Council Chambers

Tonawanda, New York

June 16, 2009

 

A Regular Meeting of the Common Council

 

Present Councilmembers:  Perkins, Waterhouse, Kossow, Davis

Excused:  Council President Zeisz

 

Pledge of Allegiance led by Councilmember Kossow

 

Prayer led by Councilmember Kossow

 

COMMUNICATIONS FROM THE MAYOR

 

A letter from Erie County Water Authority, dated June 2, 2009, regarding the Cooperative Agreement with the City of Tonawanda Johnson Street project.

 

A letter from the Public Employer Risk Management Association, Inc., (PERMA), dated June 4, 2009, regarding various safety issues.

 

A letter to Mr. Paul D-Orland, Contract Monitor for ECDEP, dated June 3, 2009, regarding the Erie County/City of Tonawanda Commercial Center Improvement Program 2009.

 

An invitation from the NYSDEC, dated June 5, 2009, inviting the public to meet to discuss the next steps of the Tonawanda Community Air Quality Study.  The meeting was held on Friday, June 12, 2009, at 7:00 P.M. at the Sheridan Parkside Community Center.

 

A flyer from Erie County announcing the Erie County household Hazardous Waste Drop-Off Day at Erie Community College South Campus on Saturday, June 20, 2009, from 9:00 A.M. to 2:00 P.M.

 

A letter from Crisis Services, dated June 1, 2009, informing the community of the services available through Crisis Services Homeless Outreach Program for individuals and families in the community who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.

 

A letter from Assemblyman Robin Schimminger, to Linda Foels, President of the Tonawandas Gateway Harbor, Inc., dated June 8, 2009, advising her that he has initiated the necessary paperwork to direct $100,000.00 in Assembly Capital Projects Program funding to the Tonawandas Gateway Harbor, Inc., to acquire a new portable stage for use during the concert series and other events at Gateway harbor Park in the Twin Cities.

 

A letter from the Erie County Comptroller, dated June 15, 2009, regarding the 2009 Bi-Annual Mortgage Tax Distribution.

            Ordered filed

 

COMMUNICATION FROM CITY OFFICIALS AND CORRESPONDENCE

 

The following monthly reports were received by the City Clerk:

            May monthly report of the City Clerk

            May monthly report of the Building Inspector

            May minutes of the Plumbing Board

                Referred to the Committee of the Whole

                        Ordered filed

 

Notice of a public hearing being held on June 29, 2009, by the City of Tonawanda Board of Appeals for a variance request asking to be allowed to pave a 5’ by 22’ area of the front yard of 77 Highland Avenue to provide one off-street parking space.

            Referred to the Committee of the Whole

                        Ordered filed

 

COMMENTS BY THE PUBLIC ON RESOLUTIONS

 

There were none.

 

MOTIONS AND RESOLUTIONS

 

128.     By Councilmember Perkins                         seconded by Councilmember Waterhouse

                        Resolved, that the bills be allowed as audited and the City Clerk be authorized to draw warrants on the Treasurer for the various amounts.

 

Ayes:  Perkins, Waterhouse, Kossow, Davis

Nays:  None

                                                Resolution declared adopted

 

129.     By the Council                                                  seconded by the Council

Whereas, the required purchasing documentation for written proposals for a portable trailer has been received by the Police Department and submitted to the City Treasurer, and

Whereas, on December 4th, 2007, the Common Council authorized the Chief of Police to utilize the proceeds from the sale of specific City of Tonawanda property that was used by the Underwater Squad to reorganize the unit, now, therefore be it

Resolved, that the Chief of Police be authorized to purchase a portable trailer from LOE, Inc. in the amount of $4,237.00 from the Underwater Squad Reorganization Funds that were realized from the sale of City of Tonawanda Underwater Squad equipment in 2007.

 

Ayes:  Perkins, Waterhouse, Kossow, Davis

Nays:  None

                                                Resolution declared adopted

 

130.     By the Council                                                  seconded by the Council

                 Resolved, at the recommendation of the City Engineer, Jason J. LaMonaco, P.E., that award of the contract for design, asbestos abatement, and construction inspection of the Public Library Entrance Renovation project be made to LiRo Engineers, Inc., at a cost not to exceed $14,040.00.

