By Jessica Bagley
The Tonawanda News
CITY OF TONAWANDA — City Engineer Jason LaMonaco requested more funds for sidewalk repairs at Tuesday’s council meeting in order to attend to city walkways that are in the worst shape.
LaMonaco said the money crunch stems from the city’s obligation to fill requests he receives from residents.
”It can become a liability issue,” LaMonaco said. “Once we have a letter and we don’t do anything about it, if someone falls, we can be liable for that.”
As a result, the city has been spending the bulk of the money on written requests, which often are not the worst sidewalks in the city.
LaMonaco rates the sidewalks on a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the most damaged. The worst sidewalks have the highest likelihood it could lead to an injury, or aren’t accessible for handicapped individuals.
If the city uses the currently budgeted money, it will likely be used up with the written requests and the sidewalks rated as 10s and 9s won’t be fixed.
”Essentially that means no one else is served,” Council President Carl Zeisz said.
So LaMonaco would like an extra $10,000 of capital bond funds for the repairs. That way, he could attend to all written requests in addition to those rated 10s, as a well as a large chunk of the 9s. Zeisz said he wants to discuss the issue with council members before making a decision on the matter.
The city is hoping to hand off ownership of sidewalks — and the responsibility to repair them — to residents and may do so after a home’s sidewalk has been fixed.
”Ironically, that may cut down on the smaller requests we have coming in,” LaMonaco said.
The council also discussed the possibility of opening up Luksin Drive, but Zeisz said the issue is now off the table after council members received feedback from residents since the last meeting.
”I went down there over the holiday weekend,” First Ward Council member Heather Little said. “The majority of people don’t want it open, and don’t want the thru-traffic. They are worried about not only the traffic, but the speed limit.”
The only city council member who is in favor of the opening, Blake Boyle, was not at the meeting.
But LaMonaco, who used to live in the area, echoed Little’s worries, and Zeisz ended the discussion, saying he didn’t see the benefit of reconnecting the roadway to the Twin Cities Memorial Highway.
The council also passed a resolution that will allow retiring city employees to cash out two unused sick days per pay period within two years of their anticipated retirement date. The employee must inform the mayor of his or her decision to take advantage of the new policy in writing.
”It’s a benefit to us because we are paying them at their current rate,” Zeisz said.
Prior to the discussion of the new policy and other agenda items, Zeisz announced the council would be going to executive session to discuss ongoing negotiations with Natale Corp. concerning the possible sale of Little League Drive.
Gayle Syposs, chair of the city Democratic committee, asked to comment, and said she believes the discussion must happen in regular session per Open Meetings Law, because the topic may involve the sale of city land.
”It’s a hot topic, and the community is better served if we are kept informed,” she said.
But City Attorney Ronald C. Trabucco had the last word and quoted a section of law that says the city is allowed to go into executive when discussing appointing or removing personnel or a corporation.
”You’re right, but so am I,” Trabucco told Syposs.
Contact reporter Jessica Bagley at 693-1000, ext. 4150.