12/29/2009

New Years Eve Bash

Posted by MJ




The LUSJ reported that it is all set.

...A bigger, better New Year’s Eve Rockin’ The Locks is on the horizon this year, after the City of Lockport turned over the planning to a local promoter.

The annual celebration, moved to Ulrich City Centre from City Hall, will feature a fireworks show by Premier Pyrotechnics for the first time. The show is in addition to the ball drop.

Also lined up for family-style celebrating: Heated tents, a variety of local food and drink vendors, a full evening of live music and a range of children’s activities, including a bounce house, petting zoo and carnival games organized by the city youth and recreation department...
 Is great to see a local person creating a bigger better event for the city.

As a side note, it took me several seconds to notice my artwork was used on the flier. If permission was requested I would have said yes in return for a little credit. ;)


12/29/2009

LFD Ratifies Contract

Posted by MJ

The Buffalo News and LUSJ reported:

...The Lockport Professional Fire Fighters Association ratified a new five-year contract with the city Monday night, but union President Randall Parker and Mayor Michael W. Tucker continued to refuse to publicly disclose its terms until the contract is formally signed...
 When will we find out what is in it?

12/23/2009

HV Variances Approved

Posted by MJ

The Buffalo News and LUSJ Reporting.

Some quick thoughts on why I voted yes.

  • • The residents’ concerns were heard. I believe that HV has the track record to alleviate most of them on the type of tenants. Police, Credit, Sex-Offender and Current Home Visits along with zero tolerance on police visits or breaking lease rules. If there is to be low income in the neighborhood these are the people you want to be running it. They will also have staff in the area and have local people involved. This is not some guy from Texas who bought sight unseen houses off E-bay. They are a non profit that was started by people from a neighborhood with similar conerns to this one. I can not think of anyone better to head this type of project.

    • One must realize that the whole district was zoned the same as new build neighborhoods (subdivisions). Not one existing property there meets current zoning to begin with (maybe except the vacant lots). Nor do I believe that it should since it is an urban neighborhood. It illustrates the problem with number based zoning. All it guaranties you is ratioed junk. If they met all the requirements all we would have is a small apartment house surrounded by asphalt parking. Or even like the duplex on High near Locus, something that does not fit in at all.

    • The parking is more than is currently there. Owners will go in knowing they only have space for one car it is up to them to decide if they want to rent. With 99->97% occupancy and waiting lists they have elsewhere I don't forecast them having a problem renting. The one spot each residence also opens up green space. It discourages long term overnight unchecked visitors. They mentioned trying to possibly create a lot on Locust if they could contact the overseas owner.

    • All housing must past state requirements for historic districts. Front porches and hardboard composite siding are items you don't even find on new build suburban houses. These will blend in with the existing housing and hopefully give other owners some security in bringing their rentals up to the new par.

    There were a few others I now forget without my notes at hand. Maybe I'll update it with more later
This is a huge investment that sets a foundation. The next challenge is how to get other owners who are slacking to step it up and how to encourage private investment and more home ownership. The meeting was full of people who love their neighborhood and were passionate as they should be. They should be commended for sticking it out and trying to make it better. I believe this is a step in making it better and one with the biggest chance of initial success.

12/19/2009

HV Zoning Appeal List

Posted by MJ

Housing Visions LLC will be before the zoning board next Tuesday (22nd) in a special session addressing some aspects of their plans for the Genesee St area.

LUSJ reporting the list:

ousing Visions wants the city’s OK to construct new multi-family residences on old lots that are smaller than modern zoning code allows. Also, in most cases, Housing Visions would create parking space at the rate of one per living unit, while the code requires two per unit.

Housing Visions is seeking permission to:


• Demolish and rebuild a four-unit house with four parking spaces at 163 Genesee St., where a three-unit house currently stands.

• Demolish and rebuild a four-unit house with four parking spaces at 182 Genesee St., where the existing apartment house changed hands three times since 2004, according to assessment records.

• Construct a new, four-unit apartment house with four parking spaces at 84 Locust St., a vacant commercial lot at Locust and South streets.

• Construct a new, six-unit house and community center with an accessory garage and eight parking spaces at 95 Locust St. The property is zoned for commercial use.

• Construct two new, four-unit houses with four parking spaces each at 261 and 267 Genesee St., both vacant lots.

• Rehabilitate the existing apartment house at 271 Genesee St. and provide one parking space per living unit.

• Rehabilitate the existing two-family house at 281 Genesee St. and provide one parking space per unit.

The targeted lots on Genesee are between Washburn and Pine streets.
 A comment on another post addressed the parking issue:

that project for Genessee st sounds great except the parking situation. As a rental owner the biggest thing to getting good tenants is to provide parking. If you don't have enough parking you don't get the good tenants, you get the ones that can't afford cars usually without jobs. Couldn't they reduce the amount of units in each building, or even take one of the lots and make it parking? This would be a tough decision for me to make, do you bend the laws on required spaces to get new houses, which will help for the short term but end up a long term problem or risk not getting the improvements by forcing it to be done the right way?
 The parking requirement is sure to be a polarizing issue. I was actually surprised to see the desire for only one spot per residence and I was happy to see it. For the new builds I was worrying that we would get non-descript buildings on oversized lots covered with excessive dirty parking. It was nice to see site plans that actually respect the urban nature of area and that will add long term value to it instead of short term gains.

