by Randy Pellis
FULTON — The city of Fulton’s continuing effort to rehab foreclosed homes paid off again, as the Common Council announced Tuesday night that 40 Dewey Drive, a single-family home the city repossessed for back taxes, sold for nearly $100,000.
It may or may not have paid off financially, but, according to Mayor Ron Woodward, that’s not the only consideration.
“I think we probably made a little bit,” he said. “But even if we broke even, the alternative is either tear it down or have a problem with it.
“We used to sell them at auction,” Woodward said. “The problem we had was they went for $4,000 or $5,000 to out-of-towners, and then they would be rental units, and we had problems in the neighborhoods with them, and they deteriorated. So I said, ‘We’re not doing this anymore.’ The council agreed. We take them; we rehab them; we sell them at market value. That means nobody’s going to rent them. They’re going to live here. And they’ve got to be working to afford a mortgage. And we don’t lose money on them.
“When we do them,” he said, “we put all new wiring in; we put all new plumbing in. I want somebody to move in there and not be there for two years and have to put a roof on. We want families to stay here. We don’t want to set them up for failure. But we have no problem selling them. We’re bringing young people in that are working. It’s a good thing. It improves the neighborhoods. I hope they continue this.” The rest of the evening’s business was rather low-key. A zone change was approved from M-1, manufacturing, to C-1, commercial, for a credit union at 209 North Second Street and for a vacant lot on Hubbard Street.
Three vendors licenses were approved for Tricky Dick’s Roadside Grille, Shannon’s Hotdogs, and Dingle’s Lakeside Ice Cream, to sell food and beverages at Bullhead Point and/or Indian Point Landing this year from April 1 to Oct. 31.
And two new LED streetlights were approved for North 7th Street at pole 4-1, and White Avenue on the north side at pole 7.
This being the first council meeting since Mayor Woodward announced he will not be seeking another term, there was much praise from the council for him.
Dennis Merlino, Fifth Ward councilman said, “I want to thank the mayor for his service to the city. I don’t know if everybody’s aware that the mayor almost singlehandedly, with the great councils, before I was ever here, steered us through the most difficult times the city has ever seen, and I think he should receive his due honors. I don’t know who else could have possibly done that. Thank you.”
Lawrence Macner, Sixth Ward councilman added, “The city lost pretty much all of its industrial base and major businesses and industries, and little by little, the mayor’s pulling us out of it. He’s done an awesome job.”
To all the praise, the mayor responded, “It ain’t over ’til it’s over. I’ll do 100 percent right up ’til the 31st (of December). He went on to add, “This year we’re going to be very aggressive in dredging the lake. We own our own dredge now. We’ve got people trained. That lake is an asset to our city, and it would be a shame if we didn’t bring it back. We owe it to the young people.”
The meeting’s 15 minutes of business over, the council opened the floor to a public session. Two county legislators and one candidate for mayor spoke.
County Legislator Jim Karasek alerted the council to state money available for new housing. He sits on housing committees and was “shocked to hear how much money is sitting in the state pool for new housing. As you work with a grant writer you may want to begin to pursue that and see what opportunities are available for us.”
Mayoral hopeful Ethan Parkhurst praised the council and the mayor, whom he noted “has been mayor longer than I’ve been alive,” and in praising the city’s accomplishments said, “To be confident as a city, we have to appear confident as a city.”
Finally, County Legislator Frank Castiglia brought up a number of questions he’s heard lately from people during the current campaign season, especially focusing on a proposal to fix all the roads in Fulton.
“That’s true,” responded Woodward. “Not to do all of them, but a good portion of them. I think we would be remiss and negligent if we didn’t try to do something, and the figure on that was $1 million.” The bond for that will be combined with bonds for other projects, he said.
During the back and forth between the council and Castiglia, the issue of the seemingly never-ending repaving of the same roads over and over came up. Woodward responded with his explanation of a basic problem Fulton faces in maintaining its roads.
“Most of these roads,” he said, “have clay under them. You can pave them all you want, but once that clay’s there, every two or three years you’re going to have to pave it.”
Some roads have lasted longer because the city took the clay out, he said, and then added, somewhat in jest, “We could take the $200,000 we have in CHIPS money (the Consolidated local street and Highway Improvement Program, a state-funded program) and throw another coat on it (the road) to make everybody happy during an election year, and then in two years, you’ve got to do it again.”
Woodward’s response to that sort of short-term thinking is to bond for a major, long-term improvement to some of Fulton’s roads.
Castiglia voiced his approval. “If you’re going to take it all the way down and remove the clay,” he said, “then it’ll last the 10 years (of the bond).”