Several residents speak out on concerns at Common Council meeting

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Before the Common Council approved the four items on its agenda Wednesday, several residents spoke to addresses issues of concern.

Shelly Gardner of River Street renewed her statements that she has already made to the council, including last summer, about the city being lax in keeping people off the small island behind River Street around which the Mohawk River flows. She said that vagrants now have bonfires there and stay there in tents. Her complaints to police have yielded nothing, she said.

Gardner also noted that she might purchase the former Donna’s Cafe at 612 E. Dominick St., but had some concerns over the city’s commercial facade program at the property. The current owners obtained $49,998 through the program, the limit for a corner lot, according to city officials. The city’s program requires a five-year term of participation from the owner, and the amount is amortized over that period. If the owner sells before then, the new owner can take on participation or the seller has to pay back the remaining amount, according to city officials. Gardner noted that the current owners, J and M Dematteo, according to city records, signed the five-year agreement in October last year.

Gardner also criticized the city’s policy of charging children $1 to use municipal pools when some can’t afford it and there is plenty of room at the pools for them.

Blaine Wiggins of Oakwood Street said he received a code violation for having treated lumber in his yard for a project. He said he sees many properties around the city that “look like hell” and are “far worse” than his. Such a violation, he said, is “uncalled for.” He urged the city to be more fair with enforcement and focus on more egregious violations first.

Greg Lang of North Levitt Street asked about incentives for new and first-time homebuyers in Rome. He asked the council what Rome offers to young professionals deciding whether to stay in the city. “Why should we choose to live in Rome,” he said, “when the property taxes don’t justify living here?”

Bobbie O’Brien of Martin Drive had questions on two pieces of legislation: the Erie Boulevard West-George Street intersection upgrade project and the access road into the former Rome Cable complex. “Our city is bending over backward” for Cold Point, the company that is relocating from west Rome into the Rome Cable complex, she said. The move led to the city making significant changes in its spending plan for the state’s $10 million Downtown Revitalization Plan in order to secure almost $1 million to prepare a site into which the company plans to move.

Councilor Kimberly A. Rogers, R-3, later noted that the work “isn’t just for Cold Point,” but will improve conditions for the nearby neighborhood and will be part of a larger recruitment effort to bring other businesses into the complex. She said the neighbors support the work.

In the wake of a third local incident involved distribution of literature claiming to be a Ku Klux Klan recruitment effort, this one in Rome Aug. 2, Councilor A. Robert Tracy, R-7, spoke during the council comment period. Tracy was the only member of the seven after the distribution of similar literature in Lee to not speak on the issue at the last meeting, when the council unanimously approved a statement condemning hate and intolerance.

Wednesday he said that distribution of such pamphlets under the cover of darkness is not speech. It is, he said, “an act of cowardice,” and should not be protected as free speech.

The four items approved by the council unanimously:

Authorizing the mayor to apply for the 2018 Department of Transportation’s Transportation Alternatives Program funding up to $1,059,200 for the Erie Boulevard streetscape project at the George Street intersection. It requires a local match of 20 percent — $264,800. That local match will come from federal Community Development Block Grant funding in the public facilities category and in-kind labor and salaries.

An easement with the Oneida County Industrial Development Agency and Rome Community Brownfields Restoration Corp. in order to construct a public road. OCIDA owns land in the 500 block of Henry Street at the former Rome Cable site. As part of development of the site, the city intends to build a road accessing the complex from that block of Henry Street. The legislation notes that “residents living in the vicinity of the Property have voiced concerns about vehicle congestion and other traffic concerns in that area.” The new road would alleviate that issue.

Authorizing the mayor to enter into an intermunicipal agreement with Oneida County Workforce Development for the county’s internship program.

The city will have 18 interns paid $10.40 per hour for 200 hours to provide students with school-based learning with work-based experience. The cost will be $40,304, half of which will be funded by the county.

Authorizing Treasurer David C. Nolan, Deputy Treasurer Brian Adams and city accountant Timothy Clemens to attend an accounting principles and procedures course Nov. 14-16 in Watertown. The cost would be a total of $255.

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