Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Habitat Gets Its Land

The Common Council braved icy streets and sidewalks to convene their regular meeting on Tuesday night. Two members--Third Ward Alderman Ellen Thurston and First Ward Alderman Sarah Sterling--came with cross-country ski poles to give them stability while negotiating the slippery streets, and one--Third Ward Alderman Chris Wagoner--arrived late, explaining that removing the ice from his car had taken longer than anticipated. Two were absent--Fifth Ward Alderman Dick Goetz, enjoying his three-month winter holiday in Florida, and Fourth Ward Alderman Sheila Ramsey, absent for reasons not explained. Just a handful of spectators turned out for the meeting: three reporters--Debora Gilbert from Columbia Paper, Lindsay Suchow from the Register-Star, and Gossips--along with City Treasurer Eileen Halloran, the ubiquitous Fourth Ward Supervisor Bill Hughes, and Hudson Democratic Committee Chair Victor Mendolia. Conspicuous for his absence was Mayor Richard Scalera.

The reason the meeting could not be cancelled or postponed, despite the dreadful weather--and the reason why Council President Don Moore, husky-voiced and obviously battling a cold or the flu, had worked throughout the day to make sure all the aldermen would be there--was one of the resolutions before the Council: the one to allow the transfer of three City-owned lots on the 200 block of Columbia Street to Habitat for Humanity. Habitat needs a commitment from the City before the end of the month in order to apply for two major grants, and because the disposal of City-owned real property requires a three-quarters majority--1,555 votes--all the available aldermen had to be there. With Goetz and Ramsey absent, if Wagoner had not shown up to cast his 220 votes, there wouldn't have been enough votes for the resolution to pass even with everyone voting in the affirmative. As it was, with all the aldermen present voting aye, the resolution passed with 1,655 votes--only a hundred more than required. (If you're curious about those weighted votes and how many votes the aldermen representing you have to cast, click here for the chart.) 

Moore explained that the parcels are not among those being requested by Omni Development for Bliss Towers replacement units. He also indicated that a program would be made available to residents of Bliss Towers to help them qualify to buy the Habitat houses. City Attorney Jack Connor commented on the title issue, indicating that an affidavit would be needed from the Power and Restoration Church, attesting that they had not fulfilled the condition of the deed transfer in 2003, which required them to build a church on the land within two years to keep the land from reverting back to the City.  

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