Council Votes Against Building Fund; Cites ‘Abdication’ of Its Duties

By Joseph Domelowicz Jr.

The City Council denied a proposal by Chief Financial Officer Eric Demas and Building Maintenance Director George Lane to establish a new, revolving fund to allow the Building Maintenance Department to more easily make “capital repairs.”

The proposal would have used money paid to the city for the lease of public space by outside entities – such as is done at the old high school – but the plan fell short after a vote on Monday, Oct. 23, fell short of the two-thirds (or eight votes) required for passage.

Lane attended a Council meeting in September to explain his need of the fund, as well as its purpose.

According to Lane, who was supported in his request by Demas, the Building Maintenance Department has responsibility for maintaining and constructing building improvements to City facilities that need them. In his testimony to the Council, Lane pointed to the old Recreation Center building on Elm Street, repairs and corrective maintenance to that building took almost two years to complete, because once the work was identified, the City had to bring the projects before the Council to be funded, despite the fact that the City collects fees and leases from outside users who rent the building.

If a portion of the fees and lease payments were diverted to a revolving fund for capital maintenance needs – not for regular cleaning and everyday maintenance – then projects could be managed quicker and improvements could be made more seamlessly.

However, Councilors Fred Capone, John Hanlon and Stephen Simonelli worried that ceding control of the appropriation process for such projects would be an abdication of their responsibilities as a council. They all voted against the measure.

With two members absent during the vote, the motion to approve the new revolving fund for building maintenance failed by a 6-3 vote. It needed an eight votes supermajority to pass.

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