The city may cut one nuisance officer position and add a person to the Schenectady Neighborhood Assistance Program crew instead as it tries to maintain hundreds of foreclosed houses.
Carl Olsen, commissioner of general services, recommended the change at Tuesday’s budget session. He told the council the city has taken so many of the poorly-maintained properties that there wasn’t much left for two nuisance officers to do. One officer is moving to a new position, so he said the job could easily be cut.
“You’re not going to be writing the number of tickets,” he said. “You’re better off with the seasonal line.”
The proposed budget adds $10,000 to the seasonal SNAP crew — nearly one full position. But that’s only a portion of the savings from cutting the nuisance officer, who had a salary of $35,600 plus benefits.
Olsen warned the council might want to reverse its decision in another year or two.
“As we sell these properties, you’ll want to look at increasing the [nuisance] staff, if necessary. Hopefully it won’t be necessary; hopefully you’ll have owners in there who can not only pay the taxes but maintain their properties.”
This year so far, the SNAP crew has completed 1,087 cleanups at city-owned foreclosures, including 63 houses in September alone. By comparison, the crew cleaned up 563 privately-owned houses so far this year. The cost of those cleanups are charged to the owners’ tax bills.
“That’s a lot of work being done by a handful of people,” Olsen said. “They work very hard. That makes a difference in the neighborhood.”
The three to four workers have been paid $10 an hour for the last seven years or so, Olsen added. Councilwoman Marion Porterfield questioned whether that was still a fair wage.
But Olsen said the crew members haven’t been stuck without raises for years. He promotes to full-time those who are reliable, hard workers, he said. Of all the seasonal workers this year, four have already been promoted, according to city records.
He also offers free commercial driver’s license training to those who get their CDL learner’s permit.
“If they don’t have their learner’s permit for their CDL, we encourage them to take the test,” he said.
After their shifts, they can work with a city employee to get driving experience.
The goal is to quickly get them a license, Olsen said, adding that a training school would likely charge $3,000.
“So there’s a significant value to it,” he said.
Olsen also manages the garbage pickup system, and Councilman Ed Kosiur asked him to explain why the city still changes garbage days after every holiday.
Private companies move the garbage day after just six holidays a year — and move the day back to its normal schedule the following week. Workers pick up garbage on the weekend to get to every customer in a holiday week.
Olsen said the city could do the same — by paying overtime for Saturday work and double-time plus holiday pay to work the other six holidays of the year, which include Columbus Day.
A few years ago, when workers priced out the change, it would have cost $65,000 per year. Now it’s probably about $100,000, Olsen said.
“For $100,000 a year, people can look at the schedule,” he said.
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