Mayor Tim Hughes and Councilman John Castiglione, R-2nd Ward, clashed Tuesday as Castiglione objected to Hughes’ failing to get Common Council approval before signing a contract with a modular housing dealer.
In March, as city officials and Community Development Agency consultant Nicholas Zabawsky applied for $400,000 in state first-time homebuyer grant funds, Hughes signed a contract with Red Carpet Housing of Johnstown designating the dealership as the housing supplier for the grant program.
Castiglione, suggesting that Hughes might have a conflict of interest because Hughes purchased his new home from Red Carpet after his old home burned last year, said Hughes should have obtained council authorization before signing.
“Because of your close relationship with Red Carpet, it smells,” Castiglione said.
Castiglione’s cousin, Robert Castiglione, yelled an accusation about racketeering from the audience and Hughes gaveled him out of order and threatened to have him removed by police. Councilman Castiglione apologized for his cousin’s outburst.
Hughes told Castiglione a housing source compliant with grant guidelines had to be in place before the April 1 grant application deadline and Red Carpet met the guidelines. The state has yet to award grants through the program, but Hughes said an announcement is expected around Sept. 1.
The program, which awards $25,000 to first-time homebuyers willing to commit to a new home on what are now vacant city lots, would be administered by the Community Development Agency. Hughes said the council does not review every contract administered by CDA, which has a separate board that includes Hughes.
Hughes urged Castiglione to meet with Zabawsky for clarification, but Castiglione said “I don’t like it … I don’t think it’s right.” He made a motion to rescind the contract with Red Carpet, but other council members said that could jeopardize the grant application.
Castiglione said he was also upset to be referred to Hughes when he went to CDA officials to review the contract.
“As an elected official I have as much right to see it as you do, sir,” Castiglione said to Hughes.
In other business Tuesday, the council approved an emergency resolution rewording proposed state legislation to satisfy objections raised in the Assembly when it considered the city’s revenue-sharing home-rule bill in the spring.
With the rewording, changing the word “may” to “shall,” Hughes said he expects the bill will be approved by the Assembly. The Senate adopted the legislation, but with the change of one word, will have to do it again, City Attorney John Clo said.
The city and the town of Johnstown plan to split all tax revenue generated by projects in the town along the city borders that depend on access to city water and sewer. Hughes said several projects eligible for the program are already pending.
The program is also expected to include the city of Johnstown where it abuts town property.
In a related measure, the city agreed to hire Buffalo-based law firm Hodgson Russ, which has an office in Johnstown, to draw up the contract between the municipalities.
Since it is the first of its kind in the state, Finance Commissioner Bruce Van Genderen said it is prudent to hire an independent firm with experience in the field. The city and town will pay $30,000 for the service.
The council agreed to rezone commercial property at the corner of Kingsboro and Route 30 to accommodate a major project. The land is owned by Foothills United Methodist Church and adjoins the land where the congregation is building its new church. City officials said the church has been offered $1 million for the property.