Address reviews 2017 and previews 2018
By David Yarger
At Tuesday's North Tonawanda Common Council meeting, Mayor Arthur Pappas gave his 2018 State of the City address, which reviewed the accomplishments of the city in 2017, as well as future goals for 2018.
Pappas spent around 20 minutes speaking, as he had a lot to praise about.
Pappas started by saying, "It is an honor to having been elected in November to serve as mayor for the next four years. Your confidence in me is humbling and I truly appreciate the support I have received."
Pappas said North Tonawanda was awarded over $4 million in grants in 2017, with the most significant being a $2.5 million Smart Growth Fund from Gov. Andrew Cuomo, which will enhance the downtown area.
Pappas also mentioned new businesses and facilities, such as Webster's Kitchen, Ivy Lea Construction, Pulp 716, Canal Side Wine and Spirits, Ascension Antique Arts and Artisan Markey, Primary Care, as well as the new ER unit at DeGraff Memorial Hospital.
Pappas also said that road conditions remain a high priority for the city saying, "$1.2 million was available this year for road improvement and over 10 miles of roads were milled and paved in 2017." Pappas also announced the Common Council has budgeted for a new paver in 2018, enabling the city to pave more roads with better technology.
Continuing, Pappas mentioned the success of the new youth center at the Hope Center, saying more than 110 kids attend the center a day. He also mentioned the 90th anniversary of the Riviera Theater, as well as the 70th anniversary of the Herschell Carrousel Factory Museum.
Along with that, Pappas noted several events that were successful in the city such as the Winter Walk, Haunted Harbor, Fourth of July, and the Christmas Caroling Wagon, which acquired a record 10,808 cans of food for the Food Pantry and Meals on Wheels. He also noted the start up of the Little Free Pantries project, which allows residents to take the food they need and give what they can.
Pappas said public safety is "paramount." He mentioned the anti-bullying law was an interest nationally and internationally. Pappas also said new cameras were being installed in the downtown area to ensure greater public safety.
The city website was recently upgraded, and Pappas said it's "up and running to provide greater awareness to residents for information about city government."
Pappas ended by thanking city departments, officials and Common Council members. He also said, "It is an honor and privilege to serve as mayor of North Tonawanda and with cooperation and effort, we can continue to move this city in a positive forward direction."
In other news, the Common Council approved to renew a contract with All Dawgs Academy to house stray and abandoned dogs.
The council reappointed Michele Ackerman as commissioner of deeds for the city.
The council also appointed Michael J. Brocklehurst as police officer for the NT Police Department, Jacob Pollen as a firefighter for the NT Fire Department and Daniel DiVirgilio as the mayor's administrative assistant. All three were given a round of applause from council members and those in attendance.
The council also decided to table an item based on various property tax exemptions. Alderman Austin Tylec said exemptions No. 2 and No. 3 were tabled to gain further information. He added that both were related to energy saving, so if a property wanted to add solar panels, which would endure a tax exemption, as the property is saving energy and that's less energy the city needs to provide.
Near the end of the meeting, a North Tonawanda police officer recommended that Ridge Road be redone. The officer said he was traveling down the road and "almost lost my front wheel." His big concern was as a parent, because a lot of children travel up and down the street all day with NT High School nearby, as well as the Sportsplex. Along with those two buildings, Meals on Wheels is also on that road.
Pappas said the road has been a priority but explained the scenario the city faces.
"The city only owns up to a certain part and the rest we're not responsible for. We can't just go on there illegally and patch it, because it belongs to a private owner. ... I had code enforcement down there yesterday and they spoke to the owner today; they are planning a meeting.
"I spoke to the school superintendent, also ... and, apparently the original story the superintendent got from the owner ... is not the same story that was heard by the owner today. So, a meeting is being arranged between the code department, the school superintendent and the owner of Sportsplex and they're gonna get together and see if they can resolve this somehow," Pappas said.
Karl Bauer, Twin Cities Meals on Wheels president, spoke right after and said some volunteers have quit due to the road conditions. Bauer also mentioned heavy dump-truck traffic as another reason the road is rough.
In closing remarks, all council members congratulated the three men appointed to positions listed earlier, as well as thanking Pappas for his state of the city address.
City Clerk Daniel Quinn announced the city's in-rem auction is March 10, with registration beginning at 9 a.m. and the auction starts at 10 a.m. Quinn also encouraged residents to keep sending questions via the city website.
Pappas used his closing remarks to thank everyone in the city for helping guide the city in a positive direction.
"Things don't get done or taken care of positively without the complete cooperation and support of the council, the city workers, the department heads and the residents. We've had tremendous support from all of them and I really sincerely appreciate it," Pappas said.
Council President Eric Zadzilka rounded out the meeting saying, "It says more than just we're alive and well. There's countless things - read it again if you need to - that the city has worked hard on. When we first started years ago on the council, there was a lot things we had to finish. ... Now, we're starting projects and getting them done."
The next North Tonawanda Common Council meeting is at 6:30 p.m. on Feb. 26.