City Council Minutes
February 25, 2008
February 25, 2008
The City Council met in regular session on Monday, February 25, 2008 in Council Chambers. A quorum being present, Mayor Cleveland L. Rippons called the meeting to order at 7:00 p.m. Those Commissioners in attendance were Commissioners Knox, Sydnor, Cephas, and Travers.
Ed Kinnamon led in the Lord's Prayer. Commissioner Travers led in the Pledge of Allegiance. Commissioner Travers made a motion to approve the minutes of the February 11 , 2008 Council meeting as distributed. Commissioner Knox seconded the motion. The motion was passed 4:0.
Presentation by Pigg, Krahl, Stern & Co., P.A. (Auditors) -Mayor Rippons said this item will be adjourned to a later date pending a first meeting.
Bill Press asked for clarification of the Mayor's statement. Mayor Rippons said in the bid itself, there calls for a post-audit meeting with the Audit Committee of the City to address their questions before it comes before the public.
David Fang, Conifer Realty to Request a Resolution of Support, A Reduction of the Bypass Road Impact Fee to $1,000 per Unit; and an Annual Credit Against Real Estate Taxes of $200 per Unit per Year for Their Proposed Affordable Senior Housing-David Fang said he had been very active working on the parcel that was previously known as the Palmer farm for affordable housing. The first building opened in early January. He believes 61 or 62 of the 76 units are already occupied. Because of the incredible reception that the affordable senior (55+) rental building has had, and due to the incredible need in the area for these services, the developers of the project are interested in building a second building on the wooded portion of the site known as the Luthy property. They went through the Planning and Zoning process and that parcel was originally proposed to be 3-story garage townhomes. The 'for sale' market is weak. They met with Anne Roane to discuss whether they had the appropriate density allowed to go from 38 townhouse lots to 70 apartments in a building very similar to the one that is currently on the site. The project would be funded the same way as the senior project that is open now as well as the 46 3‑story garage townhomes that Council was kind enough to provide the waiver and the tax reduction for. That project received approval around Thanksgiving and they will be moving forward around June 1st. In the current funding round, they are looking for the support of the Council similar to what they had in the past and looking for the same local contribution which is a threshold item for the State that the local community provides some kind of local contribution. They expect to build 70 units. The rent for the 1-bedroom units would range from approximately $278 to $523 per month. The rent for the 2-bedroom units would range from approximately $340 to $623 per month. The rents are tied to median income as determined by HUD. Any rent increases are tied to an annual re-evaluation of Dorchester County's median income. The project is also scheduled to remain as affordable housing by a deed restriction for a minimum of 41 years. He asked for Council's support to be included in the application next month.
Commissioner Sydnor asked if these are the same rents that are being applied now. David Fang said there are 4 different strata for rents-30%, 40%, 50%, and 60% of median income. The existing building has some 60% units. The highest rents will be a little higher than what he described in the existing building. There will not be any 60% units. They are looking to reach out to make it as affordable as possible and only have 30%, 40%, and 50%. If you compare the 30%, 40%, and 50% of the existing building to the current building, the existing rents are probably just a few dollars less because the numbers he quoted just came out last week. They are the 2008 rent levels as determined by HUD. The tenants who have been moving in over the last month would have been under the 2007 numbers. It is a very slight difference.
Mayor Rippons asked Steve Johnson if he had anything to say as it relates to the reduction in the impact fee. Steve Johnson said he would like an opportunity to take a look at the proposal and make a recommendation to Council. David Fang said the application is due at the end of March. He said on the existing senior building and on the family project, because the expected traffic from the seniors is significantly less than for a family project, the Council had reduced the road impact fee from $3500 per unit to $1000. Mayor Rippons asked David Fang to provide Council with the number of cars they actually have out there now. With the 61 or 62 units that are leased, there were 28 cars in the parking lot at 6:30 pm tonight. Mayor Rippons asked if they have car registration. David Fang said he did not know but he will find out. He said Nancy Jackson is the property manager.