 

Ayes:  Perkins, Waterhouse, Kossow, Davis

Nays:  None

                                                Resolution declared adopted

 

131.     By the Council                                                  seconded by the Council

                Resolved, at the recommendation of the City Engineer, Jason J. LaMonaco, P.E., that award of the contract for groundwater sampling services for 153 Fillmore Avenue be made to Stearns & Wheler, LLC, at a cost not to exceed $16,700.00

               

Ayes:  Perkins, Waterhouse, Kossow, Davis

Nays:  None

                                                Resolution declared adopted

 

132.     By the Council                                                  seconded by the Council

                Resolved, that permission be granted to the residents of Broad Street between Franklin and Wheeler Streets to hold their annual block party on Saturday, August 22, 2009, from 11:00 A.M. to midnight with a rain date of Sunday, August 23, 2009, and further be it

                Resolved, that ingress and egress be provided for local traffic and emergency vehicles.

               

Ayes:  Perkins, Waterhouse, Kossow, Davis

Nays:  None

                                                Resolution declared adopted

 

 

133.     By the Council                                                  seconded by the Council

                Resolved, that Blake R. Boyle, 245 William Street, Heather Zeisz, 39 Sutley Court, Charles Gilbert, 196 Frederick Road, Mark S. Szafranski, 200 Frederick Road and Jay R. Ralph, 228 Utica Street, be named Commissioner of Deeds for the City of Tonawanda, term to expire December 31, 2010.

               

Ayes:  Perkins, Waterhouse, Kossow, Davis

Nays:  None

                                                Resolution declared adopted

 

134.     By the Council                                                  seconded by the Council

            Whereas, the City of Tonawanda fiscal year 2009 operating budget contains funding for four (4) full-time public safety dispatcher (dispatcher) and three (3) part-time public safety dispatcher positions, and

Whereas, full-time dispatcher Donald Schultz has been a full-time City employee since June 9, 1997 and was injured while reporting to work on October 10, 2004, resulting in the opening and management of a workers compensation case and file, and

Whereas, effective May 27, 2009, Mr. Schultz will be utilizing the use of earned paid leave time provided pursuant to the collective bargaining agreement between the Civil Service Employees Association (CSEA) and the City of Tonawanda, and will be unavailable to perform his City of Tonawanda employee duties, and

Whereas, in order to carry out the vital duties of the City of Tonawanda public safety dispatch function, it is necessary to formally create and approve one additional full-time public safety dispatcher, until such time as the issue of Mr. Schultz’ availability to resume City duties and responsibilities is resolved, and

Whereas, once Mr. Schultz’ employment status with the City is resolved, the number of full-time dispatchers will revert back to the current four full-time positions from the five full-time positions that would be created on a contingent basis in the event the Council approves this resolution, now, therefore be it

Resolved, the Common Council of the City of Tonawanda approves the creation and funding of one additional full-time public safety dispatcher position while Mr. Schultz is on paid leave and authorizes city officials to execute any and all documents necessary to create and fund the new dispatcher position.

               

Ayes:  Perkins, Waterhouse, Kossow, Davis

Nays:  None

                                                Resolution declared adopted

 

135.     By the Council                                                  seconded by the Council

            Whereas, a $25.00 Special Events application fee and application were received by the City Clerk for the Mississippi Mudds 5K Run, and

            Whereas the application was reviewed and commented on by all appropriate department heads to insure the safety and well being of our residents, now, therefore be it

            Resolved, that permission be granted to Mississippi Mudds to hold their annual 5K run on August 15, 2009, through various streets of the City.

 

Ayes:  Perkins, Waterhouse, Kossow, Davis

Nays:  None

                                                Resolution declared adopted

 

COMMENTS FROM THE PUBLIC AFTER RESOLUTIONS

 

Robert Derner, 286 Niagara Shore Drive – I would like to ask Mr. Davis, at the last meeting, you said you hired an outside appraiser to do the revaluation for the City because you are not professionals and that you wanted an outside company to do the work.  Is that correct?

 

Councilmember Davis – That is correct.

 

Councilmember James Kossow – Mr. Derner, just to let you know, not just Mr. Davis, the whole council agreed to that.

 

Robert Derner – OK, he said it right.  The only thing I would add is as a homeowner, everybody has a rough idea of what homes are worth in the neighborhood where they live.  Correct?  I mean, if you have a house and there are say 200 or 300 houses like yours in the neighborhood, and they are assessed at one figure and your house is assessed for $100,000 more, you can become pretty intelligent as to what that house is worth.  Wouldn’t you say so?

 

Councilmember Davis – Somewhat, yes.

 

Robert Derner - OK, so what I’m getting at is that everybody has a rough idea of what houses are valued at.  But when you hire an outside company to do the reassessment in the City, they did the revaluation for the City, is that correct?  What I don’t understand is why on March 11th , the Mayor sent a letter to the Assessor praising her for the work she did on the revaluation.  If you paid $100,000 for this company to do the revaluation, why does the Assessor have to have a letter for such a good job?

