By Lauren Zaepfel
The North Tonawanda City Council heard from multiple residents who suggested ways they thought the city could offer increased transparency to residents regarding meetings on community business.
Resident Sonya Dusza expressed concern about the city's website, stating she cannot always find information about upcoming meetings, and minutes sometimes do not show up for weeks.
"This is a very important issue," Dusza said. "This is basic elements of municipal government. You want to have transparency; you want to have people connected because they are the government."
Dusza also requested all public hearings and legal notices be published online to help inform people.
After the meeting, North Tonawanda Mayor Arthur G. Pappas said, "The website is a challenge, we realize that that needs updating and isn't what it should be yet, but that's recently being worked on."
Alderman-at-Large Jeffery M. Glatz said, "We're looking at different options" to improve the website, including securing quotes for redoing the website as well as possibly hiring a part-time information technology employee.
"We are addressing it (the website), we're concerned and interested in that," Glatz said.
Resident Austin Tylec also suggested the city utilize Facebook to help get information out to people.
"There are a lot of like pseudo-NT news Facebooks, but there's not a real way of vetting out what information is correct or not," Tylec said.
Councilmembers explained that information, including legal notices, is published in multiple local newspapers. But Dusza said there are people who don't have access or time to read these publications.
Pappas said losing the Tonawanda News after it closed years ago was "major."
"It did become an issue and has been an issue and we hear about it constantly," he said.
However, Pappas said other news sources are working to report on the city and get more information out to residents on city business and social events.
Overall, regarding transparency, Pappas said, "I think this council and my office I think have been as transparent as you're going to find. I have an open door policy and if anybody comes in and if I'm there and my door isn't closed because someone's there, they come in and we talk and that's pretty much how it is with any office here. I don't know what more you can ask for in terms of that because no one prevents them from coming in either. But we know we have to reach out too and that's what we're trying to do."
In other news:
•North Tonawanda resident Cathy Kern expressed concerns about signs advertising past events, such as garage sales, elections or other events, being left on poles for extended periods of time.
"We got to clean up this city," Kern said.
She added, "Every pole in this city is littered."
Common Council President Eric M. Zadzilka responded, "I'm seeing people taking them down. It's a process."
He also said the auxiliary police have been helping take down signs.
But Kern said she still sees signs that have been up for months, even years, and the issue has been ongoing.
She suggested the city implement an ordinance that states if a sign is still posted 24 hours after the event, a fine will be administered to the person responsible, or those who wish to post signs would be required to pay a fee.
Zadzilka said he liked the idea, but wasn't sure of how this would be enforced.
"Since there's probably a post on every corner, and if we added up these posts we could number in the hundreds, maybe we can have some of our citizens on patrol," Zadzilka said.
He added, "While walking around maybe they could help the auxiliary police take some of these signs down."
Kern also mentioned recently installed traffic signal poles on the corner of Wurlitzer Drive and Erie Avenue block a railroad crossing and yield sign when heading northwest from the Wurlitzer extension and crossing Erie.
She said this is a safety issue.
"Those signs behind there have got to come forward," Kern said. "If you're not familiar with this area and you're coming down that way, you don't see that there's a railroad crossing sign. You can't see it."
Zadzilka said the city will contact CSX to see if they could address the issue.