Tonawanda, New York
September 2, 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 FEMA, dated August 25, 2008, regarding the adoption of a floodplain management ordinance.
A letter from the Army Corp of Engineers, dated August 26, 2008, regarding the Public Release Addendum to the Feasibility Study and Proposed Plan for the Seaway FUSRAP Site.
A letter dated August 28, 2008, regarding sidewalk replacement.
A proclamation proclaiming the fourth Monday of every September as “Family Day – A Day to Eat Dinner With Your Children”.
A letter from Town of Amherst Supervisor Satish B. Mohan, dated August 25, 2008, regarding a response to a letter Mayor Pilozzi wrote regarding the City of Tonawanda/Buffalo Sewer Authority Meeting.
A letter to City of Tonawanda residents in the Scott/Young neighborhood, dated September 2, 2008, regarding off-street parking issues.
A memo from Fire Chief Stuart, dated August 26, 2008, regarding Project Safe Place.
An announcement from County Executive Collins announcing Household Hazardous Waste Drop-Off Day.
COMMUNICATION FROM CITY OFFICIALS AND CORRESPONDENCE
The following monthly reports were received by the City Clerk:
The August minutes of the Civil Service Commission
General Fund and Sewer Fund Revenue and Expenditures for the City of
Tonawanda as of August 31, 2008
Referred to the Committee of the Whole
MOTIONS AND RESOLUTIONS
196. By the Council seconded by the Council
Resolved, that permission be granted to the Knights of Columbus, Twin City Council, No. 413, to use various intersections of the City on Saturday, September 6, 2008, to solicit funds to help support the New York State Special Olympics and be it further
Resolved, that the intersections to be used are as follows:
Niagara and Main Streets
Broad and Main Streets
Seymour and Niagara Streets
Delaware, Young, Niagara & Broad Streets
Councilmember Perkins – Do we know what time they’re doing this?
Council President Zeisz – I don’t think it was in the letter.
Councilmember Perkins – Just the day, okay
Ayes: Perkins, Waterhouse, Kossow, Davis, Zeisz
Resolution declared adopted
COMMENTS FROM THE PUBLIC AFTER RESOLUTIONS
Robert Derner, 286 Niagara Shore Drive – One of letters you got about the flood plain, where can I get a copy of that in the City?
Council President Zeisz – From the Building Inspector.
Robert Derner – The other thing is, one of the neighbors asked me to ask about the possibility or have you look into Verizon Cable for the City for competition to Time Warner.
Mayor Pilozzi - I believe the Cable Committee has looked at that but I’m not absolutely, positively sure so I’ll find out.
Council President Zeisz – My understanding, I know they’ve started, they’ve been out in Hamburg, Verizon, but they haven’t moved anywhere beyond there.
Councilmember Davis – Mr. President, last year they started the laying of the fibre optic cable in the southern tier and they’re making their way up this way, so I don’t know, like Carl said, they’re in Hamburg, I don’t know when their plans are to get up here, I mean, I’ve looked into it myself.
Council President Zeisz - I know the last I saw, they were talking two years.
Councilmember Davis - I think that’s what the representative told me when I talked to him last year.
Robert Derner – I think you should put something in the paper so people know what’s going on, you know that you are pursuing it.
Councilmember Kossow – Mr. President, I’d like to comment. I saw one of their representatives at the Erie County Fair, I was asking him and he said not until 2009, and possibly not until 2010.
Robert Derner - Do you know the date for Erie County drop off for hazardous materials?
Councilmember Perkins – September 6, 20 Peabody Street in the City of Buffalo.
Council President Zeisz – So Saturday.
Robert Derner – What was that?
Council President Zeisz – It’s on Peabody Street in the City of Buffalo.
Councilmember Perkins – It says it’s located off of Elks Street near the Smith Street exit of the I-190. Why don’t I give this to you on what you can bring.
Robert Derner – The other thing, concerning the Riverview homes, how is that progressing?
Council President Zeisz – Well, the last thing that was done was to have the boundary surveys and wetland delineation performed. We still don’t have the final results of those studies but we also had the City Attorney go out and get two more appraisals of that property so that once we get the information back, primarily from those two studies, when we get that information combined with the appraisals, then we can make a determination on what land we’re going to swap to build homes there.
