Council Chambers

Tonawanda, New York

September 16, 2008

 

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

 

COMMUNICATIONS FROM THE MAYOR

 

A letter from Nancy Patrick, 373 Broad Street, dated September 7, 2008, regarding the renaming of the Senior Center after Dorothy Ellman.

 

A letter from Time Warner Cable dated September 2, 2008, regarding new interactive technology that will be implemented within the local franchising area known as Switched Digital Video.

 

A letter from the Town of Tonawanda Youth, Parks and Recreation Department, dated September 10, 2008, regarding the City’s proposal for special golf fees at their facilities.

 

A proclamation proclaiming September 12, 2008 “General Motors Powertrain Tonawanda Engine Day”.

            Ordered filed

 

COMMUNICATION FROM CITY OFFICIALS AND CORRESPONDENCE

 

The following monthly reports were received by the City Clerk:

            July Activity Report of the Fire Department

            August minutes of the Board of Appeals

August Report of the City Clerk

August Activity Report of the Fire Department

            August minutes of the Plumbing Board

                Referred to the Committee of the Whole

                        Ordered filed

 

A Notice of Public Hearing to be held September 29, 2008, requesting the widening of a concrete driveway at 68 Taylor Drive.

            Referred to the Board of Appeals

 

A Notice of Public Hearing to be held September 29, 2008, requesting to erect a 12’ X 16’ deck to the rear of an existing dwelling at 21 Niagara Shore Drive.

            Referred to the Board of Appeals

 

A letter from Duane Harris, City of Tonawanda employee, announcing his retirement after 35 years, on October 1, 2008.

            Referred to the Committee of the Whole

                        Ordered filed

           

 

COMMENTS BY THE PUBLIC ON RESOLUTIONS

 

(There were no comments from the public)


 

MOTIONS AND RESOLUTIONS

 

198.     By Councilmember Waterhouse                              seconded by Councilmember Perkins

            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, Zeisz

Nays: None

Resolution declared adopted

 

199.     By the Council                                                  seconded by the Council

            Resolved, that at the recommendation of the Superintendent of Public Works, Neal Myers, that the Mayor be directed to sign a five (5) year extension of the present contract with Allied Waste to process recycled material.

 

Ayes: Perkins, Waterhouse, Kossow, Davis, Zeisz

Nays: None

Resolution declared adopted

 

200.     By the Council                                                  seconded by the Council

            Resolved, that Chapter 30, Fees, Article 11, Parks and Recreation, Section 30-301, entitled Miscellaneous Park and Recreation Programs and Facilities, #8 read as follows: Kohler Youth Center after school program:  $75.00 for half of a school year and $150.00 for a full school year.

           

Ayes: Perkins, Waterhouse, Kossow, Davis, Zeisz

Nays: None

Resolution declared adopted

 

201.     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 survey of Erie County Riverwalk be made to Wendel Duchscherer Architects and Engineers, at a cost not to exceed $3,000.00.

 

 

Ayes: Perkins, Waterhouse, Kossow, Davis, Zeisz

Nays: None

Resolution declared adopted

 

202.     By the Council                                                  seconded by the Council

            Whereas, the City of Tonawanda is committed to providing a workplace for employees and an environment for public business free of any discrimination and harassment and one that promotes professionalism and equal opportunity; and

            Whereas, the City of Tonawanda intends to continue management of policies and procedures that provide strict compliance with the provisions of all state and federal human rights and equal opportunity laws and regulations; and

            Whereas, the City has developed a comprehensive policy and complaint procedure statement addressing the above referenced laws and issues, now, therefore be it

            Resolved, the City of Tonawanda Common Council has reviewed and approves the policy entitled “Workplace Harassment and Discrimination Policy and Complaint Procedure”, and directs this policy statement be officially incorporated in the City of Tonawanda Employees Benefit and Policy Manual adopted December 20, 2005.

           

Ayes: Perkins, Waterhouse, Kossow, Davis, Zeisz

Nays: None

Resolution declared adopted

 

203.     By the Council                                                  seconded by the Council

            Whereas, a $25.00 Special Events application fee was received by the City Clerk from St. Francis of Assisi School to hold a walkathon on various streets of the City to raise funds for St. Francis of Assisi School and

            Whereas, the application shall be reviewed and commented on by all appropriate department heads to insure the safety of our residents and

            Whereas, a certificate of insurance has been provided naming the City as additional insured, now, therefore be it

            Resolved, that permission be granted to St. Francis of Assisi School to hold their annual Walkathon on Friday, October 3, 2008, from 8:30 A.M. to Noon, through various streets of the City.

