The Schenectady City Council is restarting the controversial Residency Board, which could lead to a stricter enforcement of the city’s requirement that all municipal employees live in Schenectady.
Councilwoman Barbara Blanchard said she wanted the board to meet regularly to enforce the rule.
“I believe that people who work in the city should live in the city,” she said. “I think they would take good care of their houses. They would volunteer for community organizations. I think they would be good for the city.”
The issue has been brought up repeatedly by resident Mary McClaine, who objects to the waivers that many department heads have received without approval of the Residency Board.
Blanchard said it would be difficult to make those workers move to the city now, years after they began work here.
“The problem is it has been ignored for so long that people have made big investments outside the city,” she said.
Council members said Monday that they must change the Residency Board to allow it to meet again. By law, the council members on the board must include a member of a minority party. The council is made up solely of Democrats, so they will hold a public hearing on Sept. 28 at 7 p.m. to eliminate that part of the law.
But resident Pat Zollinger objected, noting that many council members run on several minor political lines, which they could represent, she said.
“There’s no need to change the wording,” Zollinger said. “The important thing is the residency committee meets and I don’t think it has met in years now.”
Councilwoman Denise Brucker, a member of the residency board, could only recall one meeting.
“And that was in the Jurczynski era,” she said.
Al Jurczynski was mayor through 2003.
In other business, the council agreed to spend $1.2 million to repave Van Vranken Avenue even though the city does not have enough money to also replace the sidewalks. The paving money came from the federal stimulus bill.
Several Van Vranken business owners urged the council to replace the sidewalks, but Mayor Brian U. Stratton said the city simply does not have the $3 million needed to do the job.
He has asked the Metroplex Development Authority and Union College to contribute to the project, and argued Monday that such a partnership could jump-start neighborhood revitalization.
“This is an ideal opportunity,” he said. “This is the backbone — it goes right to Union College’s doorstep. I would hope these are the types of projects Union College would look at favorably, or Metroplex or Golub. Because we don’t have another $3 million, I can tell you that. We need a comprehensive partnership.”
The city was offered $1.7 million in stimulus funding for the paving, but the federal government refused a request to use part of it for sidewalks. The city had to return $500,000 after accepting the low bid of $1.2 million.
Business owners were not pleased by that decision.
“The sidewalks are in dire need of replacement,” said Michael Bennett, owner of Stoney Lane Grill. “People in wheelchairs are routinely seen going down the street next to the parked cars with traffic whizzing by them.”
K. Gynger Connolly, of Blinds, Shades & More, added that the growing business corridor will not thrive without new sidewalks.
“If we want the neighbors, the Union College students and the future Golub employees, we have to welcome them as pedestrians,” she said. “And as it is now, we cannot do that. Paving the street is like putting lipstick on a pit bull. It makes it look better. It’s not changing the beast.”