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October 24, 2013

Ortt, Zehr prepare for mayoral contest

(Continued)

Tonawanda News — Ortt’s proposal to use $2 million of a $5 million surplus next year to keep taxes from rising was criticized by Zehr, who said she believes at least a portion of the remaining $3 million be considered for property tax breaks or a reduction in water and sewer usage fees. Ortt countered that the New York State Comptroller’s Office recommended the city keep at $1.5 million to $2 million in city reserves and that the city should be conservative on how it spends it surplus.  

Zehr noted that in her view the city should better-prioritize how it spends its money, including more of a focus on the city’s antiquated infrastructure, though Ortt said that the city has paved the majority of its main roads during the last three years, and has introduced a 2014 plan to begin focusing on the city’s water and sewer lines. 

Development

Zehr attacked Ortt for taking credit for a rash of development projects completed during his first term that were launched during the Soos administration.

But Ortt said that while he agrees Walmart, the Remington Lofts and portions of the Webster Street redevelopment were started under previous administrations, the push to close the deals and bring them to fruition were largely his doing. He also cited the redevelopment of the Lumberjacks Patio Grill property and the surrounding marina just south of Gratwick-Riverside Park as entirely his initiative. 

Zehr said the disheveled Oliver Street corridor has been largely ignored, and would require more attention from the city to draw business there. 

“If you want to attract business you have to clean it up,” she said. 

But Ortt said the city has applied for state funding to begin facade improvements, a venture modeled after the early resuscitation of Webster Street, which is now beginning to bustle. He also pointed to the development at the Buffalo Bolt Business Park, the use of Gratwick-Riverside Park for concerts and several new business in the downtown corridor. 

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