Common Council has DPW?discussion

The Department of Public Works was a topic of discussion during this week’s Dunkirk Common Council meeting. Councilwoman-at-large Stephanie Kiyak had questions about a letter sent by DPW Director Tony Gugino in mid-June.

Kiyak read the summary paragraph at the end of the letter which said the DPW is unable to do any of the normal preventive maintenance around the city at this time including tree trimming, coal patching, flushing of the hydrants, painting of school zones and crosswalks, and more. The projects “… must be postponed until time and manpower is available,” Kiyak read at the end of the letter. She had questions why, if no changing in staffing, this work is being postponed.

According to Mayor Anthony J. Dolce, a daily log is emailed to council members of what the DPW does on a day-to-day basis.

“We can all agree they are doing a sufficient amount of work on a day-to-day basis,” Dolce said. “If there’s anything specific on there that you don’t think is a good use of time, feel free to ask Tony (Gugino) or I. They’re doing the work; it’s just not being done as fast as we know it to be done.”

While there is summer laborers in the department working part time, Gugino said they are not trained to operate equipment. Later on the agenda was a resolution to transfer funds from the vehicle fuel line to the tree trimming line in the amount of $20,000. The city’s tree trimming truck is in need of repairs and the transfer would cover the cost of the repair.

Fourth Ward Councilwoman Stacy Szukala said she did not feel comfortable voting in favor of taking money from a line heavily used.

“I have a lot of concerns about taking $20,000 from the fuel line. We all share that concern of the unknowns with the end of the year coming up,” Szukala said.

Szukala also had questions about how many trees could be cut if the truck was not fixed and where else the money could be taken from within the budget as they sit down to start discussing next year’s budget in the coming months. She was also leery about taking funds from a gas budget line when the price of gas may not stay at a current rate.

Gugino said that gas prices should not be an issue and the department has been under budget for gas.

“Even when gas prices were quite high, we were 9.1 percent under budget,” Gugino said. “When you translate that into dollars, we had ballpark about $14,000 (under budget)…”

Gugino said he is comfortable spending the $20,000 to fix the truck now. He also said it is more beneficial for the city to trim trees in-house rather than contract out. The tree truck was purchased two years ago and the city bought it at an auction. By purchasing it used, the city saved more than $100,000 and the truck still has about seven years of usage left. Dolce said a tree truck is beneficial to the city to stay on top of the trimming list.

In addition to Dolce’s comments, Gugino said since bad storms and emergency situations arise, which is why the city needs a tree truck.

“Being on council for many years, I remember when we went without one. That (tree trimming) list adds up quick. Those calls come in frequently and that list becomes unattainable,” Dolce said. “If we go the rest of this year without cutting any trees, that list expands again and we’re behind the eight ball.”

Gugino said that last year the city finally got caught up with the trimming, but the city did go over budget trying to catch up from previous years. The budget transfer resolution passed with a vote of 3 to 1 with Szukala voting against it.

Comments on this article may be sent to smcdonnell@observertoday.com.