           

Ayes: Perkins, Waterhouse, Kossow, Davis, Zeisz

Nays: None

Resolution declared adopted

 

204.     By the Council                                                  seconded by the Council

            Resolved, when a $25.00 Special Events application fee is received by the City Clerk from the Swiftwater Merchants Association to close Main Street from Broad to Niagara Street and when the application is reviewed and commented on by all appropriate department heads to insure the safety of our residents and when a certificate of insurance has been provided naming the City as additional insured, be it

            Resolved, that permission shall be granted to the Swiftwater Merchants Association to close Main Street from Broad Street to Niagara Street on Sunday, October 5, 2008, from 7:00 A.M. to 6:00 P.M., for their 2nd annual  “Autumn on Main Street” event.

 

Ayes: Perkins, Waterhouse, Kossow, Davis, Zeisz

Nays: None

Resolution declared adopted

 

205.     By the Council                                                  seconded by the Council

            Resolved, that this Common Council adopt the General Fund Budget, Water Fund Budget and Sewer Fund Budget for the fiscal year commencing January 1, 2009, making appropriations for the conduct of City Government and further be it

            Resolved, that the Budget was presented at a Public Hearing on August 26, 2008, are hereby adopted as amended and revised and that the several amounts as set forth be and hereby are appropriated for the objects and purposes specified in the year 2009 budgets on file in the Office of the City Clerk.  

 

Ayes: Perkins, Waterhouse, Kossow, Davis, Zeisz

Nays: None

Resolution declared adopted

 

206.     By the Council                                                  seconded by the Council

            Resolved, that the position of Account Clerk Typist be added to Section 1 – Employment, Classification of Employees, A. Classifications, Group 4 (Full-time regular employees, categorized non-exempt and not represented by a recognized collective bargaining negotiations unit) of the Personnel Benefits and Policy Manual for City of Tonawanda Employees adopted by the Common Council on December 20, 2005, and be if further

            Resolved, that said position of Account Clerk Typist in the Personnel Benefits and Policy Manual for City of Tonawanda Employees be entitled to all the benefits set forth.

 

Ayes: Perkins, Waterhouse, Kossow, Davis, Zeisz

Nays: None

Resolution declared adopted

 

207.     By Council President Zeisz                                     seconded by Councilmember Davis

            Resolved, that in recognition and compliance with the “New York State Open Meetings Law”, this Common Council will meet in Executive Session in the Common Council Chambers for the purpose of pending exempt City business, and further be it

 

 

 

            Resolved, that upon conclusion of the above stated business matters, the meeting shall again be open to the general public.  The reason for the Executive Session is to discuss contract negotiations.

 

Ayes: Perkins, Waterhouse, Kossow, Davis, Zeisz

Nays: None

Resolution declared adopted

 

COMMENTS FROM THE PUBLIC AFTER RESOLUTIONS

 

Robert Derner, 286 Niagara shore Drive – Since you’ve adopted the budget, what’s the tax rate?  Does anyone know? 

 

Council President Zeisz – It went up 2.35%.  The actual rate is 15.47%. 

 

Robert Derner – That still leaves us as the No. 1 taxed City in Erie County, am I correct?

 

Councilmember Perkins - Only according to that Buffalo Evening News article.

 

Robert Derner – I did a survey of 17 of those places and we are the highest taxed City or area of all the communities in Erie County.

 

Councilmember Perkins – Did you add in all their special districts? 

 

Robert Derner - Well, what special districts…

 

Council President Zeisz - …Fire, Sewer, Electric…

 

Robert Derner - Well, we’ve got water that we pay separately, we’ve got sewer we pay separately.

 

Councilmember Perkins – We don’t pay fire separate, we don’t pay lighting separate.

 

Council President Zeisz - The Towns don’t have a Police forces unless they choose to, they don’t have to. 

 

Robert Derner – Still, we’re the highest taxed City.

 

Councilmember Perkins – We don’t know that. 

