OGDENSBURG — After being canceled Monday night due to a lack of quorum, Ogdensburg City Council’s agenda that contained 13 resolutions — two of which seek to change the way the city provides public safety — will now added to the roster May 9, according to City Manager Stephen P. Jellie.
In an email to councillors, Mr Jellie said agenda items will continue to be added to subsequent meetings even if the meetings are cancelled.
Resolutions regarding public safety are considered controversial and have been discussed over the past two years. One would have the St. Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office take over policing in the city and the other would convert the fire department into a hybrid paid and volunteer service.
“The initiatives on the agenda of the previous meeting require a decision and, if not approved, require the immediate formulation of action plans to avoid the imminent financial crisis in which the City will find itself again during the deliberations on the 2023 budget. I do not support or encourage the practice of managing the city’s finances “one year at a time. It is irresponsible management, inefficient management and without consideration for the whole hand of the city,” Mr. Jellie wrote.
The Policing Resolution directs the City Manager to “develop a formal plan to direct the St. Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office to submit a proposal to assume law enforcement services in the City of Ogdensburg by August 1, 2022”.
With just three months to go before the proposed deadline, Sheriff Brooks J. Bigwarfe said any such discussion would be “premature,” especially since the first time he heard about the proposed resolution was from the media. .
“I think it’s premature for me to speculate on what will happen. Obviously it hasn’t moved forward and no one has contacted me from the city of Ogdensburg or the mayor’s office about any of these issues that I’ve heard about in the press,” the sheriff said. Big warfe.
The fire department’s resolution lacks details on how the hybrid service would be achieved, stating only that the city manager is asked “to submit a formal plan no later than October 1, 2022 to begin the fire department’s transition. from Ogdensburg to a combination career/volunteer organization beginning in 2023.
The resolution drew ire from Sam Fresina, president of the New York State Professional Fire Fighters Association, which also represents the city’s firefighters union, Ogdensburg Professional Firefighters Local 1799.
In a press release on Monday afternoon, Mr. Fresina called on the city council to reject the resolution and remove Mr. Jellie as city manager.
“For too long, the mayor and his supporters on city council, along with Mr. Jellie, have behaved in a way that is disrespectful to the community and the values of the families they serve,” Fresina said. “They repeatedly broke the law, failed to honor their contractual commitments, flouted court orders and flouted fundamental constitutional protections ranging from freedom of speech to the right to bargain collectively.”
The fire department’s structural change would begin in just eight months “without a pool of applicants or community approval for such extreme and reckless action,” the state Association of Professional Firefighters said.
Mr. Fresina also questioned comments that past cuts to the fire department were made to save the city from financial ruin.
“Mayor (Jeffrey M.) Skelly and the City Manager have indicated that their actions are part of the city’s financial survival plan, however, just weeks ago the State Comptroller released his findings on towns and villages in distress or vulnerable and Ogdensburg was not among those in financial danger or requiring additional monitoring or action,” the union president said. “At the very least, these two conditions are incompatible. If in fact the city is vulnerable, it may trigger the need for the Comptroller to review reports from Ogdensburg. Additionally, if the city’s information is determined to be misleading or misleading, more serious actions and a full investigation and audit by the Skelly-Jellie team are warranted.
Mr. Jellie argues that he is not the first city manager to recommend changes to city council regarding the city’s financial situation and that tough decisions needed to be made to improve the city’s finances.
“Ogdensburg City Council and ratepayers receive factual information from city staff that is all supported by NYS government entities. I am the third City Manager to advise a City Council that significant change must occur if the City is to stabilize its financial situation and strengthen its economy,” Mr. Jellie said.
Other resolutions call on Governor Kathleen C. Hochul to authorize the mayor to appoint a member of the Ogdensburg Bridge and Port Authority Board of Directors; the New York State Office of General Services to develop a plan to sell all assets of the former Ogdensburg Correctional Facility and unused portions of St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center; to request the North Country Development Authority to submit a proposal to assume responsibility for the operation of the city’s water and wastewater treatment facilities in 2023; and to direct the City Manager to immediately ask the St. Lawrence County Administrator to participate in a joint feasibility study to merge city employees into the county’s health insurance program.
Among the 13 resolutions were appointments of council members as liaisons to local, state, and federal offices and organizations, including: Counselor John A. Rishe in the office of Senator Charles E. Schumer; Counselor Daniel E. Skamperle in the office of Senator Kirsten E. Gillibrand; Deputy Mayor Steven M. Fisher in the office of Congresswoman Elise M. Stefanik; Counselor Michael B. Powers in the office of Senator Patricia A. Ritchie; Councilman William B. Dillabough in the office of Assemblyman Mark C. Walczyk; and Councilwoman Nichole L. Kennedy at the Ogdensburg City School District.