OGDENSBURG — A City Council discussion over a resolution to form an ad hoc committee to write an updated comprehensive plan turned to a tense discussion over what constitutes a comprehensive plan.
The resolution read, in part, that the plan would, “… encompass the entire community and such critical topics as: business development; housing; infrastructure; healthy community goals; crime prevention; waterfront development; downtown development; parks and recreation; historic preservation …”
Councilor Nichole L. Kennedy had issues with the discussion in the wake of last week’s special meeting when a hiring freeze was instituted.
“I support this in the fact that it is great to see a vision, but I’m struggling because we are talking about crime prevention, parks and recreation, things that our community needs and we have a hiring freeze and we are not going to hire city rec help,” Ms. Kennedy said. “We are going to need a fire chief, now we are not replacing a fire chief. Police officers are not going to be replaced.”
Mayor Jeffery M. Skelly answered with a complaint that he and the three new councilors were not welcomed by the outgoing board and did not have enough time to evaluate the city’s financial condition.
“We got in on January first with no knowledge,” Mr. Skelly said. “So we stopped the clock and we will start the clock when we are ready.”
Mr. Skelly argued that even with the city fully staffed it was in disrepair so he wanted to develop a plan.
“We have had a fire chief, we’ve had a full police force, we’ve had every department filled and where are we now?” he said.
Councilor Daniel E. Skamperle turned the conversation back to the idea of a comprehensive plan and asked the new councilors if they had looked at the Local Waterfront Revitalization Program, which Planning and Development Director Andrea Smith had said, at last week’s meeting, serves as the city’s comprehensive plan.
“A comprehensive plan means it’s comprehensive and doesn’t just include the waterfront,” Deputy Mayor John Rishe said.
“If you read the LWRP you will know that it covers the entire city,” Mr. Skamperle said. “And it covers so many aspects of the city.”
Mr. Skamperle said he had recently gone over the document and was impressed by its scope.
The main body of the plan, which was first written in 1986 and updated in 1999 is 167 pages long and has eight appendixes. The update was written over a period of 2½ years and included a good deal of public input.
“There’s a lot of detail and it’s a living document that we can change,” Mr. Skamperle said. “So when I saw this on the agenda I thought to myself, ‘maybe we should start with that.’”
Mr. Skamperle offered to table the resolution to allow new councilors to familiarize themselves with the document before moving forward.
Mr. Rishe’s idea is a much smaller plan.
“The last comprehensive plan, if I remember right, was like a three-page document,” Mr. Rishe said. “All it does is, it’s just a vision for the community. It talks about ideal housing, it talks about keeping the crime rate down. It may have some objectives in it. It’s really, really simple and it’s not that complicated. It’s not that earth shattering.”
Mr. Rishe said it could be used to cite when writing grants.
“And that’s the whole purpose of the Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan,” Mr. Skamperle said. “The feds and the state said if you want grant money, basically, you gotta have this plan in order, so we created, I think, what it is you guys are looking for.”
Mr. Rishe derided the plan and asked sarcastically whether anyone has seen any waterfront revitalization.
A motion to table the resolution was voted down 4 to 3 with councilors Michael B. Powers, Mr. Skamperle and Ms. Kennedy voting in favor.
A motion to pass the resolution passed 5 to 2, with Ms. Kennedy and Mr. Skamperle voting against it.