Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Notes on Last Night's Kingston City Finance Committee Meeting... Associated Videos and Photos

[K.C. Alderman M. Madsen and NS at recent KAPA fundraiser; photo (used with permission/copyrighted) by NS]

[KAPA producer (currently off the air) and Supporter, PG, at a recent KAPA fundraiser; photo (utilized with permission/copyrighted) by NS]

[Assemblyman K. Cahill (my camera did not catch this photo!) was also present at this fundraiser; and other photos are pending based upon receiving the necessary permissions...]


Notes on Last Night's Kingston City Finance Committee Meeting:

Alderman Landi served as Chair. A Quorum - also inclusive of Council President / Alderman-at-Large Noble, Alderman Madsen, Alderwoman DiBella and Alderwoman Whitlock was present. J. Tully gave a financial report (2009 Budget update) - and voiced concerns about monies potentially running low; in part due to falling sales revenues, towards the end of 2009. Most or all City programs are reputedly being run as fiscally responsibly as possible; including an increased scrutiny of revenues and expenditures. City departments have reputedly been asked to limit spending to essentials, whilst the City continues to look for innovative ways to further reduce expenditures. There is hope that President Obamas stimulus package will help out - at least in some areas - but nothing definitive is reputedly known (as to the where, when and what of that) - as of yet. The 2009 Federal contingency budget has reputedly been expended. The 2009 Federal contingency budget reputedly remains untouched.

KPD Chief Keller and Deputy Chief Wallace were also present; and apparently one or both of them (or another rep. of the KPD) will be present at future Finance meetings, in order to give a monthly report. The KPD, as with the other City Departments, is reputedly attempting to keep their expenses down; and the KPD reputedly has up to 28 employees that "might" [This question was put forth...] qualify for Mayor Sottiles tentative proposal (if this passes through the Council) of "buying out" those employees that are close to (or already qualify for?) retirement - in order to avoid potential layoffs. Chief Keller said he could think of just two employees, at this point, that might be interested; but that others might sign on, if this option is officially sanctioned and proposed, as well.

There were some pointed questions about the URGENT task force (re expenses and boundaries) - and Alderwoman DiBella questioned the use of URGENT (basically a drug investigation / enforcement task force?) in regard to some recent prostitution arrests. [It may be that URGENT officers are more highly paid than regular KPD officers (?) - and that Alderwoman DiBella was expressing concerns in that regard; however, I am not absolutely clear on this.]

One comment made - which had a twist to it - was the expressed "hope" (?) that the number of arrests would go up; and thus, the revenues associated (fines, etc) with "same" would go up as well...

Some things the public might be interested in - is that officers are apparently (?) paid a minimum of 2 hours overtime, even if they are only called out for a half-hour, hour, etc...

And (if I heard this right) - that the court, in come manner (I'm not clear on this, so it is best to check it out for clarification) actually gets paid 3 hours worth of revenue (via contract?)for every 15 minutes (I'm not clear on specifics...) of their time.

Chief Keller also expressed hope that President Obamas stimulus package would help out in regard to the KPDs (having to cut back staff, etc.) fiscal struggles.

Next up was KAPA Commissioner, B. Smith - who again represented Kingston Area Public Access (KAPA / Channel 23) television's need / request / proposal / "right" (?) to financing - via the Time Warner franchise fee (which is now being deposited into the general fund; and utilized, in full, apparently, for other purposes...) of supportive financing (a request for $14,800 has been put forth at this point) from the City of Kingston.

C. R., a former KAPA producer and blogger ["Ulster County Politics"] - plus - with a You Tube link ["My Channel 23"] - taped some of the interchange around the KAPA discussion, which you can watch at http://ucpnews.blogspot.com/ [There is also a link to Clark's Blog, "Ulster County Politics" (the relevant thread is titled "FINANCE/ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT COMMITTEE...") in the sidebar].

C. R. (Kudos!) also did a one-on-one interview with KAPA Commissioner B. Smith, which I believe can be viewed (along with a video of a recent a KAPA fundraiser) by following the same links. ]

Alderman Landi stated that since all City of Kingston revenues are down, he did not think the City would be able to "help" out in regard to KAPA. R. Smith responded (this is not a direct quote) that (1) KAPA is not an organization of philanthropists; (2) that the KAPA Commissioners are appointed (by the Mayor of the City) volunteers; and (3) that the requested monies represent not only a "need" - but a "right" - and a "moral question" --- as 11,000 communities, nationwide, support their Public Access television stations through the very same mechanisms (a percentage of franchise fees) requested / described.

KAPA Commissioner and Chairperson, Lisa Alt, stated (this is not a direct quote) that the Town of Ulster gave $5,000 towards KAPA expenses in 2008 and that a request had also been put in via that (and other) venues for 2009; but that nothing ("this is only February") was yet known as far as solid commitments for the 2009 fiscal year.

Alderman Landi had a number of questions, which I do not want to go into here (please check out the videos); and one or more of the Aldermen / Alderwomen present - still apparently "tabling" the direct request for funding - suggested that the KAPA Commission try to find funding (some unfeasible, according to Commissioner Smith) - including putting in an application for a Community Block Grant.

Commissioner Smith agreed to check into this; and also asked why the money could not (if the City remains unwilling to part with a portion of the franchise fee, which appears to be the KAPA Commission's main thrust...) find some monies for KAPA by sorting through the non-essential services the City provides and divvying out funds differently from there...

Another idea on this topic [brought up by Alderman Madsen] was to add a surcharge (about 10 cents a month) - specifically for KAPA - to the franchise fee that the subscribers in the City of Kingston are already paying.

