Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Council Honors Enviromental Activist with Open Space Purchase, Clerk Honored

Last night at the common council meeting newly retired Town Clerk Sandra Russo Driska was honored with a plaque. Pictured below is Driska and her husband Zoning Enforcement Officer Bruce Driska and Councilman Todd Berch. Councilman Tom Serra said Driska was the most "personable and  friendly city employee he had ever met" when complimenting the Town Clerk on her 27 years of service to the city.

The Common Council went on to vote in favor of the purchase of the 50 acres of land in the Maromas area of town for $150,000 to be named "Save Maromas" in honor of long time environmental activist and Conservation Commission member Katchen Coley. Coley was in the audience with her family. Michael Keen, a member of the Conservation Committee spoke in favor of the purchase.

Councilman Joe Bibisi said," I was on the Conservation Committee in the beginning, and it was us  who fought to get $5 million set aside for open space, this property has been at the top of the list since the beginning, very desirable for the city. It is beautiful with trails and will be a benefit to citizens."

Citizen and former Councilman Earle Roberts who lives in the Maromas area as well, questioned the Council's method for selecting the particular property over some 20 others on the Conservation Commissions list of desirable open space areas. Roberts, who was on the Conservation Commission in 1983 which allocated thru referendum the first $5 million dollars for the purchase of open space for the City, argued that general fund money ( the $100,000 of the total $150,000 sum) should not pay for such a purchase when an open space fund was available, and neither should funds received from the state for road renovations. Roberts said he was in favor of the purchase, just questioned the the proper vetting and the proposed ways the City would pay for the property.

Roberts started to comment o staff comments in the meeting minutes by Planning and Zoning Department Director William Warner, but before Roberts could elaborate further, Mayor Drew said "Nooo nooo nooo Earle, I will not accept allegations, if you keep speaking I will have you thrown out."

The Mayor then cut off the microphone's power and without looking up, closed the public portion of the hearing.All the members of the Council who spoke were in favor of the purchase but debated the means to pay for it.

Councilman Phil Pessina, at the start of the meeting, said " It is unfair to citizens, that on July 1 - the start of the fiscal year, we are already drawing money from the general fund, when last year taxpayers had a tax increase. Of course we want to purchase this property, but this is not the way to pay for it. This is not fair to tax payers." Pessina charged the city look for other means. Pessina pointed out that the rules for using the $322,000 in LoCIP funding from the state previously only for road, building and sidewalk projects, had changed. Money is already scheduled to be used by the BOE for building improvements. Ultimately, the open space purchase passed unanimously.

Also on the agenda was $75,000 for design of a sports facility and revamping of land at Vet's park.
Councilman Tom Serra stated he was in favor, and felt sports were one of the most "important investments for the City."

Councilman  Todd Berch said, " No disrespect to former administrations, but if you drive around and look at City parks they are an embarrassment, these improvements are long over due."
The spending of $75,000 on the sports facility design passed unanimously.

The Council also voted unanimously to return $224,000 of state reimbursed money to the BOE side of the budget from the City side. Superintendent Dr. Pat Charles was in the audience and spoke in favor of the transfer.

The Council voted in favor of a deal to purchase solar panels from Greenskies Renewable Energy Industries, owned by Robert Landino, for installation on the roof of the city opened factory Remington Rand. The Council voted to waive the competitive bid process. Greenskies leases space for storage in Remington Rand.

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