The possible demolition of three buildings in the city of Dunkirk moved a step closer Monday, but the Common Council was not unanimous in approving the needed resolutions.
Chapter 18 of the City Code, which is titled “Buildings or Structures, Unsafe,” provides the process for Building Inspector Allan Zurawski to proceed on demolitions; with council directing him, by resolution, to begin by inspecting the premises.
Resolution 63-2014 directed Zurawski to inspect premises at 107 Lord St.; 64-2014 covered 165 W. Fourth St.; while 65-2014 deals with a barn 220 Franklin Ave. Councilwoman Stacy Szukala asked Zurawski how he gains access to the buildings. He replied that council gives him the authority and he must report back with his findings.
“When we get into these situations we need to go into Chapter 18,” Zurawski added.
Councilwoman-at-Large Stephanie Kiyak voted no on all three resolutions, while Councilman Michael Michalski cast a no vote on 64-2014.
Prior to the votes, Kiyak asked how it is determined that the three properties should be put on the top of the list.
“These are the properties I consider dangerous structures,” Zurawski replied, adding that because a property is in foreclosure doesn’t mean a bank owns it.
Zurawski said the cost of demolition can vary depending on several things, including asbestos abatement, which could run from $2,000 to one that cost $45,000.
Kiyak called for funds to be recouped by the city before demolitions occur.
“What’s to stop other people from investing in a property and they don’t feel like taking care of it and it falls into disrepair,” she continued.
“The city taxpayers are now paying for it, regardless of whether it’s a pool of money that’s at the county level or a pool of money that’s at the city level, we’re all contributing to the pools so I have a concern,” Kiyak added.
Zurawski said he understood the concern but dangerous buildings need to come down.
“We’re going to watch our costs as we normally do. We’re going to do everything we can … to keep our costs down,” he added.
Before the vote on the 165 W. Fourth St. property, Zurawski said that owner may be within the city’s legal reach, which extends as far as adjoining counties, according to state law.
“I think we need to make sure that somehow, the city attorney, we are putting pressure on these people to do this themselves before we even go in and consider cleaning it up,” Szukala stated.
Zurawski said this property might have an owner cleanup. In addition, the building has collapsed and the utilities have been disconnected.
After the meeting, Kiyak was asked why she voted no on the inspection resolutions.
“What is to stop me from allowing my garage to fall into itself and I don’t do anything and now all of a sudden the city comes in and takes care of it for me?” she asked in response. “I have a problem with the fact that demolitions, I’ve been told, range anywhere from $4,000 to $8-10,000 apiece because of expensive potential for asbestos; and the fact that no financial consideration is being given to any of the property owners when it comes to creating this list. This was a question I did ask the building and zoning officer prior to this, whether that is taking place, and he said ‘no.’
“There should be a process for determining that there are indeed no other avenues to recoup this money before we just do it. It seems like that’s been the way it’s been done for too long and in order to encourage that department to do a little more thorough investigation, I thought that I should vote no and maybe that would give it some attention. That’s all I can do.”
Kiyak was asked what she would like changed about the city’s efforts to contact owners of delinquent properties.
“If there’s a foreclosed property we should at least be contacting the bank and telling them that this property is not within the code standards of the city and that they have a responsibility as property owners and that’s not currently being done,” she replied. “It wasn’t specifically these three. … (Zurawski) said he’s also not sending out letters, so the idea that it’s just on the list and yes, they’re dangerous and we’re going ahead and spending money on these properties without going through the motions, the proper motions. We have a full-time city attorney. If he didn’t want to do it have the city attorney do it. The fact that it’s not being done, I have a problem with that. It’s been talked about in the past in committees and nothing has changed. Today was a time that I was going to act on that.”
Council also approved: an agreement with Dunkirk City School District for a school resource officer; the rehiring of Animal Control Officer Steve Purol; the employee compensation for Dunkirk Housing Authority workers and a list of budget modifications.
Council will meet again on Aug. 19.
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