Bethlehem Supervisor David VanLuven, here during the town political forum last October, gave his first State of the Town address on Monday.
BETHLEHEM — Supervisor David VanLuven gave his first State of the Town address on Monday, Jan. 22, which focused on three distinct themes—town services; fiscal responsibility and government accountability; and town growth.
“As we think about our town, it’s important to remember that the Town of Bethlehem doesn’t deliver services, people deliver services,” he told Spotlight News the day before. “People are up at 3 a.m. plowing our roads. People are in the bottom of deep holes repairing water main breaks in freezing weather. People are helping older residents live in their homes longer. People are patrolling our streets.”
He detailed other examples of services provided by the town, including:
During snowstorms, more than 25 percent of the town workforce is out plowing roads and sidewalks;
Volunteers with the town’s senior services department donated more than 14,000 hours last year, the equivalent of 8-9 full-time employees.They also made more than 10,000 round-trip journeys for medical appointments, grocery shopping, adult day programs, and more;
The town court processed more than 8,600 cases last year;
The water treatment plant processes two million gallons of sewage a day, and, according to VanLuven, the outflow is cleaner than the river it’s flowing into;
Bethlehem delivers, on average, four million gallons of clean drinking water to residents and businesses every day.
“Transparency, accountability, and accessibility are core tenets of everything we do, said VanLuven, citing the town’s A++ credit rating, which is the highest in Albany County. He noted that the town clerk’s office consistently processes information requests promptly and that there is “extensive” information about town government available online, as well as contact information for residents to call with any questions.
“We’re managing the town budget to balance the demand for services with the lowest possible tax levy, “ he said. “And we’re working to further improve communications. For example, the Town Board and I are looking to have community conversations at different locations across town to engage more residents and hear their thoughts on needs, challenges, and opportunities.”
Looking at growth and the future of Bethlehem, Van Luven said, “We will continue to aggressively promote economic development, because thriving commercial areas are key to our town’s well-being.
“We will look for creative ways to guide residential growth and manage our growing traffic burden. Our town is growing and will continue to grow, because landowners have the right to develop their lands, and at this moment there are more than 1,200 new housing units proposed for construction. But we need to ensure that this growth will maintain or add to the character of our neighborhoods, foster walkable communities, and avoid soulless sprawl.”
To that end, he said the town will be reviewing the comprehensive plan, assessing town codes “to ensure we have the tools to protect our neighborhoods and manage traffic,” and launching a program to promote local farms and utilizing the recently approved open spaces plan.