Geneva City Council met Monday and Wednesday this week- marking the first in-person sessions since the pandemic forced most public meetings to be held remotely. Only Councilor Frank Gaglianese (At-Large) attended virtually via Zoom. Up to 20 members of the community could attend.
Council delayed a decision on the Genesee Park Remediation project and the Community Choice Aggregation Program.
City Manager Sage Gerling stated that the Council had three choices regarding the Genesee Park Remediation project. Gerling said that Council could:
- Decide not to remediate the park,
- Delay the decision on the project to see if two proposed alternative methods of remediation had potential; or
- To decide to remediate the park immediately.
Gerling cautioned Council that if it decided not to remediate the park with the New York State Department of Conservation (DEC) all the costs of any future required remediation would be the City’s responsibility. Gerling also told Council that if the Council delays the decision but eventually decides to remediate, the City would have to tell the DEC of its decision by Spring 2022 for a Fall 2022 remediation. Gerling indicated that if the Council missed the Spring 2022 deadline all costs of any eventual remediation would fall to the City, not the DEC. Gerling also suggested that the Council could decide to invest additional funds for more improvements to the park even if it decided to go with the DEC remediation plan.
Council heard from several residents during the public comment section of the meeting that they did not want the City to remediate the park because they did not want to lose the trees. However, Gaglianese read a resident letter indicating that they felt the park should be remediated to make it safe for future residents. Councilors spoke of concerns about surrounding property values and of concerns for the trees in the park. Council did not discuss any potential civil liability that could result if the park is not remediated, and future residents should somehow fall ill because of the soil contamination.
Council struggled with how to satisfy the safety concerns while maintaining the park’s character. No formal vote was taken. But Council told Gerling that a majority of Council wanted to hold off on making a decision regarding the remediation project until Spring 2022. Councilors felt that this plan would give the City and the community adequate time to explore all of the possible solutions to Genesee Park’s soil contamination. Council also planned a work session where they hoped to hear from representatives of the DEC.
Council was also scheduled to consider Resolution 37-2021. If this Resolution were passed the City would join the Community Choice Aggregation Program for electrical service. This program would allow Geneva to join with other towns and villages to negotiate lower electric rates. The program would reportedly provide residents with a 10% discount on electric service. The program would also provide residents with power via alternative energy sources, such as solar power. Councilor Jan Regan (Ward 3) told Council that the program is an “Opt-Out” program. Regan stated that this meant that residents would automatically be enrolled in the program. Residents would have to take action, such as a phone call, to “Opt-Out” of the program if they did not want to participate in it. Residents would have to “Opt-Out” even if they wanted to keep their existing electrical provider.
Regan said that opting out was a simple process. But several Councilors expressed concerns. One concern is that it sometimes takes up to 60 days to “Opt-Out” of the program. Another concern was that many residents, particularly seniors, may be confused by the “Opt-Out” requirement. However, some Councilors felt the use of alternative energy and the financial discount offered residents would mean that residents would be happy that they were automatically enrolled in the program.
Councilor William Pealer (Ward 2) also sought confirmation that the finances worked to the City’s advantage. Pealer expressed concern that Council’s previous consideration of this program had found that the program was not a good financial deal for the City: City staff indicated that changes in the arrangement now made it a good financial deal for the City. Pealer was also concerned that the program’s 10% discount to residents was subsidized by the State.
Councilor Laura Salamendra (Ward 5) moved to table Council’s consideration of Resolution 37-2021 until the June meeting when Council Tom Burrall would also be present. Salamendra’s motion to table passed with only Pealer voting no.
Council did act on four resolutions during the May 5, 2021 meeting. Council first considered Resolution 35-2021 to amend the Capital Fund Budget. This resolution was proposed because the City received $1.145,000 in unanticipated revenue from the New York State Department of Transportation (DOT). Assistant City Manager Adam Blowers told Council that because the money was all DOT funding, it had to be used for street-related projects. The Resolution called for $150,000 to be used for street resurfacing projects. The Resolution also set aside $995,000 for Route 5&20 DRI Streetscape project. Blowers said that any leftover money would be used for additional street resurfacing work.
Gaglianese asked if there was any way some of these funds could be used to increase disability accessibility at City parks. Pealer agreed with the idea of improving accessibility in parks. However, Blowers restated that because the money is DOT funding it could only be used for street-level projects.
Resolution 35-2021 was approved unanimously.
Council also considered Resolution 36-2021. The Resolution proposed amending the General Fund Budget. The Resolution also authorized the City Manager to enter into a website services contract. Because the Resolution created a Budget Amendment, it required a 2/3 supermajority vote of Council.
The Resolution asked Council to approve moving $36,000 from the Fund Balance to the General Fund. Blowers stated that this money was needed to develop a new City website. Blowers stated that a new website was needed immediately because of continued security problems with the existing website.
Pealer warned that if the root problem of the hacking was not resolved, simply creating a new website would not solve the security issues.
Councilor Ken Camera (Ward 4) asked if more than one company was still in the running for the contract. Blowers confirmed that there were still multiple companies under consideration.