Mayor Dolce overseeing changes in City Hall
Editor’s note: This is the second of a two-part series on Dunkirk Mayor Anthony J. Dolce’s first year in office.
The city of Dunkirk is governed in the fashion of the county, state and federal governments, a strong executive branch with legislative oversight. Dunkirk Mayor Anthony J. Dolce has just completed his first year in the city’s executive office after four-plus terms as a councilman.
Mayors and councils have not always had the best working relationships and Dolce was asked how his relationship with Common Council has been.
“Like any relationship, it has its ups and downs, but I think overall we have a wonderful rapport. I look forward to their visits and to their conversations,” he replied. “It’s a very energetic group. There’s a lot they want to get done, there’s a lot we want to get done. I think it’s more of a give and take, prioritizing, but overall I’m thrilled with it. I think we’re on the right track; it’s just things take time.”
Over the past year there has been grumbling among some City Hall workers that some council members have taken too much of the workers’ time. Dolce was asked if council was overstepping its bounds under the City Charter.
“We have had internal discussions on how we should progress with things. As I’m sure the public knows, my way of doing things is different than others and I think that has caused conflicts at times, no doubt about it,” he replied. “I think overall our goals are the same, our intents are the same for the most part, but there’s people who have known me in office and before who know the type of person I am, and that’s different than others on council. We work through that and we’ll get it done.”
Dolce was asked what difference he sees in his relationship with council than that of his predecessor, former Mayor Richard Frey.
“It’s no secret I did not visit this office much, especially the last two years in particular. Part of it was my work schedule, there really wasn’t the opportunity to come up here, and part of it was I wanted things on paper,” he stated. “I got to the point were I started writing memos and getting answers to questions that way. That worked for a while and then I stopped getting response to the memos. I think council feels extremely comfortable coming in here and airing their grievances and concerns to me.”
Dolce added he has a great deal of communication with this council.
“I can’t speak from other council members perspective when I was a council member. I know some were in here quite a bit,” he said. “I know others took my approach so I can’t speak to them. I’m just speaking for myself as to what I see as the big difference.”
Dolce said the lack of “outside-the-building progress” is a problem.
“There’s nothing we can go outside these (City Hall)walls and really hang our hat on. I’ll be the first to admit that. But internally we’ve been busting our hump making sure policies and procedures are in place,” he explained. “No secret, we’ve had to do a lot of backtracking, which is a disappointment. We’d rather be moving forward and that’s what we intend to do. We have a lot of outstanding issues that need to be addressed while at the same time moving forward with development and other issues so we know there’s a ways to go.”
Dolce said those efforts at fixing internal policies and procedures have been productive.
“That kind of stuff isn’t sexy by any means but it’s necessary. We’ve initiated a couple things to conserve paper within City Hall. We’ve laid the groundwork for infrastructure projects in 2013,” he added. “We have continued to meet our obligations on the water treatment facility. We did the First Ward waterline project. The plans are in place to start the West End waterline project in the spring, so that’s moving along nicely.
“I want to say also that we’ve been quite successful in being transparent. When the website was updated we did so with measures to make sure everything is available at the public’s fingertips.”
Dolce explained all council agendas, minutes and the occasional job are posted on the website.
“Everything’s there, it’s readily available, and people can access it easily so I’m happy with where we are there,” he said.
Building relationships with SUNY Fredonia, the SUNY Incubator, the city school district and local industry have been on Dolce’s agenda.
“We’re here to try and facilitate or play matchmaker with businesses that are looking to do business in the city of Dunkirk. When a small business opens and they want us there for a grand opening, we work with them to make sure we’re there showing our support,” he explained. “Recently at the DLDC we talked about what things outside of providing dollars can we do to aid business, and it goes back to that marketing and promotion.
“The festivals have been extremely successful in the city the last three-four years. We formed a committee in hopes of expanding those events and making it more of an orderly process so it doesn’t all fall onto development’s lap. We’re working on other development and CDBG functions so we formed a committee to help handle the heavy burden of the festivals.”
Dolce was asked if consolidation of local governments would occur without the state stepping in, and if the city would be interested.
“That’s not on our radar. To me there’s other things, North County Water District, sharing things like police, fire, ambulance; the list goes on and on,” he replied. “You could even get into DPW activities, which we do a lot of now, that aren’t huge things but it’s all in the spirit of helping each other out. I know there are things the county does that help us out and things we do vice versa.
“When there are major things with water lines we are often the ones that service those calls and then get reimbursed. So to me that’s more of the way to go. I think that’s where you could see some cost savings sooner rather than later.”
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