Council Chambers

Tonawanda, New York

June 2, 2009

 

A Regular Meeting of the Common Council

 

Present:  Council President Zeisz

Present Councilmembers:  Perkins, Waterhouse, Kossow, Davis

 

Pledge of Allegiance led by Council President Zeisz

 

Prayer led by Council President Zeisz

 

Bid Opening:  Kohler Pool Filters

                        May 29, 2009

                        10:00 A.M.

 

    Numarco, Inc.

    1021 Maple Road

    Elma, NY   14059                                                              Bid:   $56,800.00

                        Bid Bond and non-collusive bidding certificate accompanied bid

 

    Patterson-Stevens, Inc.

    400 Sawyer Avenue

    Tonawanda, NY   14150                                                     Bid:  $58,800.00

                        Bid Bond and non-collusive bidding certificate accompanied bid

                                    Referred to the Committee of the Whole

                                                Ordered filed

 

COMMUNICATIONS FROM THE MAYOR

 

A letter from the Public Power Coalition (PPC) and the Eastern Niagara Power Project Alliance (ENPPA) to the New York Power Authority dated May 11, 2009, regarding proposals they are recommending.

 

A letter from Richard J. Scalzo, 164 Niagara Shore Drive, to Michael G. Wolfgang, Attorney at Law, dated May 25, 2009, regarding the property assessment challenges the residents of RiverEdge have filed.

 

A letter from Peggy Crawley, 277 Kohler Street, dated May 26, 2009, regarding 277 Kohler Street.

 

A letter from Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, dated May 20, 2009, informing the City that they did not received the $3,920,920.00 they requested for the City of Tonawanda Sewer and Pump Station Development Project.

 

A memo from the Erie County Department of Environment and Planning, dated May 26, 2009, regarding a draft amendment to the Erie County Community Development Consortium 2009 Action Plan Component of the 2004-2009 Consolidated Plan for Housing and Community Development.

 

A letter from the State of New York Office of Real Property Services dated May 26, 2009, regarding the 2009 State Equalization Rates Ė Rate Complaints.

 

A letter from the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, dated May 15, 2009, informing the City that the application they submitted for the Ice Rink Project under the Environmental Protection Fund was not selected for funding.

 

A letter from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation dated May 29, 2009, regarding the July 4th fireworks and the Common Terns.

 

A letter from Time Warner Cable dated May 29, 2009, informing the City of various changes to their subscribers.

 

A memo to the Common Council dated May 14, 2009, regarding possible changes to the City of Tonawanda Sidewalk Ordinance.

            Ordered filed

 

 

COMMUNICATION FROM CITY OFFICIALS AND CORRESPONDENCE

 

The following monthly reports were received by the City Clerk:

            May Executive Minutes of the City Clerk

            May minutes of the Civil Service Commission

            General Fund and Sewer Fund Budgets expenditures and Revenues

                        Through May 31, 2009

                Referred to the Committee of the Whole

                    Ordered filed

           

A Fact Sheet from the Department of Environmental Conservation dated May 2009, regarding the NYSDEC Modifies Cleanup Plan for Spaulding Fibre Site (Operable Units 1, 3 & 4).

            Referred to the Committee of the Whole

                Ordered filed

 

COMMENTS BY THE PUBLIC ON RESOLUTIONS

 

Robert Derner, 286 Niagara Shore Drive Ė On this Local Law #3, could you just explain so we all understand it more clearly.

 

Council President Zeisz Ė Even though itís being held, the essence of Local Law #3, is itís part of New York State Real Property Tax Law and in New York State it allows up to eight years exemption on additions to your home.  In our particular case, it was going to be structured down to five years.  So in other words, if you were to, say you made a $50,000 investment in your home that was going to be added to your home appraisal, over a five-year period, it would decrease in 20% increments.  So the first year, youíd get a full shot exemption on the addition, and the next year 20%, and so on, until after five years, thereís no exemption anymore.  It was basically, the intent is to give homeowners an added incentive to improve their property and thatís basically the essence of it.  There is a couple stipulations.  The home improvements cannot be being made to a situation where thereís housing violations and youíre ordered to fix your home, then the exemption does not hold true.  But thatís the essence of that local law.  At this point in time, even if it had been on tonight, that would only be to publish the title for that local law.  It wouldnít mean that it was going to necessarily pass.  

