Last night was the informal meeting of the Common Council, when new resolutions and proposed legislation are presented and discussed, but no action is taken. There was a fair amount of information to be gleaned at last night's meeting, all of which Gossips will endeavor to report.
Police and City Court Building The City of Hudson has been agonizing over the need for a new facility for the police department and the city court for close to a decade. Now is not the time to review all the proposals that have been put forward over the years. Instead the time has finally come to reveal the site the City is now contemplating: 701 Union Street.
The building, most recently used as a fitness center, started out as an auto parts store. A resolution was introduced last night to authorize the mayor to enter into an agreement to buy the building and the 1.86 acres of land on which it stands for $680,000. The agreement involves a $30,000 totally refundable down payment which will give the City a ninety-day "due diligence" period during which to conduct an environmental review, do inspections, and secure financing. The City, Council president Don Moore said, is determined to spend no more than $2 million to purchase and renovate the building for use by the Hudson Police Department and the Hudson city court.
Moore explained that the existing building is 12,500 square feet. The half that would be devoted to the court has already been inspected by the New York State Unified Court System, and UCS has "come up with a plan for it." Moore reported that Hudson police chief Ed Moore, who has experience with creating new facilities for law enforcement, "has taken up the task of finding a designer for the police half."
Speaking of the self-imposed $2 million cap, Alderman Cappy Pierro (Fifth Ward) commented that "we are approaching the point where we can probably put a new building up on city property." He didn't bring up, as he often does, the glory days of building the Central Firehouse, when he, as aide to Mayor Rick Scalera, was clerk of the works. Some of us who were around at the time recall a project whose costs seem to keep rising and a financing scheme that was hard to grasp. The end result is a building that is not owned by the City but by Community Initiatives Development Corporation (CIDC) and a lease agreement whereby the City pays CIDC about $195,470 a year. In 2035, when the City has made nearly $6 million in lease payments, the City can buy the Central Firehouse, which reportedly cost $3.5 million to build, for only a dollar.
And then there's the more recent experience of putting a new building on city property: the senior center.
Senior Center Another resolution introduced at the informal Common Council meeting was one to transfer $71,158.61 from the General Fund in order to pay Spacesmith for the developing plans and bid documents for a senior center annex to the Youth Center which is now not going to be built.
The amount being paid to Spacesmith is reported to be only 75 percent of what is actually owed for the work done, and the money is part of the $130,000 that the Council had allocated for the project.
Later in the meeting, Pierro asked about the $400,000 from a Community Development Block Grant. This grant, awarded in August 2010, was the first and the major funding for the senior center project. Added to this, to make up the $780,000 that was once thought to be an amount adequate to construct the annex, was $150,000 from HCDPA, $100,000 from the Hudson River Bank & Trust Foundation, and $130,000 from the City of Hudson general fund. The City had requested yet another extension of the time for the $400,000 CDBG and permission to "switch it over" for use at the Armory to repurpose the space the Galvan Foundation has offered, but Moore reported that there has as yet been no decision on the request. It was mentioned that Daniel Kent, executive director for the Galvan Foundation, made a presentation to the HCDPA board, presumably in an effort to get them to recommit the $100,000 to the revised senior center project. The City of Hudson has already spent more than half of the $130,000 committed to the project for plans that will not be used.
Electric Vehicle Charging Stations A resolution that was, according to Moore, supposed to be there but wasn't raised questions and some ire. It was a resolution to install electric vehicle charging stations in the municipal parking lot across from the Amtrak station. National Grid has selected the municipal parking lot at the train station to site two charging stations. The proposal was first mentioned (and reported by Gossips) at the end of March, when DPW superintendent Rob Perry talked about it at a Common Council Public Works Committee meeting.
When the issue of the charging stations came up at last night's meeting, Alderman John Friedman (Third Ward), who chairs the Legal Committee, wanted to know why the resolution was coming before the full Council. He reminded Moore that the Legal Committee had considered the proposal at its last meeting and decided not to move it forward because it was going to cost the City money and only "rich people," those who could afford to buy electric or hybrid cars, would benefit. In response to Friedman's objection, Moore explained that National Grid had "worked out a system whereby the user would pay National Grid directly for the power," which was estimated to cost 45 to 50 cents a day. He also indicated that the City would charge an extra 50 cents a day to people parking in the spaces designated as electric vehicle charging stations.