Portia Johnson-Ennels asked if David Fang was asking the City for the same PILOT program that he is asking from the County. David Fang said they are not asking for the same program. They are asking for a different consideration. They are asking for a flat reduction of the tax bill of $200 per unit per year. Portia Johnson-Ennels said last week at the County, David Fang could not answer her questions because under the PILOT there is a balloon rising of the rental costs. She asked if the same thing will happen with what he is asking the City for. David Fang said the rents are tied for a minimum of 41 years as a percentage of median income in Dorchester County. As incomes go up or down in any given year and are published by HUD, the rents will adjust according to the annual published income levels. Portia Johnson-Ennels said the published income for Dorchester County is between $53,000 and $55,000. That is higher than what it is in actuality. She asked how the people will benefit who will be residing in the establishment. David Fang said they will be paying $278 to $523 per month on a building whose units cost almost $100,000 per unit to build. He thinks that is a huge benefit compared to the other housing stock in Cambridge for seniors. Portia Johnson-Ennels said on paper it sounds very well but if what happened in 2007 would happen again with our area loosing 4 businesses at one time, which means that the incomes will decrease, she asked if the rents would decrease. David Fang said if the published median income decreases in a given year, the rents are tied to median income. Portia Johnson-Ennels said the median income is set by the Federal government. It does not decrease, it increases. Your job may leave which means your income has decreased, but the State and Federal median income has risen. David Fang said if the tenant's income goes down, their rent would not be affected. It would stay the same. Portia Johnson-Ennels said if your income goes down and you are paying $278 a month for rent, you do not have $278 coming in so if anything, there should be a minimum amount that you are able to pay without loosing your residence. David Fang said this is privately-owned housing. It is not public housing. The private sector is not in the business of providing what is almost essentially free housing. He does not know any better way of answering that question. If the tenant cannot pay their rent, the business cannot survive. Portia Johnson-Ennels asked the Mayor and Commissioners to take a very close look at the proposal that is being presented and remember the element is human beings.
Octavene Saunders said she is in the process of helping a 74-year-old senior citizen fill out one of these huge packets. They want to know everything. They do not accept Section 8. There is a young man who has very little income and he is paying $400+ a month rent plus his utilities in the building that David Fang is talking about. Her husband's aunt is getting ready to move out there and her income is lower than $900 a month. Her rent starts not lower than $500+ and can increase up to $650. She asked Council to have the company show them the number of people (not names) that are paying $278 and their incomes. They should have to supply what kind of a car they have on the lot, because on the application, they ask what kind of vehicle the person drives. They even want to know the face value of your life insurance. She asked Council to look very closely at this before they give this gentleman financial breaks. She is all for good housing but people in private business should know there is a risk and there is not always the high profit that they want. The people do not get a refund when they apply for a credit check.
David Fang said all of the financial questions are a requirement of funding sources. In order to get the credits, they have to keep a file on every tenant for the State of Maryland Community Development Administration. Each one is audited every year to make sure that when they say that there are going to be 17 1‑bedroom units at $278, 19 1-bedroom units at $402, and 24 1-bedroom units at $523 the first year, there is a file with each person's form to back up why the person is in the unit and why they are being charged this rent. The City Council members are welcome to visit Nancy Jackson to go through the records on the tenants. It is all highly-regulated.
Mayor Rippons asked about the proposed PILOT with the County. David Fang said they are asking for $50 per unit per year of actual tax-not a reduction of tax, but a reduction to $50. One reason they are going to the County is that they are not providing any 60% of median units. Because of that, the project will be receiving that much less income so they would like to have that much less expense. It is the Federal Tax Credit Program. The only benefit to the investors who purchase the building are the tax credits. Up until about 8 weeks ago, they were paying $0.92 for a dollar of credit. Now they are paying about $0.82 for a dollar of credit which means that on a building of this size, it means about $1 million less equity is going into the building. That is why they went to the County to see if they would piggyback what the City has done in the past.
