By Charles Sercombe
City lot clean-ups and grass cutting is back in business after a temporary spending freeze was lifted by Emergency Manager Cathy Square.
The decision comes after several complaints, especially by City Councilmember Cathie Gordon, about the condition of the lots and how unfair it is for code enforcers to ticket property owners for failing to keep their yards in order while city lots remain overgrown.
Square said she allocated $10,000 to tackle 230 city-owned lots.
The work is being done by the city’s contractor, Platinum Landscaping of West Bloomfield.
But one thing caught Square’s eye in reviewing Platinum’s contract. It does not have an expiration date.
The Review printed billings from three of the city’s largest contractors a year ago, and found that Platinum had been paid $1.8 million from 2009 to mid 2012.
In those billings, most individual lot cleanings cost over $1,000 each. The city was billed over $3,400 for one lot. In charge of overseeing the bills is Steve Shaya, the city’s Director of Public Works.
He is also a former employee of Platinum.
The billings raised a number of questions, and lead to Acting City Manager Kyle Tertzag proposing to rebid all of the contracts, including Platinum.
Councilmembers Gordon, Anam Miah, Robert Zwolak and Mohammed Hassan voted against rebidding Platinum’s contract.
The Review has also discovered that the owner of Platinum, Omar Nakash, owns five houses in the city, and is delinquent in property taxes on three of them for a total of $12,695, according to the Wayne County Treasurer’s Office.
The properties are subject to foreclosure.
Councilmember Hassan lists one of Nakash’s properties, at 2425 Niebel, as his residence.
Square said that Hamtramck’s charter does not require contractors to pay all overdue city bills in order to work for the city. Detroit, however, does have that requirement.
Hamtramck’s charter does require elected officials to be up to date on city bills, or they face their election votes being voided and being tossed out of office.
Councilmember and Mayor Pro Tem Abdul Algazali may be the first elected official to face that action. He owes over $9,000 on two building he owns on Jos. Campau.
The buildings face being foreclosed by the county. Square said the city attorney is looking into the matter and is reviewing state election law as well.
Square said there are also other city officials who may face to the same dilemma.
The Review will have more on this in the coming weeks.