 

MOTIONS AND RESOLUTIONS

 

116.     By the Council                                                              seconded by the Council

                        Resolved, that the wage for the non-union position of Account Clerk Typist for the City of Tonawanda be incorporated into the Personnel Benefits and Policy Manual in Section 2 Ė Compensation, 2.01 Ė Salary Administration, Appendix D and shall be as follows:  as of 6/19/09 - $33,193; as of 1/1/10 - $34,023; as of 1/1/11 - $34,873.

 

Ayes: Perkins, Waterhouse, Kossow, Davis, Zeisz

Nays: None

Resolution declared adopted

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

117.     By the Council                                                              seconded by the Council

            Resolved, that Richard A. Slisz, 216 Niagara Shore Drive, Ronald L. Ensminger, 334 Fletcher Street, Patty Ensminger, 334 Fletcher Street, Thomas M. Puerner, 228 Kohler Street, Fred Priano Jr., 44 Scott Street, be named Commissioner of Deeds, in the City of Tonawanda, term to expire December 31, 2010.

 

Ayes: Perkins, Waterhouse, Kossow, Davis, Zeisz

Nays: None

Resolution declared adopted

 

118.     By the Council                                                              seconded by the Council

             Resolved, that permission be granted to St. Francis of Assisi Church to close Adam Street between Seymour and Clinton Streets to vehicular traffic on Saturday, July 18, 2009, from 9:00 A.M. to 10:00 P.M. to hold an outdoor parish celebration and be it further

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

 

Ayes: Perkins, Waterhouse, Kossow, Davis, Zeisz

Nays: None

Resolution declared adopted

 

119.     By the Council                                                              seconded by the Council

            Resolved, on the recommendation of the Director of Recreation, that the bid for the Kohler Pool Filters and Appurtenant Work be awarded to the low bidder, Numarco, Inc., for $56,800.00.

               

Ayes: Perkins, Waterhouse, Kossow, Davis, Zeisz

Nays: None

Resolution declared adopted

 

120.     By the Council                                                              seconded by the Council

            Resolved, that the portion of Young Street between Main and Delaware Streets, be closed to vehicular traffic from approximately 9:00 A.M. through 11:00 P.M. for the purpose of the Friday Night Concert Series on June 19, June 26, July 3, July 10, July 31, August 7, August 14 and August 21, 2009, and be it further

            Resolved, that the same portion of Young Street be closed for the purpose of the Saturday Night Concert series to be held on June 20, June 27, July 4, July 11, August 1, August 8, August and August 22, 2009, and be it further

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

               

Ayes: Perkins, Waterhouse, Kossow, Davis, Zeisz

Nays: None

Resolution declared adopted

 

121.     By the Council                                                              seconded by the Council

            Resolved, at the recommendation of the City Engineer, Jason J. LaMonaco, P.E., that the hourly rate for the position of Engineering Intern in the Engineering Department be $11.00 per hour.   

 

Ayes: Perkins, Waterhouse, Kossow, Davis, Zeisz

Nays: None

Resolution declared adopted

 

122.     By the Council                                                              seconded by the Council

                        Whereas, a $25.00 Special Events application fee and application were received by the City Clerk from The Griffin and the Swiftwater Merchants Association for ďMusic on Main StreetĒ, and

                        Whereas, the application is being 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 the portion of Main Street between Young and Adam Streets, be closed to vehicular traffic from approximately 6:00 P.M. to 11:00 P.M. for the purpose of the ďMusic on Main StreetĒ series on Thursday June 18, June 25, July 2, July 9, July 16, July 30, August 6, August 13, August 20, and August 27, 2009, and be it further

            Resolved, that a Certificate of Insurance naming the City as additional insured be presented to the City Clerk no later than June 12, 2009, and be it further

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

           

Ayes: Perkins, Waterhouse, Kossow, Davis, Zeisz

Nays: None

Resolution declared adopted

 

123.     By the Council                                                              seconded by the Council

            Whereas, a $25.00 Special Events application fee and application were received by the City Clerk from The Checkers Athletic Club for the ďMueller MileĒ, and

            Whereas, the application has been 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 various streets of the City be closed to vehicular traffic on Saturday, August 29, 2009, from approximately 10:00 A.M. to 2:00 P.M. with an alternate time of approximately 5:00 P.M. to 9:00 P.M. for a one-mile road race, and be it further

            Resolved, that a Certificate of Insurance naming the City of Tonawanda as additional insured be presented to the City Clerk no later than August 10, 2009.

