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By Douglas Sciorra

Mayor Buckley on jobs, Alstom, housing and Covid in Hornell State of the City address

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(Editor’s Note: This is the full address given by Mayor John Buckley to Hornell City Council. Mayor Buckley shared the document with the Hornell Sun for the residents to see the goals and vision for 2022)

Coming out of the 2020 pandemic and forced economic shutdowns, we looked to 2021 with the optimism of a return to normal.  While the warm months may have teased us with a sense of normal, as the cold months set in, we were quickly reminded that the pandemic is far from over. 

COVID cases haven’t been the only thing increasing.  Inflation has risen rapidly in the last year and is currently gripping the nation, affecting costs across the board with no end in sight.

Despite the ongoing pandemic and soaring inflation, the state of the city remains strong.  Closing out our last fiscal year, my administration held the line on spending, and working closely with the City Chamberlain and Department Heads, was able to come in well under budget while delivering the high level of City services that our residents expect and rely on. 

Coming in under budget and with higher-than-expected revenues, we added over a million dollars to the city’s fund balance last fiscal year.  This earned us an A plus credit rating from Moody’s and a glowing annual report from our auditors. 

Economic development in Hornell continues to flourish, with millions of dollars being invested here in the Maple City.  In the Wegmans/Walmart Plaza, work has recently begun on the new business class Hampton Inn hotel.  This hotel will feature 78 units, adding to the city’s lodging capacity and is expected to create between 25-30 jobs.

Alstom continues to grow and add jobs, currently employing roughly 800 people, with more expected in the near future. They were recently awarded a $1.8 billion dollar Metra contract to replace the aging Chicago metropolitan area fleet, a contract that calls for a base order of 200 cars to be built in Hornell with the option of 300 more.  Alstom expects to hire an additional 250 employees which means more, good paying jobs for years to come.  In preparation for the Metra contract, sitework and the construction of a new 150,000 square foot factory for new Car Shell manufacturing has begun. With the help of the City and IDA, an EDA Grant for $3.4 million dollars was recently awarded to assist Alstom in the construction of this facility. 

In June, Park Grove Reality completed the Rockland Silk Mill project transforming the old Marion-Rohr building into 23 loft style apartments, with most units already filled. This project, along with the Basset and Riedman developments, have helped address the lack of high-end market rate living units here in Hornell.  The Marion-Rohr project alone reflects a $6 million dollar investment in the city.  Park Grove Reality also recently purchased the former Bryant School with plans to repurpose the building into 39 work force apartment units.

Throughout the pandemic, my administration has continued to work alongside the Steuben County Department of Public Health.  In a recent effort to alleviate pressure on St. James Hospital, the Hornell Fire Department has been offering weekly, free rapid COVID testing at the Community Arts Center.  Test kits are provided by the County with testing completed by Hornell Fire Department personnel.  Led by Chief Frank Brzozowski, the Fire Department continues to meet the ever-growing needs of our community, responding to a record number of ambulance calls over the past year.  Chief Brzozowski also instituted an innovative in-house fire training academy for the many new members of the department who will be serving our community for years to come.

We are very fortunate and blessed to have such a caring and community minded police department.  That said, Law Enforcement faces increasing challenges, dealing with a myriad of issues from drug and mental health calls to disastrous bail reform laws which continue to weaken public safety.  Today, I call on the Governor and the Legislature to take a common-sense approach to bail reform and take the handcuffs off law enforcement. 

The Codes Department continues to be very active and successful in helping to get Zombie and Vacant properties in the hands of individuals who are rehabbing these properties and returning them to the tax rolls.  The Codes Office is busier than ever responding to the growing needs of the community.  From inspections to blight, reviewing building plans and permits, the often-underappreciated Codes Department continues to deliver, making our community safer along the way. 

Infrastructure was in high gear this past year with the paving of a staggering 17 city streets and the long-awaited Canisteo Street Bridge replacement was finally completed in November.  2022 will see continuing investments and upgrades to both the Water and Sewer Plants.

The highly successful BOCES program continues to breathe new life into our neighborhoods.  The 11th BOCES house is currently under construction.  This ranch style house, designed by Assistant Public Works Superintendent Ashley Brown, will include a two-car garage and be placed on Preston Avenue where the devasting fires of 2019 occurred.  The addition of this house will help invigorate and revitalize the neighborhood. 

The City was recently awarded a $491,000 grant to address housing rehabilitation in the City for qualified residents.  On the heels of our last grant award of $500,000, these funds will have a significant and direct impact, improving the quality of life for many Hornell residents. 

As I begin my 2nd term as mayor, my administration is moving full throttle into 2022.  After being delayed due to the pandemic, DRI projects are finally seeing movement.  City officials are working with our State partners and will soon move into design and engineering of several municipal projects including Main Street and alleyway enhancements, improvements to the Community Arts Center, and the creation of a new pedestrian park in our beautiful downtown.  Additionally, Veterans Memorial Park at James St will be receiving upwards of a half million-dollar refresh in the near future thanks in large part to a recent State grant.    

The pandemic certainly slowed many things down over the past two years, but we have not and will not let it stop us from moving the City forward.  While we have no shortage of difficulties and challenges in front of us, we also have much to celebrate and be thankful for.  While many communities in the region struggle, the Maple City is growing and flourishing. 

While things are looking up in Hornell, our State and Nation’s capitols are still deeply mired in partisanship and controversy with no end in sight.  The 24-hour news cycle and social media seemingly work to pit everyday Americans against each other, continuously stroking the fires of division. 

To my friends on the Council – Let us be better.  Let us work effectively as a team and set a positive example to the people we serve.  Let Hornell continue to be a beacon of light.

In closing, I’d like to share one of my favorite quotes from Martin Luther King Jr.

“If you can’t fly, then run. If you can’t run, then walk. If you can’t walk, then crawl, but whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward.”

Picture by Syrena Lynn Carver

Thank you and God bless.

John Buckley

Mayor

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