Bethlehem Town Supervisor David VanLuven gave his fourth State of the Town address this week.
VanLuven themed his speech on resiliency, people and services.
The Democrat said that even with a nearly $1 million loss in sales tax revenue, the Albany County suburb has been and will continue to deliver the services that contribute to a "high quality of life." He noted another million dollar revenue shortfall will likely happen in 2021.
"Despite the challenges and hardships, we are all experiencing, Bethlehem is a wonderful place to live and do business, a great place with great neighbors, great schools and great services. We have each had many things to worry about during the year, but getting vital town services has been one constant that we have not had to worry about."
VanLuven praised the recent selection of the Port of Albany for the nation’s first offshore wind tower manufacturing facility, as well as the town’s purchase of 69 acres from the Normanside Country Club toward a future 147-acre park.
"The project will include a new state of the art wharf and more than 600,000 square feet of manufacturing space in four buildings. A joint venture will fabricate offshore wind towers at the site, and the projections are that the project will create 500 construction jobs and 300 to 350 long term manufacturing jobs. Bethlehem fought hard for this green economy investment because it advances our goals for economic development, job creation, renewable energy and real action on climate change. I was also pleased to announce last month that the town had closed on the purchase of 69 acres from the Normanside Country Club, with invaluable guidance from the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy. This land will be combined with an existing town property to create the Norman's Kill Ravines Nature Park."
VanLuven touched on 2020's summer of unrest and its effects on the Bethlehem Police Department.
"Following community discussions about different aspects of policing in Bethlehem, the first draft of our police reform and reinvention collaborative plan is available for public review on the town website. And we will be accepting comments on this and the second draft through February 26th. We are on track to complete the plan by the governor's April 1 deadline. More importantly, our police department and town leadership are committed to continuing the reform effort well after that date, by strategically implementing the plan's recommendations."
VanLuven lauded an $18 million upgrade to the Clapper Road water treatment plant in Selkirk, and mourned the loss of eight businesses due to COVID-19 and the economic collapse. He called on residents to "act while the pandemic rages."
"Keep your masks on and keep social distancing responsibly. Support your local businesses as much as your budgets will allow. The winter is usually a hard time for our businesses, but unless we shop and order from them, many will not survive into the spring. Our dollars will carry the businesses through, and if we don't patronize them, they will close and we will only have ourselves to blame. If you can, buy a little extra at the grocery store and donate to the food pantry at the Delmar marketplace drop off, or one of the many food pantries in the Capital Region. Let's do our best to keep everyone fed. And check on your neighbors, especially if they're older and alone. Social isolation is a terrible consequence of the pandemic, and a friendly hello from the doorstep can help everyone through these long these cold gray days."