           

Ayes: Perkins, Waterhouse, Kossow, Davis, Zeisz

Nays: None

Resolution declared adopted

 

124.     By the Council                                                              seconded by the Council

            Resolved, that the Certificate of Insurance and Bond from H.W. Bryk & Sons, Inc., (Jason Bryk), be filed and a license be issued for said plumber to do business in the City of Tonawanda.

           

Ayes: Perkins, Waterhouse, Kossow, Davis, Zeisz

Nays: None

Resolution declared adopted

 

125.     By the Council                                                              seconded by the Council

            Resolved, that the Mayor be authorized and directed to sign agreements with the County of Erie for the express purpose of purchasing the commodities of electricity and natural gas for the City of Tonawanda.

 

Ayes: Perkins, Waterhouse, Kossow, Davis, Zeisz

Nays: None

Resolution declared adopted

 

126.     By the Council                                                              seconded by the Council

            WHEREAS, Donna Watkins, owner and proprietor of The Griffin Restaurant located at 11-13 Main Street in the City of Tonawanda has continued to provide an outdoor seating area/patio in front of her restaurant to accommodate patrons in the summer months; and

            WHEREAS, the City of Tonawanda Board of Appeals has previously granted a variance approval for the proposed use; and

            WHEREAS, this Council is interested in accommodating and assisting local businesses;

            NOW, THEREFORE,

            BE IT RESOLVED that Donna Watkins/The Griffin Restaurant is hereby authorized to utilize that portion of City property located directly in front of the restaurant, more specifically, a 12í deep by 30í wide parcel for the purpose of an outdoor seating area/patio; and

 

 

            BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the owner is required to name the City as an additional insured on his liability/fire insurance policy in the minimum amount of $1,000,000/$2,000,000 aggregate and provide the City with a proper certificate of insurance.

 

Ayes: Perkins, Waterhouse, Kossow, Davis, Zeisz

Nays: None

Resolution declared adopted

 

COMMENTS FROM THE PUBLIC AFTER RESOLUTIONS

 

Robert Derner Ė This past week I got a letter from Mr. Scalzo on Niagara Shore Drive, it was a copy of a letter sent to his attorney, Mr. Wolfgang, and a copy was sent to the Mayor and I was if the rest of the Council has seen that letter. 

 

Council President Zeisz Ė I got a copy.

 

Robert Derner Ė You all have a copy of it?

 

Council President Zeisz Ė I think so, as far as I know. 

 

Robert Derner Ė I have here a map of RiverEdge showing the houses that are for sale.  That letter states nine houses are for sale.  Thereís actually four more. Thereís thirteen houses for sale over there and the reason for it is because of the excessively high assessments put on that property.  All the townhouses that are for sale over there are on the market for less than what the assessment is on that property.  In fact, my own house, if I put the price of it $100,000 less than what the City has assessed it for, it still wonít sell.  It wonít sell because the assessments are all corrupt over there.  The people cannot afford to pay the taxes for the amount of assessment that is on there. Their real estate agents canít show the house because itís useless.  Once the people see what the taxes are compared to other areas, they just, they canít have an Open House, nobody will even look.  I brought along three other units, three other homes in other areas and Iíd like you to take a look at.  Oneís in Amherst, oneís in Grand Island and oneís in Clarence.  The one in Clarence is $299,000.  It has 2 Ĺ  baths, itís 3,092 square feet and the taxes on it are $6,820.  In Tonawanda it would be $11,362, $4,542  more.  The one in Amherst which is similar to the townhouses in Tonawanda but much more upscale is 2300 square feet, has 3 bedrooms, 2 Ĺ  baths and the one from Tonawanda only has 2 baths.  The taxes on that one is $5,254.  In Tonawanda it would be $16,716, $11,462 more.  Itís unconscionable how these units were assessed.  You want to take and develop the Riverview ball field, Spaulding, the Water Department, Clint Small Stadium.  What idiot developer is ever going to come into this City with those kind of assessments put on property.  It just isnít going to happen and it isnít just RiverEdge thatís being ruined.  The entire City is if you keep this up.  The City has a bad reputation now for the high taxes we have and I hope you really look at what youíre doing and correct it. 

