Council defeats blight-focused job

GLOVERSVILLE – The city Common Council voted 4-3 this week against adding a Department of Public Works employee whose job would be to help reduce blight by maintaining properties owned by the city and county.

The city Blight Committee presented its final report to the Common Council last month, suggesting the city hire a new DPW worker to tackle issues of blight in the city, 2nd Ward Councilman Arthur Simonds said.

Simonds presented a resolution to hire a laborer who would perform exterior maintenance on city- and county-owned properties, including unmaintained homes and businesses seized through nonpayment of taxes.

The position was to have paid $28,808. Initially, the job was classified as a working supervisor position, which would have paid $38,834 under the union contract.

Simonds previously said this employee would have been in charge of community service workers and take care of shoveling or mowing when community service people were unavailable.

Simonds, Stephen Mahoney, and James Robinson voted to create the position. Robin Wentworth, Ellen Anadio, Wrandy Siarkowski and Jay Zarrelli voted against the position.

After the meeting, Anadio said the city eliminated a similar position for budgetary reasons shortly after she joined the council. The DPW doesn’t seem to have missed the position, she said.

“I can’t see the added expense if it isn’t going to make a difference,” Anadio said.

She said even though the city has better financial standing because of conservative spending, it would be foolish to spend money if it isn’t needed, especially once the cost of providing benefits are factored in.

DPW employees currently perform maintenance on properties owned by the city but not county-owned properties.

Siarkowski said he also voted against it because of the conflicting numbers in wages, which he said often changed in several-thousand dollar increments.

“I just couldn’t in good conscience vote for it,” Siarkowski said.

Simonds said he changed the job title at the last minute to save the city money, after consulting with DPW Director Kevin Jones. Under the union contract, laborers start at $10,000 less than supervisors.

“I realized we couldn’t afford to have a working supervisor,” said Simonds, who accused some council members of not understanding the importance of the proposed position.

“I think, generally speaking, a lot of the council members, don’t get it. They don’t understand that blight is the center of our problem in the community. It impacts the police, the amount of money you can sell your home for and also amounts on whether people want to buy a home in the area.”

Simonds said he isn’t done trying to add the position. He said he’ll probably pursue the issue again in the spring when unkempt houses owned by the city and county are more visible.

“This is just the first bite of the apple,” Simonds said. “Come spring, when we have another 40 city- or county-owned properties sitting around blighted, I will take 100 pictures and post them around City Hall. Maybe then, some of them will get the message. We need to clean Gloversville up because no matter where you go, you see blight homes in every direction.”

He said most of the calls he receives from residents of the city are about blight, and until the city makes a move to address the issue it will still be the primary purpose of their calls.

“I think there will be enough community pressure to make this happen,” Simonds said.