When concerns were voiced about "giving up" two spaces in the parking lot, which might go unused, Moore suggested that everyone could park in the spots designated as charging stations. To this idea, Alderman Ohrine Stewart (Fourth Ward) responded: "I can't see you designating two spots and then letting anyone park there." Stewart also wanted to know if anyone had requested these services. Mayor Bill Hallenbeck, from the audience, responded to Stewart by saying that electric cars were "the wave of the future" and told of a Hudson resident who had built his own electric car and had contacted the mayor's office wanting to know how he could go about registering it.
The Chicken Law The amendment to the city code that would allow people to keep chickens in Hudson has finally made it to the aldermen's desks--after discussion started about it almost a year ago. Friedman, who has been the law's greatest proponent, explained that in drafting the proposed law the City had the help of a "municipal chicken law expert," who happens to live in Hudson, and called raising chickens "an issue of food democracy and access to fresh food."
Pierro reported that he had been getting "numerous calls from people against [the chicken law]" and none in support. Alderman David Marston (First Ward) countered by calling for a show of hands from people in the audience who supported the chicken law. Since many of those present had come to City Hall on purpose to show their support for raising chickens in Hudson, almost everyone raised his or her hand. Moore remarked that there are "a remarkable number of young people who have come to town and have an interest in this."
The Council will vote on whether or not to move the proposed law forward on Tuesday, May 21.
The Land Transfer When Stewart brought up the May 15 deadline for Holcim to sign the agreement to transfer ownership of 9.9 acres of waterfront land to the City of Hudson, Moore predicted that the "deadline will pass, and the agreement will pass as well."
When the issue was raised of the title search that did not discover Standard Oil ownership of and activity on part of the parcel in question, city attorney Cheryl Roberts said simply that the City had made a mistake in what had been requested. She continued to play down the significance of Standard Oil's presence on this parcel by saying that "Crawford is still indicating that that they may not be recommending a Phase II [environmental study]."
When asked how much the City had paid for services required by the sought-after land transfer, Roberts indicated that "Monahan and Crawford have not billed us yet." At which point Moore commented that the City had shown good faith in this matter but Holcim had not. "We incurred expenses," he said," with the assumption that this deal would go forward."
Alternative Energy Sources When the audience was invited to bring new business before the Council, Victor Mendolia rose to reiterate the objections and concerns he has raised about the City's switch to wind energy. He alleged that Viridian was bankrupt and that their multilevel marketing model might be a pyramid scheme and asked why there had been no RFP (request for proposal) for this action and why the Council had not been involved. Moore explained that the company called Viridian that was in bankruptcy was an Irish company that had no connection with Viridian Energy and whose only activity in the United States was owning "a tank farm in Houston." After accusing Mendolia, who has announced his intention to challenge Moore for the position of Common Council president, of being "reckless is his accusations," Moore stated that a "simple purchase of service does not require an RFP."
Friedman raised the question of what had happened with the proposal made back in January by Lotus Energy to install solar panels on the Central Firehouse. Roberts shared the information that the owner of the building--CIDC--has given permission to install the panels but "we need to go out to bid for this type of contract" because it is "different from changing from one energy source to another."
Hallenbeck volunteered the information that the owner of Lotus Energy "has done research and believes an RFP may not be required." He reiterated that using wind energy from Viridian would save the City $40,000 a year in energy usage, but solar panels would decrease energy demand--so both were needed. Friedman recommended placing solar panels on the new police and court facility.
Stewart wanted to know why the Council had no prior knowledge of the decision and why the aldermen had to hear about it, along with the rest of Hudson, on the news. Moore repeated that it was a month-to-month deal and not a long-term commitment but suggested that it might be arranged for Viridian to make a presentation to the Council.
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