 

Richard Slisz, 216 Niagara Shore Drive - First I want to commend the Mayor.  I was here about three weeks ago.  We talked about the snow fence around the waterworks.  Well, the Mayor took action the following Monday.  They knocked down the berm.  We now have a safe condition.  My purpose then was to tell the Mayor and the Council that it was unsafe, someone could fall in that 7í pit and stay there forever and not be heard.  There are a few more things that must be done, however.  All those bags on top of platforms that number about a hundred.  I believe theyíre charcoal filtered bags, should be removed, itís an eyesight.  Also Mayor, I think we should sweep up the grounds where they have a lot of stones and so forth and clean up the area a bit.  I want to talk about one other thing.  Bob was talking about assessments in Clarence and Amherst.  I can take you right here in the City of Tonawanda, right on River Road.  I donít know if any of you people looked at the assessments from the reval program that we just had recently.  I can take you right on River Road, I can show you all brick homes with deep lots, same view we have.  We have a view of Grand Island, so do they.  Their assessments and their square footage at 3,000 or 4,000 square feet, even some of you sitting here have a 2,000 square foot home, all brick and the fact is, their assessments are half of what ours are and I wondered why.  When I asked the Assessor, she said but they have to cross Niagara Street to get the view.  Thatís your Assessor, the one you appointed.  I think you ought to take an interest in whatís going on, I think what Bob says is correct.  In addition to the thirteen, there are five other people that I know will be selling their home because they canít afford the taxes.  We went up 100% - 135% just in this area alone.  How many of you had a 100% increase?  I know you had an increase.  It was lowered after you challenged it.  Most of you had a 30% to 40% increase, not 100% or 135%.  So why donít you take a look at whatís going on in this town. Youíre letting this Assessor, well Iím not sure sheís qualified.  All she was a part time secretary here, now sheís a big shot Assessor and sheís calling all the shots and youíre sitting back and letting her ruin this City.  So I think you have an obligation, as Council people, to go out there and look at the assessments, take the assessment roll for the new reval program, go through it, see how many square feet there are, if theyíre all brick, see where theyíre located, and then come back and tell us that the assessment is correct. 

 

 

Rick Davis Ė Mr. President, may I just make a correction?  Mr. Slisz, I did not challenge my assessment.

 

Richard Slisz - Well, then you got an exemption. 

 

Rick Davis - Because I get a Veteranís exemption.  Thatís why I got a reduction. 

 

Richard Slisz - I donít think thatís the case.  Iíll check it out.

 

Korie Schuler, 61Ĺ to 67 Main Street Ė Just a few points, Iím kind of confused.  Weíre comparing properties in Clarence and Amherst to properties that are on the Niagara River.  Is there a Clarence River or a Niagara River that passes through Amherst that they get the same view?  I think this is kind of comparing apples to oranges I would think.  As a business owner and Iíve seen several more businesses move in Tonawanda in the last few weeks, I would really hate to get word out that the City of Tonawanda is overtaxed.  Owning a large property that I do, four store fronts, I can tell you that my taxes are much lower than what I paid for a three story brick house in Lancaster.  Speaking to another business owner that have recently moved in, Iím proud to say that weíve gotten three more new businesses.   Maybe, perhaps the properties that are up for sale are asking too much.  Iím sure theyíre greatly increased from the prices they paid for houses when they bought them new.  So I would just like to say, Iíd hate for the connotation be out there that we donít welcome new people and businesses in the City of Tonawanda.  Like I said, being a president of a business association, I know a lot of the businesses and property owners on Main Street, Delaware, that I donít think thereís a problem with the taxes and I just want to put that out there because we donít want it to get around that the Cityís driving people and businesses away. 

 

Richard Slisz Ė Weíre not talking about businesses.  Weíre talking about residential property.  Secondly, Buffalo News had a publication about a month and a half ago and it showed that the City of Tonawanda is the highest municipality taxed in Erie County, the highest.  Go ahead and check it. 

 

Resident, 76 Ellicott Creek Road Ė I have a couple of questions about the totes that were introduced about a year or two ago.  Is there any kind of laws about over filling them where you canít, there is a law we canít over fill them so you canít close the lid.  Is there any enforcement, other than the stupid tag that you put on it saying you canít do that?  Is the Council working on some kind of fines because it looks great with these totes but you got overflowing ones and that defeats the purpose.  

 

Council President Zeisz - There is in the ordinance, something in place. I think, primarily they would rather just try to educate people on the proper way. 

 

Resident, 76 Ellicott Creek Road- Eventually, but how many times do I throw something stupid on somebodyís you know, ďhey stupid stickerĒ, you know, it just gets old some times. 