 

Robert Derner - If you compare with Buffalo and Lackawanna and Tonawanda.  That’s besides the point.  What I’m getting at is that I know some of these things you can’t control.  They’re mandated by the State, just like I went to the Board of Education meeting and they tell me that certain things are mandated by the State.  I have a customer that’s interested in buying one of the houses, they live down state on Long Island.  So I went into the website and looked at the houses in the area where she lives, she lives in a place called Long Beach and there’s houses there at various prices, up to, well over a $1,000,000.  A $1,000,000 house down there on the water has total taxes, monthly taxes of $900-$1,100, it various, okay?  When I went on other cities in New York, I went to Kingston, went up to Oswego, Rochester, you look on their houses for sale and none of them mention the taxes.  So what it boils down to is, New York City gets all the gravies and their taxes are low, and up here, all our taxes are going through the roof and I think that there’s nothing we can do about it unless the people that we have in Albany start banding together and at least have a coalition against the drain from this area going to New York City and this is one of the reason why we have high taxes.  Another thing is, what can we do to solve it, I mean I talked a little bit to the School Board and one of the assistant superintendents over there told me that they’re gonna be constantly raising and raising the tax rate because they have to no control over what the State tells them.  So at some point we may have to merge with another school district.  That would be something you know?  He mentioned Union Free school district.  I was wondering if the City of Tonawanda has ever looked into the possibility of maybe it’s time to look into see what benefits would be if we merged with the Town of Tonawanda.  I know that would bring a red flag up to everybody but maybe it’s the only way to survive in this climate that we have.  The other thing is what about garbage collection.  Would it be a benefit to us if we hired out our garbage collection instead of collecting it ourselves?

 

Council President Zeisz - That’s been looked at a number of times over the years.  Every time we’ve done it, we’ve always come up with the same conclusion that we still pick up people’s garbage cheaper than a private contractor.

 

Robert Derner - That’s fine, as long as it’s been looked at.  One other thing that maybe, and this is going to get everybody upset maybe, Mary Traverse in Orchard Park took it upon herself to publish the salaries and the benefits paid to all city workers.  Now, I’m not saying use their names, I’m just saying the positions.  Maybe that could help the Council when they’re negotiating contracts with unions instead of just being up there by yourself, if the public is behind you a little bit in negotiations so that the unions don’t get these pensions like some of them get like recorded in the paper and one other thing, I don’t know how many people that have worked for the City that have drawn pensions stay living in the City after they get their pensions or do they move on to other places. 

 

Council President Zeisz - Probably both.  I don’t know the exact numbers but it is…     

 

Robert Derner - …why don’t they stay here?  Perhaps it’s because our taxes are too high. 

 

Council President Zeisz - They go South… 

 

Robert Derner - …well, true, but when I got out of high school Riverview was being built.  We bought our lot up there to build our house and most of the kids, well I shouldn’t say most, but a great deal of the kids I graduated with got married and moved up to Riverview and raised their families up there.  Nowadays when any of the kids graduate from high school very few of them have a place to live in Tonawanda or want to stay here because they couldn’t afford to raise their family with the taxes we have.  But a lot of them are up in Wheatfield, I run into a lot of the people that their children live out there when I travel with my grandson who plays volleyball and we go to different schools like in Newport and Grand Island and these people are all over but not too many of them stay in Tonawanda.  It’s something to think about. 

 

Councilmember Perkins – Mr. Derner, I just want to let you know, for us too, the pension, our municipal workers pensions are pretty much State mandated, we don’t really have a choice on their pensions.  I just wanted to let you know.

 

Robert Derner – Maybe the taxpayers should mandate what the State can do sometimes. 

 

Council President Zeisz - Well, just to talk a little bit more about pension, you know years ago, probably how many years has it been, quite a few, it was a big deal to get into Tier I in the State pension systems because that was like the Cadillac of the pension system, to get to Tier I.  It used to be that you had to pay when you were in the other Tiers and then, I don’t know how many years ago Joe, that they started, the State dropped that.

 

City Treasurer Joe Hogenkamp - Well, you’ve got to pay for the first ten years.

 

Council President Zeisz – For the first ten, but it’s those, you know that next 10, 15 years that’s a killer because we’re picking up the difference whereas, the employee’s paying that for a ten year period but it used to be longer. 

 

City Treasurer Joe Hogenkamp - Used to pay the whole time.

 

Council President Zeisz - Yeah, your whole career you had to pay, so that’s an example of what the State does to communities.  Another example, and Mr. Gebera has always been a big one on this, is the Taylor Law has such an impact on what happens negotiation-wise with Police and Fire.  I understand exactly what you’re saying about taxes.  The thing is if you look at that article that was in the Buffalo News, the average home in the City of Tonawanda is not ever $70,000 and that article was based on $150,000 homes and they compared us to Clarence in that same breath.  Well, the average home in Clarence is $261,000 so the amount of money they’re collecting on one home compared to one home here is much greater.  I’m not disputing that the taxes, the actual rate is higher, but it’s how much we’re ultimately collecting for the value of the average home in this community. 

