Progress check

Checking on progress. That might be one way to describe meetings of the Dunkirk Common Council Economic Development Committee.

The committee met Monday morning and received updates from several city officials. Director of Public Works Tony Gugino provide information on the city’s efforts to use solar power where possible, including both the water and wastewater treatment plants. Development Director Steve Neratko, Assistant Development Director Lacy Lawrence and CDBG Program Coordinator Nicole Waite provided updates on their areas, as did Youth and Recreation Director Tim Gornikiewicz.

Councilwoman-at-Large Stephanie Kiyak chairs the committee, which also includes councilmen William J. Rivera and Adelino Gonzalez, who was unable to attend the meeting. Kiyak described the meetings as basically updates “as much as what’s new.”

Neratko’s update on the StartUP NY program, the state proposal to provide tax-free zones in and around colleges was an example. Neratko said most of the city is within the one-mile area required as the SUNY Fredonia Incubator is considered part of the college campus.

“Right now the college is sort of putting together a plan of the types of businesses they would like to accommodate here. … The majority of the parcels that either the DLDC or the city owns are within that one-mile area,” he explained. “They’ve received roughly 700 or 800 applications in the western New York region, so that it is Fredonia and the colleges in Buffalo. We’ll see how it goes but there are some clauses. You can’t be a business that’s competing with other businesses in the area. You can’t be a retail or a restaurant.”

Neratko added he is putting a list with photos of properties in the city for the college to use.

After the meeting Kiyak said Neratko’s report on StartUP NY was “huge news and can make a large impact on our community.”

Neratko and Waite both talked about an update that was coming from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development on the city’s CDBG issues. Kiyak said that CDBG was a council responsibility.

“We were told at our followup meeting (with HUD) that that would come with conditions that weren’t necessarily enacted in the past because of those problems,” she replied. “We anticipate that will all be outlined in this letter, what we need to owe back and how we move forward. What we need to do in order to still have money available to implement within the community.”

Another topic was the Boardwalk Market which has some leases expiring in 2014. At this point, it was noted, all tenants are current with rent payments. Kiyak was asked if she had any preference for what she would like to see for tenants in the Market.

“Apparently we have three due in 2014 so we will be putting out an (request for proposal) to anyone who is interested in taking over the spot. Of course, the tenants that are already there can make their pitch to stay, if they so choose,” Kiyak stated. “It seems like you’ve got a pretty good mix right now. You’ve got the offering of food at the pizza place, the quaint little pub with Spikes, you’ve got the gift shops and you’ve got an ice cream tenant. … I would say that if we can maintain that amount of mix, that would be the best draw to going over there. I’m pretty happy with the food, beverage and gift shops.”

Kiyak was asked if new leases would contain clauses about operating hours.

“It’s been difficult to enforce and to tell tenants that they need to move in that direction. I’m all for it,” she replied. “Again, you’ve got people who complain. The tenants over there say there isn’t the foot traffic in the winter time to keep it open. But then, you’re not open, so you’re not inviting that foot traffic.

“I’ve made the argument in the past that just because we’re in an area that is cold doesn’t mean that things shut down. There’s other areas in western New York that are cold, Canada doesn’t shut down. So the idea that nobody shops in the winter is kind of silly. I’ve made myself very clear in the past that I think it should be open all year long, but again, if I’m in the minority and that’s not what everybody else wants, then my opinion doesn’t really count much does it?”

The next committee meeting date was not announced.

Send comments to gsnyder@observertoday.com