Council approves marina loan resolution

It took six days and two changes, but the Dunkirk Common Council did agree Monday at a special meeting to approve a resolution that was tabled at last Tuesday’s regular meeting.

Resolution 70-2013 would have provided the new lender in Michael Gambino’s effort to build a restaurant-type facility at the Chadwick Bay Marina, Chicago-based Loeb Term Solutions LLC, access to the marina in the event Gambino defaulted on the loan. The resolution was tabled at the regular meeting on a 3-2 vote, with council members Adelino Gonzalez, Stacy Szukala and Councilwoman-at-Large Stephanie Kiyak voting to table, while Michael Michalski and William J. Rivera were opposed. Kiyak announced the special meeting the next day.

Prior to a final vote, council agreed to two more terms in 70-2013. The first would provide the city a first option to purchase the assets of Chadwick from Loeb for the outstanding loan amount due Loeb in the event Gambino defaults. The second addition states the city receives “insurance from Loeb in the event that Loeb proceeds with its default process against Chadwick.”

Prior to the vote, three members had statements to make.

“As of today we sat down, Mr. Gonzalez and myself, with Mr. Gambino. We hashed out some of the details and answered some of the questions that council did have at the time and I want to stress that at no point, was this ever anything to do with the progress in the marina itself. This resolution is only to approve the collateral list to buy out one partner from another, this was not money toward the actual marina,” Szukala stated. “After we sat down today, we discussed everything we needed to; I feel comfortable moving forward in this step, knowing that there will be many other steps that the council will have to approve at a later time.

Gonzalez thanked Gambino and Pucci for waiting as it took council a while to make sure everything was in order.

“We didn’t do this because we’re anti-business or anti-development in the city. The truth is that I am careful, and I’m sure she is also, in the way we do business in this city. I, or we, don’t want to make the same mistakes that other administrations have done in the past by going into contracts with business without crossing the t’s and dotting the i’s,” Gonzalez stated. “We have seen what this city has done before I came to council. Buying property that was not worth the value and providing loans without the proper (documentation), etc. We don’t want to make those mistakes. We want to make sure that everything is in proper order. We’re not doing this because we’re anti-business or anti-development. … I take my time to make sure that everything is in order and that everybody knows what they’re supposed to be doing; what is being blocked, what is not being blocked, everything is taken care of, we’re doing this because that’s what we’re elected to do; be transparent in everything that we do.”

Kiyak said the decision to table was not made in haste and she had many conversations with Gambino last week about the resolution and told him it would likely be tabled. She said council has an obligation to do its due diligence. She said a list of assets were checked to make sure city-owned property was not included.

“Asking questions after the fact, passing this resolution, obviously would be too late if the collateral did indeed contain items that did not belong to Mr. Gambino. It is unfortunate that the media has confused the public as to how this council views the progress of the marina so far and Mr. Gambino,” she stated. “I, for one, am thrilled that Mr. Gambino will transform the marina into a tourist destination, one in which fishermen and visitors will come and spend their time and dollars to enjoy; not to mention a destination that all residents will be able to enjoy year-round with a planned restaurant also in the works. Mr. Gambino assured me on a number of occasions that regardless of the outcome of this loan coming through, the marina project will continue on as planned.”

All three council members who spoke took issue with a Sunday editorial in the OBSERVER that criticized the tabling of the original resolution and council’s efforts in development. Rivera was absent from Monday’s meeting due to work while Michalski let his vote do his talking.

In a prepared statement given after the meeting, Gambino said he was pleased council approved the landlord consent agreement needed by his bank.

“This is a simple and common agreement that gives a lender the right to come on the marina property if I ever default on this loan in order to get their collateral. The agreement also says the city must notify the lender if I ever go into default of my lease. That is it, the city is not guaranteeing the loan as some have suggested,” he explained. “This loan allows me to buy out my partner, Mike Pucci, in the marina. I can now take the next steps to move this development project forward. While I will truly miss Mike as a partner, I completely understand his decision to not move forward with this project. When the grants that were promised to us for this project from the prior administration did not come through, it became a much more risky project in Mike’s eyes. I respect that, and wish him and his family all the best.”

Gambino also thanked Pucci for accepting the buyout which will allow the project to go forward.

Gambino still needs final approval of the planning board, which is scheduled to meet Thursday at 6 p.m., before council will have to give further approval. Gambino added he is working with the Chautauqua County Industrial Development Agency for assistance. Once everything else is in place, the city building inspector will have to approve the final building plans.

Gambino added that with any luck, he can start tearing down the existing building this winter to be ready for construction in the spring. Barring any other holdups from city officials, Gambino didn’t foresee any other obstacles for the project, but one.

If the NRG plant closes Gambino said the project would move forward but not on the same scale as currently planned.

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