Seawall resolutions tabled

Work on replacement of the Lakefront Boulevard seawall in the city of Dunkirk may still begin shortly, but it will likely start at least two weeks later than Mayor Anthony J. Dolce had figured, following the tabling of two resolutions by the Common Council at its meeting Tuesday.

Council tabled both resolutions dealing with the seawall, beginning with 45-2014, which covered the State Environmen-tal Quality Review Act work on the project, and 46-2014, which would have hired S. St. George Enterprises Inc. of Fredonia to do the work at a cost of $3,895,000.

Councilwoman Stacy Szukala made the motion to table both, with Councilman Michael Michalski providing the second before the 5-0 votes.

“Knowing that is one of the most costly and controversial issues we have faced as a council and administration, I would like to make a motion at this time to table this resolution in hopes that we can, in the next few weeks, get more answers and get on the same page,” Szukala stated as 45-2014 was considered. “We might not all agree at the end when we’re voting on this, but at least we will do our part in trying to come up with the answers that some still have out there at this time.”

Resolutions 42-2014 and 49-2014 each passed by 3-2 votes, with members Stephanie Kiyak and Adelino Gonzalez voting no, while Szukala was joined by Michael Michalski and William J. Rivera in allowing the passage. Neither resolution looked to cost the city any money, but money wasn’t the reason for the ‘no’ votes.

Support for the city’s effort to help with grant funding for a revitalization project for the former Regent Theatre building was the subject of 42-2014.

Gonzalez said it sounded like a good project but he had another concern.

“It seems that the past few months we’re getting a lot of resolutions that come up without any council discussion at all. … Council wasn’t able to ask questions as to how it all came about. … I think it’s a good idea but if you want to bring a resolution up, we should at least discuss it so we can see if it should be approved or not,” he explained.

Rivera said he’s been asked how the city became involved with a “public-private ownership.”

Development Director Steve Neratko said as part of the grant process a council resolution of support is needed, citing examples of successful grants for theatre projects, such as done in Gowanda and Springville.

“There won’t be any city funds going toward this project; we would just be assisting the building owner in obtaining grant funding for the project. It would be roughly a 20 percent grant match, (Jim Payne) would have to come up with the other 80 percent.”

Both Neratko and Dolce said the grant process was weeks shorter than in prior years.

“I will also be voting ‘no’ for this because council has a responsibility to ensure that they know what they’re voting on before they pass it, and the deadline being changed from August has been known for weeks now,” Kiyak stated. “So again, it should have been discussed at the economic meeting, or since that meeting, prior to Friday.”

Neratko pointed out the application was due before the next council meeting.

Rivera said he was uncomfortable with the timelines as well, “but because of the historical value of that structure being that it is one of the only remaining, is the only reason I’m very open minded.”

Before calling for a vote, Kiyak had more to say about timing.

“I don’t mean to be severe and admonishing, but I’m just letting you know that getting the packet on Friday to vote on something on Tuesday, without any other information other than getting it in the packet, is not enough.”

The other 3-2 vote was on filling the vacancy council had just created in the Boardwalk Market when it voted 5-0 to release the owners of the Brown Bean from their lease.

Before the vote on 49-2014, Dolce described the process and proposal from Aisling Heenan and answered questions about the project from Michalski, saying the plan was to have a salad bar and sandwiches.

“I don’t have problem with the business going in there, I just wanted to at least have a chance to discuss it. … Was it offered to anybody (else), etc.,” Gonzalez stated before adding he was voting against it.

“I think there is a misconception out there that people are dying for these spaces. We took one that we think is going to be very viable,” Dolce said before the vote.

Kiyak said her two concerns were about the advertising for the opening and the lack of prior discussion when explaining her upcoming ‘no’ vote.

After the meeting Kiyak said the two-week delay in voting on the seawall project would not impact the project. As for the ‘no’ votes she and Gonzalez cast, she said it was about the process.

“There’s a process and procedure for resolutions to come to council’s attention prior to going to a council meeting. Doing it on a Friday afternoon, no correspondence before then, no correspondence even from Friday until then, no heads-up from anyone that’s involved with this, is not allowing the council to do its due diligence,” she added. “Ultimately, we’re responsible. It’s not just a simple part of the process that these people are putting together an agenda and we are the last part of that process, and to just be almost thought of as an aside, it’s not. Our names are going on this. People voted for us to make sure that we are watching out for their best interest, all of the time.”

After the meeting, Dolce said the seawall project would be pushed back “but in all likelihood we’ll still be able to sneak it in this year.”

“I am very comfortable with how Steve (Neratko) and myself handled it and went about finding one extremely worthwhile project to seek grant funding for, an opportunity to revitalize our downtown. So why there is any, any, concern about supporting that, is very disheartening,” he said of the Regent project. “In reference to the Boardwalk resolution, … this opportunity presented itself to us while we were in the midst of being very active to try and secure a new tenant. I mean it’s not good for any of the businesses to have an empty storefront. When this opportunity presented itself to us we felt it was a strong proposal. … Yes, I’m a little concerned that more than three days is needed to support rehabbing, the possibility, the opportunity, to rehab a building that’s been vacant for decades. … Why so much time would be needed to support the redeveloping of a vacant theatre, or filling a space at the Boardwalk with a viable business, I’m not so sure that that was very necessary.”

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