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Schenectady City Council back to full strength in 2022

Schenectady City Hall
Lucas Willard
Schenectady City Hall

Schenectady’s city council has kicked off 2022 with a return to full strength and a new council president.

Following its inaugural meeting on Saturday, the Schenectady City Council went straight to business during its first council committee meeting of 2022 Monday night.

The meeting was called to order by Councilor Marion Porterfield, now serving as council president after two years under Councilor John Mootooveren.

Porterfield is the longest-serving member of the all-Democrat city council, with 10 years’ experience. She is the first Black woman to be elected council president by her fellow councilors.

“Happy new year to everyone, and we will go right to Public Safety…”

“…So I would like to call the Public Safety Committee to order.

Speaking as the new chair of the city council’s Public Safety Committee was Carl Williams. Williams is one of three new councilors. He and Doreen Ditoro are serving out the remainder of terms vacated by former councilors Ed Kosiur and Leesa Perazzo. Councilor Damonni Farley was elected to serve a full-four-year term in November.

The first item on the agenda for the Public Safety Committee was to accept a more than $155,000 grant to support an expansion of the police department’s body-worn camera program. Assistant Police Chief Mike Seber said body-worn cameras will be expanded beyond patrol officers.

“…Into our animal control officers, our parking meter attendants, as well as our detectives,” said Seber.

Several items related to housing were also discussed.

The council’s Government Operations Committee voted to advance legislation to allow the city to opt in to an executive order by Governor Kathy Hochul to extend exemptions to city assessment rolls in the new year.

Andrew Koldin, the city’s corporation counsel, explained that without the exemption, certain city property owners would be required to file paperwork in person – something the executive order seeks to mitigate during the pandemic.

“These senior, low-income, and disabled low-income property owners would have to leave their homes to file the exemption paperwork during this COVID spike. The governor has obviously passed an executive order to give the municipalities around the state to essentially opt-in to allow the automatic exemption.”

The executive order is similar to orders issued in 2020 and 2021.

Koldin also provided a reminder of an upcoming public hearing on a proposed change to city code. The change would allow tenants and property owners to opt to have a hearing in the event the city issues an order to vacate due to an unsafe structure.

Koldin said he, Mayor Gary McCarthy and the city’s building inspector consider the change a good practice.

“Sometimes in the heat of the moment, we may think that a property needs to be vacated due to the circumstance, but in retrospect it may be that we need to modify the order, so this gives the opportunity to be heard,” said Koldin.

The public hearing is set for the first regular council meeting of the year, January 10th.

After nobody spoke during a Public Hearing on December 27th, Koldin asked the council for legislation to bring the city into compliance with state law for tax-delinquent property owners. The change would prevent tax-delinquent property owners from facing foreclosures for a period of three years.

The council also advanced an item allowing the mayor to enter an agreement with the state Department of Transportation for its Pedestrian Safety Action Plan. Also discussed was a bid for electronic waste recycling, and purchases for the city’s water department and wastewater treatment plant.

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Lucas Willard is a reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011.