North Country leaders share state of county, city, town

Published: Feb. 3, 2021 at 4:57 PM EST|Updated: Feb. 3, 2021 at 6:30 PM EST
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PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. (WCAX) - What do the leaders in Clinton County, New York, have planned to pull their communities through the pandemic and strengthen the economy in 2021? Our Kelly O’Brien has some answers from the annual State of the County, City and Town.

County Legislative Chair Mark Henry recalled his speech from last January, saying 2020 could be a banner year for the county. Little did anyone know a pandemic would come and change life as we knew it. Now, the talks surround economic development, partnerships and rebirth in the region

“When the pandemic hit in March, it brought true tragedy to our area,” Henry said.

Back in March, the county made a swift switch in gears to meet the pandemic head-on. Budget cuts saved the county millions when it expected a 20% loss in sales revenues and it altered the 2021 budget to fit the losses that came with it.

“The Legislature recently adopted a 2021 budget of $165 million. A decrease of nearly $9 million with an associated tax rate of $5.55,” Henry said.

He says even with the cuts, the county isn’t in the clear. It gets its funding through sales tax, property tax and state and federal dollars. With the economic blow the state took from the pandemic, the county is still unsure of the cut it will get and could face problems well into 2022.

“We impact everyone’s life throughout the delivery of critical service to our residents. Most of these services are dependent upon federal and state revenues,” Henry said.

He said the county is worried about the airport. He said the low number of flyers from the Plattsburgh International Airport could pose a problem.

Fewer flyers means less money coming in through passenger facility charges and parking fees. That money goes right back into paying off a $55 million expansion at the terminal in 2017.

Henry says the Canadian border closure is partly to blame for the low passenger numbers.

He also the county received $1.4 million in CARES Act money which will help with losses at the airport.

Henry also talked about a different airport that is now closed. The lawmaker wants to change the name of an industrial park that used to be the Clinton County Airport.

“We cannot continue to call this important area the former Clinton County Airport. Very soon I intend to work with the county Legislature to develop a process where we will come up with a brand this industrial park to our region.” Henry said.

The space has really grown over the last few years, bringing in more international business as a part of the transportation aerospace cluster in the county. They hope rebranding will lead to even more opportunities.

He says the key to regionwide success is keeping the pandemic in focus, getting vaccine out and opening the border.

“Acknowledge that we are a tourist-driven economy,” said Mayor Chris Rosenquest, D-Plattsburgh.

The city is hurting from the closed border, but looking ahead to what it hopes is a brighter future.

“It really is what are the resources that we have and how do we responsibly use those resources to develop our community and to develop our economy,” Rosenquest said.

Plans are in motion to better the roadways and different infrastructures the community relies on, as well as bringing business to the waterfront at Harbor Side, on the Saranac River and plans for best utilization of the beach.

“Managing those resources in a responsible way, that’s in an investment for our future,” Rosenquest said.

Plattsburgh Town Supervisor Michael Cashman said despite the pandemic, 2020 was a good year.

“The town continues to be globally relevant and regionally exceptional,” Cashman said.

Altering plans to fix its smart growth, recreation and economic plans changed by the pandemic, it started work on or wrapped up multiple projects and welcomed new businesses to the region.

“Over 491 building permits for commercial and residential and this year over $25 million in value in the local economy,” Cashman said.

Some of the big topics included infrastructure, the need for better broadband and more affordable housing in the region. The leaders say working in tandem is a key to success.

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