The following is the complete 2012 State of the Village address from Mineola Mayor Scott Strauss made on Sept. 18, 2012:
Good evening. I’d like to recognize my fellow board members, deputy mayor Paul Pereira, trustees Lawrence Werther and Paul Cusato. Unfortunately trustee George Durham is unable to make it tonight. Additionally I’d like to thank the various department heads and supervisors for being here tonight also. The last 18 months as your mayor have gone by tremendously fast and to that point I’m sure most of us can’t believe we’re already past the middle of September with the year 2013 rapidly approaching.
So what has happened this past year? The last year, as you know, Mineola had its bond rating raised by Moody’s Investors. This year, it was reaffirmed. I mentioned last year that this would allow us the opportunity to seek refinancing of our loans and we did exactly that. We have refinanced the loans of prior administrations at a total savings to our fellow taxpayers of over $1.3 million over the life of these loans. This comes at a time when the federal, state and the county governments continue to face significant financial issues. We have received some permit fees and have received some developmental bonus funds begin to come in from some of the projects which will help to revitalize our downtown areas and continue to move the master plan for the village forward.
We are on solid financial ground. Our unreserved fund balance is healthy but we need to be cautious in its use. We still face a significant increase in our healthcare costs as well as out pension fund requirement in the coming year and we have an unsettled employees union contract to deal with. We have fiscal challenges ahead of us but we will meet with them head on and deal with them responsibly. This administration will continue to make the tough yet sound financial decisions that are necessary to maintain the quality of life we have come not only to enjoy here in Mineola, but have come to expect from our local government.
The much-anticipated Winston and Churchill projects are moving forward and will be breaking ground in the coming months. The Churchill portion will provide our seniors with an affordable housing option, allowing some to downsize their homes while staying in the village they love. Winthrop-University Hospital has begun work on their new research center located at one of the gateways to our village. The research center will have a focus on the causes and consequences of diabetes, a debilitating disease affecting people of all ages. These projects are advancing rapidly and will help boost the success of local businesses in our downtown area.
The Raines project at the corner of Mineola Boulevard and Old Country Road has been completed. It is being occupied with new residents in luxury apartments and new businesses which will help enhance that area. We have worked with the developers of the property at 250 Old Country Road to ensure their ideas and goals coincide with our desire to keep the master plan for our village on track. All of these projects will provide a new base of customers for our local stores and restaurants and welcome new residents into our community.
I ask you to consider this: what does it say about the state of our village, at a time when other communities are struggling to revive their downtowns that organizations are investing hundreds of millions of dollars right here in Mineola?
All of these projects have development incentive bonus funds attached to them. THis means we will be receiving significant funds that will allow us to address the needs of our aging infrastructure while simultaneously continuing to improve our quality of life. New equipment can be purchased, parks enhanced and beautification projects taken on without placing additional burdens on already-stressed taxpayers. Hopefully we will continue to see projects such as these come to Mineola, come here to build, come here to open a business and come here to enjoy all we have to offer.
Also this past year we have seen dozens of new businesses open up in Mineola. Young men and women have invested their life savings in their dreams and have chosen our village to make them realities. It is now up to us to make them successful by shopping here locally.
We have . Bids for the flood mitigation project will be opened next week and will hopefully begin breaking ground in the next few months. This will bring much-needed relief to our neighbors in the Bruce Terrace area and the East Second Street commercial area. We have recently launched our . We now have the ability to send our residents and business owners email notifications for events at our library, our pool, our community center and in our parks. We can notify you of changes to sanitation schedules, snow and parking alerts as well as emergency issues. But I remind everyone, we have to do our part and register to receive these alerts and notifications, so please, visit our website.
We are continuing our quest to embrace technology and seek ways for it to help us make the functions of government more efficient. The installation of solar panels at the department of public works garage has been completed. We are not only saving money on our electric bill, we are not selling back electricity to LIPA. Our search to continue the reduction of our carbon footprint on the world is not over, it is in it’s infancy and will continue to grow and expand as we seek out additional areas for savings and efficiencies.
