Tonawanda News

July 31, 2013

Nearly $2 million in projects approved

By Michael Regan
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — Two projects totaling nearly $2 million were approved by the North Tonawanda Common Council Tuesday with work for both expected to begin in September. 

After years of debate and behind-the-scenes work to move the expansion of Meadow Drive forward, the council approved a bid for more than $1.4 million, largely offset by federal funding, that officials say will ease traffic congestion along Erie Avenue. 

Another $406,000 green infrastructure project along Webster Street is also projected to begin by September. The scope of that work entails installing “rain gardens” along Webster Street between Sweeney and Goundry streets to alleviate pollution runoff that flows into the Erie Canal by filtering it out through a tiered garden system. That project was funded with a $575,000 state grant. 

City Engineer Dale Marshall said both projects should be wrapped up by mid-November, just before the chance of inclement weather encroaches on the region. 

The Meadow Drive expansion is of particular relief to city officials who spent years navigating through a variety of hurdles that involved obtaining wetland approval from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, securing easements through railway land owned by CSX, purchasing slivers of property owned by private residents and formulating a scaled-down version of the project after initial costs began to skyrocket. 

The project was rebid after it was already approved in early July and was raised by roughly $50,000 to align with federal prevailing wages, with 80 percent of the project’s funding coming from federal grants. The city plans to contribute roughly $90,000 to the project, though current estimates show $300,000 left over in grant funding. 

Marshall said the green infrastructure project was held off until the fall to avoid causing disruptions downtown during the busy summer season. 

“But we’re trying to give it as early a start as we could,” he said. 

The council also held a public hearing for a plan to offer tax incentives for those who “deconvert” multiple unit dwelling into single-family homes, which has received unanimous support among lawmakers.

The sparsely-attended hearing did have one detractor, Debbie Fishel, who said she purchased and converted three properties on Ganson and Schenck streets and said she did not like the tone of the proposal that would offer $1,000 a year for 10 years to property owners who underwent the transition. 

“I just feel like they’re discouraging landlords,” said Fishel, who moved to North Tonawanda several years ago and relies on her properties for income. 

Yet council members and Mayor Rob Ortt said the measure would likely receive approval in the next few weeks as a means to combat a 33 percent rental rate in the city. 

In other council news: 

• Alderman-At-Large Mal Needler made a brief appearance near the end of a work session meeting Tuesday to a round of applause by the rest of the council and the mayor. Needler suffered a serious heart attack in late June and attended the meeting to participate in interviews to replace outgoing Alderwoman Nancy Donovan, who will retire next week before her term ends. 

Contact reporter Michael Regan at 693-1000, ext. 4115.