Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Highlights from Last Night's Council Meeting

There were all of twenty-five resolutions and three local laws on the agenda for last night's Common Council meeting, but amazingly the meeting took less than an hour. Dan Udell was there to document the entire meeting. Gossips will only touch on the highlights of the meeting.

Among the communications was the resignation, for health reasons, of Wes Powell as dog control officer for Hudson. Powell's resignation is effective on March 1, 2020. Powell has come under scrutiny and criticism in the past couple of years from Alderman Tiffany Garriga (Second Ward), who believes he did not spend enough time in Hudson to merit the $7,200 the City paid him. Council president Tom DePietro said last night that he had asked city clerk Tracy Delaney to speak with neighboring municipalities about their dog control officers, with the idea that one of them might also serve Hudson. Garriga said she had someone in mind for the job. Alderman Dominic Merante (Fifth Ward) pointed out that the City has, by state law, thirty days to find a new dog control officer.

The resolution supporting the sale of the vacant lot at Fourth and State streets passed with only two dissenting votes--from Alderman Eileen Halloran (Fifth Ward) and Merante. Since the informal meeting last week, the resolution was amended to define affordable housing as "housing costing 30 percent of area medium income." It is assumed that "area medium income" means "area median income," but it is unclear if the "area" is Columbia County, where, according to U.S. census data, the median household income in 2018 was $63,032, or the City of Hudson, where, according to the same source, the median household income in 2018 was $35,153. If the former, apartments could rent for $1,575 a month; if the latter, the rent could only be $878 a month. Before casting her no vote, Halloran questioned the wisdom of authorizing the sale. "We are doing a resolution to study vacancy, and we are already authorizing a sale of property." Garriga told her they were not selling it but rather, "We are claiming it for affordable housing."    

The resolution to do a vacancy study of buildings that would qualify for rent stabilization under the Emergency Tenant Protection Act--that is, buildings with six or more units that were built before 1974--also passed. The goal of the study would be determine if there was a less than 5 percent vacancy rate in those buildings. Before casting her aye vote, Garriga read a written statement challenging her colleagues, which concluded, "If you are for affordable housing and housing justice, show it." The resolution passed with three dissenting votes: Alderman Jane Trombley (First Ward), Halloran, and Merante. 

Two resolutions were passed affecting the makeup of the Hudson IDA (Industrial Development Agency). The IDA board has up until this point been made up only of ex officio members: the mayor, the Council majority and minority leaders, the city treasurer, the assessor, and the chair of the Planning Board. The first resolution passed last night appointed Richard Wallace as the first and only community member of the IDA. The second appointed John Cody, a member of the Planning Board, to take the place of Planning Board chair Betsy Gramkow on the IDA.

February meeting of the IDA
There were also two resolutions passed relating to the City's DRI projects. The first authorized the mayor to execute a contract with Starr Whitehouse for renovations and improvements to Promenade Hill. The second authorized the mayor to execute a contract with Arterial + Street Plans for connectivity and street improvements in the BRIDGE District. It is expected that once these contracts are in place, public engagement for both projects will begin.

Last night, the Council also passed a resolution to bring back The Grant Writers, now known as TGW Consulting.

Bill Roehr and John "Duke" Duchessi had been grant consultants for the City of Hudson since around 2004, but in the summer of 2017, it was decided that their contract with the City would not be renewed. LaBerge Group was chosen to replace them, but the aldermen have not been happy with LaBerge. 

When the resolution to hire TGW Consulting was introduced, Alderman John Rosenthal asked, "Why are we bringing them back?" Council president Tom DePietro explained that the mayor had interviewed three grant consulting firms--TGW, LaBerge, and Chazen Companies--and had chosen TGW. DePietro attributed past difficulties with TGW to their role as a shared resource with HDC and HCDPA and said they had promised to make presentations to the Economic Development Committee, adding "but they will not be accompanied by Sheena Salvino [former executive director of HDC and HCDPA]." Alderman Rebecca Wolff (First Ward) alleged there were "problems with some of the grant writing that happened," citing problematic language in the DRI application. DePietro told Wolff that TGW had nothing to do with the DRI application, but Wolff insisted, "I've heard some stuff," and cast the only no vote on the resolution. 

The Council also voted unanimously to increase the fees for parking meters along Warren Street. Soon a quarter inserted into a meter on Warren Street will buy 30 minutes instead of an hour, but the maximum time that can be purchased before the meter "expires" will remain two hours.

A resolution to extend the intermunicipal agreeement for the controversial Shared Services Response Team was, at the request of Garriga, referred to the Police Committee, which meets next Monday at 6:00 p.m.

Of the local laws, the Council voted to enact the moratorium on new short-term rental units and to move forward on defunding the Toursim Board. At the insistence of Garriga, who said, "This just came out of nowhere," the proposed law extending the mayor's term of office to four years was referred to the Legal Committee. At the end of the meeting, Garriga spoke about a city mayor and said she wanted the Council to research having a city manager instead of extending the mayor's term. Might this be an idea whose time has come?

Toward the end of the meeting, DePietro noted that he had distributed copies of the draft request for expressions of interest in the Dunn warehouse to the members of the Council and asked that they review it and submit comments to mayor's aide, Michael Chameides. It is not known when or if the public will get to see this document.


  1. Yeah, "I've heard some stuff" too. Like when TGW based the build-outs in its 2012 "BOA Program" application on the pre-2011 Zoning Code. Oops!

    Needless to say, Hudson didn't get the grant.

  2. What's this,what's this!.Garriga actually proposed a sensible solution.

  3. Agreed that LaBerge Group was a difficult contract. I struggled to get responses to calls/emails and I am glad to see they made a change - as having a good grant writer in place affords more funding for local projects. That said, I don't know TGW - however will do a bit of research based on unheimlich's comment above.

    That said, if we have a city official voting for or against something and their reasoning is "I've heard some stuff" - I'd hope that transparent government would prevail and that stuff would be made public record so that we could understand why a nay vote would be cast.