In the next few weeks the New York State Department of Transportation will begin a repaving project. All of Jericho Turnpike in Mineola will be resurfaced. Although it will be a momentary inconvenience, it will be worth it as we soon will have a new roadway. I would like to thank Sen. Martins for pushing that through for us.
As much as we look to our future, we also look to preserve our past. The gazebo which was once the focal point and center of attraction at Memorial Park will be replaced. We are actively pursuing designs and hopefully will be able to begin construction early next year on a new and more functional gazebo. We also have been working diligently on the snack stand at Wilson Park, to have that reopened. Unfortunately, we have been faced with unforeseen problems and challenges at what would have seemed to have been a simple project. However, that has not deterred us. We remain focused on this project as well.
Mineola is fortunate to have a staff dedicated to their jobs. They are behind the scenes helping us keep running smoothly and efficiently. I have literally asked them to do more with less, and they have. I have tasked them with helping me find ways to improve our operations and they are doing so. They are working tremendously hard to keep our village the envy of those around us. To that point, I would like to thank Joe Scalero, our village clerk, Thomas Rini, our superintendent of public works, Daniel Whalen, our superintendent of buildings, Giacomo Ciccone, our village treasurer, Valerie Passarella, our village court clerk and Charles Sleefe, our library director. Village justice John O’Shea and associate village justice Richard O’Callaghan remain on point for helping preserve our quality of life. Thank you ladies and gentlemen for your efforts.
Our village is blessed to have the massive support of volunteers all striving to make things better than they were. None of them are satisfied with the status quo. The men and women of our emergency services, the Mineola Volunteer Fire Department, the Mineola Volunteer Ambulance Corps. and the Mineola Auxiliary Police remain vigilant in their pursuit to keep us safe from harm. Thank you all for the tremendous personal sacrifices you make for us on a daily basis.
Mineola has many other volunteer organizations that are determined in making our community the best it can be. The men and women of our youth organizations such as the Mineola Athletic Association, the Police Athletic League, the incredibly robust scouting programs, such as Boy Scout Troop 45, Cub Scout Pack 246 and the several girl scout troops who just last week had an awards ceremony here in our community center for their bronze, silver and gold recipients. We have a vibrant senior citizens groups, active cultural groups and veterans organizations. Our Kiwanis, Lions and Rotary clubs continually give back to Mineola. And of course, our extremely active chamber of commerce plays a key role in almost everything we do. Thank you all.
There are countless others that I know I will get in trouble for for not mentioning, but to me that’s ok, for as mayor of Mineola, having so many active community-based organizations that I can’t remember them all, is a good problem to have. To every one of you who are giving back to our village by participating and supporting these organizations and the good will that they provide, all I can say is thank you. But please, don’t let the meaning of those two small words be lost in their simplicity.
For the largest village in the Town of North Hempstead, Mineola has the feel of a small-town community. Here in Mineola, we have street fairs, family fun nights at our pool, movie nights in the park, Memorial Day and St. Patrick’s Day parades, parades for the homecoming of our high school football team and opening day for our little league, barbecues and picnics with the Kiwanis Club and the Knights of Columbus, we have pancake breakfasts and pasta dinners, concerts in the park, fireworks displays, Halloween parties, Christmas Tree lightings celebrations and visits from Santa Claus. Those are just some of the many things that go on here in our hometown. Those are the things that make us who we are. Those are the things that keep us together as a community and they are accomplished by you, our residents, our business owners, our friends, family and neighbors, who, like I and my fellow board members desire to preserve the life we have made here in Mineola and whenever possible continue to make it even better than when we found it.
We have raised the bar for other communities to reach, we have made Mineola the place to seek out and live in and do business in. Let’s keep that going by working together, let’s continue to make Mineola the best it possibly can be. Mineola’s future is here and it is in our hands. Thank you, God Bless all of you, God Bless Mineola and God Bless the United States of America.