Council OKs indemnification letter for Hill St. project

GLOVERSVILLE – The city attorney was given permission by the Common Council Tuesday to draft an indemnification letter to present to county supervisors that would remove liability to potentially take down a hazardous building on Hill Street so the planned bridge project can move forward.

“The county has concerns of liability because the property remains privately owned,” City Attorney Anthony Casale said Wednesday. “Whether or not the county wants to use the demolition crew to do this job, I can’t speak to that, but they are certainly able to pursuant to the Gloversville city code.”

He said he believes the county wants assurance the city would indemnify them of any loss in the event a party is sued or if the project creates or leads to liability.

“I don’t think we should oppose that, and I think we should indemnify them because our code allows us to do this,” Casale said.

The Fulton County Board of Supervisors on Monday tabled a resolution to use the county Demolition Team to raze a building at 7 Hill St. The city is trying to gain approval from the county as soon as possible, as demolition is part of a larger city-owned Hill Street Bridge repair project.

A county board resolution in 2001 established a policy that the team, designed to demolish municipally-owned structures, should not raze private buildings.

Officials said removal of the building is crucial to making the necessary repairs to a proposed Hill Street Bridge project.

“A bunch of us were blindsided yesterday,” Jones told the council. “Their concern is the potential that if we come in and spend the taxpayers’ money to demolish the property, that landowner could benefit from this theoretically by selling the property.”

However, both Jones and Casale said the city has the ability through city ordinance to sue and file a lien against the property, which would keep it from changing hands.

Casale informed the council the building is already under foreclosure.

“This property is already in tax foreclosure,” Casale said at the meeting. “The county has elected not to pursue the foreclosure of this. My understanding of their concern is because [of] the environmental elements that may exist at the premises, they do not wish to own it at this time.”

Jones said the county can do the job much cheaper than an independent contractor.

When Councilwoman Robin Wentworth questioned how much of a difference the price would be Jones said with the county the cost would be less than $50,000 although that total could be well over $150,000 if an independent contractor had to become involved.

“If the supervisors continue to decline it’s probably going to cost us a year on the project, that’s just the reality,” Jones said. “The DOT has made it clear the building has to go before they are going to fund the job and they made it clear they are not willing to put a building demolition portion in the capital project.”

He said the road would have to be closed for the bridge project and the city was attempting to complete the project within one construction season, but if the process is delayed it will take two seasons.

County Administrative Officer Jon Stead said an indemnification from the city is “pretty standard” when taking care of projects for the various municipalities, but county officials, including the attorney, need to make sure the procedures involved have been done correctly.