COEYMANS — Albany County Executive Daniel McCoy has been making the rounds throughout the county speaking on the issues to local residents. Last Thursday, it was Coeymans’ turn.
McCoy attended the Thursday, May 10, meeting of the Coeymans Town Council where he spoke about issues ranging from the county budget to shared services to kids’ programming to the opioid epidemic.
County officials have been looking at ways they can partner with other entities to share services to save on costs, a movement that is taking place statewide.
“We discovered all the things we have been doing together, but never thought about, such as sharing plows or salt,” McCoy said. “There is about $19 million in savings we can realize if we go down that route… from solar energy to DPW shared services. There are many things on the table, and we just have to decide which direction we want to go.”
On sales tax, McCoy said Albany County takes in roughly $250 million, and it is divided among the 19 municipalities in the county.
But despite those figures, McCoy said costs still go up.
“Cable television prices go up. Insurance goes up. Prices on everything go up. They don’t go down,” he said.
The county budget, McCoy noted, is roughly $670 million, which covers many kinds of services, from the Department of Youth to probation to social services.
“I take great pride in the fact that over the last five years, we have not raised taxes. When I took over as county executive in 2012, we had about $20 million in our reserves, and we were borrowing $15 million a year to make payroll,” McCoy said. “At that point we had 17 unions, and 15 hadn’t had a contract since 2008, and nonunion workers hadn’t had a raise since 2008.”
Since that time, McCoy said the county has been able to resolve many of those issues — most union contracts were settled, the county stopped borrowing money to make payroll, and at the same time did not raise taxes.
“We did it by looking at government from top to bottom and how we spend our money. By doing that, we saved money over time. Now we have over $60 million in reserves – the highest Albany County has ever had,” according to McCoy.
He also spoke about the Times Union Center, where the county has invested some $20 million in recent years.
“The Times Union Center was basically paid off about two years ago, but it had its wear and tear,” McCoy said “With the Capital Center being built there we knew we had to invest in it and we put $20 million into the Atrium… We have really seen an uptick in our attendance there. People go to the circus, they go to concerts, and we recently hosted the women’s NCAA tournament, and Albany County was the biggest sell-out they had.”
The men’s NCAA will visit the facility in 2020.
Lawson Lake, in Coeymans Hollow, also had a major infusion of investment dollars for improvements recently.
In May 2013 the county took over the lake and grounds, turning the former caretaker’s house into a visitor’s center, building marked trails, and now offering sports ranging from cross-country skiing to snowshoeing, fishing and more.
Next, a local Eagle Scout is looking into building a handicap-accessible ramp to the lake so people in wheelchairs can go fishing at the lakeside.
Lawson Lake also has a new pavilion, including parking space. The lake hosts summer children’s programs with reading, arts and crafts, fishing instruction and more.
“We will also be announcing a race that will take place down there that used to be held somewhere else, and all this is happening right here, in your town,” McCoy told the audience.
He also spoke about the nationwide opioid crisis.
In January of this year, McCoy and the county sued the pharmaceutical manufacturers at the federal level.
“You have to make change,” he said. “In 2015 or 2016 in the U.S., they put out 640,000 drugs on the street, and that was enough to keep the population of America medicated for three weeks straight,” McCoy said. “One in four people who gets injured and goes to the doctor gets hooked on prescription drugs, and 80 percent of heroin users come from opiates, and that’s the problem — they graduate.”
McCoy has been working with Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple for a program targeting heroin addiction. McCoy also urged everyone who has old prescription drugs in their homes to properly dispose of them by bringing them to participating pharmacies and other facilities that participate in a drug take-back program.
“They will take a drug dealer on a street corner and prosecute them harder than someone in a three-piece suit,” McCoy noted. “There is no difference between a pharmaceutical rep and a drug dealer on a street corner. Statistics have shown that they knew these were killing people, and they didn’t care. In 2015, they made upwards of $14 billion in profit.”
The issues related to opioid addiction will be long-term and far-reaching, according to McCoy.
“This is not something that is going to go away in 10 or 15 years,” he said.
On a more positive note, McCoy pointed to the Youth Bureau that was created a couple of years ago, the first one the county has ever had.
“I looked at the hill towns and in the suburbs of this county, they never had opportunities for kids and couldn’t afford it,” he said. “We started a youth bureau and we have two people stationed in Coeymans and two in Voorheesville, and they do karate, basketball, lacrosse, chess, fishing, you name it, we do it. It’s the first of its kind in New York state.”
The Youth Bureau also does other programming such as gang prevention to benefit local kids.