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Solutions for the City of Watertown

Settling the Fire Department Dispute

Settling the 4½ year contract dispute with the firefighters union will be top on my priority list if elected.

Dehumanizing our hard-working fire department is all part of the city's current strategy. City council wants you to pay more for fire insurance so they can save on fewer firemen. Their narrative isn't true. Here's why:

City Council wants to cut the number of men the fire department has on duty. They feel the city’s management should determine the number of men in the fire department. When asked how many men that number should be, they don’t have an answer. Some council members have suggested that nine men might work out just fine.

Nine firemen would not allow for the staffing of the Northside fire department. Mayor Butler and the city council aren’t telling you this part of the story.

The mayor and the city council say they want to save City taxpayers money. Really? Yes, cutting the number of men that staff the fire department will cost the city less, but at whose expense? 

Watertown currently has a class 2 rated fire department. That rating gives businesses a discounted rate for their fire insurance. Homeowners’ fire insurance premiums are determined by how much loss there is in the community. 

The amount of loss from fire is directly related to response time to get to a fire and put it out before the structure is completely destroyed. With 15 men on duty, our fire department is able to respond and put out fires BEFORE the flash-over point at which time the building is not savable. 

Increased losses due to fire in our city will result in resident’s fire insurance premiums costing more. So what 'savings' will taxpayers receive when our fire insurance rates go higher? It's simple: Fewer firemen, higher fire insurance premiums.

The Watertown Police Department just got healthy raises and a new contract, and rightfully so–our police department is important. But why does the city council continue to treat the police differently than the fire department? Both cost the city taxpayers, & both are essential. 

The city's narrative is that the police union is more willing to negotiate and that the fire union is not. That's simply not true. The Mayor’s smear campaign has been a disingenuous attempt to paint the firemen as lazy, watching too much television, greedy and unreasonable. I’ve talked to and am friends with many of these firemen. These men serve in a dangerous job and do so while being treated with absolute disrespect by our local officials.

The Council voted in SECRET to move this dispute to a higher court. All but one didn’t have the courage to publicly say how they voted and why. The citizens of Watertown and our fire department deserve better.


"The city council voted in SECRET to move this dispute to a

higher court. All but one didn’t have the courage to publicly

say how they voted and why. The citizens of Watertown and

our fire department deserve better."

Tax Reform 

I have a goal: to hold the line on city taxes. My pledge to you is to vote against any budget that places additional tax burdens on our citizens. 


1) Reevaluate all city departments and look for economies. In some cases, this may include combining departments, sharing administration or labor, giving incentives for cost-saving innovation and/or cutting inefficiencies.


2) Negotiate with the city's labor unions to help curb the rise in labor costs.


3) Look at our fee structures and re-evaluate their actual costs and contributions to overall city stability. For example, the city charges $35 to get a fireworks permit. The cost to the taxpayer is much higher because the event requires fire protection and a code officer to be present before, during and after the event. Additional costs are also occasioned for Parks and Recreation staff and police. The fee of $35 is not sufficient to cover the actual costs and are being subsidized by you, the taxpayer.


4) Negotiate voluntary reverse-pilot agreements with wealthy non-profits as a way to offset the burdens placed on the local taxpayer.


5) Raise fees on third-party contractors that compete with our city services (garbage, etc.)


6) Look for new sources of revenue such as hydro or contract services, and also bring in more people as a means to raise sales tax revenue.


7) Work with Jefferson County and find ways of sharing services, costs, equipment or infrastructure.


8) Expand the bus service and use transportation services as a means to increase revenues. Bus routes to outlying communities, bus routes to the base, and expanding services to the town as a means to increase sales tax revenue.


9) Cut legal fees by switching to in-house counsel. In 2014 Mr. Slye billed the city over $430,000. In-house counsel can be obtained for 1/4 that amount.


10) Expand city services and charge nominal fees to help bring in additional revenue. For example, the Clerk's office used to offer wedding pictures, the current Clerk cut this service because she did not want to be burdened with it. This brought in money and should not have been eliminated. 


"We need tourists to know that there's more to do in Watertown than stopping here to get gas before heading to the Thousand Islands or the Adirondacks."