Robert Derner - The reason I asked is because I looked at the website today at the assessment and most of the lots up in Riverview are gonna be around $25,000 and any new homes being built there, they’re going to be close to $200,000, give or take a little bit, but that’s gonna be the price range, okay. Now, I’m sure that you all saw the Buffalo Evening News on Sunday with the list of 110 communities and Tonawanda is in the top five as far as taxes go, is number one as far as the three cities go. Now if you build new homes up there in the $200,000 range, and you’re gonna be $2,000 to $3,000 higher than the surrounding communities in taxes, you’re gonna have a tough sell up there and you should take that into consideration when you go through with that. The other thing was that Brearly is that available?
Council President Zeisz – Well, from what I understand you filed a Freedom of Information to get it.
City Clerk Jan Bodie – His son did, Alan did.
Robert Derner - Oh, he did? I don’t know what he does. Oh yeah, the assessments here in town, oh wait, the other thing is, one of the reasons we have higher taxes, and I know that this Council has commitments and signed contracts and union contracts and such that they’re committed to, but going forward, we’ve got a lot more people becoming senior citizens living on fixed incomes. I know some people over at Riveredge where I live that bought their townhouses when they sold their homes in other parts of the City and moved over there, they were…(part inaudible)…and eventually, one of them died and there’s a widow left, living on fixed income and they got a big shock when this reassessment went through. I know Mr. Davis says that reassessment is fair but I don’t see where, and this has been a long time argument for property tax that a $500,000 or $100,000 receives no more benefit from the City than a $50,000 house. Same garbage collection, same snow plowing, same, everything’s the same and the older people living on fixed incomes, they’re screwed and this should have been taken into consideration. I don’t how you do it but that’s your job so look at those things and see what you can do about them. Taxes in most of the City, you were on 73% equalization last year and then you brought your tax rate down 27%. TOPS last year, they had an assessment of roughly $400,000, they went up this year to about, excuse me $4,000,000, this year they went up to about $5,500,000, so their taxes are going to remain the same and normally when any community goes through reassessment, the assessment goes up but the tax rate goes down comparable. At Riveredge, some of them went up 200% to 250% and I don’t think that’s right.
Councilmember Perkins - Mr. Derner, my house went up, it doubled, the assessment on my house doubled and basically, it’s because when I bought my house, I got a good deal and I knew it and I paid taxes on that low assessment, I was very fortunate, it wasn’t fair.
Robert Derner - …wait a minute, you don’t receive any more or less benefits from the City as a real expensive house, you get the same thing, the same plow comes down to your house as it does at a real expensive house. The thing I’m getting at is older people that are retired living on fixed incomes, when they get a shot like this, some of these people over here have to now lower the price of their house because their value is not equal to what the assessment is and the value of their house has dropped so what’s gonna happen, they’re going to have to sell their house at a much lower price, the second person coming in is going to get the benefit of that lower price and then the taxes are going to be lowered anyway. So the original people in there, they’re just out and if something was tied to what the rate of social security for those people were that would be more fair I think. I don’t know how you do it but I think that’s a problem because even in the paper yesterday, there was showing the aging population in this community and it’s going to continue to get worse and you gotta address this at some point, you can’t just keep raising taxes. Now one of the things that I didn’t bring up here that I should have, I took a ride up past the new High School. When I look at Tonawanda High School, there was a sign up in front of the High School that says Kibler High School and when I got inside the Principle, Mr. Clukey said welcome back. Now we go up there and our tax dollars are spent on a Las Vegas type of sign, flashing saying, “Welcome Back Students” and giving them the temperature and everything else. They must have really found a good way to use our extra tax base that this reassessment got.
Mark Zahm, 33 Grove Place – Just checking in to see if anyone found out information relative to the over assessment on single family homes, vs. the under assessment on multi-family homes.
Council President Zeisz – Well, it was I think, Sam Iraci had alluded to that last week, and I had told you the answer that I got, that as a rule, single family homes are assessed at a higher level and what happens in some communities, and this is what Mr. Iraci brought up last week, is some communities have two-tiered taxing. They have homestead taxing and commercial taxing and they specifically do that so that they can tax the property separate from one another so that theoretically, you’re not on the same playing field as a commercial business. The City does not do that, we have one tax rate for the whole community, which, like North Tonawanda, they have homestead so they have, oh, did they get rid of it?
