GLENS FALLS, N.Y. (NEWS10) – The city has had a busy few years. From an ever-extending Downtown Revitalization Initiative project on South Street, to changing employment and housing demands, Glens Falls is changing.
On Wednesday, Mayor Bill Collins held his first-ever State of the City address, in order to discuss what those changes look like. His talking points included taxes, development, and goals for 2023. Now a year into his term, the mayor is still getting new information about his city, and sees what that information means for the years ahead.
“For me, time flew by. At City Hall, I lived inside a whirlwind of meetings with business leaders and city residents, but mostly with our 16 department heads,” Collins said. “I must have asked a thousand questions, and received a thousand great answers, which led to more questions – all in an effort to understand how each city department works.”
What’s next for Glens Falls
Mayor Collins outlined several priorities for his next year with the city. First on the list is a plan to invest more money in Glens Falls’ parks – and not just City Park and Crandall Park. A total of more than $1.17 million is being earmarked for the undertaking, including $1 million in city American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds, along with $170K in Warren County ARPA funds. That money will go to sports court improvements at Montcalm and Sagamore Street playgrounds, as well as East Field and Murray Street.
Another project uses money that the city has had ready to employ for some time. Glens Falls is set to use a 2018 grant to build trails on Pruyn’s Island, with the ultimate goal of connecting downtown Glens Falls to Haviland Cove. Walking bridges will come to parts of the Feeder Canal, along Murray Street and Water Street.
Other highlights include investment in downtown events, city planning, and infrastructure. Collins pointed to work over the last two years to repave the Dix Avenue corridor, as well as improvements on the surrounding neighborhood streets. In 2023, the city has its sights set on Webster Avenue, which connects Bay Road and Glen Street from Glens Falls Cemetery to Crandall Park. A citywide assessment of sidewalks and roads is coming, in order to build a comprehensive database of where else work needs to be done.
Hand in hand with roads, transportation is also on the city’s collective mind. Collins announced that Greater Glens Falls Transit is in talks to merge with Capital District Transit Authority, in order to share resources and better manage routes. GGFT is currently city-operated, and connects Glens Falls with Queensbury, Lake George, Hudson Falls and Fort Edward.
The city is also in conversation with Bike Glens Falls to explore adding bike lanes to two stretches of downtown streets. The city is also studying parking, to create an inventory of where to direct visitors to park in the future. Last year, the city placed parking sensors on 150 downtown parking spots, in order to find out how often they’re being used.
“That’s a long list for next year,” said Collins. “I’m confident that we can do all of these things, because like all of you, I believe in the Glens Falls difference.”
The road to today’s Glens Falls
Collins also put a great deal of emphasis on the last decade of change that has led Glens Falls to where it is today. Not all of the details are pretty, but they’re all important.
Collins showed a slide charting a decade of property taxes in Glens Falls, based on a $150,000 home with no exemption – his own house of the last 20+ years. The chart shows a gradual incline from 2013 to 2022 – and a sudden drop when looking to the future. The city only has control over about a third of that cost – which makes the drop all the more notable.
Collins also highlighted the vacant lot populated by dreams on South Street. The lot in question is the planned future home of the Glens Falls Farmer’s Market, awaiting the construction of a new market and event center that has been delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic and lingering changes in supply costs.
As re-revealed last summer, the project will utilize some of South Street’s older, vacant buildings in order to create a complete space. A contract has been signed to renovate the incubator and former HotShots and Sandy’s Clam Bar buildings, which will supplement farmer’s markets and any other events that happen there – a schedule that Collins has high hopes for.
“To ensure that our event and market center gets fully used, we’ll partner with other organizations to coordinate current events in the city, and plan more. We need to drive tourism and sales tax dollars up. The best events are going to bring people together to celebrate music, sports, culture, arts, food and drink.”
Not everything in Collins’ first year has been pretty, especially when it comes to understanding the amount of manpower Glens Falls possesses. That headcount has gone down over the years. Collins pointed out that the city has dropped its yard debris pickup from year-round to seasonal; no longer operates a cemetery department; and has 45 full-time positions unfilled, as well as eight part-time positions. Some of those positions were eventually permanently closed.
Collins closed his presentation by invoking Glens Falls’ idyllic qualities, as observed by visitors at many points around the year. He compared it to Bedford Falls, from “It’s a Wonderful Life,” or Mayberry, from “The Andy Griffith Show.”
“You could see how the city could be mistaken for the village of George Bailey, or the TV town where Andy Taylor was sheriff. But Glens Falls is better than Bedford Falls or Mayberry, because Glens Falls is real.”