 

Council President Zeisz Ė Okay.  Thank you.

Resident, 76 Ellicott Creek Road Ė Ms. Perkins, youíre on 1st Ward, correct?  Thatís east of Young Street?  Anytime you want to come down to the dead end off of Ellicott Creek Road, youíre more than welcome because nobody know who you are.  I talk to my neighbors and they donít even know your name.  The reason I bring this up is because a couple years ago, about a quarter mile down the road, thereís Daniel, a real short street, four houses, it was paved, real nice job.  The dead end is pot holed, it looks really bad and three of my neighbors have sink hole problems.  Weíve called the department and theyíve done a real good job filling them, no complaints there, but there is a continuing problem with sink holes, two fire hydrants on the dead end, both of them in the street, you see the street starting to sink so thereís infrastructure problem.   Unfortunately, there are just a couple of neighbors who are talking about this.  But, what broke the camels back was when the Department of Public Works did Alexander and they did around the bend.  They did the potholes.  It is just a dead end.  Donít worry about it.  I put a lot of sweat equity in my house and itís an (inaudible), sorry about the language, but you get a little irritated. 

 

Council President Zeisz Ė I will definitely look into it.  Obviously you noticed that Ellicott Creek was paved.  It is in the process of being paved.  They stopped at the Twin City Memorial.  The reason for that is Erie County is putting a water line across that portion of Ellicott Creek and when we talked about paving that was one of the things we talked about was to make sure that when Ellicott Creek got fixed the dead end got fixed. 

 

Resident, 76 Ellicott Creek Road Ė I appreciate any consideration you make. 

 

Council President Zeisz Ė I know the situation because, first of all I have been down there enough times because of another situation down on that end.

 

Resident, 76 Ellicott Creek Road Ė Just would like to give some kudos to Mr. Rank.  I noticed he is always on top of things.

 

Council President Zeisz Ė We felt the need to push the issue because it was getting out of hand. 

 

Resident, 76 Ellicott Creek Road Ė Mr. Rank has done quite a good job of staying on top of it. 

 

Marshall Banks, 132 Niagara Shore Drive Ė I have just a simple question.  I would like to get a definition of waterfront property from the City of Tonawanda.    I have one from the State but I would like to get one from the City.

 

Council President Zeisz Ė I will have to get that for you.

 

Marshall Banks Ė O.K.

 

COMMENTS FROM THE COUNCILMEMBERS AFTER RESOLUTIONS

 

