More work on site a former Niagara Motors site a possibility

By GIB SNYDER

OBSERVER City Editor

The site of a former city factory may be in line for more work as the state Department of Environmental Conservation had advanced a possible proposal to the Dunkirk Local Development Corporation, the current owners.

That additional environmental cleanup work has been a topic of the DLDC.

Development Director Steve Neratko told the board recently there is an opportunity to do the additional environmental cleanup at the former Niagara Motors site on Route 60 and Ice Cream Drive.

“It has been cleaned up so far to industrial standards. The DEC has come to us, it’s a voluntary program there’s no need to do this, but if we would like to clean it up to commercial or better standards, have a certificate that shows that it’s been cleaned up be available to use as a commercial site in the city of Dunkirk there is grant money available to do it,” he explained. “There does need to be a match, it’s $50,000 to $70,000. … However, we are able to use CDBG funds potentially. (CDBG Coordinator Nicole Waite) has been working with our HUD officials on exactly which route we would take. There’s a couple different routes. Either economic development or cleanup of slums and blight. For economic development to work we would need to have a business.”

Neratko added there was a commercial business that expressed interest but it went in another direction. He then opened the floor to the board for comment or discussion on the potential project, which has an end of the year timeline.

Member Steve Sek was concerned that a cleanup to commercial levels could be a waste of money if the site eventually has an industrial use. City Attorney Ron Szot pointed out the Common Council would have to allocate funds.

“I think if there was a business that was interested in the site right now we would be 100 percent behind cleaning it up. Unfortunately, the business that was potentially interested is not at this point,” Neratko said. “The option is there.”

Councilwoman-at-Large Stephanie Kiyak noted the DLDC would be a subrecipient of HUD funds and that would require plenty of paperwork. She wondered who would do that paperwork. Neratko replied that he, Assistant Development Director Lacy Lawrence and Waite would handle most of the paperwork.

The DLDC, and/or the city, would have to provide 10 percent of the final cost, estimated to be $550,000.

“They said have at least available up to $75,000. They were really hoping it would be closer to $50,000,” Neratko explained.

Both the DLDC board and council would have to approve the spending. A head count of DLDC members present indicated the board is in favor of pursuing the additional cleanup. Szot explained the DLDC would have to ask council to reallocate the CDBG funds and then HUD would have to give its approval.

“There’s a grant program available for this specific activity. … We’d like to take the next step to get it to commercial standards. It’s just do we want to take advantage of that grant,” Neratko stated. “It probably will only be there for the rest of the year. We have to make our decision.”

Szot asked if a relationship could be set up where the DLDC would take part in the cleanup provided the city can get the funds from the CDBG monies.

“They probably wouldn’t do that, but that puts the cap on it,” he added.

While there is no guarantee the grant funds would come through, Mayor Anthony J. Dolce said the project was picked for a reason.

“Apparently, this is the only potential project in this region, so that’s why,” Dolce explained.

Member Robert Fritzinger ascertained the project site is within a mile of the SUNY Fredonia Incubator in Dunkirk and noted the Startup NY program might be available to help with development. Fritzinger is the director of the Incubator and added regulations for the StartUp NY program have been published and there is now a 60-day comment period.

Fritzinger went on to say the state is asking for a list of all possible projects and there were at least 800 applications received by Empire State Development.

“The initial response to the program has been absolutely overwhelming. We need to put this on Dr. (Kevin) Kearns desk because he manages this,” Fritzinger added.

Neratko said the city is working with the college on the StartUp NY program.

“It would happen in 2014, but basically we would need to schedule a December meeting to have a resolution and a decision made at that meeting,” Neratko said of the cleanup, adding there were other items to consider as well.

Neratko told the board he would try to get all the necessary information to them before the end of November.

Dolce said it was a productive meeting.

“I particularly thought we had some good dialogue on the Niagara Motors cleanup,” Dolce explained. “What we’ll do is we’ll make sure that that pot of money is still out there from the DEC and then we’ll do a formal resolution at the next meeting.”

The DLDC board is scheduled to meet again Dec. 18 at 11 a.m.

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