City lawmakers are working to restore a “clean streets” — as in less strewn with trash — program which, unnoticed by them, was cut from the 2012 budget by former mayor James Sottile.
Each weekend, work crews from the county’s Community Service Program have turned out on Kingston streets to clean up litter and haul away debris. The crews, made up of four to 12 offenders sentenced to community service for non-violent, non-sexual crimes, pick up trash, clean up after street festivals and do other sanitation jobs that the city lacks the manpower and overtime money to carry out using its own employees. The crews work countywide at the request of town supervisors. Since the 1990s, Kingston has had its own dedicated work crew under the terms of a contract with the Ulster County Probation Department. For an annual fee of $22,000 to pay a Probation Department employee to transport and supervise the crew, the city gets six to eight hours of work each Saturday and Sunday.
“The mayor at the time felt that it would add the ability on weekends to do things, it could be shoveling snow or cleaning up after a Relay for Life, or whatever,” said Bob Sudlow, deputy county executive for operations and public safety. “Without having to pay [city employees] time and a half.”
The contract, which was put in place by former mayor T.R. Gallo, was renewed each year, but it wasn’t in the 2012 city budget prepared by Sottile and approved by the Common Council at the end of 2011. According to Sudlow, the move was unannounced by the city and unanticipated by the county. The $22,000 in anticipated revenue from the city remains in the 2012 county budget.
Alderman and Majority Leader Tom Hoffay (D-Ward 2), who took over leadership of the council’s Finance Committee last month, said city lawmakers were unaware of the elimination of the budget line when they approved the spending plan in December. “I don’t know why nobody noticed that it wasn’t in the budget,” said Hoffay.
At a Feb. 6 caucus meeting, Ward 8 Alderman Bob Senor complained that his downtown ward was already looking shabbier. The situation, he said would only get worse in the spring when street traffic increases and the annual calendar of street festivals gets going.
“The new mayor’s motto is ‘cleaner streets,’” said Senor. “Well, this is not the way to do it.”