FULTON, NY – A special meeting of the Fulton Common Council held Tuesday (March 14) resulted in the approval of eight separate bond resolution totaling roughly $2 million.
The first resolution, authorizing the demolition of various city owned buildings at a maximum estimated cost of $700,000 garnered support from five of the six common councilors despite public comment in opposition of the approval.
County legislator Frank Castiglia, D-Fulton, expressed his opposition to bonding in general.
Instead, he suggested the use of the Oswego County Land Bank to determine if any of the properties set for demolition could be handled by the land bank, a “local public authority designed to acquire, stabilize, assemble and facilitate the redevelopment of blighted or abandoned properties.”
“With so many different avenues to go right now, bonding is never, ever my favorite idea. At this point in time in our fiscal history here in the county, state, and city of Fulton, I really think we should be looking at the other avenues. One, the land bank. We could give them inventory of these houses and see which ones maybe they can turn around. If they decide they need to be (demolished) then they demo and the cost doesn’t come to us. The cost goes to that program to save us money,” Castiglia said.
“We did give Joe Fiumara this list to go to the land bank so we are working with them, we’re on board with them but we’re going to continue to do some of the stuff that we do because we see the positive effect that’s happening,” Fulton Mayor Ronald Woodward Sr. said.
Joe Trovato also spoke in opposition of bonding to demolish city owned properties, noting the use of the land bank or a push to sell the properties before opting for demolition.
“I don’t think the city should be in a hurry to take out $700,000 to demo these houses. I think they (should) set maybe another six months and try to sell them to prospective buyers,” he said.
By publicizing houses for sale at as little as $1,000 he said people would be able to put more money into restoring the home to keep it on the tax rolls and save the city an estimated $35,000 cost of demolition per house.
Ultimately, first ward councilor, Tom Kenyon was the only nay vote on the first bond resolution.
Kenyon explained that many of properties on the proposed list for demolition have been present for more than ten years.
“What’s the urgency right now to take this $700,000 to demolish these properties?” he questioned.
With five votes in favor, the resolution was carried with majority support.
The second, third, and fourth bond resolutions passed unanimously authorizing the construction of a new salt/vehicle storage building at a maximum estimated cost of $350,000, the purchase of financial software at a maximum estimated cost of $33,000, and the reconstruction of catch basins and manholes on various streets at a maximum estimated cost of $100,000, respectively.
The fifth bond resolution, also passed unanimously, authorized the dredging of Lake Neatahwanta at a maximum estimated cost of $130,000.
“That does get reimbursed to us, and that reimbursement will go toward the bond payment,” Woodward explained. “And we do have the money budgeted this year for lifeguards to open Stevenson beach if the Health Department allows it.”
The sixth bond resolution authorizing the purchase of an excavator at the maximum estimated cost of $180,000 again received a lone nay vote from first ward councilor Kenyon. With majority support, the resolution was carried.
The seventh and eighth bond resolutions authorizing the installation of pump station upgrades at a maximum estimated cost of $120,000 and the purchase of a sewer cleaning truck at a maximum estimated cost of $350,000, respectively, passed unanimously.
Legislator Castiglia expressed his favoring to consolidation and shared services and purchases, suggesting that city officials consider sharing buildings such as the salt/vehicle storage shed and equipment such as the sewer cleaning truck with other local municipalities, of which money will become available as the Governor unveils his plans for consolidation and shared services.
Public Works Commissioner, C.J. Smith explained that a logging system for the sewer cleaning truck showed that on average, the truck was used at least once per calendar day for a year.
“That’s substantial,” he said. “I don’t really think (sharing) is a feasible option.”
Mayor Woodward noted his understanding of these concerns while also pointing out the current agreements between Fulton and local municipalities to benefit tax payers.
“I understand the concerns, if there was a way we didn’t have to borrow money it would be the best way, I agree with that. I will say, the city of Fulton right now has 11 intermunicipal agreements,” all of which save tax payer money, he explained.
Ultimately, he deemed all the bond purchases to be necessary.
The salt storage building is in jeopardy of falling down, without pump station upgrades the city cannot pump sewer from across the river potentially resulting in sewer backing up into cellars, and the sewer cleaning truck has proven useful many times, he said.
Castiglia stood firm in his stance against bonding.
“Bonding is something that saves taxpayer money because it doesn’t come out right now. Well, sooner or later it comes out of somebody’s pocket and future generations are going to have to pay for our bonding … We can’t afford to put more debt on future generations, not when there are so many avenues for us to go other than bonding,” he said.
Council president and second ward councilor, David Ritchie said simply, “sometimes you have to spend money to save money. Some of these things are going to save us money in the future, so that’s what I’m looking at.”
Third ward councilor, Donald Patrick Jr. agreed.
“I know to certain people bonding is unpopular, but you’re not going to please everyone. As far as the equipment purchases, our workforce is to a bare minimum, we’ve got to give the employees we have left the proper equipment to do the job,” he said. “As far as I’m concerned, we’re putting an investment in our city. We’re not bonding to put my kids, your kids, or anybody else’s kids under undue pressure. We’re trying to make our city better.”
City clerk/chamberlain, Daniel O’Brien said the bond payments will begin next year and after a bonding attorney and financial advisor considered the probable useful purpose of each resolution, the payments will be spread out over fifteen years.