Tonawanda News — After months of campaigning, new mayor Rick Davis is getting accustomed to his office in city hall and prioritizing his many goals for Tonawanda.
“It’s been a relief to finally be here,” Davis said. “Back in March, it seemed like this day would never come. It’s a lot more fun when you win.”
Davis, a two-term Democratic councilman, ran against Ron Pilozzi in 2009 and lost by just 150 votes. His second attempt for the position in November was more successful, and he beat the Republican incumbent — winning 55 percent of the vote.
Davis, who also works as a meteorologist for the Federal Aviation Administration, was sworn in Wednesday along with the four new council members.
“It was heartwarming to see a packed courtroom for the swearing in,” he said. “It was my first day to make sure the ship is steered in the right direction.”
One of Davis’ first priorities is to sit down with Natale and discuss the proposed contract for the controversial housing development on the vacant 16.94-acre property on Little League Drive.
Davis and the new Democratic council members have spoken out against the current deal, which specifies a $192,000 sale price for the property. Under the contract, Natale will pay for the infrastructure costs, valued at about $1.8 million, and at the developer’s request, the 53 homes will fall under the state’s condominium status. As a result, the homes will be assessed at about 65 percent of their construction value.
Put simply, homeowners whose properties cost $250,000 to buy will pay taxes as if the home was worth $162,500.
“I want to sit down with Natale and see if there is some common ground, because with the council as it sits right now, there isn’t support,” he said. “I want to see if we can sharpen the pencil a little bit.”
Davis said he would like to avoid putting out another request for proposals if possible.
“I would like to see if we can move forward with Natale. I am cautiously optimistic that we can find some common ground.”
Davis also pointed to his hopes for the city’s economic development. He hopes to create a committee made up of residents who have a background in grants and development.
“I’d also like to make downtown a historic area, where business owners would have to get their changes approved by the city before changing anything,” he said.
Apart from larger community development projects — including marketing of the Spaulding Fiber property — he also noted initiatives that would spruce up downtown with historic touches, new benches and more flowers that would help the look of the city’s businesses.
Davis said he anticipates that he will be able to work well with the council to further the city.
“I think my role with the council is going to be great, and I get along with each one of them,” he said, adding that he grew up with Republicans John “Jay” Hall and Chuck Gilbert.
Gilbert agreed with Davis.
“Our city is small enough that after the election is over, we can forget the silliness of politics and do what is best for the city,” he said. “Rick will want to work with us as much as we want to work with him.”
Contact reporter Jessica Bagley at 693-1000 ext. 4150, or follow her on Twitter @JessicaLBagley.