During New York Senator Greg Ball’s visit to Peekskill’s Committee of the Whole meeting last night, city officials asked him for help where they need it most-with pension costs, financing for their struggling small businesses and to help with infrastructure repairs.
Following a brief presentation on Ball’s positions on issues like mandate relief, the MTA Payroll tax, hydrofracking, Albany reform, Homeland Security and Veteran’s issues, which you can read about on his website, Ball had a productive discussion with the Council. Mayor Foster asked him about rising pension costs.
“Something doesn’t make sense when, for a small city, pension costs can go from $2.5 million in 2010 to $4 million in 2012…How we are funding pension systems in state needs thorough review,” Peekskill Mayor Mary Foster told Ball.
The senator agreed with the mayor and suggested that they write a letter to the state comptroller asking for a review.
The Council also asked Sen. Ball to help the city’s small businesses get financial help.
Councilman Andrew Torres told Ball that banks are forgetting about the CRA, the Community Reinvestment Act of 1977, passed to encourage banks to help with community investment.
Torres told Ball that if he nudged the banks, maybe it would help. Ball agreed that small businesses could use the extra financial help and said he would do what he could to bring them together with banks willing to loan.
On infrastructure issues, Sen. Ball said, “Right now we are spending billions of dollars in Iraq and Afghanistan on schools and bridges, when in my district there are bridges that need repair. We need to put money into infrastructure.”
The mayor explained that because state and county roads run through Peekskill, when repairs are needed money and time hold up the projects.
“State help is really critical,” Mayor Foster said.
The group also discussed veteran’s issues, with several veterans in the crowd present to hear Ball speak.
Veteran advocate and Commander of Chapter 21 of the Military Order of the Purple Heart William Nazario explained that construction jobs at the Montrose VA have been unnecessarily contracted out of state. He asked Ball to help develop a workshop for local developers and companies to teach them how to navigate through the federal paper work and process for getting jobs at the VA.
Deputy Mayor Don Bennett asked about a bill on creating identification cards for veterans with PTSD and TBI so that law enforcement officers are aware of their status. Sen. Ball created this after a conversation with Bennett, who was concerned about a local veteran with TBI who had been arrested. Ball said he believes the bill will be passed soon and that it will be the first of its kind passed in the country.
Peekskill business owner Patty Villanova was the last to comment. She asked the senator what he plans to do about tax funded organizations that have “outlived their usefulness,” referring to the Peekskill Business Improvement District, and what the Sage Commission, had done to reduce spending.
Ball explained that the state had cut operations costs by two percent in 2010 and has a goal to eventually cut those costs by 20 percent.