However, this small surcharge fee idea [this situation with the City of Kingston v KAPA (so it would seem) has been going on for a long time] did not even muddle through...

And although KAPA Commissioner B. Smith agreed to follow up on the Community Block Grant idea (with time running short); this funding, if I perceived it right (?) - would not, even if approved, kick in until fiscal year 2010 --- leaving KAPA (as per usual ?) pretty much (although an appointed City Commission with a franchise fee that is reputedly supposed to be used, at least in part, to fund the station) flat broke (for all practical intents and purposes) - undermined (this appears to be an eternal "double-bind" situation) and (Why is the Cable Commission meeting always held in conjunction with the Public Safety Commission meeting (two different line items, one would think...) anyhow?] "busted."

Alderman Madsen also noted (this is not an exact quote) that other Public Access stations generally receive a portion of Time Warner franchise fees for their operating expenses; and it has been said, in general, by a few people --- that many of these stations are flourishing and (with adequate funding) able to provide their services in the manner and spirit for which Public Access (a community service) is intended.

KAPA Commissioner and Chair, L. Alt, stated that KAPA has been asking the City of Kingston for funding for years - to no avail. KAPA Commissioner B. Smith stated that although this "might" be (through hoops and loops) "legal" (ie. the City putting all of the franchise fees into the general fund) - it is certainly "not moral."

Other options, which I choose not to cover here (I believe I covered the primary purpose for the KAPA Commissioner's presence at this meeting) - were discussed, as well. And it should be noted that KAPA Commissioner C. Evans was also present; as were at least three - and possibly more - KAPA producers (currently off the air) and/or supporters.

That said, the last item on the Agenda - that I was present for - had to do with the piece that today's "Daily Freeman" ("City May Seek..."; 2/25/09; PP. A1 and A6) chose (in part) to (why focus exclusively on this?) zoom in on... "This" being (not covered in the "Freeman") about some potential upkeep and/or contractual services [potentially costing up to $100,000...) regarding City Hall itself (remote control access / maintenance to the heating / Air Conditioning system / a "tabled" issue) - and (this was covered in the "Freeman") the potential expenses associated with repairing the front steps of City Hall [currently unsafe / the side doors are being utilized...) - and possibly the fixing of the sidewalk, in front of City Hall, as well.

I was not clear about all that was being said, or by whom, in this last regard; but it sounded like the proposed $38,000 to fix the City Hall's front steps [C.R., noted above, also has a blog posting (same links) about this] and/or sidewalk (at these estimates / aren't there lower bids out there?) would be a fiscally irresponsible expenditure (this is my personal opinion / yours may differ) - unless this funding can be secured via grants or some other such avenue) at this (the general tone of this meeting was one of fiscal accountability and responsibility...) point.

[Note: The theoretical $38,000 plus (This is already $18,000 over what was reputedly budgeted for the repair of the steps) would apparently require the City to borrow money and/or take out a bond... and the full possible expenditure (a little too much ambiguity here?) - when all is said and done - could reputedly end up costing the City $48,000 or more [in addition to the possible $100,000 (?) expenditure noted up above for other City Hall contractual services?) --- PLUS!].

[If any errors are noted in this report, please let me know and I will check into it / make the necessary corrections.]

Thank You,

NS

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

Nice job reporting and much more extensive and inclusive than the Freeman which seems to have steps on their mind and rocks in their head...smitty

N.S. said...

Well hello Mr. Smith...

Not so eloquently put - but I do have to admit, in this instance, that I too wonder why this meeting - as far as the "Freeman" goes (they also do very good articles a lot of the time...) was given what appears to be very select, or at least one-dimensional coverage (?)

Maybe it had to do with the amount of column space available... or something else of a pragmatic nature (?)

Independent bloggers can, when they choose, be much more extensive in thier coverage - and generally have much more leway in regards to creativity.

Peace you'all! We need to come together if we want to make it through this mess that we ALL have (things are NOT good in Kingston, NY, right now...) on our hands!

NS

NS

N.S. said...

Oh heavens! There appears to be two of me! [Just joking, folks...]

UCP said...

Great post!

N.S. said...

'Tis always good to get some "kudos" from UCP! Thanks C!

Anonymous said...

Those steps should be under some warranty from the contractor or he should have some modicum of conscience kick in so he can fix them quickly and correctly by taking each step off with a forklift drilling some rebar into the base or previous step adding some super epoxy in the holes and securing each tread that way, then laying down a heavy bead of masonry-specific adhesive with a clear waterproof bead of caulk on any and all gaps or openings to prevent future failure. The city should have its maintenance crews do follow ups and check on the status of this on a regular basis to prevent future failure. These steps have been a problem for some time and maybe the city’s own workers can repair them instead of hiring an outside firm if the original one won’t take the responsibility to fix what he should have done correctly in the first place. litle sparrow

N.S. said...

Never underestimate the wisdom of a "sparrow" (smile)...

That sounds pretty apropro (although I'm certainly a novice in this area) to me!

In fact, my father was an excellent stone mason - and I jokingly said to my husband that if they gave Dad a case of beer and a couple of grand (?) [I have no idea how much, but certainly NOT in the tens of thousands...] he would have had those steps whipped in a hop and a skip!

Partly serious...

Partly joking....

That was (admittedly) a long time ago.

N.S.

Anonymous said...

little sparrow left out a "t" in little and is one of your new posters and fast fans of this blog spot. I am little sparrow and my real given names mean that.

N.S. said...

Welcome aboard!

N.S. said...

I am not sure at this point if I spelled John "Tully's" (?) name correctly (?) My apologies if I did not. I will check into it!