Ferry Street Bridge The resolution authorizing the mayor to seek the transfer of easements for the bridge from CSX to the City and to pursue a STEP [Strategic Transportation Enhancements Program] grant to demolish the historic bridge and install a new one passed with only two aldermen voting against it: David Marston (First Ward) and Chris Wagoner (Third Ward).
The Weighted Vote On the issue of the weighted vote, there were two resolutions: one which adopted Plan 433642 for the simple majority; the other which adopted Plan 433626. In the discussion that preceded the vote, Alderman John Friedman (Third Ward) reminded his fellow aldermen of the oath they all had taken to uphold the Constitution and made the point, as he had before, the Plan 433626 came closest to the constitutional norm of one person–one vote. Alderman Robert Donahue (Fifth Ward) asked of Friedman why, in 2000, when the Third Ward aldermen had a strong weighted vote because the prison population was counted in that ward, the Constitution was never invoked and the word democracy never mentioned. Friedman answered simply that he wasn't here in 2000.
Council president Moore made the statement that "insofar as the Fourth Ward is smallest, having both aldermen have same number of votes is preferrable." (In Plan 433626, one Fourth Ward aldermen would have 95 votes, the other 94.) He also mentioned the possibility of a charter review commission which could be tasked with considering charter change to amend the current imbalance of election districts.
For reasons that were not entirely clear of this observer, voting on the issue of the weighted vote required a letter of necessity from the mayor, which city attorney Cheryl Roberts and the mayor left the chamber to compose.. It also required a two-thirds majority. When the vote was finally taken, the resolution to adopt Plan 433642 came first. Alderman Nick Hadded (First Ward), Marston, Friedman, and Wagoner voted no; Moore and all the other aldermen (Abdus Miah and Wanda Pertilla (Second Ward), Sheila Ramsey and Ohrine Stewart (Fourth Ward), Donahue and Cappy Pierro (Fifth Ward) voted aye. A two-thirds majority required 1,003 affirmative votes; there were 1,300.
This chart shows the new breakdown of the weighted vote.
The Senior Center Architect Jane Smith of Spacesmith and engineer David Crawford of Crawford & Associates were present at the meeting to talk about the proposed senior center and the bids that came in far in excess of the $780,000 that was budgeted for the building. Enumerating some of the things that might be altered or eliminated from the original design--the wood floor, the clerestory windows--Smith assured the Council that she was "reasonably sure that we can deliver this building for $1,080,000."
An apparent surprise for Moore last night was that the $83,570 in design fees, which presumably were part of the original $780,000 budget, are not included in the new $1,080,000 budget, which means that, even with the $300,000 offered by the Galvan Foundation, funding for the project is still $83,570 short.
Marston expressed concern about "materials, means, and methods," commenting that the changes required to reduce the cost might "change the very nature of the building." Haddad wanted to know why the architect and engineer hadn't delivered a building that was within the City's budget and suggested that the concept was overpriced. While Pierro urged that "we go back out to bid" as quickly as possible, Pertilla and Wagoner wanted assurances that the money from various sources, in particular the $400,000 Community Development Block Grant, was still in place.
Mayor William Hallenbeck, from the audience, weighed in with his opinion that "the project has not changed financially for the City," stating that he was "not willing to throw this project in the dump and go look for something else." He shared his conviction that the City is getting a million-dollar building for only $130,000.
Friedman explained that he had supported the proposal before it became known that St. Mary's Academy was available. He called the possible acquisition of St. Mary's "an opportunity for us to do something stunning" and expressed that opinion that he didn't understand "why anyone [meaning the current sources of grant funding] wouldn't want to contribute to a better project."
Although concerns remained about the terms of the Galvan Foundation's offer of $300,000 and the resolution before them assumed that the design fees were part of the $1,080,000, the Council proceeded to vote on the resolution authorizing the mayor to accept funds from the Office of Community Renewal ($400,000), Hudson Community Development & Planning Agency ($100,000), Hudson River Bank & Trust Foundation ($150,000), and the Galvan Foundation ($300,000) for the development of the senior center. Friedman, Marston, and Haddad voted no; all the others voted aye, and the resolution passed.
Ban on Fracking Waste There were two documents before the Council having to do with hydraulic fracturing and the waste from such activity. The first was a resolution declaring that such a ban would have no negative environmental impacts and directing the city attorney "to seek a referral for this proposed action from the Columbia County Planning Board and City of Hudson Planning Commission"; the second was the proposed law itself.
In December, the ban was proposed and defeated, for what many believe were purely political reasons. Last night, the only objections came from Hudson resident Cheryl Stuart who believed that the fines for violating the fracking ban, which had been increased from $250 a day to $2,500 a day, were still not enough and suggested that they should be $25,000 a day.
In the discussion of the proposed law and its efficacy to protect the health and safety of the people of Hudson, Friedman made the point that the real threat to Hudson from fracking was in the Town of Taghkanic, which is the source of our water. "If they use fracking waste on their roads, it's going to migrate into our water supply," said Friedman. Of the proposed local law before them, Friedman concluded, "We can only do what we can do. If we attempt to exceed our power, we will be litigated against."
The resolution passed unanimously in a roll call vote, and by a unanimous vote, the proposed law was placed on the aldermen's desks.