Wendell Foxwell said at the Dorchester County meeting, Mr. Fang asked for the tax relief for 41 years. Then he thinks it got down to 20 years and they told the County that the break-even point was about 15 years. If a lot of the other people come here and want the same thing, if you start a precedence, you have to do it for all.
Octavene Saunders, The Pine Street Committee, to Discuss a Community Vegetable Garden on City-Owned Property-Octavene Saunders said John Seward is working on the committee as a private citizen, instead of the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy. He is not getting paid as part of his job to be on this committee. He wanted to give a 10-minute presentation to show how this worked in other places, but he could not be present tonight. They would like the opportunity to use City-owned property that is current vacant and not planned for immediate use. It is their intent to involve youth and adults in the City to plant and maintain a community vegetable garden. Once harvested, the vegetables will be given at no cost to seniors and families with children and the people who are doing the planting. The Pine Street Committee will be the lead project coordinators, working in cooperation with community groups. They are planning to approach C‑Safe to see if they would be a partner. They will be responsible to secure any liability insurance. Mr. Larry Dail is working with them on insurance. Their volunteers will maintain the garden. She spoke to Mr. Rich from Club Allure and he will try to help them. There will not be any cost to the citizens. They are requesting use of the property from April 2008 to November 2008. They are also requesting Council's input on the types of vegetables they would like to see. They are asking for a liaison from the Council to partner with them to keep Council apprised. The site they are requesting is on Chesapeake Court.
Commissioner Cephas said he comes from a farming background. He lived on a farm until he was in the fifth grade. They are taking on a major endeavor. A couple of people have approached him about the garden. They questioned what this was going to do to the farmer's market. He told them he didn't think it would do anything to the farmer's market. They have a wonderful product and most of the people who visit it have vehicles and can travel out there. In his opinion, the community garden is primarily for people who can't get around in the community. He does not think it would have any adverse affect on the farmer's market. He was asked who has expertise in growing. He told them there was a gentleman who in involved that has vast history and background in farming. He will teach them how to plant produce. He offered to be the liaison to the Council because he comes from a farming background. He thinks it is a wonderful idea. Octavene Saunders said Mr. Seward is the person who started the farmer's market on Academy Street. He is the person who wants to help with the community garden. She said Commissioner Cephas was the person she had in mind when they asked for a Council liaison. The location they chose is under-utilized. They are not going to worry about people taking vegetables. When they did their 4‑H project on Park Lane and Edgewood Avenue, nobody disappointed them by taking things.
Wendell Foxwell said he doesn't know what kind of soil is on that piece of property. Vegetables are not going to grown in just any kind of soil. What you have to do is get a test of it to see if it needs lime or phosphorous. Octavene Saunders said the young man is familiar with the lot. He has expertise because of his job. She asked Mr. Foxwell to volunteer to help them.
Commissioner Cephas made a motion that if the property is not being utilized by the City, Council considers a community garden on Chesapeake Court. Commissioner Sydnor seconded the motion with the contingency that Mr. Collison makes sure they get liability insurance. Octavene Saunders is to have Larry Dail contact Oden Wheeler. The motion passed 4:0. Octavene Saunders asked if they needed a written agreement. Mayor Rippons said a document will be prepared to make sure the liability is with the Pine Street Committee.
Octavene Saunders to Discuss the Human Relations Commission-Octavene Saunders said she would like to speak in support of revitalizing the Human Relations Commission. A lot of names were left off of the list she received from City Hall. The other concern she had is that she would like the City to make the operating procedures available at City Hall for everyone to see. She would also like an open work session so people can come to City Council chambers and ask questions about what the Commissioners' intents are, what they see the Human Relations Committee doing, how they will be making appointments, why it is under Economic Development, and why it is not going to be under the Mayor and Commissioners like it has been since the 1960s. The Commission has always answered to the Mayor and Council-not a department or a department head. She would like to make sure it will be a public process and that the public has the opportunity to review what they are doing and have input at a work session before they have a final draft and make a final decision.