Councilmember Perkins – The Town does.
Council President Zeisz – I know the Town does, the Town of Tonawanda does and that’s where the difference comes in and I don’t know where you told me, you said you had a relative…
Mark Zahm - …oh, my brother lives in the Town of Tonawanda.
Council President Zeisz – And they have two-tiered taxing.
Mark Zahm – He has an upper/lower and he’s assessed higher than his neighbor’s at a single family home.
Council President Zeisz – Because he’s being taxed as a commercial property.
Mark Zahm – Right.
Council President Zeisz - Whereas, in the City, everyone’s taxed the same and the State, as a rule, single family homes are easier to sell. Well, there’s a property, I’ll give you an example, there’s a property on William Street and I think it’s listed for $289,000 and it’s a, how many units is that Joe, is that a four unit, the one on William, it’s right by the station, William and Fletcher. Well, obviously, a four-unit complex for $290,000 isn’t going to sell as easily as a single family resident for one family.
Mark Zahm - When it sells and they fill it up, they’re making a profit, obviously, because it’s a business.
Council President Zeisz - That’s correct.
Mark Zahm - And it’s going to put a greater strain on the services provided by the City because they’re be more sewage, garbage pickup, police protection, fire protection, everything that, as they pointed out, we all get the same thing except they get more but they pay less for it, it’s irrational, this is my concern. What’s you’re doing is following a tried and true method that I don’t think 98% of the City realizes what you’re doing to them, it’s a dirty little trick and I cannot justify it. If you’re going to do it for those do it for Tops, do it for Walgreens, do it for everybody that’s in a business, it makes no sense.
Council President Zeisz – And as I had said to you before Mr. Zahm, the assessments throughout the community, they base you against other similar properties and similar sales of those properties. So, if you’re comparing, like that home across the street from you to other multi-family homes, the sales on those units were probably lower too which had an impact ultimately on their assessment, on their value.
Mark Zahm - It’s not working. See the problem is I am not a by-product of the Tonawanda School System, I see what’s going on, it’s not right. It simply is not right. Anybody with a functioning brain is going to tell you, the Smurf House across from me, upper/lower, there was up to seven people living in there, they’re making good money, they bought another house for themselves, a single family, there’s money being made, that house was not that hard to sell in spite of how it looks. If these are homes are hard to sell, it’s because the people who own them are making a mess or they’re asking too much or is the market in the City of Tonawanda all messed up because, as all my friends tell me, you bought a house where? It has a bad reputation and part of it is because people like me, why continue to maintain my property when it gets shot, worn and beat up, it will lower my assessment, they’re all doing it. This City is shot, worn and dirty for the most part and it’s hurting everybody. But when you’re up against what I’ve run up against with that assessment review club, forget about it, the whole thing involved (inaudible) at this point and the same thing, I know what’s going on here, it’s sick but I don’t care anymore. You’re absolutely right. People can’t afford it, when they get to a fixed income it’s just too much, it drives people out, how fair is that? To be perfectly honest, I count the days that my family obligations are complete and I can get the hell out of here because I’m wasting way too much time talking to people with good intentions but the road to hell is paved with good intentions. I’ve gone through enough of this B.S. with the Assessor and all the rest of it. It’s ridiculous. You want a two-tier systems, the Mayor says he needs money, here’s a golden opportunity, raise the assessment on multi-family homes. If they can’t sell it, it’s their problem, not the City’s and not mine. It’s not yours, it’s no one else’s that lives in a single family home. Why should it be our problem? You can’t answer that with a logical answer, I know you can’t. I know what you’re trying to do, you’re trying to make it right and I appreciate that but it’s not right, you’re driving out your educated middle class. I’m sorry but that’s the way it is, it’s sad, it’s really sad because you’re going to lose the basis of this community at the rate you’re going. I’ve had enough of it.
Jim Borsellino, 7 Scott Street – I’m a little concerned about this coming winter. Is the City going to provide us with snow plowing on the sidewalk are they prepared to removed the snow and ice from the sidewalk and not just the street?
