Darren O'Connor was recently appointed Malta town supervisor, succeeding Vincent DeLucia who resigned to spend more time with his family.
O'Connor said economic development will be one of his highest priorities in 2019.
By Paul Post - The Saratogian
MALTA, N.Y. — Darren O’Connor’s biggest challenge as the new town supervisor is attracting new commercial development to offset declining GlobalFoundries tax revenues, while maintaining a desirable quality of life.
Assessed valuation for the Fab 8 semiconductor factory is decreasing $40 million per year in Malta alone, under a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement, triggering a significant six-figure annual drop in taxes, primarily for Ballston Spa Central Schools.
Fab 8’s assessed value in 2012 was $635 million in Malta, but had fallen to $473 million this year and will bottom out at $125 million in 2027, where it’s scheduled to stay through 2059.
“We have to prepare for that,” O’Connor said. “Many Ballston Spa school taxpayers are Malta residents. We have a very good tax environment here now. There is no general fund town tax. We want to keep it that way. So we need to attract more business.”
“We’re hoping we can bring more tenants and owners to Luther Forest Technology Campus,” he said. “Mainly, it would be firms that supply GlobalFoundries. That’s what was envisioned all along.”
On Nov. 26, the Town Board appointed O’Connor, 64, to succeed former Supervisor Vincent DeLucia, who resigned to spend more time with his family. He will fill the remainder of DeLucia’s two-year term, which expires at the end of 2019.
Most recently, O’Connor was in his second stint as deputy town supervisor, a non-elected position in Malta. In between those terms, he was the town attorney.
Originally from Westchester County, he moved to Malta four years ago after retiring from the state. O’Connor spent 13 years as a litigator for the attorney general’s office and retired as chief counsel for the New York State Police, where he worked another dozen years.
“I’m sure he’ll move the Town of Malta forward,” DeLucia said.
O’Connor said, “I want to continue what Vince was setting in motion. We’ve made a lot of strides toward economic development. That’s always a very difficult balancing act.”
In early 2019, the Town Board is expected to approve a roughly $2 million “complete streets” project for Route 9, from Dunning Street south to the Stonebreak Road roundabout. Funded by grant money, plans call for a boulevard-style corridor with a landscaped median, pedestrian crossings and sidewalks on both sides of the highway. The goal is to improve access to businesses on both sides of Route 9, while still accommodating police, fire and emergency services agencies located in the immediate area.
Under a best-case scenario, work would begin this spring and be done next fall, O’Connor said.
DeLucia said rezoning the Route 9 and Route 67 corridors to spur commercial growth was one of his major accomplishments during three years as town supervisor. He took office in January 2016.
“We opened up the town for business,” he said. “Malta was becoming too much of a bedroom community. You can’t maintain that without a better tax base from business. But we also made the town more balanced. By forcing commercial growth to Routes 9 and 67, we protected the outlying rural and agricultural areas.”
At the county level, O’Connor, a Republican, said he doesn’t know which committees he’ll be named to on the GOP-controlled Board of Supervisors. Halfmoon Supervisor Kevin Tollisen is scheduled to succeed Stillwater Supervisor Ed Kinowski as board chairman during the county’s 2019 organizational meeting on Jan. 3.
But O’Connor said he hopes to work closely with the county Industrial Development Agency and Saratoga County Prosperity Partnership — the county’s economic development agency — to bring new firms to Luther Forest Technology Campus. The Prosperity Partnership is headquartered in Malta, near Exit 13.
“We’d love to get that campus occupied and generating tax revenues,” he said. “That’s really key. Several areas in there are open.”
There is ongoing speculation about the possibility of a second fab at Luther Forest, but this largely depends on financial and market conditions, and there have been no announcements about such plans.
Meanwhile, the town continues to pursue other economic development possibilities. The Adirondack Aquatic Center is eyeing 10 acres on the south side of Route 67, near Exit 12, for a multi-million dollar swimming and diving training and competition facility that could bring more than 100,000 people annually to the area.
Plans call for four pools including the Capital Region’s first indoor, 50-meter Olympic-size swimming pool. The site is opposite the Saratoga Medical Park at Malta, making it a good fit for this health-oriented corridor.
However, Aquatic Center officials recently announced that they’re also considering Mohawk Harbor in Schenectady, near the new Rivers Casino, as a possible location for the facility.
O’Connor said he plans to seek the town Republican Committee’s nomination for supervisor next year, so he can run for a full two-year term in November.
For the time being, he and DeLucia have swapped jobs as DeLucia is the new deputy supervisor, temporarily helping O’Connor transition to the supervisor role.
DeLucia cited teamwork by the Town Board and various town officials for a variety of other achievements during his tenure as supervisor. This includes revamping the town ethics code, improved parks and recreational offerings, hiring more fire inspectors and creation of a new water and sewer committee chaired by Councilman Craig Warner.