Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Back to the Ramp

The ramp meant to provide universal access to Promenade Hill was once again the topic of discussion at the informal Common Council meeting on Monday. When Gossips last reported about the ramp, it was estimated it would cost $175,000. The Council, in separate actions, had already allocated a total of $120,000 for its construction. Another $55,000 needed to be secured before work could begin.

On Monday night, John "Duke" Duchessi of TGW Consultants, retained by Hudson Development Corporation and the City of Hudson to prepare grant applications, was there to present the City's proposed entries in this year's Consolidated Funding Application (CFA) round. The applications are due at the end of July, and what's being proposed is applying for $175,000 under the Parks Development program and $100,000 to $200,000 under the Local Waterfront Revitaliation Program (LWRP) to "design a pedestrian/bicycle/vehicle circulation system that facilitates better access to the waterfront." Duchessi explained that these two projects had been chosen from the many projects incorporated in the Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI).

It would seem that the $175,000 in grant money for the ramp was meant to be used instead of the money already allocated by the City. After all, $100,000 of that had been written into the 2017 budget for legal fees for lawsuit expected if the Fair & Equal referendum, to eliminate the City's weighted vote system, had failed. In December, the resolution repurposing that $100,000 barely passed in the Common Council. Duchessi, however, said that, "for the DRI, a new cost study was done and some new plans formulated." Members of the Common Council wanted to know how the plans for the ramp had changed, if more improvements to Promenade Hill were being proposed, if the estimates for the ramp had changed, and if it was going to end up costing close to $300,000. Duchessi seemed woefully unprepared to answer the aldermen's questions, telling them he hadn't been involved in preparing the DRI application. At one point, he attempted to explain his lack of preparation by saying he wasn't actually going to be at the meeting. 

Not only were there questions about how the DRI had altered the plans for the ramp, but there were questions about the selection of the two projects. Alderman Rick Rector (First Ward) observed, "We haven't seen the DRI, so we cannot determine of those two projects are the two perfect things to extract from it." The DRI application, which was the subject of several meetings during its conceptualization, was submitted on June 14. Since then, neither the public nor the Common Council has seen the final application.

Toward the end of the discussion, after Alderman Abdus Miah (Second Ward) accused the mayor of not having a commitment to building the ramp and of "not caring about the people," Alderman Tiffany Garriga (Second Ward) said that she and Alderman Michael O'Hara (First Ward) were working on a resolution asking Mayor Tiffany Martin Hamilton "to present a report on where we stand with the ramp." Council president Claudia DeStefano suggested that there be a special meeting between July 18, the date of the regular July meeting, and July 28, where the applications are due, to discuss the proposed projects and vote on a resolution to support the applications, but a date for that meeting was not determined.

To view the entire discussion, as well as the rest of the 75-minute-long meeting, you can watch Dan Udell's video here.

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