To all the citizens of the City of Watertown and to all the employees and volunteers who help keep government going, all the best for 2011.
The nation's number one topic as it is locally is the economy, which has been spotty and in transition in much of America. Meanwhile, we are proving to be more prosperous than most of the country.
It is true our local economy is becoming more and more service oriented and in that arena we continue to do well.
Stream has proven to perform beyond the conventional wisdom when it opened nearly a decade ago. New hotels, restaurants and stores are attracting and keeping retail dollars and jobs in the Watertown area.
Traditional industries like NY Air Brake and Knowlton Specialty Papers have stabilized and continue to prosper. CarFreshner is a cornerstone of the economy and small firms like Roth Industries quietly are picking up the slack left by industrial decline in the Northeast. This year's closures of Covidian and Northland Electric were clear setbacks, but were countered by growth in other areas.
The hospitality industry did well in 2010 and our parity with the Canadian dollar continues to bring money into Jefferson County.
Government and health care jobs continue to dominate the economy and the activity related to Fort Drum keeps us out of the economic dog house.
The pending Day of Reckoning for state and local government likely means government will not grow further, and the extent to which Governor Cuomo proposes real change will determine where we head.
Jefferson Community College celebrates its 50th this year and it continues to be an engine for the economy by training work forces at home.
Downtown Watertown looks forward to the opening of the Franklin Building and the completion of the final phase of public works improvements with the JB Wise project. A proposed hotel in the Woolworth Building and new owners for the Masonic Temple will keep those buildings in transition although financing is likely an issue in both cases.
New owners of the Best Western are modernizing that hotel. A couple of new housing projects should get started in the City in 2011, including the former Borden (Ogilvie) site and a postponed complex called Creekwood on the City's northern edge.
We hope to be working with the Zoo on a new role for the Aviary built throught the efforts of Mayor Burns, and City Council hopes to meet soon with the Flower Library Board to see what is needed to enhance that treasure.
On the third floor at City Hall we will welcome a new assistant to the City Manager and a new planner, both filling slots funded in last year's budget. The City will take over dog licensing under the capable guidance of the City Clerk, and we will take a look at smaller but important issues like a noise ordinance, improving downtown parking enforcement and equalizing in city water rates to benefit homeowners in the long term.
And of course, we still keep filling the potholes, putting out the fires and nabbing the scofflaws. Our new concession stand at the Fairgrounds Arena is a work in progress that I think could benefit the City finances and also improve the consistency and quality of service to patrons.
The City will complete its upgrades to west end sewer service which should aid commercial development both in and outside the City, including the much awaited Olive Garden (but I will still go to Petes).
We will have to make some decisions as the fiscal realities close in...particularly in the area of the state pension fund....
Fiscal caution in the last few years and a reduction in positions has left us better than most and an uptick in our largest source of revenue (sales tax) has softened the blow of the '08 Recession.
In a perfect World, true structural changes in local government would happen, but it will only occur with pressure from Albany. In the meantime, we continue to play by the current rules and do the best job possible.
I have enjoyed the opportunity to work with the Council, the manager, the staff and the community on these and many other initiatives. With your continued support and confidence, I look forward to continuing.
May God bless you all on this dawn of a new year...