Common Council adopts 2019 budget
Common Councilors also discussed snowbank removal and dumpsters on private property.
ONEIDA, N.Y. >> Oneida formally adopted its 2019 budget Tuesday as councilors unanimously approved the $18.8 million that will bring with it a 3.5 percent tax increase.
“We worked hard on it,” said Ward 2 councilor Mike Bowe. “I think we kept costs down. I think it’s a good budget.”
The 2019 budget’s 3.5 percent tax increase amounts to $9.93 per $1,000 of assessed value for homeowners in the Inside District, and $5.02 per $1,000 of assessed value for homeowners in the Outside District. The total tax levy for 2019 is $4.4 million.
“In this day and age that’s a respectable increase,” said Ward 3 councilor James Coulthart.
The budget includes two new police officers and money to repair sidewalks, roads and other infrastructure. Coulthart characterized the budget overall as being “proactive,” but especially in his ward, where money was set aside to look at the brook that runs through the center of his ward.
“It’s definitely a proactive budget,” said Ward 1 Councilor Al Cohen.
Mayor Leo Matzke, who was out sick, was not present to accept the budget.
“Where’s the mayor?” asked former Ward 2 councilor and deputy mayor David Cimpi.
Cimpi stressed that he wasn’t criticizing Matzke, who he characterized as a “good guy,” but was concerned that “for two years, we haven’t had a leader for our city.”
“We’re paying for a position that someone’s not earning,” Cimpi said. “I really think you need to look at that going forward.”
Ward 5 councilor and deputy mayor Jim Chamberlain said Matzke was out ill, and that while he respected Cimpi’s opinion, it wasn’t a regular occurrence. He also noted that Cimpi, in his duty as deputy mayor five years ago, had to step in for the mayor at times as well.
Councilors also tackled two issues regarding the parking lot owned by Cosbros Properties Inc. behind the Kallet Civic Center. On Sept. 7, Dr. John Costello Sr. requested an agreement with the city to remove snow banks from his busi- ness’ parking lot while allowing it to be used for any city event.
“We have no problem with the city using all 65 spots,” Costello Sr. said at the Nov. 5 council meeting. “And they have been fully used. We’re offering that and we’re just saying, while your truck and bucket is at the Kallet, take the snow so we both have more spots when these events happen.”
“It’s something we should not be doing,” said Ward 4 Helen Acker on Tuesday. “We should not have taxpayers paying to remove snow from a private business.”
While Bowe agreed the city shouldn’t remove the snow from Costello’s parking lot, he wondered what the difference was to previous snowbank removal at downtown businesses.
“It sets a bad precedent,” Cohen said. “It would open up a huge can of worms if we go down that road.”
Councilors agreed to not provide snow removal for the parking lot, but tabled discussion of whether Cosbros Properties needs to move the two dumpsters it uses off city property.
The dumpsters have been in the same location behind the Kallet since before the city subdivided the parking lot and sold a portion to Costello, but Acker said she’s received several complaints about the business being allowed to keep the dumpster on city property.
Bowe pointed out that Chase Bank and other businesses in that block use the city’s parking lot next to Higinbotham Park. “What’s the difference?” he asked.
Ward 6 councilor Tom Simchik said in Chase’s case, there’s nowhere to put trash that either wouldn’t obstruct the sidewalk or sit on city property. He noted that with the Costello building, there’s limited space as well.
“They canuse trashcans,” Acker said.
“That’s a whole lot of trashcans,” Simchik said.
City Attorney Nadine Bell said council could have businesses sign liability forms with regards to dumpsters on city land, especially since the layout of downtown limits available private space.
“You didn’t have problems with dumpsters on other city properties,” said business owner Gary Taylor. “Now you have a problem with other city dumpsters.”
“We’re trying to make it right, now,” Acker said.
“Nowwe realize there are others so we’re going to look at them all,” Bowe said.
• Demolition in the Flats is slated to be complete by the end of December, Acker said. The final building to go down will be the former Alfred’s, since the two demolition crews and the city are using it as storage space. She expects that building, as well as the parking lot, to come down the week of Dec. 21, at which time the entire area will be returned to green space.
• No one spoke in defense of the property at 216 E. Elm St. during a public hearing regarding the state of the building. The city has labelled it a nuisance. Assistant Fire Marshall Lt. Reay Walker said the porch is an “immediate threat to public safety,” but has not seen other parts of the home nor has he entered the home to see if the main structure is sound. Council agreed to begin the process of obtaining a search warrant and finding a structural engineer to assess the property, which they believe is inhabited.
The Oneida Common Council meets on Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2018.