Friday, July 19, 2013

The City and Its Finances

The Finance Committee meeting on Tuesday night was supposed to determine if the City would plunge over a fiscal cliff if the Dunn warehouse and the lot at Fourth and State streets were not sold to the highest bidder before the year is out, but that discussion really didn't happen. But even though that question was never answered and the meeting sometimes devolved into bickering about money, some important information emerged.

The big topic of the evening was the news that Galvan Partners was walking away from the purchase of 405 Warren Street. There were questions about who knew what when (the city treasurer, it seems, was among the last to know), whether the City can now go to the next highest bidder (assistant city attorney Carl Whitbeck reportedly has reservations about that), and if the City has to return the $26,000 down payment (the letter to Whitbeck from Galvan attorney Mark Greenberg, which gives no reason for backing out, makes this request: "Please return the down payment at your earliest convenience"). When committee member Nick Haddad (First Ward) suggested that the City has shown some discretion about returning down payments on auctioned property in the past, Ohrine Stewart (Fourth Ward) said, astoundingly, since she is usually the Council's self-appointed bean counter when it comes to getting and spending, "If we've done it in the past [i.e., return a deposit], we should do it again."

The topic that provoked shouting at the Finance Committee meeting was the purchase of two new "unbudgeted" police cars. Chief Ed Moore, who told First Ward residents in May that he thought the police car was one of the worst inventions for municipal policing, now wants two new ones. (By Gossips' count, there are currently five "black and whites" and an untold number of unmarked police vehicles.) Cappy Pierro, chair of the Police Committee (and police commissioner in the past), wants to deliver those cars, but city treasurer Eileen Halloran cautions budgetary restraint.

Halloran prefaced the police car discussion with information about the budget. To balance the 2013 city budget, $200,000 was allocated from the general fund. So far in 2013, the Common Council has appropriated expenditures from the general fund that exceed that amount by $130,000. Those expenditures include the $71,000 paid to Spacesmith for the design of a senior center that was never built; $26,000 allocated for the demolition of 67 Fairview Avenue; and the down payment on 701 Union Street

Although the actual amount in the fund balance has never been disclosed, we are led to believe that it is an adequate and healthy amount. Making reference to the fund balance, Halloran said on Monday, "We didn't get in the healthy condition we're in by purchasing every bright, shiny object." She was alluding, of course, to the new firetruck for Hoysradt and the two new police cars, and her comment incensed Pierro, who accused her of jeopardizing the welfare and safety of Hudson residents with her penury. The police, Pierro asserted, haven't had a new vehicle in three years, and the cars to be replaced have more than 90,000 miles on them. 

The solution suggested by Halloran is the one that the Council decided to follow: the cost of one car--$22,000--will come from the general fund; the police must find the $22,000 for the second car in their own budget.

To continue her theme that the Council needs to be disciplined in its spending, Halloran updated the committee on the "foreclosure list"--the list of properties at risk of foreclosure owing to nonpayment of property taxes. The list, which every year starts out long and ends up fairly short as property owners enter into payment agreements or find ways to pay their back taxes, is now down to 81 properties. These properties, she reported, are spread throughout the city: 13 percent in the First Ward; 27 percent in the Second Ward; 16 percent in the Third Ward; 18 percent in the Fourth Ward; 26 percent in the Fifth Ward. "Foreclosures," said Halloran, "are a factor of the taxes. The stress [indicated by these numbers] is across the city."

The question of whether or not the City needed to sell the Dunn warehouse and the lot at Fourth and State was never actually addressed, but on that topic, Cheryl Stuart expressed the opinion that "every time the City mismanages money, they shouldn't turn around and try to sell valuable property." In truth, it's not a matter of mismanaging money. It's more of a Jacob and Esau thing--being willing to give up something of immense long-term value to satisfy an immediate need. Haddad alluded to this when he declared, "The Dunn warehouse has no business being sold."


