Council votes ‘no’ to property payment

A resolution that would have transferred $50,000 from the city of Dunkirk to the Dunkirk Local Development Corporation to allow the DLDC to make a Sept. 1 payment on lakefront property failed to get one vote during Tuesday’s Common Council meeting. The property is located at 18 Lake Shore Drive West and was purchased by the DLDC in 2010 for some $525,000 from the Bertges Family Partnership.

Councilwoman Stacy Szukala voiced her opposition prior to the vote on 70-2014, saying she voted for the payment last year, but at that time had no plans to do so again. Her hope was the property would have been sold or close to it by the 2014 payment.

“With the long list of items that we have to do in the city, including our fire halls needing work; a dredging grant that we need to match funds for; equipment in DPW; a seawall to pay for as well as aging infrastructure with 58 water breaks this year, I think our priorities need to be elsewhere rather than the vacant piece of property to yet again bail out the DLDC,” she added. “I think they were given ample time to do what they needed to do.”

“I will echo the same sentiments … I will be voting no,” Councilman Adelino Gonzalez stated.

Councilman Michael Michalski said he would also vote no and called for the mortgage holder to work with the city to get the payments restructured.

“Obviously they have no legal obligation to do so, but maybe it’s a good faith gesture,” he added.

Councilman William J. Rivera, who served as acting at-large for the meeting, said he had the same answer as Michalski.

“I would like to see the city reach out to the mortgage holder, the lien holder, right now to see if there’s anything we can work out. The city is in a position right now where we need every cent we can get,” Rivera added. “I hate to say this, but right now I just feel like we’re throwing good money after something bad. I will be voting no as well.”

With the defeat of the resolution Mayor Anthony J. Dolce was asked after the meeting what the defeat of the resolution meant for the property.

“It definitely puts the status in the unknown category,” he replied. “I will reach out to the mortgage holder (today) and relay council’s feelings about it and I just hope they know that the no vote could carry a potential default on the mortgage. … That would be a decision they could make after, I believe the bill is due Sept. 1, so any time after that if they decide to take title back, that would be something they could do.”

Dolce said the city and DLDC would forfeit all monies out into the property so far, a total of $350,000 in note payments and another $150,000 in parking lot costs.

“There’s been a significant investment in that area,” he stated. “Any chance we have of recouping money rests on us holding the title, so we’ll go from there.”

Dolce was asked if the no vote was a wise move by council.

“When you look at what the DLDC and city has already invested, and your only hope of recouping some, most, all, of your investment is if you hold title, if we don’t hold title you take away that possibility and you lose everything you invested,” he replied.

The resolution called for transferring the $50,000 from three budget lines; including $22,826 from a Development Department HUD repayment line, $22,173 from a personal services line in the Treasury Department and $5,000 from a Cable TV equipment line.

“They were lines that we were able to take from in order to pay a debt, an obligation. It is a significant obligation, but again, when you look at what you already invested, this is something you felt strongly of. In my opinion you probably would have wanted to do this when you owed more than less. So they could have done that a while back.”

Dolce was asked if he would consider calling a special meeting for a revote.

“The bill is due Sept. 1, our next council meeting is Sept. 2, but I’m sure that is something that can be worked out,” he replied.

Szukala was asked about the issue after the meeting and said her no vote was to be expected if no progress on developing or marketing the property had been made.

“There has been nothing provided to council that’s there’s been an effort at all. There’s nothing close to being settled for finding a developer or another purchaser,” she replied. “So at this time I believe we need to cut our losses, whatever they may be. The money is needed elsewhere.”

She said she was not OK with the forfeiture of money already put into the property.

“We can only keep going for so long without somebody else taking the responsibility for what they need to do and as far as I’m concerned they were given ample time to really try to do what needed to be done on that property,” she added. “It’s not an ideal situation by any means, but next year’s balloon payment is, I believe $150,000 or $125,000. This one was $50,000, so you add another $200,000 on top, it’s money that needs to be spent elsewhere.”

Szukala was asked if the DLDC should go out of business.

“I believe they should have disbanded a long time ago,” she replied. “I don’t believe that they work as a team. I don’t know what the logistics are, but I do believe that the committee itself should not be in existence any longer.”

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