Schenectady parking fee plans stuck in neutral
Residents unhappy with increase; decision put off
SCHENECTADY Parking fees in downtown Schenectady are going back to the drawing board yet again.
City Council President Margaret King pulled the item from Monday’s agenda without a vote.
The council also held a public hearing on the proposed 2014 budget, which got a lukewarm response. Speakers were far more passionate about the new parking fees, and King said she had heard from many residents since the proposal was announced last week.
“We clearly have got a lot of input from people,” she said, adding that the council needed to “clarify” how the fees will change.
The resolution would have allowed the mayor to raise on-street parking rates to as much as $1.50 per hour and $10 per special event. Many streetside parking spaces are 25 cents an hour now, but some are $1.
But the special event fee might not last. Councilman Carl Erikson said it should not affect those trying to make a quick purchase at a store.
“You won’t pay $10 to buy a burrito,” he said.
He’s not sure how short-term parkers could avoid the flat fee. He said it might be better to instead only allow short-term parking during special events.
“We need to talk to restaurant and store owners,” he said.
The council will discuss it again Monday at 5:30 p.m.
Residents asked the council to scrap the whole idea.
Linda Kelleher said the city could not afford to buy the new parking stations, given the limits of the budget.
“Is the city so flush?” she asked rhetorically.
Kelleher’s husband Joseph, who is running for City Council, was not present for the budget public hearing.
Only one council candidate attended the hearing as a member of the public — Mary McClaine. She told the council to cut the new parking stations, fluoride in the city’s drinking water and health insurance for council members.
She also criticized Chief Michael Della Rocco for never mentioning his pending retirement when he asked the council to fund an assistant chief position last month.
Instead, last month he said the position was needed because the fire department was so short-handed that union members were handling administrative duties.
Given the real situation, McClaine said, the council should cut the assistant chief position.
“Renegotiate it after the fire chief retires,” she said.
She also criticized the police department for letting highly paid detectives work overtime for patrol officers.
Not giving overtime to the newest, least-paid officers “is tantamount to abuse of the taxpayers,” she said.
Chief Brian Kilcullen told the council during a budget review session that detectives working overtime patrols could be pushing up costs.
But he explained the process in more detail Tuesday. The department does not simply offer overtime to officers based on their placement on a list. Instead, officers volunteer in writing every day, and the list is used only if more people volunteer than are needed that day.
It is not clear why lower-paid patrol officers are not volunteering, but elected officials have speculated in the past that officers are told to “wait their turn” and allow senior officers to earn overtime shortly before retirement.
Resident Gerald Plante also questioned that detectives’ use of overtime, asking whether they were trying to increase their pensions.
“If it’s just to game the system, it should stop,” he said.
He and resident Sharon Schmidt spoke in favor of the $22,500 expense for a dog census, citing the need to crack down on loose and unvaccinated dogs.
Schmidt was also the only resident to ask the council to spend more money.
“The parks budget needs to be reconsidered so they do not fall into disrepair again,” she said, adding that many neighborhood groups have been maintaining the parks since the budget was cut several years ago.