On Monday night, at a special meeting, the Common Council voted to allocate $11,000 and buy two more months' time in which to complete their due diligence and decide whether or not to buy 701 Union Street and adapt it as the police and court building.
In the hour of discussion that preceded the vote, very little new information was revealed. Council president Don Moore explained that if the Council did not take action to extend or terminate the agreement and simply let it lapse, the $30,000 deposit would be lost, along with the $11,000 paid thus far to extend the agreement. Alderman Cappy Pierro (Fifth Ward) groused that the conversation about the building had gone on for six months. Alderman Abdus Miah (Second Ward) fretted about spending more taxpayer money to extend the agreement and urged, "Either we buy it or not." Alderman Wanda Pertilla (Second Ward) complained that she had not been included, from the beginning, in the conversation about the building, and Alderman Ohrine Stewart (Fourth Ward) echoed the complaint, saying that for the past few days she had been "cramming to get up to speed on the project."
When Moore argued that $11,000 was a reasonable expenditure "in order to be sure that we are making the right decision," Alderman Nick Haddad (First Ward), who has headed up the project, pointed out that the cost analysis had been done three times and independently verified. "At some point, you have to trust the numbers." Alderman John Friedman (Third Ward) concurred. "I don't know that we can talk anymore risk out of it," he said. Pierro then returned to his familiar theme: "We're at the point where we could put a new building up. Yes, it's going to cost more, but you'll have a brand-new building."
The discussion, which had been fairly restrained and civil, threatened to erupt into shouting when Alderman David Marston (First Ward) suggested that Miah's concern about spending taxpayer money to extend the agreement was "specious" and piqued Pierro by making reference to the $6-million fire station. From the audience, police chief Ed Moore poured oil on the roiling waters by thanking all the Council members for their efforts. "Everybody in this room," he said, "has dedicated time to make things better for the employees of the court and the police officers."
Council president Moore then called for a vote. Alderman Bob Donahue and Pierro, the two Fifth Ward aldermen who, in the weighted vote system, wield 364 votes each, both voted no. All the other aldermen voted aye, except for Sheila Ramsey, who was absent. There was some tension in the room as city clerk Tracy Delaney calculated and recalculated the vote. Were the aye votes of seven aldermen and the Council president sufficient to stand against the powerful opposition of the Fifth Ward? It turns out they were. The resolution required a simple majority--1,015 aye votes--to pass; it received 1,205.
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