As the city of Ogdensburg continues to right-size government, cut taxes, enhance quality of life and spur new and sustained economic activity, it is becoming increasingly noticeable that the Ogdensburg Bridge and Port Authority can and should do more to build the local and regional economy.
As an example, I point to a recent offer from an out-of-county car dealership to purchase OBPA-owned property along Route 37 in the city near the access road to the Ogdensburg-Prescott International Bridge. To my knowledge, OBPA officials turned down the offer because in their minds the proposed price wasn’t high enough.
You can add this latest example to the list of the OBPA’s reluctance to lease property to the city for a new beach on the St. Lawrence River and the authority’s lack of initiative in cleaning up its own self-contaminated property so it can be returned to the tax rolls for development. When put together, it begs the question of what role the OBPA should play in helping develop the city and region.
It has always been my understanding that the Ogdensburg Bridge and Port Authority was created to serve as a catalyst for economic development in the city and region. But you have to wonder if OBPA Chairman Sam Burns and his board missed that memo when you look at the volume of excess land owned by the authority and their ongoing reluctance to sell even a sliver.
In recent weeks, Mr. Burns has gone public with his idea to use OBPA land to build a public day care facility. He calculates that building a government-run and taxpayer-subsidized day care will make it easier for young families to come to the city and work.
It seems to me it makes more sense to create jobs first and build a day care second. It also makes more sense to me to let the private sector invest in facilities like day cares, not the government.
The Ogdensburg Bridge and Port Authority needs to step up to the plate and do the small things it can do first and foremost. Sell its excess land. Turning down an offer to a legitimate and proven regional business entity makes no sense, especially when that business is willing to put millions of dollars in new investment into the community and generate millions of sales tax dollars that will directly benefit city residents.
I wonder if the powers that be in Albany have any idea how far the Ogdensburg Bridge and Port Authority has drifted from its original purpose of creating jobs and nurturing private investment.
So I am asking Mr. Burns and his friends in Albany: Please help us reopen the Ogdensburg beach; please sell your excess land to return it to the tax rolls and create new jobs; and please clean up your contaminated property. I don’t think it’s too much to ask of a government authority that was created to enhance economic growth in St. Lawrence County and across the region.
Jeffrey M. Skelly
The writer is mayor of the city of Ogdensburg.