Its hard to make good decisions in the dark, but that is where some City Council members feel they have been left.
On July 9, three city officials were notified that housing administrator C.W. Augustine of DeKalb Junction would not write Ogdensburgs Community Development Block Grant application this year.
That information did not reach the City Council until July 18, Councilor William D. Hosmer said at Mondays council meeting. This letter is dated the 9th, he said. We didnt receive anything until the 18th. That is unacceptable.
James A. ONeill, C.W. Augustine president, sent an email to Mayor William D. Nelson, interim City Manager Philip A. Cosmo and interim Director of Planning and Development Andrea L. Smith stating his intentions not to apply for any housing rehabilitation grant money on behalf of the city.
Mr. Nelson said it was Mr. Cosmos responsibility to notify the rest of the council of the emails contents.
I think Phil forgot to put it in the councils update, because I read it after a meeting, he said. It wasnt a big deal.
Complicating matters, at the July 9 City Council meeting, Mr. Nelson proposed contacting the Development Authority of the North Country as an option should C. W. Augustine decline to write the applications. He claimed he did not know at the time that the company already had withdrawn.
The big concern during the previous meeting of council was with C.W. Augustine, so I reached out to DANC for assistance,Mr. Nelson said. It was coincidence. It didnt seem like an issue.
Mr. Nelsons fellow council members disagree. Councilor Wayne L. Ashley pointed out that Mr. Nelsons position confers no more powers than any other council seat.
Each member of this council has one vote, therefore each member of this council is just as important as another is, Mr. Ashley said. Everybody should have a copy of this information at the same time. In the future Im not going to settle for anything less than being notified the same time as other people.
The state Community Development Block Grant deadline is Aug. 17. Councilor William D. Hosmer expressed concern that C.W. Augustines late notification date would harm the citys chances to secure housing rehabilitation funds.
I was critical of C.W. Augustine for waiting until the last minute to let us know, but in reality the city had known nine days, he said. It was discouraging to see that for nine days that information was withheld from us.
Deputy Mayor Michael D. Morley said this is not the first time information has been withheld from the council.
Weve stressed this many times: the mayor gets information that the rest of the council doesnt get, and we want that information. This is not a one-man show, Mr. Morley said. This is not the first time; weve complained about this in the past that the mayor hasnt kept us informed.
Councilor Daniel E. Skamperle said it is reminiscent of a recent city dispute.
Theres certainly been times where perhaps a city manager did not forward us information when he probably should have, he said. Theres an awful lot where we probably should have known and we didnt, and where does it get you but a whole lot of turmoil? It should be up front and well figure it out from there.
Earlier this year, Ogdensburg fired City Manager Arthur J. Sciorra, citing among other reasons his failure to update the council frequently on the state of the housing program.
At that time, the council argued that withholding information crippled its ability to make good decisions. Mr. Hosmer said the same issue applies today.
It is hard for city councilors to make decisions if we dont have all the information, he said. It is hard if some people have all the information and others do not. As a group, we all need the same information so we can come to a decision that is based on the facts and not what we perceive them to be.
Mr. Morley went a step further, claiming that city staff and Mr. Nelson control the flow of information to lead the council to certain choices.
We have no ability to make decisions because we dont have choices, he said. Theres one common thread that keeps us from getting information. You can figure out who Im referring to.
Attempts to contact Mr. Cosmo and Ms. Smith Wednesday evening were not successful.