Commissioner Knox said he agrees with Mrs. Saunders. This was something that was set up years ago and is already in place. He thinks it should stay that way. He thinks the Economic Development Department should be for economic development. He doesn't think there should be any City employees on the committee. He thinks it should be made up of citizens like it has been in the past. The guidelines are done. It has been done in the past and he thinks they should stick with that.
Zoning Reclassification Property at 202 Maryland Avenue - A Request to Add the Land Use of CR (Commercial Retail and Offices) to the Existing Use R (Residential) to One Parcel in the PWCD District [Map 301, Parcel 5177] (Continuation from February 11, 2008)-Rob Collison said notice of the public hearing for February 11, 2008 was advertised in the Daily Banner on January 25, and February 1, 2008. The owner of the property, Ms. Donett Murphy, was not present. She wishes to keep the residential zoning and add the commercial, retail, and office zoning to the existing use. The property is located directly across the street from St. Paul's Church. It would fall under Section 123 of the City's zoning ordinance. The criteria is that it is necessitated by changes to the overall economic situation and will result in more creative and efficient use of the parcel in harmony with the objectives of the PWCD and will not adversely affect the rights of the other property owners in the PWCD or be contrary to the general spirit and intent of that section. This change would require a three-fifths vote of the Council. The Planning and Zoning Commission met in January and made a unanimous favorable recommendation to add the category to the property.
Commissioner Sydnor asked if the neighbors were notified. Anne Roane said the surrounding neighbors were notified of tonight's hearing and of the proposed changes. Ms. Donett Murphy, owner of 202 Maryland Avenue, said she acquired the property in September of 2004. She has been a business owner for over 30 years. She stood before the R/UDAT committee saying to please get us jobs in Cambridge. She is a government contractor and is going to bring her company here. It will probably only bring 1 or 2 jobs here. It is a government consulting organization. Their specialty is software, quality assurance, configuration management, and program management. Her staff will be on-site-not here. The only staff she would see in that facility would be her receptionist and occasionally having 1 or 2 of her staff in place. The business has been going since 1998. There are 3 parking spaces directly in front of the facility on Maryland Avenue. Within the context of her property, she can hold over 4 vehicles in the driveway and in the back there is a driveway that can hold between 4 and 6 vehicles. For the most part, it would be all off-road parking. Commissioner Knox said there are currently commercial businesses in the area. Nobody from the audience asked to speak. Rob Collison said if Council feels it makes sense to make the amendment that she meets the criteria that they talked about--economically making better use of it without adversely affecting the surrounding property owner--then they could make a motion to approve the proposed amendment. He would provide a resolution to that effect at the next meeting for Council's adoption. Commissioner Knox made a motion to move forward with the amendment. Commissioner Sydnor seconded the motion. The motion passed 4:0.
Open Bids for 42" Sign Cutter-Ed Kinnamon said he received 1 bid:
- Sign Cad (Minnetonka, Minnesota) - $12,495
Commissioner Travers made a motion to refer the bid to DPW for their review and recommendation. Commissioner Cephas seconded the motion. Commissioner Sydnor reminded them that they budgeted $12,000 for this item so it is over the budget. The motion passed 4:0.
Open Bids for Commercial Zero-Turn Mower with Front-Mounted Mower Deck-Ed Kinnamon reported that he received 3 bids from:
- E. S. Hubbert & Son (Cambridge) - $12,628
- Atlantic Tractor (East New Market) - $12,246
- Eastern Service Corporation (Cambridge) - $11,422
Commissioner Travers made a motion to refer the bids to DPW for their review and recommendation. Commissioner Cephas seconded the motion. Commissioner Sydnor instructed Steve Johnson to let Council know what department it is coming from and what account it is in. Commissioner Knox said he would like to know what size deck is on the mower. The motion passed 4:0.
Open Bids for Hot Water Pressure Washer-Ed Kinnamon reported that he received 5 bids:
- R. C. Holloway Company (Salisbury) - No price listed
- Sun Bright Supply (Gaithersburg) - $4,884.45
- Peninsula Pressure Systems Inc. (Salisbury) - $4,785.00
- J. Keller Machinery Equipment (Frederick) - $5,900.00
- Modern Equipment Sales & Rental Company (Wilmington, DE) - $4,200.00
Commissioner Sydnor made a motion to refer the bids to DPW for their review and recommendation. Commissioner Knox seconded the motion. The motion passed 4:0.
