January 18, 2023
The State of the City address was provided last evening at the Common Council meeting. The annual address was well-attended with council members, several City department heads, many of our area representatives including former Congressman Joseph Sempolinski, Steuben County Legislator Paul Van Caeseele, and IDA Executive Director Michael Nesbit, as well as several members of the public.
Mayor Buckley told the audience the state of the city continues to be “strong” and provided updates regarding many projects occurring in the City.
“Just yesterday, Hornell was named the most affordable place to live in the entire State. The City recently earned an “A” grade and another glowing report from our auditors while adding to an already healthy fund balance,” stated Buckley, who noted a strong collaboration with the City Chamberlain Michele Smith and members of the Common Council.
Buckley expressed his administration continues to prioritize and invest in infrastructure, referencing the new project at the Water Pollution Control Plant which the City recently received a 1.25 million grant to help offset a portion of the total cost.
Further investment in the public works arena include, $850,000 in ARPA funds to replace aging and failing heavy equipment, as well as pursuit of a new facility for the DPW and Hornell Area Transit. Buckley lauded the completion of DPW projects in 2022 including, the 11th house built in collaboration with BOCES on Preston Ave, paving of 12 City streets, as well as the beautification of the downtown area and the parks.
Touching on updates from Public Safety, Buckley commended the city codes office for their work in managing zombie and vacant properties, helping residents solve problems and connect with necessary resources, and embarking on an update of the City Codes to meet today’s needs and standards. Turning attention towards the police department, Buckley remarked, “We are fortunate and blessed to have such a dedicated, caring and community minded police department. However, law enforcement continues to face increased challenges including dealing with mental health issues and disastrous Bail Reform policies which in many cases excuses and ignores criminal behavior while endangering individual and public safety. While State lawmakers have recently pulled back on some of the reforms, more must be done.”
The Hornell Fire Department continues serving the needs of not only City residents, but increasingly, residents of our neighboring municipalities. “In fact, the Hornell Fire Department set another record for EMS call volume responding to an astounding 4248 EMS calls this past year,” commending the department for their extraordinary service. “With the growing strain of providing EMS outside of the City, my administration is working to correct longstanding and inherited inequities. With the help and will of this Common Council, no longer will City taxpayers shoulder the financial burden of providing free Emergency Medical Services to neighboring municipalities. Beginning this year, those services will require contracts so that those municipalities have real skin in the game and the good will of City taxpayers is not taken advantage of.”
With work commencing on the 10 million-dollar DRI award in 2019, Buckley states, “As I said before, winning the DRI is a game changer for the City of Hornell. Projects that were once mere dreams will now become reality. That reality will begin taking shape later this year as we break ground on the highly anticipated Union Square Park. This four-season, downtown, pedestrian park will feature an amphitheater, lighted walkways, benches and a fountain. The park will also be home to a memorial honoring the life and service of Police Sergeant Daniel Swift who lost his life in the line of duty nearly 50 years ago.” Further municipal DRI projects include streetscape and alleyway enhancements, wayfinding, public art, and improvements to the Community Arts building, all of which will commence over the next two years.
Receiving CDBG grants for nearly 1 million dollars for housing rehabilitation, the mayor states “we are helping address essential needs of qualified home owners such as heating, windows, and roofing.” Another grant awarded was, “$376,000 grant to make improvements to Veteran’s Memorial Park at James Street which will include replacement of the tennis and basketball courts, a splash pad to replace the baby pool, and improvements to the pool house.”
The mayor did mention struggles with lack of media coverage at City meetings and outlined steps to engage and inform residents, which include press releases, providing summaries of meetings on the City’s Facebook page, and a new initiative: the development of a City of Hornell newsletter which will be mailed directly to residents.
Buckley concluded his address with a message to the Council regarding the divisive politics of the nation, “stay above the political fray and continue setting a positive example to the people which we serve. Let Hornell continue to be a beacon of light, an example of positivity and teamwork, working for the betterment of each and every individual living in this great City.”
Council members provided positive reactions to the address. This was the first state of the city for 6th Ward Alderwoman, Lita Brown, who states, “as a new alderwoman, it was impressive hearing the list of accomplishments from the last year. It shows just how hard the mayor, his administration, and everyone at the city works. It makes me proud to serve. I’m excited for the endless potential for City, and that I can be a part of Hornell’s future.”
3rd Ward Alderman, Joseph McKay had a similar reaction, “The state of the city address last night was fantastic. While there were many highlights, the aggressive efforts in pursuit of funding and grants are starting to show the fruits of their labor and are really going to help the City in the future.”
Daniel Warriner, 5th Ward Alderman, concludes with his thoughts, “I always look forward to hearing the state of the city to get a feel for the status of the many projects occurring. I was impressed by so many projects going on concurrently, and hearing how they all fit together in improving Hornell. Listening to the state of the city gives an appreciation for all the hard work that occurs on a day-to-day basis.”