Council President Zeisz – Well the only thing I can tell you is that, whether it’s a residence or a business, they’re required to maintain the sidewalk. We don’t plow sidewalks.
Jim Borsellino – Well, that’s City property, the sidewalk there.
Council President Zeisz – It doesn’t matter, like in front of my home, in front of your home, the sidewalk, it’s your responsibility, just like a business…
Councilmember Davis – Mr. President, I think he’s talking about the Fremont Street Bridge.
Jim Borsellino - Yes, right next to the street, it’s right next to the sidewalk and street, there is no protection there.
Councilmember Perkins – I was thinking that myself. It would be right next to the DPW.
Council President Zeisz – That I can’t specifically answer. Obviously, I know they’re going to plow the bridge, but I can’t say about the sidewalk. I’m sure the Mayor can get the answer for that.
Jim Borsellino – That is City property, the sidewalk?
Council President Zeisz - Theoretically, just like it’s your property, the City should maintain their property, just like we’ll do the sidewalks outside here at City Hall, so it is the same thing.
Kim Miller, 5 Scott Street – I just want to make a comment about the parking over at the Fremont Bridge. I have a 2-1/2 year old granddaughter that comes and stays with me on weekends and I have to walk with her almost two blocks to get to my house. I just don’t think that’s a good remedy, I really don’t.
Council President Zeisz - At this point, I can’t tell you that there’s going to be a remedy that’s going to be better, I can’t tell you that right now.
Mayor Pilozzi – Just today, I sent out over forty letters to everybody living on Simson, to Delaware, Scott to Delaware and on Young Street requesting that they consider a neighbor consideration for parking. I was hoping that the folks that need the parking would do this on their own, but then again I thought about it and I said, they might only know one or two people near then and why not just send out a cover letter and see what happens. You should be getting a copy of the letter yourself, I have it here in front of me, but that might work because we’re talking about just a few individuals here. We’re not talking about a multitude of individuals that need this consideration, so I have asked in the letter that they get back to my office by September 12th and then as that happens, we’ll be getting back to you folks. We’re going to try that out and see what happens.
Bill Kinmartin, 127 Grove Street – We received a letter from Kevin Rank for having more than two garage sales this year. I was wondering what the problem is why she couldn’t have garage sales on her property. We have other properties. I can give you addresses that have more than two.
Council President Zeisz – Well, at least to the best of my knowledge, two is the limit. Now, I’m not saying that those other individuals shouldn’t have notices but it is two garage sales.
Councilmember Davis – Mr. Kinmartin, unfortunately, somebody probably blew you in which is why you got a letter.
Bill Kinmartin – I have 148 Grove, 73 Minerva, 415 Niagara Street.
Councilmember Davis – Unfortunately, that’s probably why you got the letter.
Bill Kinmartin - Well why, we’re not, I mean it said garage sales in the garage we open the door and we close the door. It’s not on the lawn, it’s not on the driveway, it’s not a distraction. I don’t understand why you can’t have it, one or two sales a month would be all right.
Councilmember Davis - I think the law was stated to prevent people from conducting business out of their homes and become a nuisance. I don’t know how long that law’s been in effect, I mean…
Council President Zeisz - …that’s what it’s for though.
Bill Kinmartin – (inaudible)
Council President Zeisz – And I’m not saying that you are but what a lot of people do is they go other places, they buy their stuff and they sell it at their own home and that’s what that law…
Bill Kinmartin - ….we’re trying to get rid of stuff, we’re not getting it.
Council President Zeisz - That’s what I’m saying, I’m not talking about you, but that’s how the law was created to stop people from setting up a business in their home because that’s what some people are actually doing, it’s almost like a business, they go out and buy other people’s stuff and sell it for a higher price.
Councilmember Davis – When I was a kid, neighbors that lived across the street from us, they had a garage sale every Thursday through Sunday, every single day from April until the end of November.
Bill Kinmartin - Did they have a problem with the City?
Councilmember Davis – I was six or seven at the time so I don’t recall.
Council President Zeisz - Is the letter from the Building Inspector?
Bill Kinmartin – Yes.
Council President Zeisz - Did you speak to Mr. Rank?
Bill Kinmartin – Yes and he said basically the State is saying “no” because then you gotta pay taxes. Well, we’ll pay taxes.