HV has developed enough housing to know that this requirement will work in gaining good tenants. I believe that there will be a market for one car people/families in brand new quality residences. Less parking would also avoid long-term crashers at the properties. I'd also have some concern about large dedicated lots. For reference the lot on Harvey is a big dirty lot mid-block that adds nothing to the appeal of the street, except a place to add more cars while they sit idle and sitting there looking ugly.

Anybody else have any thoughts? DT and the surrounding area will grow again by increasing density and having a large quantity of people interacting 24/7. Paving and thinning it out will only continue to hollow it out and lower values.

Update 12/21 Buffalo News article. The article mentions a community parking lot. Also anyone know of the "one man urban renewal" mentioned in the comments?

12/19/2009

LFD: Collette Acting?

Posted by MJ

The Buffalo News reporting:

LOCKPORT—City Hall was buzzing Friday over the belief that Fire Department Capt. Michael Collette, who is off work and receiving workers’ compensation benefits because of a back injury, has a bit part in “Henry’s Crime,” the Keanu Reeves movie now filing in Buffalo.
A photo on The Buffalo News Web site and a snippet of videotape aired by WIVB-TV, Channel 4, both show a man who might be Collette, apparently playing a security guard in a bank robbery scene shot Wednesday.
Reached by phone Friday, Collette and his wife, Linda, both refused to answer when asked if he was appearing in the movie.....
 also:
Collette said he underwent a discectomy in late September, and just Monday, his doctor cleared him to lift up to 30 pounds as long as there wasn’t a lot of repetition.
“There’s no light duty at the Fire Department,” Collette said. “I can’t come back to work until I can lift 80 pounds.”
 What do the dispatchers have to lift? Or is he ineligible to dispatch?

12/17/2009

Council Ratifies Fire Pact

Posted by MJ

But what's in it?

The Buffalo News and the LUSJ reporting.

The city may have a new labor contract with Lockport Professional Firefighters Association.Members of the Common Council voted unanimously to ratify the proposed pact Wednesday night.Mayor Michael Tucker said terms won’t be disclosed until after LPFA conducts an up-or-down vote on the proposal. Neither he nor the city’s labor counsel, David Blackley, would confirm whether the proposal settles any of a number of outstanding legal issues between the city and the union. At last count, the union still had about 30 grievances pending against the city, as well as a new lawsuit filed last week seeking court enforcement of an arbitrator’s order regarding minimum shift manning.

Fire and Police boards were also enlarged.

In other business, the Council voted to change the city charter and increase membership of the fire and police boards to five a piece. The vote was held after a public hearing that drew two speakers, one in favor and one critical of the increases.In police board business, Police Chief Larry Eggert said, the 2-2 split of a four-member body is not uncommon. A fifth voting member would avoid deadlocks, he said; and “greater community involvement allows greater vision” by the body that’s in charge of monitoring day-to-day operation of Lockport Police epartment.

12/11/2009

InLighten to Canal St.?

Posted by MJ



Some exciting news for DT/Canal St is being reported in the LUSJ and The Buffalo News. InLighten is considering Canal St for relocation. It is always very interesting to find out about WNY businesses that would otherwise be under the collective radar. It's more exciting when they want to capitalize on current trends of operating out of historic buildings and adding to/parking in the vitality an urban area offers. All the better when it's considering DT Lockport. It's been happening in Buffalo for the last several year's.

Currently operating out of newer leased space on Walden Ave in Depew they are currently looking for their own space:

"Any relocation of inLighten would have to consider how it impacts our growing team of employees and their families," said Dan Snyder, president and founder. "We are searching for a community that recognizes the great opportunity inLighten offers and is willing to work with the company through a relocation and the future growth of our company." ....
...The company was looking at a privately owned site in Lockport, but Tucker said that deal fell through and he stepped in to try to keep inLighten from going elsewhere.
"They were looking for a community like ours. They wanted to be downtown so their employees could walk around," Tucker said.

With its non continuous street frontage and its biggest building having no real street presence. I had doubts with Canal St attaining any high retail use or street level activity. This presents a great opportunity to add workers downtown who will be able to walk to places like Chet's, Tom's, Daily Grind, India Grill etc. No more having to hop into your car to race to a BK (though it would still be an option ;). Add to that Lunch time walks along the canal etc and you start to offer your employees more than a cubicle and a parking lot with tress for their work life.

Watch out on the parking. The land on the other side of Gooding is a waste and prime for canal visitor/worker parking. All Saints lot is a block north and only really used for church services a couple times a week. Perhaps the church would like a few bucks for overflow parking? Non-planned single use parking will kill the whole reason for locating in a DT area. Perhaps this will add some credence to the ramp proposal.

