By ALISSA SCOTT
By next spring, 40 rams could be shepherded into Amsterdam.
"Optimally, I would love to see 40," Mayor Ann Thane said. "I would like to see them all the way down East Main Street, in all the parks, at each of the schools. They're very clever and they're attractive."
The rams in question are 4 feet tall, white, fiberglass statues of the Greater Amsterdam School District's mascot. So far, three have shown up at City Hall and the Creative Connections Art Center. Thane has plans to also put one at St. Mary's Healthcare, and others in front of industrial buildings, and other places around the city.
Each of the three rams already purchased cost the city $700 and were funded by a $7,000 pre-budgeted marketing fund to which the mayor has access. She said she is not required to prepare a resolution or garner council approval to use those funds, but that 5th Ward Alderman Richard Leggiero confirmed the receipt and expenditures.
Leggiero is chairman of the Common Council's finance committee. He said while he OK'd the purchases, he intimated that lawmakers should have been let in on the project, even though he understands the mayor is not required to do so.
"She doesn't come across to us when she's spending things like that," Leggiero said. "We only see it after the purchase."
The goal of the project is two-fold: to raise money for youth activities and the recreation department.
"We've been very successful and people have been very generous, but we have to continue to figure out how we are going to fund the recreational efforts," Thane said.
Robert Spagnola, director of the Recreation Department, said they have many programs they are trying to expand at the Bacon school and the art center.
"We're just growing so fast," Spagnola said. "There's just equipment and classes that can be paid for. It's nice to offer kids in the community things at low cost to them, and the more participants, the better."
Second, Thane said the statues are an "exciting marketing opportunity for the city because they generate a lot of revenue."
"It would be a nice source of community pride to drive around town and see all of them around town," Spagnola said.
Other cities around the world, and as close as Troy, Saratoga Springs and Catskill, have followed the trend of installing themed statues, and Thane, Spagnola and Rebecca Cushing, have researched their costs and benefits.
Some have raised $30,000, a goal the mayor is pushing, with much smaller figurines.
Based on the neighboring cities, the group began formulating the idea that there are several ways to go about marketing the ram statues.
One option is to sell the rams outright. That price has yet to be determined. Or, the city could offer the buyer sponsorship packages for levels ranging from $500 and a plaque to $5,000 and advertising.
The mayor wouldn't say which option the group was leaning toward, but said a decision will be made soon.
"We are working out the particulars and we're going to have a meeting about exactly how we're doing to do it," Thane said. "We've received packets from several different communities that are slightly different, offering slightly different sponsorship levels."
One unidentified person has already committed to purchasing a ram, either outright or at a sponsorship level regardless of the cost.
Thane said because of this, the $2,100 spent purchasing the rams will be "easily recouped" and she is "not at all concerned about that."
Various buyers will be targeted, Thane said, including corporations, individuals, retail businesses, not-for-profits or anyone else interested in participating in the program.
The rams will be introduced to the public most likely during the annual Halloween parade -- one decorated and one not decorated -- to "get the city excited," the mayor said.
Other municipalities have decorated their statues with mosaics, paint, clothing, collages and camouflage, Thane said.
Spagnola said it would be great to get young people involved in the decorating, and Thane said she already has "one, maybe two" artists lined up for the existing rams.
"I think it would be a good project that maybe we can turn into having kids work on them and designing them," Spagnola said, "and different organizations could help design them around town and they'll become part of the community."
After the parade, the group would work toward wrangling additional sponsors and artists. The rams are expected to make their street debut next spring after an auction and potential celebrations.
"Hopefully people will like them," Thane said. "Hopefully they'll like them."