Council debates ways to fight blight

GLOVERSVILLE – Members of the Common Council had a debate Tuesday about the best way for the city to solve its blight problem.

While two suggested solutions were presented through resolutions, both were tabled until more information is gathered.

One resolution would have the city create a new Department of Public Works laborer position – for $28,808 – with the primary function of addressing blight conditions on properties in the city.

The other resolution sought the solicitation of bids to hire an independent contractor to perform lawn and snow abatements.

This isn’t the first time the council has debated creating a DPW position to tackle blight.

The city Blight Committee previously presented its final report to the Common Council suggesting the city hire a new DPW worker to tackle issues of blight in the city.

In November, the Common Council voted 4-3 against adding a DPW employee whose job would be to help reduce blight.

Second Ward Councilman Arthur Simonds presented both of the resolutions that would add a DPW employee.

During the previous vote, Simonds, 3rd Ward Councilman Stephen Mahoney and Councilman-At-Large James Robinson voted to create the position. First Ward Councilwoman Robin Wentworth, 4th Ward Councilwoman Ellen Anadio, 6th Ward Councilman Wrandy Siarkowski and 5th Ward Councilman Jay Zarrelli voted against the position.

On Tuesday, Wentworth and Anadio presented an alternative solution through an emergency resolution that would allow the city to solicit bids to hire an independent contractor to handle property abatements.

However, Simonds said, county-owned properties are not abated. He said county properties fall under the Hornell Plan and the city is held responsible to maintain the 67 county-owned properties.

Wentworth argued a laborer would simply be another member of DPW, and there is no detailed job description that gives the position any different responsibilities.

Wentworth also said an entire team of maintenance workers would be more efficient than the effort of one laborer.

She and Anadio also said once the new DPW position is created the employee would be unionized, which would make a future layoff complicated.

Wentworth also questioned why the new laborer job would pay almost $2 more an hour than an entry-level laborer position.

DPW Director Kevin Jones said the salary for the proposed position was set based on the assumption a current laborer under union contract would transfer into that position, while the new employee would take on that person’s previous responsibilities.

Jones noted the hiring of independent contractors could trigger the Davis-Bacon Act, which forces contractors and subcontractors to pay their laborers no less than the locally prevailing wages and fringe benefits for corresponding work on similar projects in the area, which would be around $30 an hour.

As a result, the council tabled both resolutions until the May 27 meeting and asked Jones to find the expected cost of hiring outside contractors so it can be compared with the suggested DPW position.

“I would like to see us actually get something done,” Simonds said. “I don’t care if it’s her idea, his idea, this idea or that idea. I just want it done.”