Council members pose different views amongst each other; Residents views differ
By David Yarger
Tuesday, the North Tonawanda Common Council met for its second meeting of the month. The meeting brought out several differences of opinion between council members, as well as some officials and residents.
First, Alderman Austin Tylec and Mayor Arthur Pappas disagreed on the appointment of Frank DiBernardo to the Planning Commission Board. The two went back-and-forth in conversation, as Tylec recommended another candidate for the position. According to the council members, the candidate Tylec was referring to submitted the application past deadline.
"She had a masters degree in planning from Albany, she's worked on multiple projects, DEC, engineering firms, and she's an NT resident," Tylec said.
Council President Eric Zadzilka asked, "She was after the deadline?"
Tylec replied, "She was - the next day. But that deadline was set by the mayor."
Pappas remarked, "It was quite past the deadline. ... It wasn't one day."
Tylec added, "My question becomes - Frank has been a reoccurring name and he'll easily join another board, but someone like her, this might be in her opening where she'd be interested and it's a rejected one and she might reluctant in the future. ... Her background on our Planning Board is something we could really utilize. Her professional experience, her education - I just think it's something we should question - not that Frank has no idea, it's just this individual exceeds expectations."
Alderman Bob Pecoraro backed Pappas and said, "It's the mayor's appointment, and the mayor does his due diligence to select the best person qualified for all the candidates. ... I would have to say the mayor did the right thing."
Tylec disagreed and asked Pappas if he noticed the candidate's extensive background, which Pappas replied, "She had a good background." Tylec then asked if anyone on the Planning Board had a degree in planning, which Pappas replied, "We have people with a planning background off the top of my head. I didn't appoint all of them, so I don't know if all of them have a actual degree.
"There are particular reasons why I chose who I did. First of all, therewere only three applicants. Two of them were late, over the deadline, and the one I chose had extensive planning deating with the NT school system ... and has a considerable amount of planning knowledge."
The council then approved the appointment of DiBernardo via a 4-1 vote (Tylec).
Later in the meeting, a resident presented environmental issues within the city after the council approved the state environmental quality review for the brownfield opportunity area.
The resident said, "I am concerned about the wetland on Sweeney Street," she said. "The importance of a wetland like ours, it should not be developed. The wetland has a carbon sink in it ...the trees absorb the carbon, the dead plant material will absorb into the water and stay there in the form of carbon. ... Knowing a little bit about drainage, you're gonna take over more of this stuff and there's going to be runoff into peoples neighborhoods."
The resident added, "You got kids, you got grandkids and, unfortunately, the Republican Party is totally blind, deaf and dumb to this issue. I hope you'll understand that (an) ever so small area such as the one I'm referring to on Sweeney Street, you wanna destroy something. You're destroying your kids future and your grandkids future."
In closing comments, Zadzilka replied, "All in all, we had a public hearing to hear what those people had to say about that wetland, about that area on Sweeney Street, and we listened to what people had to say. Republican, Democrat, Independence ... I don't appreciate anybody trying to make it a political state-wide generalization of how I care about what's going on in my community. Because party, or no party, were gonna work with anyone that wants progress in this city."
Another resident complained about the sidewalk situation in the city and urged the council to do something about jagged sidewalks that he saw cause injuries.
"A neighbor of mine fell and broke her hand recently on one of our sidewalks. A few years ago, my daughter fell and broke her hand, because of the horrid conditions of our sidewalks. I've spoken to the mayor and he said, 'If you do bring this up, you realize what it's going to do to our taxes?' Well, I don't really give a damn what it's going to do to our taxes. We've gotta start taking care of the people in the community. ... The sidewalks need to be addressed. They're deplorable," he said.
Zadzilka recommended the resident let the Department of Public Works know about the deficient sidewalks.
One resident did have positive remarks, as she praised the local first responders for the job they did in a recent house fire. The resident said the police and fire departments were very caring and helpful through the entire situation.
A Tonawanda resident questioned the council on why a local skate park was closed. The park was a tennis court that hadn't been used for the sport in some years. City Attorney Luke Brown told the resident it's a safety concern, that if someone were to get hurt on the city property, a lawsuit could occur. Brown recommended talking to the Department of Youth, Parks and Recreation to possibly set up a program that's sanctioned by the city.
The next City of North Tonawanda Common Council meeting is Nov. 6 at 6:30 p.m.