Dolce shares highlights in annual State of the City

“Let’s get into it.”

With that statement Dunkirk Mayor Anthony J. Dolce began his State of the City address Friday afternoon at Dunkirk High School. He mentioned just about everything that happened in 2013, major and minor, before moving to this year’s plans.

Among the highlights was the Dunkirk Local Development Corporation getting a repayment from the Clarion Hotel.

“What that lead to was Dunkirk IDA going through and having a mortgage tax abatement,” Dolce stated. “It allowed the Clarion to repay the DLDC and the city the full amount, so we’re all squared away with the Clarion Hotel.”

The federal Department of Housing and Urban Development and its funding ability continues to be part of the city’s future.

“Our HUD situation has been much reported over the last couple years. What we have done is attempt to work with the businesses to resolve many of those past issues. It hasn’t always been very successful,” Dolce stated. “What we do know is the city will be required to pay back six figures, number to be determined, and have to pay it back using tax dollars, your tax dollars, within a relatively short amount of time. That’s what we do know. The numbers are still being negotiated.”

Dolce added Fiscal Affairs Officer Rich Halas was in Buffalo Friday meeting with HUD officials.

“What we do know is in 2014 we will be back out there with the HUD dollars putting out programing, infrastructure, the roads, the houses,” Dolce said. “So we will be getting that money back out into the community.”

Two areas of the city will be the focus for HUD money. The short-term area is around Washington Park while the long-term area is the eastern entrances to the city, routes 5 and 60.

“Our focus in those areas will be mainly on the housing stock and infrastructure,” Dolce stated.

Work on the water treatment and supply system will continue under a 2009 consent order.

“With Phase I we’re now 95 percent complete,” Dolce stated. “It has taken over three and a half years to get to this point and it has cost about $10 million to get there, but things are moving where they should be.”

As for the proposed North County Water District, the mayor said city officials have been working on it.

“We’ve had ongoing discussion and internally, we feel we have come up with alternatives to that plan that make it more efficient, more viable options,” Dolce explained, adding the West End water project was completed on time and “puts us in the position to provide water outside the city so that is something we will look to do.”

Dolce said the many visits to the city by elected officials demonstrated a rapport that helped get things done.

Showing a picture of Gov. Andrew Cuomo at the Clarion Hotel in December, Dolce said the news Cuomo brought couldn’t have been any better.

“With that news Gov. Cuomo brought it really allowed everything else to happen going into 2014 and brought us the momentum that we need to keep things going. … Every stakeholder got behind the cause and it worked, it really worked, and I can’t thank the governor enough for recognizing how vital NRG is to our community and I know we all look forward to seeing that conversion take place in the next couple years.”

A fire hall study, work on water pipes, the state’s reconstruction of routes 5 and 60 in the city, along with City Hall were on the mayor’s agenda.

“City Hall is in need of some attention,” Dolce stated. “Our roof is leaking in places, causing damage to the interior walls and also some of the window wells are not in the greatest of shape. We’ll be making some improvements there.”

Upgrades to the city’s accounting software led to a direct savings of $90,000, according to Dolce. He also cited the real-time aspect of the new system which aided in monitoring and control of expenses.

Dolce said the 2013 budget results were currently being audited and added the city has had a 19-year run of positive audits. He noted there was $2.6 million in construction in the city during 2013 that included two new residential units, renovations, additions, alterations and repairs to houses in the city.

Talks with a potential developer for the former Bertges site, for which the DLDC still owes the former owners $200,000 are in the early stages Dolce stated. Another try at SUNY 20/20 grant for development of a science center between the Clarion and Tim Hortons has been undertaken. Dolce said the Main Street grant program will focus on 100 and 200 blocks of Central Avenue. In addition, he said the Roberts Road Redevelopment Project should begin this year.

“It really is an honor to present this. It’s one of the things I look forward to in my job. As you can see, we have a great deal of challenges ahead of us but it’s one of those things,” he said in closing. “You face them, you get through them, you come to some sort of a resolution and we move on.”

Send comments to gsnyder@observertoday.com