Common Council meeting highlights for 7-26-2016

At Tuesday’s committee meeting, the Common Council got an update on the status of occupied city-owned properties from Damaris Carbon, CEO of Rivercrest Development Corp. According to Carbone, when her firm was initially hired to manage the city’s properties in April, there were only eight tenants paying rent. She said that since that time, the number of tenants paying rent had increased to 21. She said the city has realized a profit of $4000 on rental income through June, and she expects approximately another $8000 in additional revenue to the city next month. Carbone also said that her company has issued 22 eviction notices to tenants who are either squatters, are interfering with maintenance on the property, or are receiving high numbers of complaints to the police department.

The council awarded a $645,000 contract for city road repairs to Peter Luizzi & Bros. Contracting, Inc., who was the lowest bidder for the job. The contract will be paid for by New York State Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Program (CHIPS) funds.

Three parcels of city owned vacant land on Grand Street, Guy Street, and North Mason Avenue were approved for sale to adjacent property owners. Ismael and Elaine Santiago, owners of property adjacent to North Mason Avenue, attended the meeting.

“We’re taxpaying citizens, and I wanted you to put a face to the name,” said Elaine Santiago. “We want to beautify the property.”

Santiago explained that since moving to their current location ten years ago, they attempted numerous times to purchase the land from the owner, but were not successful.

Two other properties, one on Northampton Road and another on Schuyler Street, were approved to be re-conveyed to their original owners. According to Controller Matt Agresta, the previous owners are required to pay all back taxes in full, as well as any other associated fees.

Alderman Jim Martuscello said he expects that Transportation Directory Cheryl Scott will be retiring within a month. Martuscello sponsored the introduction of a local law that would amend the city code to remove the requirement that the position be full-time.

“It’s not that we can’t hire someone full-time, but it gives us the option to hire somebody part-time also,” said Martuscello.

At the beginning of the meeting, Villa addressed the ongoing problems with the city’s sewer system, including a current problem with a raw sewage leak near the Chuctanunda creek in the Forest Avenue area. He took aim at local media outlets who he said were not being fair in reporting the complete picture about the city’s situation.

“These issues have been building for years,” said Villa. “This is not something that has just developed in the past seven months. This is a problem that has been going on for 40 or 50 years. We certainly are not going to be able to correct them today, tomorrow, next year. This is not the first or the last wastewater issue that we are going to face.”

Villa said the city has a plan to deal with the ongoing sewer system problems and cited emergency funds approved last month to repair a faulty valve at the west side pump station, as well as a large-scale $5 million project that includes upgrades to the pump stations and sewer lines that was approved by the council earlier in the year.  He also said that the current leak is being worked on by the city engineer and may require two outside contractors to fix.

Villa also called on NY State to do more to help small cities like Amsterdam repair its infrastructure. Citing his appearance before the New York State Assembly earlier in the year, he said, “When I testified in front of the assembly, I stated that the state needed to set aside funds to supplement small cities, especially those with financial hardship, to address these issues.”

Editor’s note: Villa said this morning that more details about the Forest Ave leak will be released later today. 

Tim Becker

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