By Lauren Zaepfel
The City of North Tonawanda Common Council appointed Joseph Sikora as the new fire chief of the North Tonawanda Fire Department Tuesday.
"I'm very thankful and very humbled and I won't let you down," Sikora said.
He will replace retiring fire chief John C. Lapham effective April 8.
"I'd like to thank Chief Lapham for his years of service here in North Tonawanda and all he's contributed to our community and to our fire department," City of North Tonawanda Mayor Arthur G. Pappas said. "Being an officer of any kind, and especially when you get the position of chief, it's certainly not an easy position, as everybody knows, and it takes a lot to take on that kind of a job."
All members of the Town Board wished Lapham all the best on his retirement and congratulated Sikora on his new endeavor.
"I think, with Chief Sikora, we have picked a top individual to follow Chief Lapham," Pappas said. "I know you're going to do a good job, so thank you."
After the meeting, Sikora said he would like to "keep the department going in the direction Lapham has it going in. ... We've got a great department with a great bunch of guys, so there's not a whole bunch to change right now."
Sikora will have served at the fire department for 26 years in August. He has been assistant chief for the past 12 years.
In other news
•The council accepted the resignation of Robert W. Welch as administrative assistant to the mayor.
Welch is moving on to the Lockport district office of New York State Sen. Robert G. Ortt.
The council thanked Welch, and expressed gratitude for his work.
Pappas said Welch "certainly made my job a lot easier when I first got into the position of mayor. He really made a nice transition for me between former mayor Ortt and myself. The job would have been an awful lot harder without Bob and his expertise and knowledge that he had with the five years that he ... was in that office."
"He did a good job for everyone up here," Common Council President Philip "Russ" Rizzo said. "With a heavy heart, I will accept the resignation of Bob Welch."
The council welcomed Peter Drossos as the new administration assistant to the mayor.
Drossos, a Grand Island native, has a B.A. from the University of Missouri and has recent work experience in the pharmaceutical and insurance industries. Drossos is in the process of relocating to the City of North Tonawanda.
"I think I picked a good guy here with Peter to take (Welch's), place because he's very excited about it, very enthusiastic," Pappas said. "He has a lot of knowledge behind him and has had several different experiences, which I think will add a lot to our city and the mayor's office."
•North Tonawanda resident David Fingerlow asked the council why residents who live along curbed streets cannot park on their terrace.
The town code states terrace parking on curbed streets requires a permit from residents, except from Nov. 1 to April 15.
Residents parking on streets without curbs can park on the terrace any time.
"I can see the boats, commercial vehicles, recreational vehicles, trailers, RVs, whatever - it's a hazard - but just regular household vehicles? It's ridiculous," Fingerlow said.
"We're still in the middle of trying to find an answer to benefit everybody. We're having a hard time and we're working on it and we're going to come up with something," Rizzo said.
Pappas said, "The neighborhoods have changed dramatically, especially some of the older neighborhoods that once (were) family homes and everybody had one vehicle or maybe two at the most - a lot of these areas now are multiple dwellings. And we have families living there now ... (who) have many more cars now and vehicles.
"These homes and these streets and these neighborhoods weren't built for all the vehicles. So therefore, we have parking problems - curbs versus non-curbs."
Overall, Pappas said, "No matter what decision is made, it's not going to fully apply to everyone in terms of what we say, fairly, because it's impossible, due to the nature of our city."
He added, "Have we found the right answer? I don't know, I don't think so. Will we? I don't know, but we'll keep trying. But in the meantime, it is what it is."
•The council approved an engineer agreement with WSP/Parsons Brinkerhoff for Nash Road and Payne Avenue Road repurposing.
The study would include traffic counts and a public information meeting would be held.
"We had met with the traffic safety committee to study the traffic (effects) of changing Nash Road from a four-lane highway to three. One northbound lane, one southbound lane and one ... (center) turning lane," said City of North Tonawanda Engineer Dale W. Marshall. "It was well-received by the traffic safety committee."
"If we do convert that to a three-lane road, it will affect parking on Nash Road and we want to make sure the public has our backing on that. It's been done with great effect by Erie County and other municipalities local to us," Marshall said.
"It works and it eliminates the weaving of the road where you have people pulling out if somebody's going left into their driveway. It eliminates that car crossing two lanes of traffic to get in its driveway and it also calms the traffic. In other words, if it's one lane northbound and southbound, and you have everybody doing the speed limit, everybody's doing the speed limit. So it has that effect; you can move the same volume of traffic at a reduced speed."
The other portion of the study would look into consolidating the portion of Payne Avenue, between Walk Road and Meadow Drive from four lanes to two.
"It's already a two-lane road and people made that into a four-lane road. So our idea there is to study that and make that into a safe center turning lane, also to eliminate side-by-side northbound weaving in front of Mid City Plaza to make that safe."
Alderman-at-Large Robert E. Pecoraro made the motion to approve the study, but said, "We allow the traffic impact study, but (with) the caveat that is only the impact study and a lot more work to be done after that."
•The final phase of the Gratwick Riverside Park Marina Improvements project was approved by the council.
The marina, previously rented by the Niagara River Yacht Club, was in need of repairs. The project began in 2012 to replace the deteriorating docks and revive the vacant building.
"It sat there for several years, empty," Pappas said. "So for the past couple years we've been trying to finish this off and start new."
To complete the project, more new docks will be added and additional landscaping and cement work will be completed.
New docks, lighting and electricity have already been installed.
Pappas said the project will, hopefully, be finished early this summer "so we can get boats in there and start renting out the (docks)."