Council, DLDC board hold joint meeting

A joint meeting between members of the city’s Common Council and the Dunkirk Local Development Corporation board of directors was held Wednesday, the purpose being an exchange of information.

The main focus of conversation was the former Bertges property, purchased by the DLDC for $525,000 in 2010. Council recently transferred $17,000 to the DLDC to allow it to make a $50,000 payment due to the former owners.

According to the schedule of remaining payments, the DLDC still owes $201,538, including $50,000 due in September 2014 with the remaining $151,538 due in September 2015.

It was noted that counting the purchase price, the DLDC already has some $800,000 invested in the site.

In response to a question, Mayor Anthony J. Dolce said he has not included a payment on the property from the city in his tentative 2014 budget that is still being worked on. He added he plans to cut the DLDC from $50,000 to $30,000 in 2014.

Cleanup costs, possible future development and what might happen if the property can’t be sold were also part of the conversation. Councilwoman-at-Large Stephanie Kiyak asked if the city would be taking over the property from the DLDC if the city has to make any more payments.

“The ideal situation is we get the property out of the DLDC’s hands prior to the payment being due next year,” Dolce replied, adding he meant out of both the city and DLDC’s ownership.

Development Director Steve Neratko said a private lender could be sought if the DLDC can’t find the funding.

After the meeting, Neratko said its purpose was to discuss the future of the DLDC as an organization and the Bertges project.

“I think it was a very good conversation, it was one that was needed because there was a lot of confusion on both sides. In terms of the Bertges building, there’s no resolution as of today,” he stated. “We went over some of the options which include anything from our ultimate goal, which is to sell the property and get it developed.”

Neratko said when a project might get done was difficult to know.

“There’s too many unknowns right now. The HUD issues go into it, the environmental cleanup that’s happening, there’s just a lot going into it,” he explained. “We hope to have a resolution in terms of what is the future of the property within the next few months. We should hear from HUD by the end of the year and that will make it a much easier topic going forward.”

Neratko said there is a function for the DLDC.

“The DLDC does have some obligations,” he added. “We own property. We have a loan portfolio that we have to service and I think right now we’re just trying to get everything under control, get all the past issues behind us and then we will look for opportunities going forward for development. There’s always other grants we can go for.

Neratko was asked if there were changes planned for the DLDC.

“Not as of right now,” he replied. “I think the conversation will continue. Oct. 30 we’re going to have our regular DLDC meeting and I think the board will have a better chance to discuss that at that time.”

Kiyak was asked what was accomplished at the joint meeting.

I think it was more of a clarification for council to understand a little more of the role of the DLDC in general and the potential of what can be done with this property,” she replied. “It’s still all up in the air because it’s still all contingent on what we are still going to hear from HUD. We’re also still waiting to hear how much it’s going to cost to clean this property up. So in order to pursue a sale without knowing that, we’re still kind of in limbo but I think that some progress was made as far as having council ask a few questions. There’s really no resolution at this point as far as how to address the problem. I wish I had an answer at this point.”

Dolce was asked about paperwork involving DLDC loans and grants that were part of HUD’s concerns.

“There’s a lot of incomplete files, which was the purpose for us bringing on a DLDC administrator, to put those files together,” he replied. “So our paperwork is in order and new paperwork is being generated for the biggest albatross, which was the Clarion. We will have more information on that soon, we’re about at a resolution.”

Council is scheduled to meet in regular session on Tuesday while the next meeting for DLDC’s board is set for Oct. 30.

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