OSWEGO, NY – A small but vocal group of civic minded Oswegonians braved the winter weather Thursday night to attend a town hall meeting at City Hall.
The meeting was hosted by Eric VanBuren, Sixth Ward Councilor and council vice president, and lasted nearly two and a half hours. However, it was open to the public and not just residents of the Sixth Ward.
Besides VanBuren, other city officials at the meeting included Mayor Tom Gillen, City Chamberlain Deb Coad, Personnel Director Rita Tickle, Fire Chief Jeff McCrobie and Fifth Ward Councilor Bill Barlow also stopped in.
VanBuren opened the meeting by explaining some background about the budget, fund balance, consent decree and other items.
He displayed a chart comparing Oswego with 33 other randomly selected cities.
As far as taxes go, the Port City was about in the middle of the pack.
“For the most part, the lower the housing assessments, the higher the taxes,” he pointed out. “The majority of the other tax rates of all the other cities were before our tax increase.”
Some members of the audience pointed out the tax increase was hard to take, especially on the heels of increased water and sewer fees the past couple of years.
The city is taking a look at all of its departments, starting with the fire department, to determine whether they are operating at optimal efficiency. If not, the council and administration will restructure them.
Questions were raised regarding the proposed new city website.
It will be a more interactive website, VanBuren said. Visitors will be able to not only get current city information but will be able to pay bills online and more.
There is no position included in the proposal, he added
One of the issues people have with the city is the lack of information about things.
The councilor noted that this administration is striving to get as much information to the public as it can.
“I’m trying to be as transparent as I can,” he said. “That’s part of the reason behind this meeting. Will I have more? Yes. I think this administration is doing a good job sharing information with the public in a timely manner.”
With 52 percent of the city properties tax exempt, Oswego needs to find new ways to generate revenue, one audience member said.
He suggested having the police department bill (landlords) for various situations.
When the fire department sends an ambulance somewhere, the person receiving the service is billed, he said, adding it should be the same with the police.
If police respond to a domestic dispute or disorderly conduct call at a certain residence, for example, the property owner should be billed, he explained.
“After getting, say a $150 bill a few times, he’ll change the tenants,” he added.
It would be a bit more complicated than that, VanBuren noted. But, it is something the city would explore.
More town hall type meetings will be held in the future, he said.
Residents can contact the councilor any time, he added.
Van Buren can be reached at: (H) 532-6465, (C) 592-1149 or email [email protected]