PORT JERVIS - Grants and fees took the spotlight at the Port Jervis Common Council meeting on Monday, beginning with a public hearing for the Community Development Block Grant application.
Valerie Maginsky, Port Jervis Community Development Agency executive director, answered questions about what the CDA could apply to fund through the grant. Infrastructure and public enterprise are among possible categories, she said. Sewer repair, community planning, removal of barriers to public buildings, and micro-enterprise have all been grant targets in the past.
“Infrastructure is the biggest nut to crack,” said Fourth Ward Councilman Stan Siegel, with substantial sewer repair costs ahead.
However, First Ward resident Wayne Kidney accused the city of “misappropriation” of sewer fees. “They’re exposed and expended in the general fund,” he said.
Kidney also condemned as “special-interest” driven the city’s pending deal to annex lots zoned for commercial and industrial use in Deerpark. Port Jervis would provide sewer, water and police services in exchange for sharing tax revenue with Deerpark. “There should be a referendum ‘of the people, by the people, for the people,’” Kidney said, quoting from Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg address.
He also accused the city of “municipal extortion.” “I bought property at a tax lien sale, and now I’m being charged fees for an unoccupied, uninhabitable building. But I can’t do anything to the property for two years,” according to the law. “I paid taxes for the property and made the city whole. You take money from a person who could bring the building back to habitability.” From $1200, the fee increases by $1000 yearly.
Also irking Kidney was Ed DeGroat’s long dispute with the city. “I can’t believe this thing is still going on after two and a half years,” Kidney said. DeGroat comes to council meetings and accuses the city of letting his neighbor, Dan Brunell, at 30 Farnum St., run an illegal motorcycle business from his garage. DeGroat reminded the council of his photographic evidence that Brunell lied when he said he torched motorcycle tires to kill bees. DeGroat said he was torching tires to ease mounting them on a bike.
Stepping to the podium with good news, Marc Hortie, construction manager for Ellicott Development, confirmed that Save-A-Lot will open on June 20 at Pike Plaza, and the nail salon will open “any time now.” The owners are just waiting for new chairs to arrive, he said. Meanwhile, every day business owners come to look at the other empty store spaces. Earlier on Monday a lease was signed for a restaurant, Hortie said.
First Ward Councilman Regis Foster, who is Police Committee liaison, made a motion, passed by the council, for a mutual aid agreement between Port Jervis and Deerpark police departments that would allow them to put officers in Port Jervis schools. Foster also displayed a coloring book designed by Detective Scott Robertson with art students to support “positive relationships and trust” between officers and youth.
Secretary-treasurer Robin Waizenegger warned about phone scams in which requests are made for immediate utility or tax payments by credit card.
Siegel announced the passage of the VA Mission Act, providing veterans with “increased access to private-sector care, consolidation of community care programs, expansion of the Family Caregiver Program, and the recruitment of qualified medical professionals” for veteran care. He also said the Code Committee will immediately address Kidney’s concerns about vacant and uninhabitable property fees for tax lien buyers.