OSWEGO, NY – Oswego Mayor William Barlow Jr. said Monday night he authorized the iron fence surrounding City Hall be taken down. The fence was in bad shape with several missing parts on the West First Street side and it caused a safety concern, he said.
Several residents have complimented him on the move, he added.
However, a former city alderman questioned the mayor’s authority to make such a decision without council approval.
And, Dick Atkins said several residents have called him to express their displeasure at the fence being removed.
He said this is a case for the newly formed Oswego Ethics Board.
Kevin C. Caraccioli, city attorney, said Monday night that Atkins’ charges are “Much to do about nothing.”
The majority of the fence is being stored at the former Flexo site, the mayor said.
“I personally think it looks better with the fence gone. It was a safety hazard. You touch the fence and it would buckle,” he said. “I’ve received more compliments about the fence being gone than still being there.”
They will add some landscaping to the area, Barlow noted.
A railing along the west River Walk was also “in terrible shape,” and the mayor said he told the DPW to remove it as well.
Does every time the DPW does something they have to come to the council? He asked rhetorically.
“We didn’t sell the fence. We didn’t give the fence away. I didn’t take it home with me. At the end of the day if the city councilors tell me they need the fence back up … we can send out a RFP (request for proposals) and the council can decide if they want to spend 40, 50 or 60 grand on refurbishing the fence,” the mayor said. “Quite frankly, we intended to do that anyway. It might not be quick enough for some. We’re working on making City Hall look good.”
Getting the fence refurbished isn’t high on the mayor’s priority list. The city is in bad shape and there are a lot of other things that need to be done first, he explained.
Councilor Robert Corradino agreed with the mayor that “City Hall looks better without the fence.”
“This is the people’s house; this is the city of Oswego residents’ house. Just like the White House is our house,” he said. “I commend the mayor for being proactive and improving the looks in a cost-effective manner. That fence was in pretty bad shape. It was dangerous, it had missing sections and would be very costly to fix.”
Councilor Nate Emmons also stressed the safety issues regarding the fence. It especially posed a threat during the weekly farmers’ markets, he pointed out, when many young children are playing around it.
The fence, all the way around Second Street wasn’t in bad shape, Atkins said.
“The mayor thought the fence was an eyesore to City Hall. Now, if it were a safety hazard, it still falls on you (council) to decide if it were a safety hazard,” Atkins told the councilors. “It doesn’t fall on the mayor. You guys are in charge. I know he may think he is. But, he is not.”
It should have come through committee, the council should have done due diligence, they should have come up with a plan of what to do if it were a safety hazard, the former alderman said.
“I’ve got people calling me, talking to me and saying, ‘What happened to the fence, that beautiful fence?’ In 1980 City Hall was rehabbed. That’s a federal – state paid for fence and you got no authority from the state to deal with it,” Atkins said.
“Mr. Atkins is making much to do about nothing,” the city attorney said.
The Ethics Committee will do what it needs to, he added.
“But, candidly, this is the exact type of complaint that this board was not constituted to handle, this random nonsense,” he said. “Mr. Atkins’ complaint makes a mockery of the board of ethics.”
The board wasn’t formed for someone “who wants to pick a fight over nonsense,” he added.
“This is a waste of time, this is a waste of your time,” he told the councilors. “This remains a health and safety issue. The mayor was well within his rights to take action immediately.”
The city attorney then displayed several historical photographs depicting Oswego City Hall over the years – without any fence.