Hydro-Power & The Black River

More Hydro-power is the answer! Our city’s hydro revenue of $4,000,000 falls off in 2029; if nothing is done to address this challenge. Sewalls Island is one of three new locations I've identified for this investment. I’ve talked about it for four years. It’s fallen on deaf ears. I’m glad to see it getting a look now.

As Mayor, I will convince the public of the benefits of investing in more hydro revenue by modernizing the Marble Street power plant and building more hydropower plants along our Black River.

We own the solution and will use it to the benefit of our city and taxpayers.

Several NY state and federal grants are available to allow us to develop our self-sustaining hydropower economy.

With the right leadership, we can finally develop the municipal power system taxpayers have wanted. This will mean working with the NYS DEC, NYS, federal government agencies and the rafting companies to accommodate raft and kayak portages and fishing ladders for each structure.

We will turn the Black River into a major world-class whitewater attraction and fishing destination for regional tourism and sales tax revenue. All citizens will benefit from these new investments into hydropower and tourism. Small business opportunities will be abundant for ambitious entrepreneurs.

More revenue from hydropower and tourism means we can offer:

  • Lower city property taxes

  • Cheaper electricity for homeowners

  • More money to invest in infrastructure

  • Sales tax generating recreational tourism facilities


We can have this all without asking city property owners for another dime. Hydro and sales tax revenues are our city’s top income sources. Property owners pay too much now. We can’t keep going back to taxpayers and asking for more money when there’s a viable alternative revenue source in the Black River. 

New hydropower revenue can provide the opportunity to invest in a better quality of life and lower property taxes for ALL people in our city. 

Thompson Park

Watertown's Thompson Park was designed by Frederick Olmstead, the same landscape architect who designed Central Park in New York City. It's a hidden-gem in Watertown, one that could be generating revenue. I've been advocating for more development and restoration of the park for years. The splash pad is a huge success, but there's still plenty more we should be doing.


Thompson Park Zoo

The Thompson Park Zoo is an opportunity to have more tourism and sales tax revenue for Watertown's Renaissance. All we need is a marketing and communications director that will take point, develop the strategies and put up a sign along Route 81. 

Thompson Park Pool

I remember swimming in Thompson Park Pool as a kid. I'm sure many of you reading this do too. After being left in disrepair  by the city for years, we finally rebuilt it. But no sooner did we rebuild, Mayor Smith closed down the other two and scheduled the demolition of one. Our leaders have failed to be proactive and fix things before they fall apart. Mayor Smith didn't get his way, and now Watertown's youth is paying the price. Having three pools enhances our city. Let's invest in Watertown and give our kids something to do. 



60 Ways to Improve Watertown 

  1. Create "Communities of Watertown" - Block grants for city sections – community zones can be created such as Little Italy, The Square, Northside Commons, The River District, College Heights, Ives Hill, Washington Heights, and East Towne Heights. Area residents would develop and preserve local pride and affection for the old communities within our city.

  2. Community Boards of Watertown– appointed advisory groups of the community districts.

  3. Community presidents would advise the Mayor and City Council, work with the city manager, comment on land-use items in their area, advocate community needs in the annual city budget process. 

  4. More visual progress: beautify Watertown with flowers, trees, ornaments (not just in the wealthier neighborhoods)

  5. Hold area block parties and events in each of Watertown’s local committees. The Thompson Park Circle would be an ideal place to hold events.

  6. Affordable Housing and multiplex apartment landlord compliance – safety key boxes accessible by all emergency services.

  7. Bus routes defined and marketing put in place. Advertise discounts for seniors.

  8. Extended, later bus hours for shoppers, seniors and moviegoers.

  9. Lower taxes on homeowners by finding new revenues and lessening restrictive sign ordinances. The resulting sales tax increase would offset the need to increase property taxes.

  10. Tax abatements for homeowners - repairs. “Buy $50 in paint, get a $50 rebate."

  11. Seasonal trash roll-off containers in each city community for clean-up.

  12. Diamond Island campground and footbridge from Huntington Street to island and off the island to the north shore of the Black River. This would allow the Black River trail to extend on the North bank of the river, across the railroad trestle and connect with River Parkway downtown.

