Leggiero: Why aren't we helping FP?

By ALISSA SCOTT

Recorder News Staff

In the wake of Friday's detrimental flood to several areas of Montgomery County, especially the village of Fort Plain, many cities have offered their services to help clean up.

But, not Amsterdam.

"Tonight, I openly challenge the Common Council," Anthony Leggiero, of 66 Arnold Street, said, "to adopt an emergency resolution which would allow the Department of Public Works, the street department, effective tomorrow, to suspend daily operation for one week to proceed, through coordinated effort, to enter Fort Plain to help the less fortunate residents as they struggle through the cleanup effort resulting from the catastrophic flooding bequest upon them."

Friday's flood impacted a thousand homes, structurally damaging at least 70. Around 200 still have no electricity or gas.

Leggiero, who spoke during the public participation portion of Tuesday night's Common Council meeting, contested Mayor Ann Thane's loyalty to the city's neighboring village.

"When John Duchessi and Joe Emanuele were mayor, they never thought twice, or balked ... at deploying our manpower and our machinery in our Department of Public Works to help ease the pain and suffering of citizens around the Capital District when natural disasters occurred," Leggiero said. "So why is it different with you, Mayor?"

Mayor Ann Thane said she thinks Leggiero's speech was politically motivated. Leggiero is a candidate for the 3rd Ward alderman seat.

Leggiero said he was addressing the Common Council "not as a candidate ... or to make any campaign push or to get a leg up on [his] opponents."

"Rather, I seek to attempt to get answers on an issue that unfortunately and sadly keeps being swept under the carpet by faceless and nameless people," Leggiero said.

Leggiero, who said Amsterdam's motto "Small city, big heart" only applies to its administration, pointed out that the mayor's face was turning red.

"Is it because it's not your idea?" he asked her. "Or is it because you're worried about how much it's going to cost? I've got an answer for that. A dozen or so employees in the department would, get a load of this word -- volunteer -- their time and services to get the equipment to, say, Fort Plain, for a week."

Thane said this was the first she had heard about his request and that she absolutely was not opposed to the idea.

"Honestly, Anthony, you didn't have to grandstand in order to make that request," Thane said. "I appreciate that you brought this to our attention. Thank you so much."

Thane said, with the proper coordination, she would be happy to help Fort Plain.

"What I'll do is I'll reach out to people in the county and see if there's something that they may need from us specifically so that we can get their needs met," Thane said. "Rather than blindly shutting down our operations for a week and sending everyone off."

Leggiero mentioned two other instances where he said Amsterdam didn't lend a hand to neighboring cities under Thane's administration. This time, Thane said, is the same as the others, in that Amsterdam needs to help itself first.

"We still have huge weather events that have compromised some of our own systems and we need people here," Thane said. "We have washouts. We have water main breaks. We have all kinds of things. You have to be sensible."

Emergency management director Adam Schwabrow said it's common for the people of surrounding areas affected by natural disasters to go overboard on volunteering services.

"It could definitely get too much," Schwabrow said. "People just want to help and don't coordinate with people and just show up and say, 'Here I am.' That's not beneficial because then that person's not properly utilized."

While Schwabrow said there is a good possibility Amsterdam's services could be of use to Fort Plain's cleanup effort, it's something that needs to be discusses with the village's Department of Public Works.

"But could it be beneficial?" Schwabrow asked. "Absolutely. There's work to be done."

Either way, Leggiero said there's no doubt something needs to be done and that Amsterdam's municipalities have the means to help.

"Sure, we can say a prayer," Leggiero said. "We can say two prayers. We can say ten prayers. But, the fact of the matter is: Why are we allowing the apathy and inconsideration to rule over what is humanly acceptable and humane in itself?"

So far, Schwabrow said Fort Plain has received help from Canajoharie, Palatine, Root, the NYS Canal Corporation, the state DOT and Montgomery County's DPW.

In other business:

* A resolution was passed, unanimously, to continue a contract with the Amsterdam Free Library for $60,000 to procure community services for city residents. It will be used to provide a diverse program of activities available to the general public to further education and cultural enrichment throughout the contract term, from July 1 to June 30, 2014.

* Sue Arminio from Project Action presented a smoke-free plan for city parks and buildings. Her company provides signs, free of charge, that mark where smoking is prohibited and she said they've found they even deter people from using tobacco products in the area. Arminio said constituents have contacted Project Action for help banning smoking from Veteran's Park and Shuttleworth Park. The city can enter a contract with the company and create an ordinance that will fine people who smoke in the area. Thane said she likes the idea of banning smoking from children's playgrounds. This proposal will be discussed again at a later committee meeting.