SCHENECTADY — The Public Safety Committee on Monday discussed a return to in-person council meetings, but no decision was made.
Meanwhile, the same committee voted to advance proposed legislation to change the city code relative to impounding all-terrain vehicles and dirt bikes with significantly steeper redemption fees. The proposal will next be considered by the full council.
In a third matter, the City Development & Planning Committee approved a Community Development Block Grant earmark of $25,000 for a collaborative tree-planting initiative that would provide youths with summer employment.
Regarding meeting in person, Council President John Mootooveren said it won’t happen for at least another two weeks, or until all council members are comfortable meeting in person, and the mayor and city staff have been given adequate time to prepare a larger meeting room Mootooveren is requesting to promote social distancing.
The council has been meeting virtually during the COVID-19 pandemic, with an 90-minute earlier start time of 5:30 p.m.
Mootooveren said he wouldn’t have a problem allowing public participation to continue virtually, via WebEx, while the council meets in person.
But he said he would not be in favor of a hybrid form of participation by council members. He said the council won’t meet in person until all members are comfortable doing so. Until there’s consensus, it will continue to meet virtually, he said.
Councilwoman Marion Porterfield said she would be comfortable returning to in person meetings if all council members are vaccinated, dividers are used and the members are spread out.
Noting that City Hall has yet to open to the public, except for appointments, Porterfield suggested that the public shouldn’t be allowed to attend until City Hall fully reopens.
Councilwoman Carmel Patrick said she’s completely comfortable and looked forward to meeting in person.
The meeting time was also discussed.
Porterfield said that if the council returns to in person meetings, it should return to 7 p.m. start time to give people time to attend and accommodate people who work during the day.
But Councilman John Polimeni said he’s received “good feedback” from both the public and city staff about staying with the 5:30 start time. Patrick said she also preferred 5:30.
The ATV law change was proposed by Councilwoman Karen Zalewski-Wildzunas.
Schenectady’s existing law states that ATVs can’t be driven on any public street, park or land. The offense is punishable by a fine up to $500, imprisonment of up to 15 days, or both.
Under the proposed revision to the law, offenders would be faced with an additional $2,350 redemption fee, making it $2,850 for return of the vehicle. In addition, there’s a $70 towing and hauling fee, plus $20 per day for the vehicle to be impounded.
Since last week’s public hearing, Zalewski-Wildzunas said she’s received additional overwhelming feedback from residents and constituents wanting to move forward with the legislation.
Mootooveren called the proposal “a good piece of legislation” that addresses a longterm problem in many parts of the city, and it puts a drain on police resources.
In the $25,000 tree-planting initiative, city director of planning and development Kristin Diotte said Schenectady prioritized workforce development and strengthening local neighborhoods in its five-year federal Housing and Urban Development consolidated plan that took place last year.
The city and county will work with Schenectady Job Training Agency, Community Fathers Inc., and ReTree Schenectady on the effort.
To buy the trees, the city and county will use additional money it received from National Grid’s capital tree program and “10,000 Trees Program,” Diotte said.
ReTree Schenectady and local women and minority-owned businesses would then assist with the design, skills training and planting of trees and landscaping, Diotte said.
Patrick called it “an awesome project” that was a win-win between getting trees planted and training kids.