Apartment renovations, hiring freeze, chickens, and more

Duncan Barrett, Chief Operating Officer of Omni Housing Development LLC, talked with council about his company’s plans to do $13 million in renovations to the Woodrow Wilson Apartments. He said the apartments were no longer financially viable, as utility bills were more than the rent collected during the winter due to poor insulation and use of electric baseboard heat. He said his company needed a 30 year payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) agreement in order to secure financing for the work which he hoped would begin in June and be completed in October of 2015.

Corporation Counsel Gerard DeCusatis said the PILOT agreement would increase revenues from the apartments by 20% over what they currently generated, and that an “escalator” clause in the agreement would mean PILOT payments would increases proportionally to rental fee increases. The council unanimously approved the resolution granting the PILOT agreement.

Alderman Ron Barone made a motion to table his proposed hiring freeze resolution for further committee discussion. Barone defended the resolution, citing the city’s debt load and the need to cut costs. Barone said he disagreed with Corporation Counsel Gerard DeCusatis’ opinion (which was attached to the resolution) that the council could not place restrictions on hiring for positions that the mayor or controller has the authority to appoint under the charter. Barone said that he would make sure that hiring related to public safety would not be hindered under his proposed resolution.

A local law that would have allowed city residents to apply for a permit to own up to four hens to be kept under certain conditions was voted down unanimously.

Prior to the vote during the public comments section, two people including Animal Control Officer Gina Kline spoke out against the law citing dangers of E. coli bacteria in chicken droppings as well as other potential nuisances. Alderman Ed Russon, who originally sponsored the law, also voted no citing phone calls from residents against the idea.

Kacey Efaw, who introduced the idea to the council back in April, spoke in favor of the law, asking the council to “keep an open mind.” Efaw referred to an information packet that he presented to the council in April which countered many of the objections about nuisances and risk of disease.

The council also approved a contract with Libertek’s to upgrade and support the city’s computer system, passed an ordinance to replace a stop sign on the corner of Crescent Ave and Locust Ave, and passed an ordinance restricting large trucks from using Northampton Rd.

Tim Becker

Tim Becker is the owner of Anthem Websites Inc. which publishes The Compass. He serves as both editor and a writer.