Councilmember Perkins - Maybe we ought to find out the origin of the law, Jan?
Bill Kinmartin - You need a special permit, you need a special permit to use the park, you could have a permit to have a garage sale two or three times a year.
Council President Zeisz – I’ll have to get more information, we’ll have to get more information on it because I know what you’re saying, there are other people that have more than…
Bill Kinmartin - …these other people, I’m not going to mention names now, they have tents and everything else on their front lawns and numerous carts. We don’t. Another subject, we had out family reunion a couple weeks ago at Veteran’s Park our 51st one, and years ago we never paid for the permit, it was free, now we’re paying $30. Unfortunately, it rained that Sunday and shelter #2 was useless, the water it was pouring through the roof, it was terrible. The people out of town said, “you paid for this”? You’d be better off standing outside in the rain. Is there any funds to fix that roof of the shelter?
Mayor Pilozzi – We’ll take a look at it.
Council President Zeisz – The Mayor will talk to the…
Bill Kinmartin - …I talked to Linda and she said they’d like to fix it, but money.
Council President Zeisz - I wasn’t even aware that it leaked.
Bill Kinmartin - It’s like a two foot whole in the southern end and numerous holes throughout.
Council President Zeisz - Well I’m very sorry about that, like I said, we weren’t even aware that there was an issue with it and I’m sorry.
COMMENTS FROM THE COUNCILMEMBERS AFTER RESOLUTIONS
Councilmember Davis – I’d like to thank Neal Myers, Chief Young, Linda Foels for some issues that they took care of. September 24th at 7:00 PM at the Phillip Sheridan Building there’s the Army Corps release of their Record of Decision, or I’m sorry, their proposed plan dealing with the Seaway landfills. You ask what does that have to do with us?. Well with the way the Seaway landfill is situated, the winds blowing obviously in the direction of the west and southwest, is going to bring whatever debris they have picked up over there, into the City so if you’re not doing anything, again, September 24th at 7:00 PM at Phillip Sheridan building in the Town of Tonawanda they’ll be dealing with the Seaway landfill. A few days from now, a solemn anniversary of 9/11, I ask you to keep thoughts and prayers of the people that perished and the families in your hearts. Also, hurricane Gustov struck the northern gulf coast, I ask you to keep your thoughts and prayers with those people and there’s three more tropical systems that are going to bear down, so it might be pretty hectic the next week and a half for the United States. And lastly, last Council meeting, the Mayor alluded to a story from the Tonawanda News and I’d just like to apologize to the Mayor. The information I was given was not accurate and again, my apologies to the Mayor. We disagree on the sidewalks, but we can agree to disagree and work out our differences in the Council Chambers, and again, I apologize to the Mayor for the misinformation that I gave.
Councilmember Kossow – I have nothing this evening. Thank you Mr. President.
Councilmember Perkins – I don’t have anything this evening.
Councilmember Waterhouse – Nothing at this time Mr. President.
Mayor Pilozzi – As I mentioned earlier, we’re making an attempt to try to solve some of the problems with the parking situation over at the Young Street area. Once you get that letter, you’ll see what it’s all about and if you want, I’ll get you a copy of it tonight before you go home. You should be getting it in the mail. It’s only an attempt, an attempt, neighbor to neighbor. The City is not involved with this at all except for trying to be a catalyst to make that connection. Hopefully it works, we’ll see. Talked earlier about a couple of other items in Council Chambers, one of them having to do with Common Terns out at our old water intake and hopefully, we’re gonna get Ms. Adams in here from NYSDEC to help explain a little bit more about the Common Tern. None of us are experts on the Common Tern, we can only guess the importance of keeping them alive and well and hopefully she’ll shed some light on that in addition, hopefully also try to have some commitment from NYSDEC for our fireworks. And lastly, I do appreciate Mr. Davis correcting the situation that he alluded to this evening. Thank you very much.
Council President Zeisz - I have nothing further this evening. Thank you for coming and drive home safely.
197. By Councilmember Kossow seconded by Councilmember Perkins
Resolved, that this Common Council adjourn until, September 16, 2008.
Ayes: Perkins, Waterhouse, Kossow, Davis, Zeisz
Resolution declared adopted
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