Open Bids for Bituminous Concrete Overlay for Various Existing Streets-Ed Kinnamon reported that he received 4 bids:
- George Lynch, Inc. (Dover, DE) - $260,060
- P&A LLC (Delmar, DE) - $247,497
- Delmarva Paving Company (Seaford, DE) - $289,300
- David A. Bramble (Chestertown) - $305,970
Commissioner Travers made a motion to refer the bids to DPW for their review and recommendation. Commissioner Cephas seconded the motion. The motion passed 4:0.
Request from St. Paul's United Methodist Church for Return of Application Fees for Planning and Zoning and Board of Zoning Appeals Relating to Their Sign-Mayor Rippons asked Steve Johnson if he had a breakout of the expenses. Steve Johnson said it costs the City time and other resources the same to review those permits as any others. In the ordinance, the City waives some permit fees for churches, fraternal organizations, and non-profit organizations; however, these are review fees. His recommendation is that they do not waive the review fee. Rob Collison said he would concur with the opinion. There are exemptions for different types of fees but the City does incur various expenses. It is like a user fee. Mr. Paul Hurley said they made the request as a church and would ask for the Council's consideration. Steve Johnson said they got the exemption for the permit application fee. Commissioner Cephas asked the cost of the application fee. Steve Johnson said he did not recall what it was. Rob Collison said the church was exempt from that fee. Commissioner Cephas asked what they paid $400 for. Steve Johnson said it is a review fee which is different. There is not a provision in the Code to waive review fees.
Request from Waugh Chapel United Methodist Church to Use Great Marsh Park on Sunday, August 10th from 9:00 am to 3:30 pm for a Worship Service, Baptism and Luncheon-Commissioner Sydnor made a motion to approve the request and added a noise variance for the stated hours. Commissioner Travers seconded the motion. The motion passed unanimously.
Request from Eastern Shore Hospital Center to Hold Their Sixth Annual H.O.P.E. Run/Walk on Saturday, May 3rd-Commissioner Sydnor made a motion to approve the request. Commissioner Travers seconded the motion. The motion passed unanimously.
Introduction of Ordinance to Amend Section 8-19 - Smoking/Tobacco Policy-Rob Collison said the City's Personnel Review Committee forwarded this request to him. In light of the recent State law that tightened the smoking laws in Maryland and some issues that arose with the new public safety building, this proposed ordinance would amend Section 8-19 which would expand the City's policy to include all types of tobacco use. It would designate only certain areas outside of a building for use of tobacco products. The violation presently is a $25 municipal citation to any violator. They are adding provisions that if the violator is an employee, they would also be subject to disciplinary actions outlined in the employee manual. There may be some modification to the proposed ordinance in its final form. He was just recently able to get a copy of the new State law. He suggested that they have it coincide or mirror the penalty provisions. Briefly, the State law provides for a warning for the first violation. The first violation after the warning is $100.
Discussion on Additional Funding Needed to Alert Pagers Inside Public Safety Building-Commissioner Sydnor made a motion to allocate the funds after Ed Kinnamon finds the most appropriate source. Commissioner Knox seconded the motion. Steve Johnson asked if this is to provide the pager capability. Mayor Rippons said it is to provide both pager and radio capability. Portia Johnson-Ennels asked the total dollar value. Mayor Rippons said it is between $42,000 and $43,000. Octavene Saunders asked what department's budget the money would come out of. Mayor Rippons said the motion stated that the Council will approve the allocation for the money allowing Mr. Kinnamon to resolve the appropriate source for that money. Octavene Saunders said they are spending money before they know if they have it and before they know what department it is coming from. Mayor Rippons said Mr. Kinnamon has already given Council at least 2 sources of where money is available and where they can get it from. They are allowing him the latitude because of the almost emergency nature of getting this done to appropriate the money. The motion passed 4:0.
