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Ogdensburg talks changing housing administrators

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OGDENSBURG — The City Council could change the leadership of its housing program with a word and a wait.

Meeting as a committee of the whole, on Monday evening council members discussed ending their contract with C. W. Augustine, the DeKalb Junction firm that has managed the program since 2010.

“I believe I’ve read correctly that we only need to give 30 days notice before we can terminate our contract,” said Deputy Mayor Michael D. Morley.

City Attorney Andrew W. Silver said Mr. Morley was correct. An executive session was called so council members could confer with Mr. Silver about firing C. W. Augustine.

The council has frequently complained about the quality of work in housing rehabilitation around the city, citing inconsistent inspections and poor selection of candidates for renovation and demolition. Council members have also taken issue with infrequent updates from C. W. Augustine on the program’s progress.

The council could move to end the contract at its Aug. 13 meeting, but Councilman R. Storm Cilley said the council should look for a new administrator before firing its current one.

“I’m worried about having a gap where we have a job that nobody is doing,” he said.

For this year, a new partnership could breathe new life into the city’s housing rehabilitation program.

A representative of the Development Authority of the North Country was on hand to explain the city’s upcoming Community Development Block Grant application.

“The city would submit a $400,000 single-purpose application for housing rehabilitation,” said Matthew A. Taylor, housing development specialist. “If funded, we’ll administer and deliver the program.”

Mr. Taylor said DANC would prepare the grant for the city at no cost.

“I recommend you apply for the rehabilitation of 10 to 12 income-eligible households with Ford Street continuing to be your target area,” he said. “Starting in one area is a good approach. The goal is stimulate other redevelopment in the area and there is some energy built focusing on one target area.”

Councilman Daniel E. Skamperle asked how houses would be selected for the program. Citizens had complained to him about being passed over for rehabilitation, he said.”

“We feel that is still under development,” said Mr. Taylor. “We would like some conversation with the city staff and you folks to decide how projects are identified, and I think you should be informed.”

Mayor William D. Nelson contacted DANC after finding out C. W. Augustine would no longer work on the application.

“When I reached out to DANC to give us assistance they immediately contacted the state offices who award the funding,” he said. “There is also the matter of a reporting mechanism to the council — that is one of the things that DANC does.”

Mr. Taylor also said DANC would review the pool of contractors the city uses to rehabilitate houses, possibly expanding the list property owners are allowed to choose from.

“The more quality contractors available to people, the better,” he said. Contractors must meet eligibility requirements to work on projects funded by the Block Grant.

DANC would also take a proactive role in inspecting the property, Mr. Taylor said.

“We have staff in our engineering department that may work with us, and we try to work closely with code enforcement,” he said.

Community Development Block Grants are funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, but awarded by the New York State Department of Homes and Community Renewal. The deadline to apply for the grants is Aug. 17.

Mr. Morley asked if the grant applications would be submitted on time.

“I was scheduled to have last Friday off and I worked last Friday,” said Mr. Taylor. “I was scheduled to work this Friday and — yes, it will be on time.”

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