Fredonia mayor gives annual address

Services and security are the purpose of government, village of Fredonia Mayor Stephen Keefe said in the opening of his state of the village address on Thursday at the White Inn.

While most municipalities do not hold similar annual updates, the address, hosted this year by the Fredonia Rotary Club, is an annual tradition in the village of Fredonia.

Keefe said the village is on track with its budget for the year, which he said totals about $9.58 million, which includes the general fund, and water and sewer budgets. He said the administration has been “very diligent” with staying within budget.

Of the total budget, 40 percent goes toward salaries and 22 percent to benefits, so a total of 62 percent of the budget covers personnel, according to Keefe.

He said the number of full time personnel totals 63 and 18 are employed part time.

Employees include six full-time personnel in the village office, three full-time and two part-time workers in the justice department, three full-time employees in the building inspector’s office, 18 full-time employees and six part-time officers make up the police department, six are employed full-time in the fire department, and 16 full-time employees fill the streets department plus six seasonal personnel.

“The personnel that we have is not an excessive number for personnel for the services you’re receiving,” Keefe told the audience.

He said other annual costs include $5,000 per trustee and $12,000 for the mayor’s salary. “Those have been stable since 1998,” when those salaries were last raised, he explained. There are five trustees which cost the village $25,000 per year.

Taxes have remained stable and are comparable with tax rates in the 1970s, according to Keefe.

Keefe was asked by an audience member if he supported revaluation of homes in the area to eliminate the 20 percent equalization rate. Keefe explained revaluation of property rates is legally the task of the town of Pomfret, but said it’s an expensive process. “It’s about a $1 million issue. The state is encouraging it. … I think 100 percent is the way to go, but it’s not my decision,” Keefe said.

Looking forward, Keefe said the development of a fund for infrastructure improvements is something he would like to see implemented. “We have a lot of old pipes and roads that need to be resurfaced or milled down,” he explained. “We’ve taken care of some of those projects on Holmes and Lowell Place, but a lot more needs to be done.” He said replacement of water and sewer pipes could be done while roads are being fixed.

One audience member asked Keefe if any help from the state was available for economic or other development. Keefe said Senator Catharine Young has been helpful addressing issues locally. “She’s willing to help anyone. … She’s always right there,” he said, and noted, she was present at a meeting he and city of Dunkirk Mayor A.J. Dolce had with Ralcorp. “I was told you usually have to do battle to get that many representatives at the table (with businesses),” he said.

However, financial incentives and assistance from the state, he said were not readily available and change must come locally. “I don’t think we can look to Albany for help,” he said.

Keefe said bringing jobs to the area is important to retain residents or bring new people in. “A kid can be totally happy here until about age 25,” he said. “For jobs, it’s the 25-45 age group in the generation we need to pinpoint. … I’ve asked young people what it will take for them to return. That’s something we need to identify. You need to have jobs but you also have to have the night life and social activities – a culture that meets the needs of a certain generation.”

He said job development would need to come from community members like those present from the Fredonia Rotary Club, the Chamber of Commerce and mentoring by people in the area who have been successful. “I went through the (village) staffing and how many do we have working on economic development? None. The answer has to come from outside (the government),” he explained.

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