By David Yarger
Last Wednesday, the North Tonawanda Common Council met for their first meeting of 2018. In front of a light crowd on a cold, snowy night, the meeting was brief and covered a few topics.
The meeting was also the first for newcomer Austin Tylec, who was sworn in as alderman at-large on New Year's Day. Tylec was welcomed by the council in its closing remarks, all members saying they're looking forward to working alongside him.
On the agenda, the council approved to remove four properties from In-Rem foreclosure proceeding. Removing the properties from the list was done because all four owners were able to pay their taxes in full, making it a win-win, as all remain in their properties and the city gets what they were seeking.
The Common Council also appointed Karl Heilemann to the North Tonawanda Planning Commission.
In other news, the council approved an item from Niagara Frontier Boat Racing Association for permission to use Gratwick Park Aug. 4 and 5, for the 14th annual "Thunder on the Niagara." The item was approved on the stipulation that department heads and the legal office approve the request form.
Also, the council gave Entercom Live Events permission to use Gratwick Park on Saturday, July 28 for its "Brews & Wines on the Water 2018" event.
Lastly in items, the council decided to table an item from North Tonawanda Middle School granting them permission to have their annual 5K and 1-mile family fun run through Wurlitzer Park on Saturday, April 21.
Alderman Robert Pecoraro said, "Wurlitzer Park has had a lot of runs and we probably haven't done as good of a job at informing the residents that are included in the area. So, I'm making the motion that we table it for now, bring them into a work session on Tuesday, so everybody's comfortable with what they want to do and what we would like them to do with the residents to inform them."
In attendance at the meeting was Sgt. John Lukasik, who was recently honored by the city with a Hometown Heroes veteran banner.
After congratulating Tylec, Lukasik questioned a comment he heard about the banners not being a good spot on Erie Avenue, which the council replied it was due to truck traffic, which could harm the banners and get them dirty. The movement of the banners to another location was recommended by Mark Daigler of the traffic safety committee.
Tylec and the council then asked Lukasik with smirks if he'd want the banner on Schenk Street, where Lukasik resides.
In closing comments, Tylec started it off with a brief introductory statement.
"It's my second day in and so, I don't have too much to say, but I'm looking forward to the next four years. Hopefully, everyone else is as well," Tylec said.
Pecoraro talked about Joe Jastrzemski's new veteran outreach services at the North Tonawanda DMV, making life easy for local veterans and not having to drive out to Lockport for certain duties.
Lukasik responded that, although it beats driving to Lockport, the walk into the DMV can be strenuous at times, which Pecoraro agreed that, especially during the winter, it can be a challenge.
Alderman Mark Berube took his time to talk about the positives the city has accomplished in the past year. Berube named various grants, businesses, developments and events that all boosted the city in great ways. Berube also talked about future developments, such as apartments going into Lowry School and Grant School.
Berube said, "I think we're doing a good job over the last few years in moving the city forward and making this a destination."
Alderman Donna Braun agreed with Berube, saying, "We are working towards the right direction and I'm looking forward to working for another two years up here on the council."
Mayor Art Pappas took the time to give credit to the department heads of the city.
"It's been a tough year in many ways because the weather. It's been a difficult spring, we kind of had a so-so summer and we're, so far, having a rough winter. In spite of that, our public works department, our parks department and all of our department heads have done a fantastic job.
"It's been very difficult. Last night I happened to be going by on the corner of Sweeney and Spruce and there was another major water break and the crews were out there, down in the ditches, digging there in frigid temperatures with snow blowing.
"These people are out there in these kinds of weather and sometimes it's the other extremes, extreme heat or whatever; it's taken for granted sometimes. Every department is either directly or indirectly affected by the weather ... and we've had an outstanding year in terms of cooperation," Pappas said.
City Clerk Dan Quinn announced that, possibly by the first council meeting in February, there would be a camera located in the chambers to video the meetings then put on the city website.
Common Council President Eric Zadzilka expressed excitement, not only for 2018, but the future of the city, in general. Along with the excitement, Zadzilka said he heard from veterans that said they're unable to access Veterans Park if they are disabled or have difficulties.
"We're looking for a better access to the small parking lot, so you can get to Veterans Park maybe on a more direct path from River Road," Zadzilka said.
Zadzilka also mentioned something from an article he found interesting, talking about possible veteran parking spaces in certain locations downtown.
Pappas finished by saying the city is looking to stick to their traditions, but also not stay stagnant. Pappas referenced the Hometown Heroes banners as a longstanding tradition of the city, and he also credited the new recreation center for how they've stepped in and done well for kids of the area.
The next North Tonawanda Common Council meeting is at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 16.