Town of Ulster Supervisor James E. Quigley III isn’t entirely ready to close the book on 2021.
“Quite frankly, I wish 2021 wouldn’t end,” Quigley said. “Because that means I wouldn’t have to face, ‘What am I gonna do in 2022?’”
Quigley said that as in 2021, the COVID-19 pandemic will be a major concern in Ulster in 2022.
“The biggest issue facing the town in its operations is related to the continued COVID 19 issues,” Quigley said. “The way the rules come down, the way the rules get changed so frequently, it makes it difficult to establish an operating strategy. I think we’re going to continue to bounce around, and that’s going to be a continued challenge.”
Quigley said that the recent spike in cases locally could result in a return to the early days of the pandemic as it relates to town operations.
“I’m not a scientist,” Quigley said. “I don’t know how difficult the situation may become in relation to the medical community and what we’re going to be facing, but it is in the back of my mind that we could face another lockdown. And that from an operating point of view is very difficult to handle, because we’ve got to continue delivering services on a day to day basis. And the rules keep changing and everything else keeps changing with it.”
The supervisor said that issues relating to the sprawling TechCity property were also a large part of town business in 2021, and are likely to continue to be in 2022. TechCity was sold to Connecticut-based real estate developers National Resources, which promised to clean up the site and begin the process of preparing it for new tenants. Quigley said he is hopeful, but not yet ready to celebrate.
“There is a degree of uncertainty right now on the way things have been laid out with milestones that still need to be achieved before the end of the year,” Quigley said. “We’re sitting on the edge of our seats waiting for those transaction details to come to fruition, so to speak. That in itself will make 2022, a very interesting and challenging year for the town. There were a lot of optimistic statements made during the courting period, which given my breadth and depth of experience in real estate market, I believe could come to fruition.”
The supervisor is hopeful National Resources will be successful enough to bring new business to TechCity, as a space to operate is what’s been missing in recent years.
“I have seen indications over the last two or three years through the various inquiries that have come into our office for real estate to be used in the commercial and industrial applications,” Quigley said. “And invariably we had to look at people making the inquiries and say, ‘I’m sorry, we don’t have any buildings like that.’”
ARPA funding for the long term projects
Quigley said that the application of federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding has also been a challenge, as over $35,000 of their $1.29 million will be used for employee bonuses.
“We’ve tried to stay on the straight and narrow and focus on infrastructure improvements, improvements to our water and sewer and storm water systems that would give us enough of a financial ability to start planning certain projects and trying to get ahead to develop the appropriate level of grant applications in advance of them being called for,” Quigley said, adding that other local municipalities with different infrastructure needs using their funding for employee pandemic bonuses made it difficult for Ulster not to.
“We’re in a very competitive situation there because you know, a lot of the other communities around us are more rural in nature and therefore they don’t have the same opportunities to expand than money for an infrastructure use,” he said. “So they took different routes in how to deploy the money. And of course, somebody gets a COVID premium bonus in Woodstock, and it’s not very long before the Town of Ulster employees find out about it. And next thing you know, they’re asking for it because Woodstock got it, and you know, everybody else got it. And the, and I talked to the supervisors and I said, ‘You’re not doing anybody any favors by doing this,’ but they don’t have a lot of other opportunities to spend the money.”
ARPA spending in the new year will also be a challenge, according to Quigley.
“We want to make sure we make it in investments that have payoff over time, as opposed to satisfying an immediate need,” he said.
Keeping the wheels on
Elsewhere, the supervisor said he had optimism heading into 2022 but stopped short of making any proclamations.
“I want to stick to the business of delivering services to the community,” Quigley said. “I don’t want to go around making bold promises and glorious statements that don’t deliver anything except feel-good feelings. I know there’s a lot of politicians out there that want to do that, because they’ve got their eyes on a lot of other things, and that’s not me.”
He also said he hopes to conduct town business as he did in 2021.
“There’s nothing I can say that I’m most proud of other than we got through 2021 without running a deficit and we kept the wheels on,” Quigley said. “And that’s going to be the continued focus going forward, keeping the wheels on, keeping our nose to the grindstone, delivering the services to the town, and making the people happy with the fact that they’ve got a government that is responsive to their day-to-day needs.”
Quigley added that what he’s most looking forward to in 2022 is the possibility of business — and life — as usual, though he’s unsure if he’ll get his wish.
“I have a dream of normalcy, but I’m not certain I’m gonna get it,” he said. “Normalcy to me would be a non-COVID-19 environment where we could actually with some confidence develop plans that we know we’re going to be able to implement and achieve without facing the day-to-day disruptions by a changing body of regulations and operating constraints.”