In a surprise Monday night move, Council unable to agree on funding; dissolves agreement with RA
By Brandi Makuski
Following several emotional pleas from building residents and other community members, City Council members on Monday were unable to agree on how to move forward with Edgewater Manor.
The Council was charged with approving borrowing a non-specific amount of money for repairs to Edgewater, the city’s senior-living facility located downtown. A recent architectural report for the building offered suggestions for safety and lifestyle improvements but did not prioritize them.
The City Council was left with little guidance on how to proceed in approving the funding, resulting in four failed votes following almost two hours of discussion- including one vote to send the issue back to the city’s Redevelopment Authority (RA), a body comprised of appointed members overseeing city redevelopment projects, seeking a prioritized list of repairs.
Other motions included a proposal to borrow $1.5 million for repairs designated by the RA and a measure to postpone the move entirely until more information could be brought before the Council. Both failed.
“We haven’t had a vote like that in a very long time, to my mind,” said Mayor Mike Wiza. “There were some very passionate testimonies last night, a lot of people who wanted to tell their personal story.”
Wiza added the Council’s inability to agree on any action Monday could be in part due to inexperience. In April seven new members were elected to the 11-member council, but Wiza said “they’re starting to come into their own. Some of them really have some definite opinions.”
Several residents of Edgewater Manor attended the meeting, with many taking the podium- along with other community members- to voice their support for the funding. None of the speakers were against the move.
Many in attendance said the building should not fall under the purview of the RA, but rather the city itself, turning the agenda item on its side and opening the door for hefty speculation on a topic which wasn’t up for discussion.
“You are our elected officials,” said Barb Jacob, owner of Big Hunchies and a former mayoral candidate. “You’re the ones who have to answer to us if you don’t do what we want you to. We do not vote for the [members of the] RA; we vote for you. We have seen what happens with the years and years of the RA having this building.”
Jacob also said she believed the City Council was the “most qualified” to manage Edgewater, and suggested the city create a new committee to take over operations.
The Council’s inability to agree on any action effectively dissolved the joint municipal agreement between the city and the RA to repair the building. Residents were audibly upset, with some declaring certain council members “ought to be ashamed” of how they voted as they filed out of the Council Chambers.
The Redevelopment Authority now has the authority to sell the building to a private entity or renovate the existing space, but will need city approval for the funds.
“So we’re back at square one,” Wiza said.