NT mayor notes 2018 accolades, 2019 goals during two-plus hour meeting
By David Yarger
Tuesday night, City of North Tonawanda Mayor Arthur Pappas gave the 2019 State of the City address to a well-attended audience at the Common Council’s first meeting of February.
Pappas’ address was eight pages in length, and took a mere 29 minutes to read, but he said it shows all the good and forward progress in the city.
To start, Pappas said, “This past year in office was a very busy, educational and exciting time as I worked with all of our department heads, employees and citizens of our great city.”
Pappas listed several venues and named several improvements residents will see in 2019.
Deerwood Golf Course will see repaved cart paths and a ticket office area; renovation to drainage and bunkers on the fawn course; installation of irrigation satellites and sprinkler heads (the process will last into 2020); and replacement of ash trees with new plantings.
Pappas said the Botanical Gardens along the Erie Canal have been cleared of debris and will be ready for weddings and other events this year.
Pinewoods Park Disc Golf Course will add nine holes of play.
Memorial Pool will potentially see a renovation/ new swimming facility depending on the results of a feasibility study.
Pappas added the Children’s Memorial Garden was unveiled in October 2018, which is located at Brauer Park, right next to City Hall. Of the garden, Pappas said, “It is a place of reflection, displaying the names of the children of the city who have passed. This could not have been done without the help of our Engineering Department, as well as local contractors, donors and volunteers, along with grants from Sen. Rob Ortt’s office and Assemblyman Robin Schimminger’s office. This was all accomplished without use of taxpayer dollars.”
Expansion was plenty in 2018 for North Tonawanda, and Pappas noted it in his speech, recognizing four new businesses opened on Oliver Street, including an expansion project from “Matt’s Music,” and formation of an Imagine Community Garden on Sommer Street. Additionally, the $20 million River’s Edge Apartments along River Road began construction last year, which sparked new investment and vibrancy to the waterfront, along with 100 new apartments.
For 2019, Pappas said it “looks like a year of growth for North Tonawanda.”
“Thursdays on the Water” will continue at Gratwick Riverside Park, as well as the Thunder on the Niagara boat races.
Also coming to Gratwick: a launch pass kiosk for boaters, which “Will allow visitors to buy a day pass at any day, any hour. It will be similar to the boat launch kiosks you see in downtown Buffalo,” Pappas said.
Pappas expects the Woodcock Brothers Brewering to open in the Wurlitzer Building early this year, along with Smart Growth Community funding projects, which will improve areas of Webster and Main streets, along with Gateway Harbor. Additionally, new developments, including Spot Coffee, will enter the old North Tonawanda History Museum building.
Regarding infrastructure, Pappas said $1.2 million was available for road improvements and around the same amount will be available in 2019.
Additionally, he said, “Under the direction of our new (Department of Public Works) Superintendent Mark Zellner, the DPW has milled and paved a record 15.08 lane miles of city roads in 2018. They also milled and hot-patched 168,222.6 square feet of city roads. The DPW will continue to work diligently with the help of the new milling machine/asphalt zipper, which has tremendously aided with road repair.”
Local businesses will see help coming to their sidewalks, as Pappas said the city is receiving a grant to repair them.
Pappas spent the majority of his time talking about the Water/Wastewater Department. The mayor said the Water Filtration Plant had its annual Department of Health water quality inspection. The city’s drinking water had no violations, and the plant is operating well.
In 2019, the plant will replace a broken backup generator and install new electrical units, which is expected for completion in late in the year or early 2020. Additionally, the plant’s Toellner tank is in need of $3 million in repairs. Pappas said the repairs will be performed in either 2020 or 2021.
Also, the Wasterwater Treatment Plant’s capital improvement plan will reveal several improvements come 2019-20.
“I spent a lot of time on this, because water is in the news constantly,” Pappas said. “We know what it’s been like around the country with water supply systems and what the government’s trying to do all across the United States. Right now, we’re in pretty good shape in our water plant and the quality of our water.”
Speaking of the Engineering Department, Pappas said Gateway Park improvements have already begun construction. Work will create restroom facilities with showers, a harbormaster office, more seating areas, electrical upgrades and extended docking space. The project is “tightly” slated for finish come June.
Other projects Pappas noted were the Sweeney Street Canal Wall dock extension; Main Street reconstruction green infrastructure improvements; the public safety action plan pedestrian improvements; the Niagara Riverwalk landscaping and signage improvements; the Connection Niagara Riverwalk to Empire State Trail; and the Botanical Gardens Living Shoreline.
Pappas also took a moment to thank the department heads for their work during the most recent winter storm.
“Every one of our departments didn’t miss a beat. Our streets were plowed, our water kept flowing, our police was out there, our fire departments were out there. …These people have been out in those frigid temperatures and this city did not miss a beat,” Pappas said.
Pappas stressed the importance of public safety in the city. He said the anti-bullying law “has served its purpose greatly.” In addition, the city started up a school resource officer program in conjunction with the NT School District, which places a North Tonawanda police officer in the high school every day through the school year.
The NTPD SWAT team received a $100,000 federal grant for specialized equipment and training. Additionally, North Tonawanda was ranked one of the safest cities in New York according to the National Council for Home Safety and Security.
The NT Fire Department was hard at work in 2018, as the unit responded to 3,439 alarms, which resulted in the busiest year in the department’s history.
Pappas finished his written address by adding, “It has been an honor and privilege to serve as your mayor, and I look forward to continue moving this city forward. I want to thank the department heads for their cooperation and effort during the past year, along with all our city employees. I would also like to thank the members of the Common Council for their support with making our city stronger. Most importantly, I would like to thank the residents for their comments, suggestions and for their support over the past year. In my mind, there is no doubt that working together means progress.”