Councilmember Davis Ė We have already discussed it briefly in the other room but myself, the Mayor, Carl, Michelle Iannello, and some other representatives were on a conference call yesterday with the Department of Health over a letter that myself and Council President Zeisz sent in April of last year requesting a health study, more specifically a Cancer study of the area surrounding the landfill.  Pretty much, just to generalize things, it came back and said that while there is a slight increase in the amount of cancers that are reported in the 14150 area code, it doesnít warrant them to do a further investigation because the increase is so minuscule.  They pegged it at 1 to 2 extra cancers per 4,000 people.  Which is an increase over the Army Corps 1.3 people per 10,000 that they gave at their close plan.  However, that being the case I do want to thank the Department of Health for taking the time to do the study, although the letter specifically asked for a more extensive study that has been done in the past, but they did not follow that, it is my vote that when they are moving forward with their health study for the affects from the Tonawanda Coke facility that they will do their due diligence and take a look at any and every piece of information the concerns residents health dealing with the affects from the Tonawanda Coke facility.  Anybody that has driven by Spaulding, the shipping/receiving bays are coming down.  Things are progressing nicely.  Although myself and the Mayor have received a few phone calls from residents concerning dust and noise, with an operation of this magnitude there is going to be some dust and some noise associated with that.  We ask residents just to bear in mind and have some patience with us while we try to get through this portion of the demolition project over there.  Last Council meeting, the Clean Air Coalition had a sit down meeting with residents and invited J.P. Crane who is the owner of the Tonawanda Coke facility to sit down and listen to residents concerns about the amount of benzene and sulfur dioxide that theyíre admitting into the atmosphere thatís coming over in our direction.  Mr. Crane was too much of a coward to show up at this meeting and has disregarded every request from either federal or state legislators to sit down and talk about his moral responsibility to the community as a whole because of his industry.   Council President Zeisz has shared with us legislation thatís going to be going through the State Senate from Senator Thompson thatís going to give the DEC a little bit more power as far as cracking down on businesses.  Itís my hope that that gets through the various committees and becomes a law because Tonawanda Coke is responsible for 95% of the amount of benzene thatís admitted in the atmosphere in this area and I think itís criminal that he is allowed to do what he is doing with no regard for residents whatsoever and the health affects that this causes.  My thoughts and prayers go out to the Gugino family for their loss.  Also, it was briefly touched on about this tax abatement program.  I like to view it more as an incentive to improve your home.  The reason why I brought this to the Council was, I felt that not enough people were taking advantage of improving their home because that first year that you improve your home and your assessment goes up, your taxes have a chance of skyrocketing and it pretty much penalizes somebody for improving their home.  I feel like we need to be a little bit more proactive to help facilitate the housing stock in this City as far as improving it and to also try to reduce the blight in some of our neighborhoods by giving residents a break and when I say a break, an $80,000 increase in assessment based on an improvement to your property under this program would amount to $3,000 savings over the five years.  Now thatís a considerable amount of money seeing the economic times that weíre in and also with home equity loans and lines of credit being at historic lows, you want to give residents every incentive to take advantage of the time now because our housing stock is not getting any better, itís not getting any younger and itís a problem that we need to address relatively quickly.  And lastly, Mr. Slisz and Mr. Derner, I donít think anybody up here doesnít empathize with you as far as the tax increase over in RiverEdge.  The reason why we have been hands off, and Iíll speak on behalf of the Mayor too, is weíre not assessors, none of us have a background in this, thatís why we hired ďprofessionalsĒ that came with letters of recommendation from other communities as far as the process of how things were moving.  Now itís my understanding that you guys are in litigation, trying to get your assessments reduced.  That is part of the process, thatís why we went with the system.  In other municipalities like North Tonawanda, youíre seeing it in Amherst, when politics get involved, it gets messy and it throws a monkey wrench into things and itís not a true assessment per se of what the community is and like I said, none of us have a background in that.  I couldnít tell you why your home is assessed, how much it is, why it is the way it is, just like I couldnít tell you why mine is assessed, how much it is, why it is the way it is. 

 

Council President Zeisz - Mr. Slisz, the comment period is over for the public. 

 

Richard Slisz Ė Heís making statements that arenít true.  Whatís your job, I meanÖ.

 

Council President Zeisz - ÖMr. Slisz, Mr. Slisz, Iím not going to tell you again. You know the rules, you went through this process.  

 

Richard Slisz Ė Are you going to throw me out?

 

Council President Zeisz Ė Iím not going to throw you out, Iím just asking you, you can wait until the next meeting.  Normally, I would not have an issue, but Iím not going to let this turn into a shouting match. 

 

Richard Slisz Ė Well he made some statements that werenít true. You have an obligation as a town Council to look at the reval program, look at the assessments throughout the County, donít sit there and put it on the Assessor now because it is out of whack, and it is out of whack.  As far as the people who did the study, ask what they did in the Town of Ellicottville.  They were thrown out of there, twice, so theyíre not the best. They were a new group put together from a spin-off of (inaudible) group.  So, they werenít the best people around.  They were the cheapest people around. 

 

Council President Zeisz Ė Okay, thank you Mr. Slisz.  Mr. Davis.  

 

Councilmember Davis Ė Like I was saying, none of us are assessors and we have an Assessor here in the City and we hired an outside contractor to come in who wasnít the lowest bid.  The lowest bid was actually way too low and (inaudible) but getting back to what I was talking about, we hired this company to do a job because none of us had a background in assessments or property rates or anything like that, so you will have your day in court just like anybody else that challenges their assessment will have their day in court and thatís why we instituted the process we did. 

