Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Highlights from the Common Council Meeting

Gossips has already reported on the discussion at last night's Common Council meeting about the float entered by the Rock Solid Church in the Flag Day Parade. There were other discussions and actions taken that are worthy of note as well.

Holcim Settlement  Holcim filed separate lawsuits against the Town of Greenport and the City of Hudson protesting their property assessments. In both cases, Holcim claimed that the assessment of its property was greater than the fair market value of the property. Last week, it was reported in the Register-Star that the State Supreme Court had dismissed Holcim's lawsuit against the Town of Greenport. Last night, the Common Council agreed to a settlement with Holcim that requires the City to reimburse Holcim $51,000. Only two aldermen--Nick Haddad and David Marston, both representing the First Ward--voted against accepting the settlement.

At the Council meeting last night, city attorney Carl Whitbeck explained the reason for the different outcomes. In the case of the Greenport lawsuit, after filing the initial petition, Holcim did not follow up by providing any of the required documentation to substantiate its claim, so the suit was dismissed as frivolous. In the case of Hudson, they did. Whitbeck also pointed out that Holcim owns 1,500 acres in Greenport, which were assessed at $6,552,600. The 113 acres Holcim owns in Hudson--14 acres of waterfront land and 99 acres of South Bay--had been assessed at $4,563,200, but the settlement reduces the assessment to $2.75 million.

Parking Ticket Management After standing the Council up three times, David Holler of Complus, the parking ticket management company Chief Ed Moore and police commissioner Gary Graziano would like to see take over the business of collecting parking fines, showed up to answer the aldermen's questions. John Mason has done a good job of describing the discussion that preceded the vote in today's Register-Star: "Council agrees to contract with parking vendor." Gossips has only a few things to add or reiterate.

It seems that one of the arguments for outsourcing parking ticket management was that Complus boasted an average collection rate for the cities it services of 85 to 91 percent whereas the City of Hudson's collection rate was only 50 percent. It was revealed last night, however, that in recent years Hudson's collection rate has been more like 71 to 80 percent. The improvement doesn't seem as significant.

At one point, Holler made reference to the City's practice of booting the vehicles of drivers with unpaid parking tickets and asked about the threshold for getting the boot. He seemed surprised to learn that it was only three.

In last night's discussion, as in all discussions about parking tickets and fines, it became clear that it is much easier to visit retribution for ignoring parking fines on Hudson residents and frequent visitors whose cars are in the city often. The "violators" everyone seems eager to go after are those visitors from other states who in the past have gotten away scot-free, provided they never returned to Hudson, since the City had no way to get the names and addresses of out-of-state drivers. With Complus doing our bidding, we can hound anyone in the contiguous forty-eight states who leaves Hudson without having paid their parking ticket, thus ensuring a pleasant memory of their visit.

The vote on the Complus contract pointed up once again the problems with--and as we know now, the unconstitutionality of, Hudson's weighted vote. Five members of the eleven member Council voted against entering into the contract--that's 45 percent--yet the resolution passed by more than a two-thirds majority: 1383 aye to 645 nay. Those voting aye were Council president Don Moore (190), Abdus Miah (Second Ward: 185), Tiffany Garriga (Second Ward: 185), Ohrine Stewart (Fourth Ward: 95), Bob Donahue (Fifth Ward: 364), and Bart Delaney (Fifth Ward: 364). Those voting nay were David Marston (First Ward: 95), Nick Haddad (First Ward: 95), John Friedman (Third Ward: 180), Henry Haddad (Third Ward: 180), and Alexis Keith (Fourth Ward: 95).
Mass Gathering Permits Also last night, the Council voted unanimously to remove the amendments to the mass gathering permit from their desks. With that vote, the Council adopted the regulations, which require greater public notice for events that close public streets and impact businesses and residents. The amendments to Chapter 199 of the city code now go to the mayor, who, after a public hearing, will either sign them into law or veto them.

When the amendments were introduced at the informal Common Council meeting on May 12, Mayor William Hallenbeck described them as a "knee-jerk reaction." He accused the Legal Committee of crafting legislation directed against a single business owner: Joe Fiero, whose car shows at American Glory shut down Warren Street between Third and Fourth on a Saturday in May in 2012 and 2013. At the May meeting, Hallenbeck declared: "This is in regards to the dislike of a particular business owner. It's been reported . . . it's on the record that it's an action against one business owner." It will be interesting to see what action the mayor takes on the legislation now that the ball is in his court.


  1. Obviously it seems to be against just a single business owner because as far as I can remember, American Glory has been the only business asking for Warren Street, between 4th & 3rd Streets, to be closed on a Saturday, affecting all the neighboring businesses. When Warren Street is closed for the food fair, between 3rd & 2nd Streets, there are possibly 20 businesses involved. A community function as opposed to a single business function.

  2. The Holcim assessment suit result is troubling. Why didn't they produce documents for their Greenport claim -- but did for Hudson? And what was the over-assessment of their 113 acres in Hudson--"14 acres of waterfront land and 99 acres of South Bay" and who says it isn't worth $4,563,205? On what grounds was it reduced by half, to $2.75 million? That's pretty cheap for an acre of waterfront land?

    1. There's only one thing you need to know: Giffy said Holcim's okay, and so it must be.

      (p.s. Great questions!)

    2. Peter--If I remember correctly, Holcim submitted an appraisal of the property which set the value at $800,000. The City hired an appraiser who set the price at $2.75 million. The latter became the market value for the assessment in the settlement.

    3. Peter, the City's independent appraisal of the South Bay waterfront established the FMV of an unimproved acre at $100k. That was in 2012, if I recall correctly. Whether that's the "right" number (i.e. what an arms' length purchaser might buy such an acre for from a willing seller) is something I don't know.

  3. The reassessment of Holcim should be a huge embarrassment for the rest of Hudsons taxpayers that must now make up the difference for the richest cement company in the WORLD.

  4. "With that vote, the Council adopted the regulations, which require greater public notice for events that close public streets and impact businesses and residents."

    Crafting legislation directed against a single business? Works for fisherfolk...

  5. can we market the holcim riverfront property please / i think we can find several buyers for about twice the assessment. dont you ?