Little filled the agenda beyond the conclusion of the 708 Church St. tower at the March 16 City Council meeting. While the highlight may have been several members’ sporting brand new laptop computers as part of the City’s paperless initiative, Council also approved HOME funds for Over the Rainbow, allowed another economy-based extension to a developer and approved the contract on the roof repairs for the Civic Center.
At the Administration and Public Works committee meeting earlier that evening, both Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, and Alderman Lionel Jean-Baptiste, 2nd Ward, unveiled their new laptops, to be joined later at the Planning and Development Committee meeting by Alderman Edmond B. Moran, Jr., 6th Ward and his shiny new machine. “I am one of the guinea pigs,” said Ald. Moran. The transition was not entirely smooth, as Ald. Rainey at one point exclaimed, “If I had paper, I’d find it right away. This is my first time with the laptop.”
The City’s bills showed increased board-up costs as the effects of the economy continue to be felt. Ald. Rainey encouraged the City to aggressively file liens against any property boarded up at taxpayer expense, in an effort to eventually recoup such costs.
Over the Rainbow, a non-profit organization association “dedicated to providing independent living solutions and employment opportunities for individuals with physical disabilities,” according to their website, sought HOME funds to rehab the Hill Arboretum apartments at 2040 Brown Ave.
Two weeks ago, controversy erupted over a gate installed by the City blocking access from Over the Rainbow’s parking lot into the Brown Avenue alley, causing a delay in City approval of the HOME-fund grant.
Based upon assurances by Alderman Delores Holmes, 5th Ward, that discussions were ongoing and that the gate had been removed, Council granted approval on March 16. Interim City Manager Rosalind Russell assured council that no changes will be made to alley traffic patterns until a meeting with neighbors and Over the Rainbow to discuss options has been held. As a result, the gate has been removed and approval for funds has been granted.
Without discussion or controversy, Council granted the developer of the 318-320 Dempster St. project a 27-month extension. Like the line items for board-ups of vacant homes in the City’s bills, concern about the economy remained throughout the Council meeting.
And then the 708 Church St. tower came up, and what had been a congenial evening turned decidedly less so. It would appear that all members are glad this issue has been decided and is now behind them.