 

Councilmember Kossow – Mr. Derner, when we as a whole, this Council and the Mayor’s Office, Ms. Bacon was a vital part of that whole process.  She is the Assessor of the City, but to make sure we had that independent standpoint, that is why we hired the outside firm.  Still, it doesn’t take anything away from the efforts of our City Assessor.  She was commended on her work as part of that process.  She was a vital part of that process.

 

Robert Derner – So, when some houses are increased three times what they were, and people have complaints about them, on such a huge revaluation, don’t you think that somebody from the Council should question her as to how she approved something like that?

 

Councilmember Kossow – Well, again, when we set up the whole process of the reval, the homeowners were given the opportunity to challenge their assessments.

 

Robert Derner – There are people who didn’t challenge their assessment and if you take a look at the challenges, there were adjustments made throughout the City, but RiverEdge, I could go down sheet, after sheet, after sheet, where nothing was changed and that process then goes to the courts and lawyers.  Now, does anybody have a cost of what we are paying lawyers to fight us on the challenges?  Does anybody know what we’re paying lawyers for this?

 

Councilmember Kossow – Probably the same cost you’re paying your lawyer I guess.

 

Robert Derner – You are using City money for these lawyers to fight this assessment.  Does anybody know what we are paying?

 

City Treasurer, Joseph Hogenkamp – Mr. Derner, I can tell you what we paid to date.  I can go look that up for you after this meeting and tell you.

 

Robert Derner – OK, that’s fine.  One other thing is I want to commend Joe Hogenkamp that he has a little foresight.  I read in the paper today that the mortgage tax is going to be less this year than it was last year.  Before 2008, it was  $180,000 and this year it is going to be $130,000.  It seems that Joe is one of the few people at City Hall that has a television set and newspaper and notices that housing prices have declined and that we are in a recession.  The Assessor’s Office doesn’t know that and thinks that we’ll just raise prices and assessments on houses.  One other thing, just for your information, for years there were very few homes for sale at RiverEdge.  At the moment, there’s nine and probably more, but there’s nine homes for sale right now.   One of them sold for $70,000 less than what the assessment was.  There are eight other homes, and if you take the total of all the homes that are on the market, that are listed., there are $345,000 less than what the City assessed them for.  I think there is something that should be looked into on what the Assessor’s Office is doing, because you are paying lawyers and we’re paying lawyers to fight these assessments when, common sense would say to sit down and look at realistic prices instead of just taking a hard stance and not even wanting to discuss what prices are and what the value of these houses are. 

 

Councilmember Kossow – I think that proves our point that keeping it at 100% and why it is so critical to keep it at 100%, because then going forward, as the market and the sale of the homes will show you, that’s why it is critical to keep it at 100%.

 

Robert Derner – 100% is a bogus figure because houses can vary in price from time to time.  It doesn’t take into consideration that we have a bad economy.  I’ll give you an example.   A house that I’m building over there, I went in and asked the Assessor  why was it assessed for as much as it was.  She said that I thought it was going to be finished by the time the roles came out.  I said that you looked at it in July and that is the figure you should have put on it, not what you think it’s going to be next April.

 

Blake Boyle, 245 William Street – I was on the Council when we went to re-evaluation.  Mr. Slisz stated at the last meeting that some of the assessments went up from 100% to 150%, so if you bought a house for $100,000 and it was assessed at $250,000, and you sold it for $70,000 less than what it was assessed at, you made quite a big profit.  Right?

 

Robert Derner – Who sold it for more?  They are selling it for less.

 

Blake Boyle – You stated that it was assessed at say over $200,000 and sold for $70,000 less than it was assessed for.  Mr. Slisz stated at that meeting that some of the assessments went up 100% to 150%, so if you bought a house for $100,000, it went up 150%, that would be $250,000.  If you take $70,000 off of that, you’re making a bigger profit than what was paid for it.  How was Mr. Schultz hurt reporting to work?  Was he hurt on City property? 

 

Councilmember Kossow -  He was hurt on City property.

