PRINCETON — The heavy rainfall Princeton endured two weeks ago seems to have put a strain on the city council.
Council member Ray Mabry publicly challenged Mayor Joel Quiram during Monday’s regular meeting about Facebook comments he wrote on his mayor page following the rains that affected the city’s sanitary sewer system.
In the post, Quiram referred to split city council votes regarding new revenue opportunities that could have impacted the city’s ability to carry out more sanitary sewer projects.
One of those referred to when the council turned down selling the former recycling building to Promier Products, and the other being when city council members voted against a 3 percent tax on gross sales on marijuana if a dispensary was to locate to Princeton.
Both instances target Mabry’s voting record, and he asked Quiram to remove the comment from his Facebook as the part where Quiram conveyed that council members turned their backs on new viable businesses did not convey the entire truth.
“I think I’ve gotten tagged wrong on this, that you feel I’m not trying to sell that building or bring business to town,” Mabry said.
Using articles printed in the Bureau County Republican last year and emails written to the city council members and city manager Rachel Skaggs, Mabry laid out his side of the truth when it came down to selling the former city recycling building on North Main Street.
Mabry had voted against selling it to Promier Products because he, along with council members Ray Swanson and Laura Favia, had voted in favor of selling it to Princeton High School, who apparently had expressed interest in the property for some time. Their plan was to turn it into a bus barn. Quiram and city council member Jerry Neumann had voted in favor of Promier Products. Without a four-vote majority necessary to sell city property, both proposals failed.
Mabry argued that following the failed votes, he brought up the idea to put the building up for auction. He was quoted in a news article saying this idea would allow PHS and Promier Products to bid on the property, as well as a third party. It was an idea to get the project back on board.
It wasn’t much later, he found out Michael Judge had submitted a purchasing proposal for the building for $150,000 to warehouse equipment for the construction of car washes. In the proposal, Judge said he would pay in cash and fix up the property within 90 days of the closing.
The full council was never made aware of this new proposal, because it did not go out for another Request For Proposals following the two failed proposals from PHS and Promier Products.
Two months later, during a council meeting, Mabry stated he had learned the school board was no longer interested in the building, therefore he would support a business moving into the space. He asked the city to go out for another Request For Proposals.
However, by then the city had been hit with $500,000 in unforeseen costs, which required revisions to the budget. It was learned there was now no extra money to spend on fixing up other city properties to use for storage of the equipment packed inside the recycling center building.
Despite this, Mabry urged in an email to Skaggs that after surveying the equipment in the building and the old recycling center on Euclid Avenue, the city could spend anywhere from $8,000 to $10,000 to fix up the property on Euclid Avenue and turn it into an interim location for the items on the building on Main Street.
However, Neumann, who had been tasked with taking a look at the storage, reported to the council that the city would be making a mistake to sell it at that time with no money in the budget to fix up other properties for the equipment. Quiram stated in an October email to Mabry that the “city’s budget concerns do not support selling the building.”
In his 10-minute argument on Monday, Mabry wanted to make clear that he did try to sell the former recycling building to a business.
“I would just like you to remove that from your posts on Facebook, because I think we as a council made an effort to give that project CPR,” he said to Quiram. “I think the dialogue here shows we offered an alternative to auction it off.”
Quiram’s rebuttal to Mabry’s argument was that after the two proposals failed, department heads began coming forward saying they needed the storage space for the items inside the building. Quiram said that was why Judge’s purchase proposal was not considered.
After Neumann reported that it did not make sense to sell the building, it became clear selling it at that time wasn’t the right solution.
The city has since put a halt on going out for RFPs until they can afford a viable storage space for the equipment inside the recycling building.
Quiram said his concerns lie within why Mabry, Favia and Swanson ever voted in favor of PHS, a tax-exempt entity, over Promier Products.
“The more property tax we bring in, the more added revenue we have,” he said.
Aside from the city’s demanding sanitary sewer issues and lack of budget to put the former recycling center back on the market, Quiram said it was learned last week that starting fiscal year 2020, police pensions are going up $100,000 a year.
“That’s money we don’t have,” he said, adding the city has yet to hear about fire pensions.
“Every penny we bring into this city is important.”
By law, Princeton’s fire and police pensions must be funded 90 percent by 2040. Right now, Princeton’s police fund is funded only at 62 percent and fire at 74 percent.