Two things happened at the Common Council meeting tonight that merit coverage. The first had to do with the order of business on the agenda.
After all the pro forma things that happen at every meeting--the call to order, the moment of silent reflection, the Pledge of Allegiance, the roll call, the agreement not to read the committee reports but to put them on file--Council president Claudia DeStefano called for a motion and a second to go into executive session. Executive session means that all the audience members have to leave the room and mill about in the lobby until the aldermen finish discussing whatever is too sensitive for the public to hear--in this case, some unspecified litigation. The motion came from Alderman Rick Rector (First Ward), the second from Alderman Tiffany Garriga (Second Ward), but a protest came from Alderman John Friedman (Third Ward) who pointed out that executive sessions typically happened at the end of a meeting not at the beginning.
DeStefano explained that the executive session had to come first because "there are people here to discuss this," probably referring to attorney Victor Meyers who was present. Friedman countered, "There are citizens here to witness the public part of the meeting." Going into executive session is usually accomplished by a simple voice vote. Tonight, it was roll call vote, and everyone except DeStefano voted no. So, the executive session, which turned out to be about Heinrich von Ritter's seemingly perpetual lawsuit against the City of Hudson, was postponed until the end of the meeting.
The second newsworthy item was a brand-new resolution introduced in the eleventh hour by three aldermen: Garriga, Abdus Miah (Second Ward), and Robert "Doc" Donahue (Fifth Ward). The resolution, which was so new that only the aldermen had copies of it, was read aloud by DeStefano. The gist of it was that it authorized the construction of a ramp, to be built "in accordance with developed plans," that would provide universal access to Promenade Hill.
Those "developed plans" are the ones drawn up by DPW superintendent Rob Perry at the request of Garriga and presented to the Public Works Committee at the end of May 2014. Those plans, reproduced below, give very little idea of what the ramp will look like once it is built by DPW workers at the entrance to Hudson's most historic park at the western terminus of the city's main street.
Rector, who has served on the Council since April 2015, wanted to know if the design referenced in the resolution had ever been approved by the Council. "Is it something the City can be proud of?" he asked.
Friedman said SHPO (State Historic Preservation Office) had "shot down" the design people wanted (Option 1 shown below), suggesting that as a consequence we are stuck with the alternative (Option 2 shown below). Would that it were. What we are likely to get is neither of the alternatives presented to SHPO. Both were conceptualized as part of the City's unsuccessful grant application in the Consolidated Funding Application process.
What was finally proposed in that grant application (and is shown in the drawing below) was estimated to cost $60,000--three times the amount of money the City has allocated for the project.
Miah, who claims that the discussion of the ramp has been going on since 2010, argued that the ramp project has taken so long that it should be pursued now without consideration for design and appearance or the impact of the ramp on a National Register listed historic space. Most of Council agreed with him. The resolution passed with 1,753 ayes and 275 nays. Only Rector and Friedman voted against it.
Also tonight, the mayor's proposal to amend the zoning code to make hotels a permitted use in the R-S-C district was referred to the Legal Committee. The resolution commending the Friends of the First Presbyterian Church for restoring the church's major stained glass window and the resolution in support of raising the age of criminal responsibility both passed unanimously.
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