Press-Republican

Columns

February 9, 2014

Major changes needed for future of city

Three important questions are often posed. Will the City and Town of Plattsburgh merge? Will the sewage treatment plant be moved? Will the train tracks be routed out of downtown Plattsburgh? The answers are “yes.” The real question is “when?” 

The City of Plattsburgh has a population just shy of 20,000 people, while the town has a population of about 12,000. The city is three miles long, a mile and a half wide and entirely surrounded by the town. Long ago, in an era in which households and businesses were moving to the suburbs, the malls in the town began to attract those residents who once spent Friday nights and weekends downtown at Merkel’s Department Store, at Woolworths and at an abundance of other downtown stores.

With the great mall migration, the city lost some of its shine.

It did not lose its history, nor its beauty, though. The city is a resource and a legacy for us all, and is experiencing an urban renewal we can all enjoy.

The city’s liability is the number of promises it must keep, even as its economic base has lost some of its polish. It has long-term financial obligations to pensions and to debt but without the economic support it once enjoyed.

On the other hand, the town has growing financial resources and fewer long-term obligations. Yet, the town needs the historical and cultural vitality of the city, just as the city needs the economic vitality of the town.

There will come a time when New York state realizes it cannot support almost 3,500 separate governmental entities. When it shrinks to half that number, we will someday see one Plattsburgh. Before we can enjoy those efficiencies, we must figure out a way to insulate the town from burdens the city took on.

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