  13. Refreshment station and bathrooms along Black River trail near Hunt Street.

  14. Sewell’s Island Hydro development

  15. Delano Island Hydro development

  16. Vanduzee Street property - park and development.

  17. Review of all property evaluations for tax purposes.

  18. Pilots - reverse – NFP and NP for service agreements. A means test would give us the needed information to make a determination as to what the voluntary fee would be.

  19. A service agreement with Samaritan for city employees medical coverage in exchange for reverse pilot programs

  20. Thompson Park trail system and brush clearing along Thompson Park Blvd. to give line of sight and avoid deer collisions, create more usable parkland and improve aesthetics.

  21. Citywide cleanup and youth work program for summers

  22. Marketing department formed and director hired to promote and develop a marketing strategy for our city

  23. New creative website for City of Watertown, emphasis on tourism

  24. Zombie homes, rentals, and landlord tracking to mitigate blight next to homeowners.

  25. Zoning and sign ordinances rewritten and updated to be less restrictive and business friendly

  26. Fire department settlement

  27. City land sales – develop policy and protocol for public sales which offers opportunities to residents instead of large, wealthy developers

  28. COR/Mercy site – Genesis Project – contact COR Development to see what is possible to develop that land

  29. Campaign signs on public land in our city

  30. New revenue – a progressive tax on home and business values over $300,000

  31. Funding of Thompson Park Zoo, get AZA accreditation back; funding for Jefferson County Historical Society, and the Sci-Tech Center. Developing these jewels will increase tourism and sales tax revenue.

  32. Fines for code enforcement violations reviewed. Change from a complaint based method to a needs-based objective.

  33. Housing – city-wide inspections for multiple apartment units by Fire Deptartment

  34. Land bank for zombie home repairs and homeowner loans

  35. More grant writing for city projects and additional operating revenues

  36. Black River development zone- reclaiming our river district. Fish ladders and contacting NYS DEC to see about stocking again the Black River again– more fishing access & white water development

  37. Pay raise for city officials, mayor and city council members 

  38. Employees of the month – catch them doing something nice monthly and give them an award

  39. Whistleblowing protections – deal with low morale and develop a plan to increase respect of city employees

  40. Citizen advisory board for emergency services

  41. Crosswalks– brighter and more pedestrian friendly

  42. Streetscapes – more tableside dining and benches

  43. River connectivity – zip line and venues along the walkway

  44. Relationships with DANC, NOW, JCIDA, JEFFERSON COUNTY reviewed and find ways to work with each more effectively in a way that's mutually beneficial to the city and its taxpayers

  45. More investment into sidewalks and infrastructure

  46. Marketing Watertown for tech industry jobs

  47. Create a homeless shelter

  48. Incubator - small business project to give an opportunity to small business start-ups

  49. City Clerk Office converted to tourism center – marriages, brochures, maps, and marketing advisor at desk.

  50. Podium for floor privilege made from wood to elevate the citizen

  51. Investigate the water rates – different tiers – Who pays what and why?

  52. Bus advertising wraps

  53. Promotion of city industrial park to allow businesses to locate inside our city instead of in the parks outside in the townships. Offer incentives!

  54. List of city properties for sale made available to the public

  55. Healthcare coverage for city residents under Samaritan plan proposal for uninsured or underinsured

  56. Study of private sector vs. public sector opportunities for additional revenue

  57. Affordable elderly care facility for senior citizens

  58. Re-negotiate National Grid hydro contract now

  59. JCC campus extension Downtown

  60. C.E.D.O.  – Community Economic Development Organization that combines different city departments into one organization to expedite development in our city. It would combine a new land bank, the planning department, code enforcement, Watertown housing, community block grants, vacant ‘zombie’ homes task force and D.P.W. into one organization that would be responsible for infrastructure, housing, vacant homes, and economic planning design.


The problems we have in our city can be fixed by having someone there that gives a damn about all of us. But I can't do

it alone. I'm willing to go first, yell if need be. I need everyone

who agrees with me to get up and get out to vote.  So, if

you're with me, stand up and say what you want this year.

Vote Olney for Watertown City Council!

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