 

Council President Zeisz Ė And I agree with Mr. Davis.  I certainly empathize the taxes that are charged in RiverEdge.  My question is, how many people in this room live within a $300,000, $400,000 home?  Probably not many.  Considering the average home in the City of Tonawanda is $73,000.  What do you think the average priced home is in Amherst or Clarence because itís certainly not $73,000.  The reality is in general, the City as a whole, has a tax base built around $73,000 homes.  Amherst doesnít.  They have a tax base built around much high priced homes, more in the $125,000 to $130,000 average range.  They have a lot more opportunity to spread the base across their community.  They also donít have some of the things that a City has to deal with.  Amherst doesnít have a paid fire department.  A City has to have a paid fire department.  There are things that make this a difficult process and I certainly understand that itís a difficult process but a lot of these assessments were based on home sales.  They werenít picked out of nowhere.  They were based on sales of similar homes.  When I look at the overall job that was done, between 60% and 70% of the City either stayed the same or went down so over 2/3 of the City didnít feel the affect because they were either paying too much in the first place for their property and like I said, I know itís difficult for some homeowners, but there is a process to go through to deal with this and I hope that the process is favorable to the people that want it to be but itís not our position to be the judge on what is the right amounts and what arenít the right amounts.  Two years before I got on this Common Council in 1989 the City was reassessed.  It was a disaster because there was way too much political involvement and way too much, shall we say, people having a say in what individuals assessments were.  When we went through this process, I said that was the most important thing that we let the process play itself out and we not step in and get involved in it.  Mr. Derner, you know that weíve already had a comment period. 

 

Mr. Derner Ė I just want to say one little thing.  Iím not going argue.  Iíd just like to say that when you say that $300,000 or $400,000 homes, my problem is that I moved out of a larger townhouse to a smaller one, okay?  Yet my smaller townhouse is assessed for $105,000 more than my old house and there are five of those townhouses like that.  They had three bedrooms, I have two bedrooms and itís basically the same plan but itís smaller.  Why is my house $105,000 more?  Thatís the problem and Iím not complaining about paying taxes, Iím complaining about the assessment as though I was targeted.  Now when we began this project over here to build RiverEdge, there was a legal group that was against this project right from the start.  They failed and we put the project up, it was put in the paper as a headline when they were talking about developing reusable waterfront property.  I donít know where it was, in the Buffalo or Tonawanda paper it said, ďwaterfront development done rightĒ.  It was a picture of our townhouses.  The State of New York made a documentary on the Canal. I watched it on PBS when they started this and took a shot from out in the River.  They showed our townhouses in the beginning of the Canal.  We did a good job here but these people that for some reason it continues to this day that they want to destroy RiverEdge for whatever reason.  Now they canít go after the developers anymore, now itís just go after the residents there and we have a lot of people that bought over there when we first started.  Some of these people have gotten older.   Their spouses died.  Weíve got widows and widowers living there, old people and you come along and you raise the assessments all over the place.  Nothing is equal, thatís the problem, not that anybody cares about paying taxes but it should be fair. 

 

Council President Zeisz - And thatís something, as far as the whole process, that I had thought I said to you I was going to look into.

 

Councilmember Kossow Ė I donít want to belabor the point but Iíd like to defend our City Assessor and again, as everyone said, we stand by our decision as a Council.  We decided to go ahead with the revaluation process, it had to be done, it was almost twenty years since last we did it.  The reval is completed so I stand by that decision.  Secondly, glad to see weíre going to be having music on Wednesday and Saturday nights in the City, between the City and North Tonawanda.  With the music on Main Street, I hope it takes off just as the other nights have.  Itís a great family night to come down and visit the merchants and get a little music at the same time.  Third, we also have the Craft Show this weekend, right along the River here this weekend, so if you get a chance to come down to enjoy those festivities that would be great.  And lastly, on a sad note, one of the things I love about the City is you know your neighbors and you have nurtured relationships over the years and this past weekend, one of our neighbors lost their daughter way too young and again, my thoughts and prayers go out to the Eikenburg family and specifically Jim and Mary Jo.  Itís sad to lose your daughter so young.

 

Councilmember Perkins Ė I would also like to defend our Cityís position.  The Council took the position to do a revaluation for the City, to take it to 100% because it had been so long and we basically, kind of collectively made a pact that we were going to stay out of it, that we were going to let the professionals do their job.  Not one of us up here is a professional real estate agent, assessor, appraiser, anything of that nature.  So we thought we had hired the best people to do the job and we had gotten a very high rating from New York State Office of Real Property Services when we turned in our project.  I donít have anything further, thank you.

 

Councilmember Waterhouse Ė First of all, Iíd like to say my thoughts and prayers go out to the Eikenburg family for their loss over the weekend and I know we have a lot of students here and believe me, I donít want to sit up here and preach, but kids please, for action, there is a reaction.  Think very carefully of what you do.  This was a horrible tragedy that didnít have to happen.  Please, when somebody comes up to you and they want you to do things you know is wrong, back away, stand up on your own two feet, itís okay to say ďnoĒ.  Itís just a horrible thing thatís happened and unfortunately, it happens all over this country and weíve seen way too much of it.  Kids, youíve got it inside. Youíre great people, just stand up for yourselves.  Second, as youíre standing up for yourselves, come on downtown for the concerts, weíre going to have a great time down here Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. 

