A local resident called for “more government transparency” and consistency regarding public access to city government meetings during the first joint council meeting of the new year on Wednesday via Webex.
During the public comment portion of the regular meeting, Bobbie O’Brien of Martin Drive said she had spoken to City Council in the past about the ‘myriad of different actions’ that need to be taken to participate. on the city’s board of directors. meetings. She reminded board members that online meetings “are nothing new” since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and yet there remain challenges accessing meetings or giving public comments to read. at meetings in advance.
O’Brien specifically addressed the January 4 planning board meeting, where the meeting’s live stream link posted on the board’s website had been outdated since November, and the public Webex dial-in code to access the meeting had also not been updated on the site.
She also referenced how some councils display meeting access information directly on their agenda, while others display it on the web page instead.
Regarding last week’s planning council meeting, “the public did not have the correct information” to log in or access via the livestream, “only council members and petitioners” were able to access the meeting,” O’Brien said.
She further stated that for Estimates and Contracts Council meetings, when they are held in the council chambers, it is difficult for the public to access them when the City Hall doors do not open. until 8:30 a.m., when the meetings begin. “Sometimes meetings are less than five minutes long,” O’Brien added.
Additionally, she said that for this month’s Common Council meeting agenda, the city switched to Google Docs to access documents, rather than just having a “right-click” on the website to open them. She then asked that the city council consider forming a committee to address the issues and include members of the community so the public can provide feedback.
In ensuing councilor reports, Third Ward Councilor Kimberly Rogers said that from a communications standpoint she agreed with O’Brien, and with respect to municipal councils and services , “there must be some consistency”.
Rogers said that for this month’s Planning Council meeting, members did not include necessary information on the agenda regarding a planned WellNow urgent care project for Mohawk Acres Plaza.
“For the Planning Council agenda this time we had to contact the Mayor and (Deputy Director of Community and Economic Development) Matt Andrews about the urgent care facility – we didn’t know. nothing,” Rogers said. “No addresses were provided for establishment or supporting documents. I think it would be beneficial to find some consistency, especially on the public comment side for the other three tips.
She said: “I would be happy to work on it from a law and rules perspective if other advisers wanted to do that with me, and maybe get people like Ms O’Brien and others who normally participate” in meetings. .
Common Council Chair Stephanie Viscelli said she also agreed with O’Brien, stressing the need for consistency, and that based on the highly contagious omicron variant of COVID, the council would like to start organizing again. meetings at City Hall.
“We hope the next meeting will be in person,” Viscelli said.
In other cases, the following actions were unanimously approved:
• Resolution 6: Determine that actions to undertake certain projects will not have a significant effect on the environment and comply with environmental regulations.
• Resolution 7: Delegate authority under General Municipal Law to Chief Thomas Iacovissi of the City of Rome Fire Department to authorize additional training for firefighters.
• Resolution 8: Appoint Urban Planner Garret Wyckoff as a representative to sit on the Mohawk Valley Land Bank Board of Directors.
• Resolution 9: Authorize the assessor of the City of Rome to grant certain tax exemptions relating to the 2022 assessment roll without requiring requests.
• Order 9491: Authorize the issuance of municipal bonds not to exceed $335,000 to finance the cost of various capital projects, including the purchase of equipment for construction and maintenance, including a Bobcat Skid Steer, a road sweeper and a 25 ton trailer.
• Ordinance 9492: Authorizing Mayor Jacqueline M. Izzo to approve the sale of a city-owned parcel on Lauther Road for $600.
• Ordinance 9493: Mayor’s Authorization to Approve Sale of City-owned Lot on Lauther Road for $600.
• By-law 9494: Authorizing the installation of a “No Truck Traffic” sign at the corner of East Dominick and Sixth streets. First Ward Councilor John M. Sparace said a tractor-trailer driving around the corner had recently cut a utility pole and damaged wires, while truck traffic in the area had previously been a problem expressed by neighbors.
• Order 9495: Authorize the Acquisition of a Portion of Parcel 273.00-3.3 and Temporary Access Easements at No Cost to the City for the Purpose of Constructing a Replacement Culvert with the State Department of Transportation on Wheelers Creek.
During a brief organizational meeting held shortly before the regular council meeting, the following was unanimously approved:
• Resolution 1: Authorize the mayor to attend various conferences during the year 2022.
• Resolution 2: Designate WKAL as the official radio of the City of Rome.
• Resolution 3: Designate the Rome Daily Sentinel as the official newspaper of the City of Rome.
• Resolution 4: Appointment of the President Pro Tempore of the Municipal Council of the City of Rome in the absence of the President of the Municipal Council Viscelli. A motion was presented and approved to appoint Rogers as Councilor for the Third Ward.
• Resolution 5: Create standing committees of the Municipal Council for the period from January 1 to December 31, 2023.