Written by Melissa Argueta Friday, 30 December 2011 00:00
In the true spirit of the holiday season, Garden City Mayor Donald Brudie announced at the Dec. 15 board meeting that residents Bob and Pat Kaliban offered a gift to the village of $11,300 to pay for repairs to the roof and clock tower on St. Paul’s main building after it was damaged by Hurricane Irene in August. However, the feeling of “goodwill towards men” soon dissipated as the board trustees became inflamed during arguments over procedural matters and whether or not donation should be accepted by the village for public property.
Holding a cashier’s check in hand, the mayor read a letter from the Kalibans regarding the donation: “We are truly saddened, and at the same time, incensed that out trustees do not see fit to even repair storm damage to the main building of St. Paul’s. It’s difficult to watch an elected group of men dance around the semantics of the situation while allowing water damage to further destroy the interior of so stately an edifice.”
The letter further stated, “In the event that the trustees at their December 15 board meeting, do not approve the $11,300 expenditure to the clock tower and roof of the St. Paul’s Historic Main Building and because we care so deeply, we are presenting you as mayor a check for $11,300 to cover the cost for the necessary repairs.
“We are requesting that you obtain any required approval of the trustees to accept our gift. The only stipulation concerning this donation is that it be used quickly and exclusively for the above mentioned repairs in order to prevent the further deterioration to the main building of St. Paul’s.”
Trustee Lawrence Quinn interjected when Brudie was speaking by stating the item was not on the agenda. “Point of order — new business,” Quinn said out loud stating that the motion was “out of order.”
The mayor banged his gavel and asked the board a question: “Are you gentlemen so afraid of having the truth come out here?”
Trustee Donnelly also chimed in saying “out of order,” and Quinn went on to say the item should be considered new business. As a result no action was taken by the board on the donation.
The Kaliban’s offer came on the heels of the Committee to Save St. Paul’s and the Garden City Historical Society’s most recent donation offer, which was up for vote during the night’s meeting. The CSSP’s offer was to donate 50 percent ($5,650) towards the needed repairs to the clock tower and adjacent portion of the roof at St. Paul’s, with a stipulation that the repairs would be paid for only if the remaining half of the repair costs is approved by trustees and paid by the village.
Once again, matters of procedure plagued the night as Trustee Dennis Donnelly explained that the item was listed under the “external communications” and therefore should not be considered a proper agenda item. Village Counsel Gerard Fishberg clarified that even though correspondence or letters to the board are normally not on the agenda, the items are seeking action by the board and therefore must be addressed.
Fishberg additionally clarified the village’s gift policy. “The village administrator is hereby designated to accept all unrestricted gifts tendered to the village, which the administrator deems to be in the interest of the village when the value of such a gift is reasonably believed by him not to be in excess of $1,000,” he said.
Before voting on whether to accept the CSSP’s offer, Deputy Mayor John Watras became visibly irate during the discussion. “This is an atrocity, the way this whole thing has been presented. I’ve had it up to here with this? How are things going to be presented?”
“By doing nothing, it is detrimental to the building,” Brudie said to board members. “You have to know that, you have to understand that this is demolition by neglect,” he added.
Trustee Episcopia commented that the repairs should be made but the village should not accept the donation, but advocated his support for repairs. “I don’t think we should take the money either but that’s not because I don’t think we should repair the clock. I think we should,” he said.
“I don’t think it’s appropriate to accept money from a private group. It’s village-owned property. Like it or not, it has a prominent place in the village, everyone sees it. I don’t think it’s appropriate to accept private money for this.”
Ultimately, Trustee John Demaro made a motion to reject CSSP’s offer and board voted 5 to 3 in favor of rejecting it.