OSWEGO, NY – Last year was a very good year for the Port City, Mayor Billy Barlow said Monday night.
In fact, “2016 was a transformative year for the city of Oswego,” the mayor said in his 2017 State of the City Address.
The city has made great strides and “we’re just getting started,” he told the large crowd in the Council Chambers.
“I have said before and I am as confident as ever, that 2016 will be remembered as the year the city of Oswego turned the corner, embarked on a new beginning, re-branded and reignited itself,” the mayor proclaimed.
When he first took office, there were many problems facing the city. Chief among them were high taxes, high water and sewer fees, blighted neighborhoods, deteriorating roadways and more he said.
“The problems facing the city weren’t intermittent,” Barlow pointed out. “They persisted and compounded year after year, mayor after mayor, council after council, for two decades.”
That changed in 2016, he added.
“Our collective leadership, hard work and dedication took our city from being a community that was continuously falling further and further behind to a community that now leads the Central New York region in making positive changes, moving forward and changing its identity,” he said. “I am proud to say that we are now a community that other communities point to and say, ‘Look at what Oswego is doing.’”
During Barlow’s first year, Oswego secured nearly $16 million in grant funding for several different areas within the community.
The city of Oswego was one of 122 communities to compete for $10 million in downtown revitalization funding, and was one of 10 communities to win that funding.
Funding from the Downtown Revitalization Initiative has re-energized downtown and will ignite economic development projects by leveraging potentially $50 million in private investment, along with planning projects in the heart of Oswego, the mayor said.
“We were the recipient of over $3.5 million in New York State water grants to assist with projects required under the $85 million Consent Decree, helping to finance the projects with an alternate funding source, other than relying solely on our rate payers,” he pointed out. “We also took a bold, but creative, step to implement a commercial water rate for our larger users, ensuring fairness to our single-family home owners.”
The city is looking to take advantage of its waterfront more than it has in the past.
Barlow said he’s confident the work that has been done with the Code Enforcement Office and Department of Public Works will make the most significant positive difference in Oswego over the long-term.
“With the help of the Common Council, we established a powerful and adamant Code Enforcement Office, not beholden to landlords, but to the folks who live in our neighborhoods, maintain their property and care for our community,” the mayor said. “We’ve developed strategies to hold negligent landlords accountable, while empowering tenants and neighbors to band together to regulate landlords who have proven they can’t regulate themselves.”
They have tripled the amount of yearly reported complaints and more than doubled the number of documented violations, while shutting down properties that don’t meet the basic and minimum housing standards, he said, adding that they have simplified and expedited the entire permitting and development process to support, accommodate and encourage investment by small business owners and local contractors.
The Department of Public Works has undergone significant restructuring and changes to be more productive, effective and efficient, the mayor said.
They’ve focused on the aesthetics of the city to improve curb appeal and pride, even during the winter months.
The department paved approximately $850,000 of roadway, including the “forks in the road” intersection of State Route 104 and Hillside Avenue, which was in dire need of attention, Barlow said.
An immense amount of time and resources has been invested in the city parks and public facilities, as well as making it a priority to help downtown small business owners by promptly removing snow, increasing attention and awareness of downtown.
“Most significantly, we’ve made a concerted effort to expedite work requests from our residents and work orders from our city councilors,” Barlow said. “We’ve made great strides in our first year with our code enforcement efforts and DPW – and we’re just getting started.”
“We made difficult decisions but positive changes. Ten, 20 and 30 years from now, our residents will look back at 2016 as the year we began our resurgence and had the future of our community at the forefront of our decision making,” he continued. “We should all appreciate the important work they do on a daily basis and I sincerely appreciate the help they’ve provided me personally up to this point.”
The headlines of winning grant money, making significant positive changes and succeeding at overcoming larger challenges is nice, Barlow said. But, it is the day-to-day operations carried out by our departments and employees that have made the last 15 months so successful,” he said.
Now, the city must work to maintain its momentum, he said.
“We must follow through with what we started. We must continue to work together to successfully implement all we accomplished in our first year together,” Barlow said. “We will need the same level of dedication and hard work from our departments and employees and I’ll need the same cooperation and support from the Common Council.”
Expectations for 2017 will be set high and the mayor said he intends to exceed those expectations.
Among the plans for 2017, they will
• relentlessly patrol consistently problematic landlords
• maintain a partnership with the County Land Bank
• strengthen code enforcement
• address the issue of poverty in our community
• combat illegal drugs
Consolidation of services that saves taxpayer money is basic common sense and the mayor believes opportunities for consolidation should be considered whenever possible.
“I’ve made it clear that city government is a partner and the partnership should be mutually beneficial. In 2017, I intend to improve and expand upon those partnerships and continue to work together with other local governments to better serve our residents,” he said.
So, what is the state of the city?
“The city of Oswego is back, it’s rejuvenated, and it’s moving forward with a tremendous amount of momentum,” Mayor Barlow said. “We are stronger now than at any point in recent history and getting stronger – and we’re just getting started.
The mayor thanked the city of Oswego departments, employees and the Common Council. And he thanked all the non-profit organizations, civic clubs, volunteers, community organizers, contributors, stakeholders, county, state and federal officials and all other supporters of the city who make the community what it is.
“Most importantly, I must thank the public – the city of Oswego residents – our constituents, for affording me the opportunity to serve my neighbors and my hometown, as we all work together to make this community a better place to live and work each and every day,” he said.