The following is in response to a letter to the editor printed on September 16th in the Recorder.
1. The rose garden belongs to every taxpayer in the City of Amsterdam, as does City Hall.
2. The Mayor’s office does not keep the records that were FOIA’d for.
3. The project was legally bid out.
4. It is the Common Council, not the Mayor, that controls spending through the budgetary process. No department may spend outside of their allotted funds without approval of the Council. The monies in the line for upkeep of the building and grounds are allotted by the budget committee. The line is not further broken down into building or grounds and is expended at the discretion of administration once provided.
5. The garden lot was cleared because vegetation was destroying the property. The trees were cut down by hand over a three day period in 2009 by seasonal workers. They were unable to remove the roots, which were tearing up the building foundation, retaining walls and steps.
6. When the vegetation began to grow back this year, it was determined that the best course of action was to hire the work out, as our DPW crews have been working to maintain our crumbling water distribution, sewer and street systems and would not be able to attend to the lot expeditiously.
7. Once the lot had been cleared, the thought had been to put in a community garden. Members of the Historic Preservation Committee felt strongly that the lot should be restored as a rose garden, as it had been in the early 1900’s. I followed their urging.
8. The roses were purchased on sale in June from a city-owned business. They were less than half the cost they had originally been marked, just $288 for 24 mature bushes. They are now on their second bloom and are all doing very well. The bridge urns were restored and are located on a 6′ x 15′ rectangle in the middle of the lot made of pavers. The pavers were put into place by the City Mason in a couple of hours.
9. Realistically, it will take one to four years for a relocation committee to gather information, do cost/benefit analysis (stay/go), make a decision and move City Hall, in the unlikelihood that that is what ends up happening. I say this because this has been discussed every four or five years for decades and city government is still in place.
It is irresponsible to let the property decline while this is rehashed yet again. We are removing asbestos from the basement that was identified as a health risk a decade ago. With a very limited budget, we have painted the interior, refurbished an outbuilding, offices and closets, repaired drainage, refinished stairways, carpeted, and continue to make cosmetic improvements to the building and grounds. I have repeatedly asked for funding to repair the roof, gutters, porticos, windows and back patio, but apparently we don’t attend to larger projects until there is an emergency, much like the boiler during the Emanuele administration. That project had been identified well before it became a high cost repair.
If blight is the biggest complaint of our residents, is it appropriate to allow City Hall, our proud seat of government, to fall into a state of disrepair? Shouldn’t we serve as an example to the rest of our property owners as to the importance of property maintenance and historic preservation?
10. This administration has not been spending uncontrollably. To the contrary, operations are run prudently and we’ve made progress in strengthening our fortunes. We’ve garnered a larger percentage of sales tax from the County than any previous administration, which amounts to at least another $500K a year in our budget, and our bond rating is exemplary.
The fact is, city fund balance has diminished because of rising costs associated with contractual obligations, health care and retiree benefits, and state mandates. This coincides with the global economic crisis. We are not alone in our trials – almost every village, town, city, county and state in the Country feels the effects of these difficult financial times.
If we are to achieve our vision for a prosperous and stable future, we need thoughtful debate, resourceful activity and intelligent suggestions. Attention to matters as trivial as roses at City Hall (though stopping to smell them is encouraged) only leads us off of the path we need to walk.
“Problems are not stop signs, they are guidelines.” ~ Robert Schuller
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