Common Council Meeting Highlights for 12-4-2018

Residency requirements for appointments eased –

At Tuesday’s meeting, Amsterdam Common Council members rescinded a resolution passed back in 2014 that specified that any appointment made by the mayor to committee groups such as the golf course commission, planning commission, zoning board, etc, must reside within the City of Amsterdam. Under the new resolution passed at Tuesday’s meeting, the residency requirement now includes the entire Greater Amsterdam School District, which includes the Town of Amsterdam and Town of Florida.

Mayor Michael Villa said that many golf course members reside outside the city limits and should be allowed to serve on the golf commission.

“I think it makes perfect sense to involve people who live in our school district to participate in some of these commissions and boards,” said Villa. “To be honest with you, we have had a hard time filling boards with qualified people who meet the specifications of the openings that are available, whether it be planning, zoning, golf commission, urban renewal.”

Alderman Jim Martuscello said, “I did ask people to serve…their answer to me was they’d hate to make a decision against someone they know or their friend.”

Villa stressed that for zoning board members, an objective understanding and consistent application of zoning rules is important.

“If you’re going to change as a city and move forward progressively, then we have to have a standardized zoning law. And so it’s difficult, some of these people, like you said, they don’t want to vote against their neighbor,” said Villa.

Council committee chairs selected –

With three new recently elected members, who were each sworn in before the meeting, the council voted to assign new committee chairpersons. Each chairperson is responsible for sponsoring legislation related to his or her area of oversight and may also call for committee meetings to discuss various topics. Committee meetings are often utilized to discuss the details of resolutions with associated department heads, staff, vendors, or other officials before the regular meeting. Although an unofficial poll of each council member’s stance on a resolution is occasionally taken during a committee meeting, there is no official vote and a piece of legislation is not required to go through a committee in order to be brought to a vote during the regular meeting. All council members are members of all committees.

Chairperson responsibilities were assigned as follows:

  • First Ward Alderman Pat Russo: public works, recreation
  • Second Ward Alderman Paul Ochal: audit, human resources, public safety, rules of procedure
  • Third Ward Alderwoman Irene Collins: housing and codes, water and sewer
  • Fourth Ward Alderman Dave Dybas: audit, intergovernmental, solid waste
  • Fifth Ward Alderman Jim Martuscello: finance, golf, insurance

Additionally, Ochal was named liaison to the Amsterdam Housing Authority, Amsterdam Industrial Development Agency, and Amsterdam Urban Renewal. Dybas was named liaison to the Amsterdam Veteran’s Commission.

Controller talks about foreclosure effectiveness –

According to Controller Matt Agresta, only about ten people have not paid on foreclosed properties that they bid on at the latest city auction. Although an exact date has not yet been set, Agresta said the city is planning on having another smaller auction in January 2019 for those properties and any other of the remaining properties that have yet to be sold.

He also reported that the total revenue from the most recent auction was $1,078,350. The total amount of back taxes owed on those properties was $1,277,244. The total loss to the city was $198,894. By comparison, Agresta said that the city’s loss in the previous auction, the first after many years, was in excess of $3 million.

“If we continue to do these [foreclosures] on an annual basis you’re going to see that you get to a point where you’re breaking even or even making money off of doing them,” said Agresta. “That’s why I can’t stress to you enough that we do these on an annual basis.”

Parking permits now required for Guy Park near hospital –

An ordinance passed by the council will require a permit to park on Guy Park Avenue between Genevieve Street and Steadwell Avenue. According to council members, the move is designed to keep St. Mary’s Hospital employees from filling up parking spaces, thereby increasing visibility at the intersection and ensuring residents have space to park near their homes.

New golf pro hired –

After the meeting, Mayor Michael Villa said that Kevin Canale has been hired as the new golf pro for Amsterdam Municipal Golf Course. Canale previously worked at Brookhaven Golf Course in Porters Corners, NY. He will be a city employee with a salary of $56,000 per year and will also stock and run the pro shop at the course.

Villa said he is also discussing the possibility of putting Canale in charge of the clubhouse restaurant operations when the current concessionaire’s contract runs out at the end of this year. He said it was possible that Canale could receive a fixed additional stipend for the added responsibility, with any additional profits from the restaurant going to the golf course fund.

“This is the last shot, let’s face it. This is the last shot to make it work,” said Villa in regards to the golf course, which has seen operating deficits in the past several years.

Referring to the past season, during which the previous golf pro, Chris Hrycenko, resigned after only six months, Villa said, “We have not progressed, we have not made strides, we have not increased revenue. I think all those things need to happen.”

Tim Becker

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