 

Amy Johnson, 71 Francis Street – I came tonight about the skate park that is down at the end of Francis Street.  I live probably 25’ from it.  It is from me to you away from me.  I can’t even go out. This weekend I couldn’t go outside my house unless I wanted to hear the “f” word every other sentence.  When I do call the police, they come, and they tell them to stop, but it doesn’t stop.  It continues on the entire time.  I have been told by two police officers that they can’t patrol the area because there’s only one way in.  The skate park was originally only supposed to be there temporarily until they found a permanent place.   Hopefully that is not near somebody’s house.  If you’re a mother, you don’t want to go outside because you don’t want to hear the “f” word every second.  I was outside today painting my fence, and  I’ll bet within ten minutes I heard it twenty times.  In ten minutes.  I shouldn’t have to call the police every time.  When you do politely ask these kids to stop swearing, my husband was told “so what”.  I have two young children out there, a 10 year old and almost 13 year old, and they shouldn’t have to hear that every second.  They can’t even go outside my house and play.   That’s only when the hockey court opened and when the skate park was re-opened.  The metal bar  was stolen. Our tax money had to be used to replace it, because one of the kids stole it.  The words are only going to get worse.   Sometimes there are 100 kids over in that area.  They don’t care about the park.  If they would just pick up the garbage that is all over my yard, which was blown into my yard.  They dumped the garbage can last Thursday and it took until today for the City to come and pick all the garbage and bottles up.  I shouldn’t have to do that myself.  And it shouldn’t look like a dump over there.   Something has to be done about this skate park.  Either it has to be moved and put somewhere else where nobody is around.  When they first had a meeting with us, you were not the Mayor, it was the last Mayor, there was a meeting with the neighbors.  Only one neighbor wanted the skate park put there.  We knew what it was going to become, nobody to patrol it.  The police can sit on the street, and the kids won’t say anything, but as soon as that police car leaves to go somewhere, it starts back up.  We’ve had fights.  One time during the summer, one of the girls at the playground was threatened with a knife.  They had the police come over there.  There have been numerous problems over there.  Something needs to be done and taken care of in this skate park.  I know the kids want something to do.  I was a kid, and I had to make my own fun somewhere like the Boy’s Club.  But somebody was always there to watch you.  There is nobody to watch you there.  I have a couple neighbors who are getting ready to retire and they probably won’t be able to sell their homes unless it’s winter because someone’s going to come look at your house and all they’ll see are 100 kids over there and they’re going to say “oh wait a minute, I’m not buying that house with all those kids over there swearing.”  The swearing is the bad part and I’m not saying I don’t swear, I do sometimes.  I understand that sometimes you slip when you’re playing, and you slip one word here and there, but not every other second.  If you can’t go outside and enjoy your house, why am I paying taxes on it  because it should be assessed a lot less than what it’s assessed for.  You can’t use your yard.  I even put a stockade fence up and I can hear it in my house eating my dinner at the dinner table and I  have to close my windows.  I shouldn’t have to do that.  I would like to know if there is something you people can do to help take care of this problem.

 

Councilmember Kossow – No one should be subjected to that many “f” bombs all over the place. 

 

Mayor Ronald Pilozzi – First let me say, Mrs. Johnson, that I will be contacting Linda Foels and see if there is anything we can do.

 

Amy Johnson – She tells me there is nothing they can do except to have the police come.  The kids did throw eggs at my house once because we did call the police.  They just put new netting up, and they’ve ripped up the nets.  I’ve had hockey pucks hit my house.  They’ve hit my boat a few times.  Before I had the big dogs people went into my backyard and put my pool ladder down. I had real little babies and thank God my kids couldn’t get into my backyard because I don’t want them to drown.  Because they went in my yard and they won’t now because I have big dogs.

 

Mayor Pilozzi – All I can say is let me see what I can do and I’ll get back to you.  If you would, afterwards give me your phone number and I will contact you.  Thank you.

 

COMMENTS FROM THE COUNCILMEMBERS AFTER RESOLUTIONS

 

Councilmember Perkins – I would just like to compliment Council President Kossow, is that what we are calling him.  I think he’s done a fabulous job tonight.  Thank you for getting here before 7:00 P.M.

 

Councilmember Waterhouse – I have nothing at this time.

 