 

Robert Derner – Here’s the thing, we’re losing our young people, the working age people, and we’re getting more and more senior citizens that are on fixed incomes that are not producing any more, they’re living on a set income that they have and it’s a growing thing so somewhere there has to be some forward thinking that we got to make plans for this, we can’t just keep going every year and raising, raising, raising and think that everything’s gonna be okay, it’s not. 

 

COMMENTS FROM THE COUNCILMEMBERS AFTER RESOLUTIONS

 

Councilmember Davis – I recently received a letter from the Town concerning the approach for golf course rates for City residents on Town golf courses.  They pretty much left the window open to negotiate, sit down with them and negotiate an overall price for City residents to be able to use that service so, myself and the Mayor and Carl will be in contact with them shortly on that issue.  Fall Festival, September 27th from 10:00 to 4:00 at Vets Park, for the few years it’s been going it’s a wonderful thing to bring families to, you’re not gonna break the bank as you do during some of the other festivals that are in and around the area and the money goes right back into the Recreation Department so, if you’re not doing anything, come on down for that.  And lastly, myself, the Mayor, Legislator Iannello and Assemblyman Schimminger were at Tonawanda Football Clinic’s 51st kick off celebration for their season.  I’d just like to applaud them, its 51 years that they’ve been in our community and it’s a first class organization run by first class people so, my hats off to them. 

 

Councilmember Kossow – First, I’d like to thank Joe and all his help..(inaudible)..it makes it a lot easier for us so thanks Joe, I appreciate it.  Also, we received notice, we did have a couple of people that gave a lot of years of service into the City and just recently, retiring, Duane Harris after 35 years and Joan Kohler recently retired and she had 40+ years with the City and so I thank them for basically, their lifetime service to the City.  It’s nice to have the summer events and it’s nice to also have the Fall events and as Councilman Davis pointed out, we have Fall Fest coming up on the 27th.  Most of things are really cheap and it’s you know a lot of fun as long as we have good weather, and then we also have the Autumn on Main Street on the first weekend in October and sandwiched in between we have the Senior Bazaar so, there’s a lot going on this Fall so enjoy all the activities.

 

Mayor Pilozzi – As already mentioned, we did receive a letter from the Town of Tonawanda, relative to the possibility of the shared services when it comes to the golf venue they have there on Brighton and at Sheridan Park. Whether or not anything’s going to come out of that you’re never sure, but we’re certainly going to try.  I know many, many years ago and I think Common Council Zeisz was involved in that too when we tried and it didn’t come too well, but we’re gonna keep on trying. We don’t have enough money to put a golf course here so we might as well try the shared services route.  Many thanks to a couple people who are here and present today, first and foremost, Joe Hogenkamp and obviously Sam Iraci for doing an enormous job when it comes to the budget.  The Common Council came back today with some switches, some changes, but the fact of the matter is, it’s a 2.35% increase that’s roughly where it was when I presented it to them and I think it’s a responsible budget and one that we can work with.  We had some very good discussion earlier today between 6:00 P.M. and 7:00 P.M., some other issues that could affect the way we operate in the City of Tonawanda and that’s the kind of thing I like.  The five elected officials plus myself to give honest dialogue over maybe changing the way we do business with the way we do sidewalks, maybe changing the way we do business with garbage pickup.  I’m not sure, but it’s good dialogue, and it’s the kind of thing that spurs on change and hopefully is change for the better. Again, it was already mentioned, but “Autumn on Main Street” is October 5th, Cory Schuler is back there from Downtown Merchants, he’s President of it and my hats off to him and his organization for bringing that back.  It was a success last year and hopefully the weather will help us out again this year.  I believe October 4th there is a Senior Bazaar, is that right Nancy?

 

Nancy Paschen – Yes it is.

 

Mayor Pilozzi – So, that whole weekend you have the Senior Bazaar on Saturday and October 5th “Autumn on Main Street” and before those two events on the 27th you have the Fall Festival so come out and have a good time.  My congratulations to Duane Harris and Joan Kohler for a long dedicated service to the City of Tonawanda and a happy, healthy and prosperous retirement.  Thank you very much.

 

Council President Zeisz – I have nothing further.  I thank everyone for coming this evening and please drive home safely and have a good night.

 

ADJOURNMENT

 

208.     By Councilmember Kossow                                               seconded by Councilmember Perkins

            Resolved, that this Common Council adjourn until October 7, 2008.  

 

Ayes: Perkins, Waterhouse, Kossow, Davis, Zeisz

Nays: None

Resolution declared adopted

 

 

 

 

 

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