Request to go to Demolition for 507 Rigby Avenue, 607 Robbins Street, and 213 Washington Street-Commissioner Travers made a motion to approve the request. Commissioner Knox seconded the motion. The motion passed 4:0.
Approve Financial Statement for December 2007-Commissioner Sydnor made a motion to approve the financial statement. Commissioner Knox seconded the motion. The motion passed unanimously.
Commissioner Cephas said the City just erected a sign on Route 50 welcoming people to Cambridge. In the evenings, you cannot see the sign. He suggested a light to illuminate the sign. Jane Devlin said she thinks there were lights planned for the signs. She will check to see if they can move forward with the lights.
Ed Kinnamon said he received a request from Bill Watkins regarding the lockers that were used by his staff in the Gay Street building. Mayor Rippons said Steve Johnson will evaluate if there is any future use for them because that building will be used by his department. He will make a recommendation to Council.
Commissioner Sydnor said Council will need to meet after the meeting to set a date to revisit the budgets that have been submitted. Hopefully they will be looking at something in the first week of March.
Ann Amianos requested a variance to park her truck on Court Lane for extended periods of time. It is a 1-ton truck and there is a City ordinance that she cannot park a 1-ton truck. Rob Collison said Ms. Amianos is remodeling a structure on the corner of Court Lane and High Street. Mayor Rippons suggested that she put her request in writing so the City Attorney can review it and then Council will act on it. Rob Collison asked her to include the dates and times she may be parking there.
Octavene Saunders asked the Council officially appoint Commissioner Cephas as the liaison to the Community Garden Committee. Commissioner Sydnor made a motion to appoint Commissioner Cephas to the Community Garden Committee. Commissioner Travers seconded the motion. The motion passed 4:0.
Octavene Saunders said she is tired of see all the notices on telephone poles announcing activities. They stay there until the weather removes them or something is added on top of them. The Pine Street Committee is requesting some type of message board where these flyers can be posted on City property on Pine Street. Mayor Rippons recommended that they put their request in writing outlining what their considerations are from the City. DPW will review the request and make a recommendation to Council. Octavene Saunders said they are requesting the same dollar amount that the City gave to Main Street because they are putting it on a Main Street block. She said she believes Council allocated $1800 for the message board on Race Street.
Ivy Cooper said he worked at Sailwinds Park. He is trying to figure out what happened to his job because he is getting the run around. First he was told he was laid off. He had to get a paper filled out and it says he no longer works at Sailwinds Park. He is asking Council's help. Rob Collison said even though he is not a City employee, this is a personnel matter. He suggested that Council appoint a delegation from the City to meet with him and members of the Sailwinds Board or Council could meet in executive session following tonight's meeting to hear his concerns. Mayor Rippons asked Troy Hill to stay for that meeting.
Wendell Foxwell asked Octavene Saunders if the Chesapeake lot had a water outlet on it. Octavene Saunders said they will be using the water from Club Allure. They will run a long water hose. Wendell Foxwell said he was wondering who would be responsible for the water bill. Octavene Saunders said they are hoping Mr. Foxwell will join their committee so he can help them out with irrigation. Mr. Foxwell said he has a vegetable garden and he gives to his community. He cannot help with the community garden but appreciates the offer.
Judy Moody said she has a simple question that has gotten quite complicated. She would like to find out who the Board Members are at Sailwinds Park. Mayor Rippons suggested that she contact Carlton Stanley. Judy Moody said they do not even accept certified mail at Sailwinds. Somebody needs to investigate it. The people in the office will not tell her. A former Board Member said he was not allowed to tell her. She asked what was going on at Sailwinds Park. Troy Hill said he has advised Judy Moody to address her questions in writing and drop it off at the Sailwinds office. Commissioner Knox said they do not do anything that is listed in the Memorandum of Understanding. He has no idea who is on the Board of Directors at Sailwinds. The last time he heard, Troy Hill and Mr. Wilson have resigned. He would like to have any update. He has only seen 2 quarterly financial reports in 3½ years. They are supposed to be updated on a monthly basis on what is going to happen next month at Sailwinds. In 3½ years, he has seen 1 schedule. Most of the time he knows what is going on because of the marquee. As far as what is going on at Sailwinds, he cannot answer anything. They do what they want. Judy Moody said there is a circular file at the library that tells what Sailwinds was supposed to do, and Sailwinds needs to look at what they were incorporated for. They are far from it. It is a non-profit organization. Nobody will tell you anything. She is starting to go to the State of Maryland who they get the lease from. Mayor Rippons suggested that Ms. Moody put her questions in writing as Mr. Hill asked her to do. If she does not feel she will get an answer, she can give the same letter to the City. It will be answered.
