Schenectady County

Porterfield picked for Schenectady City Council

Community organizer Marion Porterfield will become a member of the City Council next week.
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Community organizer Marion Porterfield will become a member of the City Council next week.

Council President Denise Brucker announced the decision at Monday’s committee meeting, although all of the Democrats already knew. They met last Thursday to decide on Porterfield.

Councilman Vince Riggi, the only non-Democrat on the council, did not object. He had voted for Porterfield last month when the council tried to appoint someone to its vacant seat, though he said his vote was just a ploy to deadlock the appointment to fill the vacancy.

Given that the last attempt to appoint someone ended in a 3-3 vote, Brucker said the council will not bring in a judge to swear in Porterfield when it votes next Monday.

Usually, appointees are sworn in at a special ceremony at the beginning of the council meeting. Instead, once Porterfield gets enough votes to be appointed to the seat, she will simply sign the official book and take her seat as a voting member. She could be formally sworn in April 23, the following council meeting, Brucker said.

The five Democrats said they would all vote for her this time, so her victory is all but assured.

In other business:

u The council took a closer look at the city laws for boarding up a vacant house. City officials are enforcing board-ups in court proceedings against owners who abandon their houses, but some residents object because they feel the boards advertise that the house is vacant.

New building Inspector Eric Shilling suggested amendments to the law to specify that owners must cut plywood to the exact size of each recessed window and doorway, and bolt the wood on from the inside. This makes it more difficult for anyone to break in. City workers have already been using those specifications when boarding up houses this year.

Also, the boards must be painted a slate gray, to help them blend in.

Broken windows must be boarded up or replaced.

The law also specifies that owners of vacant buildings don’t have to immediately board up their houses.

They must do so within 30 days of leaving the property if it is unsecured, but if they can lock each door and window, that counts as secured, and no further steps are needed.

Assistant Corporation Counsel Carl Falotico explained that if an owner maintains the property, boards never need to go up.

“If you’re maintaining your property, it can sit there forever,” he said.

u The council also reluctantly agreed in committee to changes in the city code for recreational fires.

Fire Chief Michael Della Rocco proposed that the law be rewritten to clarify that outdoor fires are banned.

They were already banned, he said, but the law was unclear — it referred to certain types of fireproof enclosures that no one but firefighters could understand.

“We know what it means, but no one else does,” he said.

He wanted to change it to simply say that charcoal or gas grills are allowed, and nothing else. That means no metal fire pits, no open burning of leaves and no campfires.

Councilwoman Barbara Blanchard wasn’t happy, saying that she wants to continue to have small campfires in her backyard.

Della Rocco wouldn’t budge.

“It’s simply not allowed in cities,” he said.

Brucker added that “small campfires” would be a legal nightmare.

“That’s very subjective. What’s small to you might not be small to someone else,” she said.

Della Rocco added that his firefighters aren’t going to patrol the streets looking for campfires — but if they get a complaint, he said, he wanted the law to clearly state that the fire must be extinguished.

He gets many complaints from residents with respiratory ailments whose neighbors run the gamut from hot dog roasters to daily burners of construction debris, he said.

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