Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell’s focused on the town’s accomplishments in the past year — including maintaining its bond rating and the continued preservation of open space — rather than making promises during his unscripted State of the Town address Thursday.
The supervisor told the crowd of two dozen that he wished he could tell them that things were going great for the town, but the continued economic downturn clouded the town’s future.
He cited a drop in mortgage taxes and other revenue as a major challenge for town government this past year.
“The town has hunkered down, and been able to maintain a stellar bond rating,” he said, adding that very few towns have been able to maintain their bond ratings in this economy.
Mr. Russell received a round of applause when he announced that the town had a $5.8 million surplus at the end of 2010. Two million dollars of that amount was used toward the 2011 budget, leaving $3.8 million in reserve.
“That’s the kind of fiscal management that Wall Street likes to see,” he said.
Switching to land preservation, he said that the town saved 123 acres in the past year.
“Bad economies present certain opportunities,” he said. “Now is the time to not be skittish with preservation.”
Mr. Russell said that the town also plans to have the Peconic Community Center at the old Peconic School open by late spring. The town’s Human Resources Department hopes to provide meals to seniors there.
In addition, he praised Town Clerk Betty Neville for her commitment to open government and making the town’s services more user-friendly. He also lauded Human Resources Director Karen McLaughlin for her department’s work in providing more than 27,000 meals to homebound seniors in the past year, and Highway Superintendent Pete Harris for his tight management of the town’s snow removal budget
During the public comment portion of the evening, Cutchogue residents Benja Schwartz volunteered his services on the town’s website. And resident Fred Andrews asked what people can do to volunteer.
Mr. Russell said that the town is looking for committee members in upcoming months and he would welcome resumes from the public.
See the outline of Mr. Russell’s speech below.