Councilmember Davis – Thanks Interim Council President Kossow.  The Mayor already briefly touched on the DEC meeting last week at the Sheridan Parkside Center.  It is kind of sad that it has taken the DEC decades to finally come up with the data that residents of this area have been telling them for years about the black soot in the air and the noxious odor that is also in the air.  It just doesn’t affect the 4th Ward part of the City.  It affects pretty much the whole City depending on the way the wind direction blows in the City.  My hat’s off to the DEC for finally stepping up to the plate and for the Clean Air Coalition for all the work that they’ve done.  Pretty much grass roots campaigns started off with a few people and its grown a bit since they first got going, but they really deserve a lot of the accolades for holding Mr. Crane’s feet to the fire and for getting the DEC to push forward and for holding Mr. Crane accountable for what he is emitting into the atmosphere.   Spaulding, I hear that shortly there will be a letter going out to the residents in the 3rd and 4th Ward about operations that they are wrapping up, crushing the concrete and there will be a phone number on there for residents to call with any questions and comments that they might have.  This Thursday is the kick-off to the concert series downtown.  I’d like to thank the Merchant’s Association for putting that on. Hopefully if you’re not doing anything Thursday night, come on down and listen to some good music.  Lastly, this Saturday is the summer kick-off starting with the Fishing Derby down at the river and various other things such as wine tasting downtown, and the Firemen’s Parade in North Tonawanda.  If you’re not doing anything, come show your appreciation to our hard working firefighters that put their lives on the line every day that they come to work.  Thank you Interim Council President Jim Kossow.

 

Mayor Pilozzi – A lot of things were touched on already.  A couple things I’d like to add.  In terms of the DEC meeting, one great thing about the data that has already been accumulated and analyzed is the fact that they have decided to keep two locations continuing to accept and summarize data.  One of those is right here in our City, in fact, on his street.  So Brookside Terrace and Grand Island Boulevard, those two monitoring stations are going to remain, where they are continuing to accept data and, in fact, the DEC said that they actually moved pieces of equipment that they are going to use for that effort.  Hopefully, it will somewhere down the line improve the quality of the air we breathe especially in that section of the City.  A lot of things going on this weekend, Fishing Derby on Saturday, sign up is at 8:30 A.M., right behind City Hall and it runs between 9:00 A.M. and 12:00 Noon.  Kids always have a great time with that.  Firemen’s Parade Day, which was already mentioned.  Come out and support the volunteer firemen and the professional firefighters.  Those are the guys that you never know when you are going to need them, but they’re there when you do.  Thank God for that.  I had the opportunity this past weekend to go to Clarence Center, in fact, I was there twice because my daughter ran in the race that was a fundraiser for Flight 3407 that crashed in February.  It was just a great experience in terms of the support the community gave.  Then I went back in the evening and there were a bunch of bands that played there.  One thing I do want to mention is the fact that in the back row is Dick Barnard, who is the Chairman of our Disaster Preparedness Committee.  Dick has been very, very active along with a good supporting cast, that hopefully, a disaster such as that can never happen in our City, but if it does, I am confident that we will be able to deal with it.  Thursday night concerts, that starts this Thursday and I’m looking forward to that.  Unfortunately, I have a meeting in Brant, NY, but I’ll try to get there a little late, but I’m usually around on Thursday nights.  I would just like to extend my thanks to Assemblyman Schimminger.  For three years now we have been trying to get a new stage for the Saturday night concerts.  In case you didn’t know it, the Saturday night concerts cost us between $4,000 and $5,000 to rent a stage and we received notice of a grant from Robin Schimminger’s Office.  It probably won’t be here this year, but hopefully next year.  One of the stipulations was that it is awarded to Gateway Harbor Inc.  So it’s not North Tonawanda, not the City of Tonawanda, it is Gateway Harbor Inc.  So both cities can use it and hopefully, it will give us the ability to attract some big name bands.  So have a great weekend, a lot of things going on this weekend and thanks for coming.

 

Councilmember Kossow – I would also like to extend my thanks to Assemblyman Schimminger in securing those funds for the concerts and as we said, we’ve got concerts Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, and by securing these funds for the stage, it will be a great asset to the City.  On the Fishing Derby, my kids grew up going to the Fishing Derby, so I can’t say enough good things about it.  It’s a great opportunity and a lot of people put a lot of time and effort in that,  John White, Linda Foels of the Recreation Department.  John White does a lot on his own, just a concerned citizen and he puts a lot of time and effort into the Fishing Derby over the years, so I want to extend my thanks to him.  Firemen’s Day Parade, I look forward to some good weather. Hopefully, Mr. Davis will cooperate and give us a good forecast for Saturday.  Lastly, we have the Canal Fest will be coming up very shortly.  The next meeting, we’ll have the resolution for the Canal Fest on the agenda.  With that, I just want to again thank everyone for their patience and understanding tonight with me being Council President.  Can’t wait until Cuff gets back for the next meeting.

 

ADJOURNMENT

 

136.     By the Councilmember Perkins             seconded by the Councilmember Kossow

            Resolved, that this Common Council adjourn until July 7, 2009.              

 

Ayes:  Perkins, Waterhouse, Kossow, Davis

Nays:  None

                                                Resolution declared adopted

           

 

 

 

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