Seawall resolution approved by Common Council

It wasn’t a unanimous vote but Dunkirk’s Common Council voted Tuesday to go ahead with engineering design services to begin the process of addressing the deteriorating condition of the Lake Front Boulevard seawall.

The resolution authorizing Mayor Anthony J. Dolce to execute all necessary documents with the firm of Nussbaumer & Clarke so it can begin comprehensive engineering services for the reconstruction/repair of the road and seawall and to seek grant funding opportunities had the support of four council members. Councilwoman-at-Large Stephanie Kiyak was the no vote on the resolution that set a $200,000 limit for the engineering work.

According to the resolution, 75 percent of the funding would come from the city’s general fund with the remaining 25 percent from the wastewater fund. Accord-ing to Dolce, the $200,000 figure came from an estimate done in July 2012.

After council members Stacy Szukala, Michael Michalski and Adelino Gonzalez expressed support for the resolution, Kiyak said she had several reservations about passing the resolution at this time, despite acknowledging the wall is in need of repair and could affect nearby infrastructure.

“However, at this time, this is not the case, and so we are basically considering replacing the wall for aesthetic purposes. I know that the argument can be made that the seawall should be addressed while work is being done on the bike path, which would save on engineering costs, as well as bonding and legal costs,” Kiyak stated. “But these costs are nominal when looking at the sum of the overall project. This project is estimated to cost taxpayers up to $2.5 million dollars.”

Kiyak then reminded council of the $17 million consent order at the water treatment plant, the state audit saying the previous administration misappropriated over $1.1 million and the need to document another $2.4 million that the city disbursed on behalf of HUD.

“As of today, we do not know where we stand with reimbursing HUD, and we’re not even sure there will continue to be a CDBG program available to the city in future years,” she continued. “NRG has recently taken a third generator out of service. It is still unknown how this will affect their PILOT payment to the city in 2014. This year alone, one large manufacturer has left the area, and another one is in the process of downsizing.

“There is also another resolution tonight addressing the necessary remedial work being ordered by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation mandating the cleanup of the marina property on Lake Shore Drive. The total cost of this cleanup to taxpayers is still unknown. State grants are diminishing overall, and we cannot rely on funding like we once did.”

Kiyak said a check showed there was no funds put aside for the $2.5 million or the $200,000 in the resolution.

“We have waited almost 10 years to address the seawall. Waiting for another year or two to see what happens with the NRG plant and the potential of repaying HUD funds seems like the fiscally responsible and prudent approach this council should be taking,” she stated. “So I’d like to ask my colleagues: is there something I’m missing here? Do we have money tucked away that I’m not aware of? Can you please tell the taxpayers the plan of how we’re going to pay for this project?”

Szukala said research showed two of the city’s funds could be used to pay back the seawall project and Fund I should have money when it is repaid funds due from Funds II and III.

Kiyak countered that it was obvious the wall needed to be repaired but it was not the time to risk spending the money.

Michalski replied that he didn’t think it was ever a good time to spend $2.5 million.

“The conditions down there are not getting any better, you can see it for yourself,” he stated. ” … It’s not going to get any better by itself. I just think it needs to get repaired and that’s what we have to do.”

Councilman William J. Rivera said he can get ill when he thinks about city finances.

“When it comes to the numbers it’s very uncomfortable. … I just think it’s been put off long enough and I just think we need to move forward with it,” he said.

Gonzalez said the city will never have enough money to fix everything that needs fixing and added the wall fix would cost more later on.

DPW Director Tony Gugino said he was worried about losing a $250,000 grant that expires at year’s end.

“I think that would be criminal to let that grant expire and go away. … It seems like for nine years there’s been a million reasons every year why it’s been put off,” he stated.

Kiyak said the discussion had not changed her mind and she would be voting no – and did.

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