Rob Collison said the Sailwinds Management Board is a City-appointed board so City Hall should always have the status as to who the members are. He suggested that they Management Board be advised to keep the City updated on the current members.
James Cornish said the agenda states that there are 3 homes that are going to be torn down. The City is working on tearing things down. He asked about the junk on Washington Street. He said he has asked 2 or 3 times before about it and so has Mr. Foxwell. It is a disgrace to the City. Mayor Rippons said Steve Johnson addressed that at the last meeting. Steve Johnson said the property owner, Norris Taylor, has failed to secure the property as directed. The first letter for fines went out last week. Until he secures the property, he will get fines every 10 days. The fine is $100 per day. It will get very expensive for him very shortly. Commissioner Cephas said maybe they should call him instead of just sending mail. On Sunday he saw 4 people on that pile of rubbish. A lady was on the ground taking pictures of them. It is definitely a safety hazard. Steve Johnson said he has called Mr. Taylor's office. He has not returned the calls. He is dealing with the local representative which has been the most effective way of getting a message to him. Octavene Saunders asked how that would affect the 6-month extension that Norris Taylor received. Mayor Rippons said he is being cited under a different provision. Steve Johnson said part of the extension is that he has to secure the property with a fence so people cannot climb on the rubble. He has not done it. The deadline has passed so he is now subject to a $100 a day fine for not complying with the directive.
Portia Johnson-Ennels said there is a sink hole on Muir and Pine Streets that needs to be repaired.
Portia Johnson-Ennels said the City has an ordinance concerning property that is not being taken care of by landlords. On Schoolhouse Lane, all you see is housing with leftover rubbish from rehabilitating the properties and old sheds. It needs to be cleaned away. It is an eyesore and makes the neighborhood look worse than what it really is. Some of the houses have been rehabbed. The housing inspectors have to see these infractions when they ride around Cambridge and they are not doing anything about it. The City needs to be cleaned up. The property owners need to be fined. It needs to be passed on to them. If the landlords are collecting rent, they should make sure their properties are maintained. Steve Johnson said it is a capacity issue. They are enforcing all of the ordinances that have to do with property maintenance and construction. In doing that with a staff of 4 people, they work on the properties required condemnation, boarding-up, or repair notices. They then work on property maintenance and sign issues. Unfortunately some of these things have not been done for some period of time. They are catching up. People can go around town and see that there are improvements. Rob Collison suggested that if someone is concerned about a particular property, they should bring it to the attention of the Department of Public Works. Portia Johnson-Ennels said she heard this excuse when they had the other director. They heard it during the interim before they got a director and they are stilling hearing that they have a certain number of people doing this. People have been doing business and running companies with less people for a number of years. We have programs in this City and County that could be used in cooperation with DPW. We have people on Parole and Probation who need to do community service hours. We have a lot of things that will not cost the City any money but we are not utilizing them. They could also work with Juvenile Services or the Drug Corps. That is called bringing the community together. She asked that we become a community again not entities separated from each other. We want people to come to all parts of Cambridge.
Octavene Saunders said when you work with community services groups like Mrs. Johnson-Ennels was just speaking about, you still need the staff person because there is certain paperwork that you have to keep. Somebody has to be on site to make sure the workers do not have a lot of people visiting, that the workers do not run off, etc. She doesn't have a problem with what Mrs. Johnson-Ennels is suggesting but she wants to caution them that there is a lot of responsibility using this route.
