The Plattsburgh Common Council had a number of items on its agenda Thursday evening, including rescinding an action it took last year.
In September 2020 the last council voted to remove a drop box and close an in person payment window for the Municipal Lighting and the Water, Sewer and Refuse Departments. The city had planned to promote mail-in and online payments as a cost saving and COVID-safe move.
Common councilors voted to rescind the resolution Thursday.
During public comments former councilor Ira Barbell said the processing of walk-in payments is not cost effective and new approaches to utility bill payments must be created and fully marketed.
“There really is no one best way in my opinion to increase citizen satisfaction but also reduce costs," Barbell said. "I’d encourage you to explore developing both a cost effective approach to bill payment and an approach that is responsive to the various constituencies in this city.”
Ward 5 Democrat Patrick McFarlin agreed but said if the city determines it should terminate its in-person payment window, it must be done gradually.
“There’s a big non-banked population here and I think it’s wise to keep it open for now," McFarlin said. "But I do want to promote other ways to paying the utility bills.”
“I initially voted yes on this resolution when it came up," said Ward 3 Democrat Elizabeth Gibbs. "I guess I didn’t understand or realize how many people we have in this city who don’t have the ability to pay their bills online. They don’t have internet access. They don’t have cell phones. They don’t have personal computers. So I agree it needs to be phased in. And the ability to pay online needs to be more widely encouraged, advertised.”
First term Ward 4 Democrat Jennifer Tallon says she and her constituents also want to keep the drop box in place at Trinity Park.
“I know that that is very convenient for a lot of people," Tallon said. "Say you work until 4:00 and you come downtown and pay your bill you can just drop it right in that drop box.”
"The important thing there is also that anything dropped in that box today will be posted as of today’s date tomorrow morning," said City Chamberlain Richard Marks. "So it’s paid on time.”
The council also approved a rental registry fee resolution setting a mandatory per unit fee with required inspections. Mayor Chris Rosenquest, a Democrat in his first term, noted that the Landlord/Tenant Advisory Committee unanimously approved the proposed fee structure.
“I think everybody came to the determination that the fee was fair and that it would not burden too many people over the time that the program gets ramped up," Rosenquest said. "The city of Plattsburgh’s not looking to make money off of the fee. It’s just to administer the rental registry.”
The mayor said while the committee was re-established to work solely on the fee structure it also encountered a number of other housing concerns the city needs to address.
“Valid concerns that really do impact not only the renters in our community but also a number of the landlords and property owners," he said. "I will likely approach some members of that committee to discuss some type of report or some type of analysis on those issues and then figure out what’s the best way to tackle them.”
Late last week city residents reported water with a bad or unusual odor. During committee reports Mayor Rosenquest was asked if the problem had been resolved.
“At this point we have had very little increase in complaints or concerns," Rosenquest said. "The testing per the Health Department requirements have come back that the water is safe. The flush schedule will need to happen come early spring.”