Restore Historic Cohoes,’ ‘Cleaner, Greener Cohoes,’ street paving and replacing sidewalks," Keeler said. "Those early relationships also led to a renewed flow of grant money into Cohoes, which has exceeded $25 million over the past few years. And at the risk of appearing greedy, we plan to apply for $20 million more in grants in 2023. In addition to productive bonds with elected officials, we've also built private sector relationships with a range of partners.”

Keeler said events like the Mac and Cheese bowl and filming for the HBO series "The Gilded Age" put the city in a positive light and sparked civic pride. And the retired State Police Major said his top job is ensuring public safety.

"If people don't feel safe, and they have the means they will leave cities for suburbs or the rurals, said Keeler. "Around the nation and across the state, the fear of rising crime is very real. Crime in general, and violent crime in particular, has seen an uptick in many cities over the past few years. In Cohoes however, the crime rate has remained flat overall, and violent crime has trended down over that same period. In 2022, all but two cities in the Capital Region experienced murders. Cohoes was one of those two with zero homicides. In fact, we have entered our third straight year without a murder in Cohoes. And I want to thank the common council We're proving the 2023 budget, which again fully funds our police department."

Keeler thanked the Albany County Sheriff's office for helping establish and maintain the city's body cam program. He noted that female officers now represent 10% of the police department's patrol strength, and the department is also its most diverse after adding Black and Hispanic officers, better reflecting the community.

"Technology investments in the form of license plate readers and pole cameras placed strategically across the city last year had provided unblinking eyes that immediately paid dividends," Keeler said. "Within hours after the cameras were installed, police solved a car-pedestrian hit and run accident. The LPRs and cameras have helped police tremendously in a wide range of investigations, including lost children, thefts from parked vehicles, the car, a gun threat at school, stolen vehicles and more. Cases like these were all quickly solved with the help of technology."

Keeler noted that the Cohoes Fire Department is fully staffed and has ordered a half million dollar pumper truck to replace a 20-year-old vehicle.

“We anticipate hiring several new firefighters this year, and we'll also be promoting two captains and two lieutenants in the very near future," said Keeler. "In a related matter, the city is currently attempting to negotiate a contract with a private ambulance company in an effort to improve service to our residents.”

Empire Ambulance served Cohoes for decades, but when the company went bankrupt rumors circulated there would be no service at all in the city. At the 11th hour Cohoes learned that Empire’s license was purchased by Ambulnz, which describes itself as a leading provider in 26 states. Keeler says Cohoes now has to pay Ambulnz for the service Empire provided at no charge.

State Assemblyman John McDonald of the 108th district, also a Democrat and a former city mayor, vows to work with other communities and providers to find a more cost effective way of keeping Spindle City ambulances running.

"The city has really enjoyed for over 25 years, a service that hasn't cost them a cent," McDonald said. "Now it's gonna cost them some money. So let's try to minimize that because taxpayers are going to feel the brunt of it."

Keeler says the city is getting stronger. He spoke of the majesty of Cohoes Falls and about restoring the 19th century architecture of city buildings including the library and Cohoes Music Hall.

“My family has resided here since before the American Revolution," Keeler said. "My children and grandchildren are 9th and 10th generation Cohoesiers. I want them and future generations to behold our historic 18th and 19th century buildings, not as ruins, but as vibrant community centers. Cohoesiers are rightly proud of our history. So let's prove ourselves worthy of our ancestors. Serving as mayor of our beloved city is one of the greatest honors of my life.”

Cohoes Mayor Bill Keeler delivers State of the City address

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.