  1. It was great press while it lasted, but not inviting enough in the end. Here are some inspiring excerpts from the June 12th Register Star coverage:

    "Rev. Godfrey Forbes, pastor of the First Church of God in Christ, said Tuesday, 'The gentleman that bid on the place (Galvan principal T. Eric Galloway) did not want [the current tenants] to move.'

    "Forbes said Galvan has asked him for a list of residents of the building and how much rent they pay.

    "In addition to residences, the building also contains Aprile’s House of Beauty, a salon, which Forbes said he believed would be allowed to stay as well. ...

    "Forbes is the salon’s maintenance man, he said. The fruit and vegetable stand that was a fixture for several years in front of the salon will also continue to happen, he said.

    “'The little fruit market was for the church,' he said. 'People who could not buy anything, we give them — peaches, apples, vegetables, sweet corn, potatoes. It’s a charitable gift from the church.'

    "The church, in turn, receives much of its produce as donations from 'quite a few local farmers,' Forbes said. ...

    "Supervisor Rick Scalera, D-Hudson5, a special advisor to Galvan, confirmed that if Galloway goes through with the binder and closes on the purchase, he will allow the rent-paying tenants to remain. ...

    "Galloway’s plans are to maintain the building’s current identity as a provider of rental units, Scalera said."

  2. Thank goodness for the fiscally aware AND vocal Halloran!

  3. Is it too cynical to imagine that Galvan withdrew its offer on 405 Warren in order to force the city into selling the Dunn and 4th street properties, both of which Galvan has shown interest in buying?

  4. An interesting question is raised here. How many vehicles does the police department actually have... that is, not just the Black & Whites, but all vehicles? And of course, how many vehicles do we need?
    Secondly, is there a replacement plan in place that sets forth when purchase of new vehicles is scheduled and or justified?
    Neither of these issues seem to be addressed in the reports of recent Council discussions. Rather, justification for purchase seems to be based on a reasoning based on possible fear or danger.
    If such plan is in place, replacement should not be a surprise, but a planned, predictable event.

  5. Goodness gracious, 81 properties on the foreclosure list in Hudson, that's equal to approx. a block and half of Warren or any other street.

    And that's considered the new short list?
    What the heck was on the long list?

    Bring in Galvan's money bags! Again.

  6. Before the city returns the deposit, Galvan should bear the burden of proof that title to the property is clouded. The city shouldn't return the deposit without clear proof.

    Is defective title really the issue or did Galvan exceed its reserve price in the auction?

  7. Camp Anderson, Academy hill, Franklin Park, Charles Williams, field day sponsored by HPD. Summer for kids in Hudson, is nothing compared to what it once was.

  8. The city has oversold our (precious) shore. There is only one valid use for the Dunn building. In the words of Craig Thorn "use it as an anchor". Anchor Ricks point like the Opera house anchored downtown.

    As for 401, let the lion enjoy his meal...

    1. Well stated Joe Gallo.
      And an anchor it should be.
      So what say you Gossip readers of having a brewery/eatery on your waterfront?
      It would be great to have a spot to have a beverage, dine, sit outside & enjoy the view.
      I be a few boaters would enjoy it too.

    2. All due respect, the anchor I had in mind would exponentially increase citizens ability to Navigate from our entrapped shore. The county has many restaurants but only one place to access the Hudson. Rick's Point, while adding more docks failed to add a single slip.

      By definition, a wharf is a place to slip boats. Adding more docks without additional slips and parking was a foolish use of precious shoreline.

      Use the Dunn warehouse and lot as an "anchor" for maintaining a (municipal) wharf. Build it and they will come...

      1 Riparian

  9. And the one ship that was at the docks was removed. Now they are empty.

  10. Twenty-five tin boats, were similarly removed from city shore a year ago. People that spent their own money with 100 years of effort now have no place to slip, no place to park. Volunteers will not be replaced by tax consuming grant grabbers. Not without tremendous resistance.