 

Mayor Pilozzi Ė On a high note that Councilmember Waterhouse left on, where else can you go to have a concert, free concert by the way, on Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and now Thursdays.  So come on down.  On Thursdays for a couple of years now I believe, is that correct, weíve been doing a free blues band there and now weíre going to make it a little bit more formal, close the street down, come on down and enjoy yourself.  Also, on a sad note, to both the Gugino family and Eikenburg family, Iíve known both, itís a terrible, terrible tragedy to lose a member of your family. A parent should never have to bury one of their children and itís a sad day in Tonawanda, especially if you know the Eikenburg family.  As a matter of fact, Jim Eikenburgís dad was a police officer in the City also and we go back to the day I got married in 1970, he was the police officer that directed traffic at our wedding.  Terrible, terrible thing and life is full of decisions and the bottom line is, we make the right decision or the wrong decision and the wrong decision can cost you dearly.  You might get away with it once or twice, but the wrong decision will cost you and it cost those you leave behind and Iím sure the Eikenburg family is devastated, as most of us are that know them.  Spaulding Fibre, let me say that Spaulding Fibre is now entering into a little bit of a different phase, weíre going to be starting to take those big mounds of concrete and bust them up. Thatís going to take a lot of water, a lot of attention to detail to make sure we keep the dust down. Weíre going to be sending a letter out to the folks in the neighborhood advising them of whatís going to be going on and hopefully, it will come off without a hitch but reality is, youíre busting up concrete and it is going to be a little bit of a problem.  Weíre going to alleviate it as best we can, but letís say about September 1st or October 1st, that is going to be complete gone.  Hopefully, weíll be staring at a new dream, if you will, in the City of Tonawanda on forty-seven acres of property.  The benzene problem, Iím sure if you looked at the numbers, that Tonawanda Coke is the primary pollutant when it comes to benzene.  Another area that needs to be addressed, and itís something the government can do, is to alleviate the backlog along the I-290 that leads into the bridge.  For a number of years now, some people have been trying to get rid of the toll barrier going over Grand Island so you donít have the two-mile stream of cars waiting to get over that bridge, burning gasoline while theyíre waiting.  So the government has a small part of that too but the majority of it Iím sure is from Tonawanda Coke so we need to keep an eye on that, along with whatís already been mentioned at our landfill and the issues that are going on there.  I did want to direct everybodyís attention to a Friday, June 12th meeting, itís a public meeting for Tonawanda Air Quality, itís going to be at Sheridan Parkside Community Center from 7:00 P.M. to 9:00 P.M. on Friday June12th, and if you have some concerns, bring them over to that meeting.  Again, itís Sheridan Parkside Community Center, Friday June 12th from 7:00 P.M. to 9:00 PM and it says, ďJoin DEC officials for an update on community air quality study in the Tonawanda area and about DECís plan to reduce the burdens of air toxics in the Tonawanda area.Ē  Lastly, I need to go on record also saying that our Assessor, I have all the confidence in the world in our Assessor.   Sheís done a magnificent job and sheís basically stayed on a very professional basis as far as I can see.  In addition to that, we did hire an outside organization.  We had a very close working relationship with the New York State Office of Real Property.  No problems there, in fact we got kudos from them.  There is a process in place and I know the folks at the RiverEdge community are using that process and thatís what it is there for.  The appeal process, I believe it is at the court level now, so hopefully their concerns will be addressed at that court.  Basically there is a mechanism in place to address the concerns that have been brought to this meeting tonight.  Thank you very much.

 

Council President Zeisz Ė I donít really have any further comments but I do want to offer my condolences to the Eikenburg family and also we will adjourn tonight in the memory of Ed Gugino who also passed away.  Have a great night, drive home safely.

 

ADJOURNMENT

 

127.     By Councilmember Waterhouse                  seconded by Councilmember Kossow

            Resolved, that this Common Council adjourn until June 16, 2009.  

 

Ayes: Perkins, Waterhouse, Kossow, Davis, and Zeisz

Nays: None

Resolution declared adopted

 

 

 

 

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