SCHENECTADY — For reasons he didn’t explain publicly during Monday’s committee meetings, City Council President John Mootooveran removed Councilwoman Karen Zalewski-Wildzunas as a member of the Finance Committee and from chairing the Planning and Development Committee.
Zalewski-Wildzunas and Councilwoman Carmel Patrick said they objected to the actions, with Patrick issuing a rebuke to Mootooveran.
The moves somewhat overshadowed some favorable financial news from the city.
In addition, the process of moving 21 homes from a floodplain got underway, with a committee calling for a public hearing.
The Finance Committee meeting began with Zalewski-Wildzunas objecting to her removal as a member.
Zalewski-Wildzunas indicated city Corporation Counsel Andrew Koldin had entered an opinion that Mootooveran did not have the authority to remove a properly seated member of the committee.
Councilman John Polimeni, chairman of the Finance Committee, said Koldin had advised the committee to proceed with its new composition, which replaced Zalewski-Wildzunas with Councilwoman Marion Porterfield.
Later, Zalewski-Wildzunas asked Mootooveran why he had removed her from the two roles.
The council president was guarded, only confirming that he had spoken to Koldin and would respond at a more appropriate time.
In objecting, Patrick said Zalewski-Wildzunas was the only council person with professional expertise in development, and she credited Zalewski-Wildzunas for adding $1 million in properties through work with city staff.
Patrick said she was “dumbfounded” by the moves, and that she found Mootooveran’s actions “irresponsible” and “questionable.”
The issue of the committeee’s composition stalled Finance Commissioner Anthony Ferrari’s request to send a “great deal” on a .4 percent one-year bond anticipation ordinance to save the city money on capital projects this year.
Ferrari asked the committee to vote affirmatively so that the council could vote during its April 12 meeting, as he needed to meet a deadline.
Ferrari said the city’s budget contains $26.2 million for general, water and sewer fund projects, but only $7.3 million of anticipated project costs and an $91,945 issuance needed to be paid this year.
But Porterfield asked for additional information on spending items, specifically, police body cameras, Tasers and changes to a police shooting range.
When Zalewski-Wildzunas motioned to move the item, and for the city to provide Porterfield the information at a later time, it deadlocked, 2-2. Polimeni recessed the item to a later date.
In what Ferrari said was a “good news” item, an additional $241,951 from the state is headed to the city’s consolidated street and highway improvement account. The state had previously told city officials its funding would be cut 20 percent due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The actual reduction is now 5 percent.
In another item, the committee approved a request to expand Wi-Fi coverage into two underserved areas of the city.
Subject to council approval, the project would deploy fiber optic cable to expand connectivity to city buildings and expand its Smart City Network.
A lone bid of $2.8 million was received from Schupp’s Line Construction Inc. of Albany.
Ferrari said the contract requires $816,306 temporarily, from capital reserves, until the city borrows $2 million from a bond ordinance.
Once the city receives the loan, it would replenish the reserve account by putting back the $860,306.
The committee also forwarded a measure calling on the City Council to serve as lead agency in determining the environmental impact of a flood mitigation project in the Stockade Historic District that assists property owners in preserving their homes. The council also would have to set a public hearing on the issue.
FEMA awarded $7.5 million for the city, designers, and agencies to work with property owners to relocate homes out of the 500‐year floodplain, starting with 21 homes on Ingersoll Avenue. It’s the street most vulnerable to flooding in the district. Land to the northeast of Ingersoll Avenue, also known as the “plateau,” has been identified as the relocation site for the homes on Ingersoll Avenue.
A city‐owned lot of 1.3 acres is currently occupied by the Front Street Pool. Plans call for a parkland alienation process to be used in the flood mitigation effort. An expansion of Riverside Park would result in encompassing the land where the current structures sit on Ingersoll Avenue.