Octavene Saunders said every year for 8 years, during the summer the City had youth working. It did not cost a lot of money. Besides painting lines on the sidewalks, the summer workers wrote down where there was tall grass, trash, etc. They did not enforce it but they took the work off of the housing inspectors. A lot of work was caught up during those summer months. There was also something called block clean-up. Neighbors and businesses donated food. The police department helped do some of the clean-up through their community policing. There are ways this can be done during certain months of the year. For some reason, the youth employees were not put back into the program for the last 12 years. It served many purposes. It gave the kids some school money. It gave the families that were in dire need of assistance, relief from having to buy a lot of school supplies; it gave them some work ethics; it helped them get around their community; it helped them understand why we need to keep our community clean; and it was big star for the City to say that they care. She does not know why it was stopped because it was not that expensive. The summer workers were paid minimum wage and they only worked so many hours a weeks. This is a good opportunity to help the youth in the City. It will help the Department of Public Works and help get the City cleaned up. It worked good for 8 years.
Steve Johnson said he appreciates some of the ideas. He thinks what happened is that in recent years our inspectors became certified inspectors. They have passed courses so that not only do they know the code they are enforcing, they are able to go to a court and testify in front of a judge and present the case if it goes that far. You cannot give that kind of an assignment to an untrained individual. We are ensuring that when we go around to the City and issue citations, that the inspections are done properly, and that the citations issues are warranted and defendable in court. It is a very important program.
Octavene Saunders said she was a housing inspector and went to court and won 21 cases. She never lost a case so she knows how technical it is. The young people did not take the cases to court. They did not cite anybody. They wrote down the address, what was on the property, and they gave it to the inspectors so the inspectors could eyeball it themselves and some of the paperwork was started. She was not suggesting that young people fine anybody or go to court. Commissioner Cephas said he remembers the program that Ms. Saunders is talking about. They were painting signs on the streets and crossing areas. They did a good job. He has paid close attention to the City and the housing in the last 3½ years. He knows what the Public Works Department used to be like prior to Mr. Johnson coming. He looks around the City now. Mrs. Johnson-Ennels has been criticized by a number of people. She serves on a City committee now and does an excellent job. Mr. Johnson's department has done a very good job. If you look what happened in the past and you look at what is happening now, you see more homes that have condemned signs on them and you see more homes that have been torn down since he has been in that position. He has had people from various wards of the City call him in reference to certain homes that were unsafe and unfit. He called Mr. Johnson and he was right on it the very next day. He thinks that the committee that Portia serves on has done a wonderful job in informing certain departments of things that need to be done. He thinks Mr. Johnson has done a tremendous job. He doesn't think anyone here is criticizing him. Mr. Cornish was the first person he heard mention the property on Washington Street. Mr. Johnson took action on the old Coca-Cola plant. A number of places that needed to be cited have been cited by that department. If people are picking on him, it is unjust. Commissioner Sydnor said with the task that the Department of Public Works has, they have set certain goals. One of the goals that they want to do is remove the blighted houses that are in our community. The citizens have asked that this be done. DPW has worked on that. Mr. Johnson has asked before that the community be patient. Everything is not going to be done at one time. Eventually everything will be done. The job that they have done is a wonderful job. Since Mr. Johnson has been on board, we have the organization and the leadership that we have been lacking in that particular department. Mr. Hyde did a wonderful job when he temporarily stepped into the position. Now we have someone with that leadership and those capabilities. He asked everyone to be patient and the work will be done.
Commissioner Cephas made a motion to go into executive session to discuss personnel directly after this meeting. Commissioner Sydnor seconded the motion. The motion passed 4:0.
With no further business, Mayor Rippons adjourned the meeting at 8:35 p.m. I hereby certify that the foregoing is a true and accurate account of the Council meeting Monday, February 25, 2008, insofar as I personally am aware.
Edwin C. Kinnamon
Clerk & Treasurer