AMSTERDAM -- The winners of Amsterdam's three special elections for alderman, Patrick Russo (1st Ward), Irene Collins (3rd Ward) and David Dybas (4th Ward), were sworn in Tuesday night.
The three seats had been filled by interim aldermen after two council members resigned and one died.
The new members will serve the remaining year of the terms for the three seats, 2019.
Although all of the resolutions voted on Tuesday night by the new council were unanimously approved, Dybas, who had previously served on the council during the administration of Mayor Ann Thane, made his presence felt immediately, proposing a flurry of minor changes to several resolutions. He also raised several concerns about other areas of city business.
Among other concerns, he asked that future resolutions approving the Amsterdam Housing Authority's annual budget ($656,652.81 for 2019, not charged to the city tax levy) include data showing the prior year's budget.
Dybas also praised City Controller Matt Agresta's monthly audit reports to the council.
"The detail is great. This is much better than what we were getting before, when we were getting nothing," Dybas said, referencing his first stint on the council.
Dybas then raised the issue of the city coming into compliance with its city charter and doing an annual reconciliation of the taxes it collects for Montgomery County with the county Treasurer Shawn Bowerman. Montgomery County currently has a $6.2 million receivable on its books of county taxes that Amsterdam did not collect from property owners in the city.
Unlike the towns and villages of Montgomery County, the city of Amsterdam collects all of the county and school taxes owed from its properties on a quarterly basis and transfers them to the school and county. For about seven years the city did not foreclose on any properties, leading to a buildup of unpaid taxes that contributes to the city's more than $7 million general fund deficit and the receivable due to the county.
Dybas said the reconciliation is required to be performed annually, hasn't been done in years, and would allow the county to write off more of the taxes as uncollectible.
"Whatever the legal process is, I'll be happy to sit with the corporation counsel and figure out how we do it," Agresta said. "We've done it in the past, so I'm sure [the county] knows how the process should be. I've never done it, so I don't know the process."
City Corporation Counsel William Lorman acknowledged the city charter requires the annual reconciliation. "We should come into compliance with this," he said.
Lorman said he is going to conduct a conference call with Montgomery County Attorney Meghan Manion and other officials to determine how to do it.
Lastly, Dybas questioned the legality of whether the city can obtain a liquor license for the Amsterdam Municipal Golf Course, which has been stated as part of the city's plan with newly hired golf pro Kevin Canale.
Lorman said he believes the city can obtain a liquor license, but he's not certain and needs to research the issue.
Mayor Michael Villa said Canale had previously worked at Brookhaven Golf Course in Saratoga County, which was a municipal golf course, and they had a liquor license.
Dybas said there are 22 different types of liquor licenses in New York state. He then questioned how much the city's insurance would increase with the possibility of alcohol sales at the course.
"All it would take is one [accident], and there is unlimited liability, and that includes for officers [of the corporation]," he said, drawing a circle in the air around all of the council members, as he received chagrined expressions from Lorman and Villa.
The other new members of the council said they were glad to begin their duties serving their respective wards.
"I feel it all coming back to me," Collins said, referencing her career serving as deputy controller for the city of Mount Vernon.
Patrick Russo, a 2003 graduate of Amsterdam High School who works in sales for the computer security company Unisys, said he decided to run because he noticed things in his ward that he felt could be improved.
He said although he is not related to deceased 1st Ward Alderman Ed Russo, his family does own Russo's Bar & Grill in Amsterdam. He brought in pizza and soda from his family's restaurant to help celebrate the swearing-in.
Dybas said he was overall pleased with his first meeting back on the council.