Committee checking on department efforts

It was over much quicker than usual but the Dunkirk Common Council Economic Development Committee meeting Wednesday covered several topics.

Councilwoman-at-Large Stephanie Kiyak chairs the committee and began by asking Development Department Director Steve Neratko if the city has heard about its Community Development Block Grant one- and five-year plans. The plans were submitted to the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development in mid-August.

“We have not heard anything back from them yet, we do have a meeting scheduled with them next week just to go over the past and the future of the program. … We haven’t heard anything on the one- and five-year plans,” Neratko replied. “I think that’s actually a good thing because they didn’t come back and ask us for anything more.”

Kiyak also asked about CDBG activity and was told there has been none. She then wanted to know if a meeting has been scheduled with Boardwalk Market tenants and was told the first week of October was a tentative time.

“You’ll be sending an actual letter out to them so no one can say they didn’t know about the meeting?” she asked.

Neratko said he has been meeting with the tenants but pointed out that Deputy Director of Development Lacy Lawrence will now be the lead person for the Boardwalk Market. Kiyak then talked about the ATM at the Boardwalk, stating she had asked for a request for proposals to see if the city could get a better deal.

“It turns out there was indeed a contract and we missed the opportunity to go out to an RFP because the contract stated there was a 30-day time frame in which to question whether we were going to renew again or not. And we missed the deadline so they have automatically been renewed for five years,” she explained. “So, perhaps you can ask the law department for a copy for your files.”

Kiyak then asked Lawrence, who will be overseeing the festivals next year, if she will be putting together a questionnaire to send out to vendors.

“Basically to ask their opinions and what can be improved upon, what they didn’t like, what they did like, so perhaps you can put something together, maybe even reach out to council to let us know that you’re putting something together in case there’s some ideas that maybe (Fourth Ward Councilwoman Stacy Szukala) or someone else might have to fill in that questionnaire,” Kiyak stated. “I’m thinking it’s September, so by the next meeting perhaps you’ll have a completed questionnaire to be able to present.”

Neratko added that it would go to both vendors who came and ones who didn’t.

“Just something to help us to be able to plan next year,” Kiyak added.

Asked about the land bank program, Neratko said there wasn’t a lot of news but the city is working with the county on a grant application. Neratko said a preliminary list of some 20 properties has been submitted to show the city does have a need for the program. Side lot disposition is another aspect of the program.

“Their main program is that they will sell the property, basically with attachments to it. If you purchase this property you will put in X amount of dollars, you sign a contract stating that you will put so many dollars into the property and if they don’t do that they’ll take the property back,” Neratko explained. “The properties are out there for folks who are interested in taking over a piece of property and fixing it up and either living in it themselves, or there is potential for people renting them out as well.”

It was also reported that the Main Street Grant program is just getting off the ground; the planning board is scheduled to meet Sept. 26 to review the site plan and short-form SEQR for the Chadwick Bay Marina restaurant-facility project; and the city may have to pay a portion of cleanup costs for both the former Bertges property and the marina property.

“We have submitted documentation regarding ownership over the years …. it’s up to them at this point,” Neratko said of state agencies that will decide who gets billed and how much.

Kiyak said both she and Szukala wanted to know if the city is contacting local businesses to see how they’re doing.

“We were hoping that perhaps now that Lacy has joined the department there would be time to go to the businesses, … somehow reach out and come back to the council and at each meeting let us know who you met with … and just giving us an update,” she added.

“I will say that I meet with business owners every day. It’s just that telling which ones I meet with and every conversation I have would be crazy,” Neratko replied.

Kiyak said there were some businesses the city doesn’t talk to and can’t know if they have a problem.

Neratko said a more formal process for some of the bigger meetings would be more appropriate. Kiyak said she would advise Szukala to contact Neratko if she has formal questions.

The city’s participation in StartUpNY with SUNY Fredonia was also questioned. Neratko replied that both he and the mayor have been invited to meetings with SUNY Fredonia officials, who are putting their committee together.

“They really would like to push Dunkirk, the Incubator is here,” Neratko added. “We’ll see how it goes, right now we don’t have a ton of information yet but we have had a meeting. They’d love us to be involved.”

After the meeting Kiyak explained that her agenda plan is to keep issues alive.

“It’s about a followup of what’s been asked or promised from the previous meeting brought to the table again so that we can know where we stand with it,” she added. “I think that with the transition with Tim being in a new position, with Nicole Waite taking over CDBG and Lacy Lawrence now being the Deputy Director of Development, with all of this transition right now I think that I’ll have a better feel of what the development office is moving forward with as far as what are their plans, going after more grants, what have you.

“I knew there wouldn’t be a lot of answers because of the transition going on right now, but it’s important to meet once a month to touch base regardless of whether there’s anything really new going on.”

The next meeting has yet to be scheduled.

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