Dumping ‘big problem’ in outskirts

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From littering and leaky hydrants, to addressing complaints from residents and giving an update on Rome Police body cameras, several issues were addressed at Wednesday’s Common Council meeting held in Council Chambers at City Hall.

Third Ward Councilor Kimberly Rogers addressed comments made by Zoning Board of Appeals member James DiCastro as to concerns about littering and illegal dumping in the outside district of Rome. She said in her own neighborhood she has witnessed trucks come in and dump trash on vacant properties and while walking some of the city streets and roads, has noticed that ditches are filled with garbage.

“It’s becoming a really big problem and I haven’t had the opportunity to look at the proposed budget, but I’m hoping that cameras are in there for the outside districts,” Rogers said.

What adds to the challenges, Rogers said, is that the sheriff’s office and state police, not city police, patrol the outside district, making it harder to catch people responsible for littering and illegal dumping.

“At minimum, we could get some no littering and illegal dumping signs, but signs don’t really change behavior,” she said. “Unfortunately, what changes people’s behavior is when there’s consequences for their actions.”

Rogers also addressed a resident’s concern about a “leaking” hydrant on South George Street that “several” residents have also called about. She informed the resident that the hydrant had been left running because of residual chlorine build-up in the system “so they are flushing it.”

As for flooding, Rogers expressed a need to address those issues, and talked about a neighbor who was able to take a canoe out into her backyard after the tropical storm in August.

“I think we missed an opportunity during COVID to talk about water issues,” Rogers said. “Public Works Commissioner Butch Conover was in the South Rome area to identify where problems were” and to discuss engineering work and possible drainage. “Hopefully we’ll have a dryer summer next year so we can tackle some of these problems.”

• Common Council President Stephanie Viscelli questioned Police Chief Kevin C. Beach about the police body cameras and if a “test run” had been done with the county District Attorney’s Office.

“Yes, everything is working and we couldn’t be more happy with the quality of the equipment and all the software programs,” said Beach.

The chief said the DA’s office, sheriff’s office and Utica Police all have the same software, “so we are all able to share information, and it’s been a seamless process, so we’re very happy.”

Beach said the department will also order 15 more body cameras than was originally planned.

“Every uniformed officer will have a body camera,” Beach said.

• Franklyn Street resident Kathleen Murphy also expressed her concerns during the public comment period about trash reciprocals being left in front of houses and the “jungles” on properties between the sidewalks and streets with “a bunch of stuff thrown there so people don’t need to mow the grass.”

She again complained there are no retail locations in the city with sales tax dollars going to New Hartford instead, and the lack of “community activities” for residents and to attract people to Rome. She also pleaded for city officials to address issues of flooding, particularly on River Street, which has been “going on since the 1950s.”

“You’re developing the base (former Griffiss Air Force Base), which is the city’s focal point, but the rest of the city is becoming wilderness, and much needs to be done to restore life here,” Murphy said. “Common Council members, codes officers and the mayor need to drive around and see the conditions of the city and do what they need to do in order to fix this mess. I want people to be proud of our city.”

In other business:

• Authorization for the acquisition of real property related to the public right-of-way for the Mohawk Trail Phase 2 Project in the amount of $70,000 was unanimously approved.

• Authorization to execute Customer Project Commitment as it pertains to the city’s LED Street Lighting project was unanimously approved.

• Authorization for the mayor to execute lease agreements with Enterprise Fleet Management for the leasing of five police vehicles was unanimously approved.

• Authorization of a six-month moratorium with respect to the establishment and construction of solar arrays within the city was unanimously tabled for the public hearing on Oct. 13.

• Ordinance 9468A calling for an amendment to the Rome Code of Ordinances Chapter 80 Zoning Code and Related Maps to include the new Heritage District-Erie Canal was once again tabled. Rome Historical Society Board of Trustees President Bobbie O’Brien said she was concerned that “license was taken to change the most important part of the SEQR (Site Environmental Quality Review) language and should be revised to reflect the original wording.” The “modifications” needed in the language of the ordinance were not discovered until after the Planning Board meeting, where board members were to make recommendations for moving forward with the legislation, had adjourned.

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