Bethlehem Town Hall. Spotlight file photo
BETHLEHEM — Town Supervisor David VanLuven will give the State of the Town Address on Wednesday, Jan. 22 at 5:15 p.m., and he knows numerous topics he plans to highlight.
The supervisor, who won his second two-year term last November, had previously served as a Town Board member since 2016. The public can attend his State of the Town Address at Town Hall on 445 Delaware Ave. in Delmar. They could also watch online via the town’s meeting management web portal at bethlehemtownny.iqm2.com/Citizens/Default.aspx.
The State of the Town Address, VanLuven said, will probably last around 20 minutes. The town board meeting will begin afterwards at 6 p.m. as scheduled.
Regarding projects and issues the town will face in 2020, VanLuven brought up several examples relating to themes like park improvements and expansion, economic development, sustainability and town services.
These include construction of the Glenmont roundabout project, replacing the Elm Avenue Park dive pool with a new one or a double-slide pool, continued upgrades at the Clapper Road Water Treatment Plant, the Port of Albany’s possible expansion, and the potential regional Community Choice Aggregation program.
He also said a new natural preserve will be created at the end of Wright Lane in Delmar and all lighting at Town Hall will switch to LEDs.
“We are also always trying to help bring new businesses into town and help businesses here grow,” he added, bringing up the town’s Microenterprise Grant program as an example.
This program receives funding from the state Office of Homes and Community Renewal and has provided grants to more than 20 local small businesses since 2014, the most recent being InFerno NY, a Delmar-based gym beside Delaware Plaza.
While the year has just begun, VanLuven said one step the town has already taken is choosing to work with the Albany-based Baker Public Relations firm and the Bethlehem Chamber of Commerce to craft a strategic communications plan for upcoming roadway construction projects.
Although it will focus on the Glenmont roundabout project which commences construction this spring, it will serve as a template the town can use for future roadway projects like the Delaware Avenue Complete Streets and Road Diet Project.
“These projects will make conditions better in town in the long term but can create long-term problems if people can’t get to the businesses,” VanLuven said. “Residents still need to patronize them and this communication plan will better inform businesses and residents, and prepare us for future projects.”
Tying this with infrastructure, VanLuven said that the town manages 180 miles of roads, 59 miles of sidewalks, 229 miles of water and sewer pipes, 1,670 fire hydrants and more.
VanLuven credited town staff for handling and providing important services to residents.
“Our town employees are hardworking, patient and committed to serving people and businesses in Bethlehem,” he said. “They keep delivering and I see again and again like how the Highway Department plows roads at night, the town clerk answering people’s questions, Senior Services staff helping hungry families get food and more. They’re exceptional.”
He continued, “When I first started as town supervisor, often when we think of infrastructure in town, we think of roads, pipes and sidewalks. But we forget we have those because of town staff. The community needs to recognize that town employees are critical to our infrastructure too.”
Looking back on 2019, VanLuven said the town accomplished numerous things.
These include continuing the comprehensive plan update process with public forums across seven hamlets; the creation of the Farms and Forests Fund to work with interested landowners; delivering more than 1.5 billion gallons of clean water to residents and businesses; Senior Services staff driving almost 95,000 miles overall to transport seniors across town; and the town clerk issuing 88 marriage licenses and processing Freedom of Information Law requests to ensure government transparency.
“All this was done with just 11 cents from every taxpayer dollar,” VanLuven said. “We had a great year in 2019.”
Looking ahead, he said he continues to appreciate his fellow Town Board members — the roster remained unchanged through last year’s political season.
He said, “We have a strong board and we work well together. Everyone brings different things to the table to represent residents’ and businesses’ interests as well as navigate through financial and political challenges and decisions.”