Another bonus is the possible leasing of space at Harrison Place:
Tucker said a rental of some space in Harrison Place, the city-owned former Harrison Radiator Division plant, is part of the deal. He said inLighten would need that space for warehousing and perhaps for manufacturing.

With places like Yahoo coming just outside the city limits, InLighten a possibility, MTC already on Main St what is the plan to get workers to want to invest in the city?

And speaking of MTC, perhaps they could make a phone call or two InLighten? Nothing like word of mouth from your contemporaries who have already done what is being considered.

12/11/2009

Final Offer to Calieri

Posted by MJ

LUSJ and Buffalo News reporting the GLDC has made a final offer on Settling the Metropolitan debt.

Greater Lockport Development Corp. offered Thursday to drop its litigation against Peter Calieri, owner of the former Metropolitan Bar & Grill, if Calieri will pay the city $150,000.
---------------------------
Corporation Counsel John J. Ottaviano said the city has received several settlement offers from Calieri, but none as large as $150,000. The largest one publicly disclosed was $70,000.
Ottaviano said the development corporation’s loan committee decided to discount one of the loans, for $131,250, which would have been converted into an outright grant if the Metropolitan had stayed in business at least three years. It lasted 14 months.
Ottaviano said the city has a list of Calieri’s assets and has appraised some Florida real estate that Calieri owns, as well as two other businesses here: the Village Eatery, one of Lockport’s most popular restaurants, and the Davison Road Banquet House.
The corporation counsel said the $150,000 offer “was based on what we thought we could recover. At some point, if you push too far, you push the [debtor] into bankruptcy, so you’ve got to know where to draw the line.”

Original Post on Subject

12/11/2009

Scaled Assesments in Erie County?

Posted by MJ

Buffalo News reporting it is a possibility. It has been discussed here before and this quote form the article sums it up well:

She said it's similar to the property tax breaks that go to businesses that expand, or the tax breaks that Erie County grants for investment in historic homes, a measure that passed with Republican support in 2002. "If the abatement is good enough for businesses, and it is good enough for historic buildings, then why isn't it good enough for residents who want to fix up their homes?" she asked Thursday.
I could see not finding this favorable in an already hot real estate market. But it would sure be beneficial to  distressed neighborhoods. It's tough enough justifying many improvement when other houses nearby are dragging down values. Its a double slap to be hit right away for stepping out on a limb to make things better.

12/08/2009

Wilhelm&Ashe Floristry Moves

Posted by MJ





I noticed all the trees in Jayne and Company a couple weeks ago. We swung by over the weekend to see that Wilhelm&Ashe Floristry has moved from the original location on Stevens St. over to the corner of East Ave and Charles St. And lucky for us everything was 50% off for the weekend.  It's great to have another good looking store front on the East-Main-West strip. Though it is sad to see one being replaced in the process. Anyone know what became of Jayne and Company?

This also may explain the  post-sale name change from Wilhelm&Ashe Home to Seasons for the business in the Ulrich City Center. Could have been a bit confusing having both on Main St. Appears the Ashe's still owned the property on Steven's and are in process of selling it.

12/08/2009

Increased Police and Fire Boards?

Posted by MJ

LUSJ reporting that Mayor Tucker is taking some heat for desiring to increase the size of the police and fire boards.

Mayor Michael Tucker’s attempt to keep a retiring Common Council member on the fire board is drawing criticism from either side of the political aisle.

The Council will hold a public hearing this month on a proposal to increase membership of the police and fire boards by one each.

The proposal is by Tucker, who says he’d value “an extra set of eyes” on both boards, but primarily wants room made on the fire board for 4th Ward Alderman Patrick Schrader, who lost his bid for re-election last month.
 The public meeting on the requested change is on the 16th.

Since it is a no-pay appointed position I do not see a major offense in adding another spot and I can see the benefits of having an odd numbered board for voting purposes. As for how we feel about who he appoints, I guess that is another issue.

12/08/2009

Pasceri Named Council President

Posted by MJ

LUSJ reporting that Pasceri has been named Council president.

First Ward Alderman Richelle Pasceri is the Common Council’s new president.

Pasceri, a Republican going into her second term of elected office, will take over the post Jan. 1.

Appointed by Mayor Michael Tucker, Pasceri is the first woman in the city’s 145-year history to have the post. At age 32, she’s likely among the youngest aldermen ever to lead the Council as well.
 Next month I still hope to kick off a section for tracking council members and our interactions with them. If anyone has any contact information besides the phone numbers listed on the city site let me know. (Email? Blogs? Etc.)

12/04/2009

LFD Dispatch is "Not for Court"

Posted by MJ

LUSJ reporting that Judge Kloch determined the issue is one for an arbitrator and not for the courts.


...If there’s a dispute between the union and the city about what their collective bargaining agreement says about dispatch, settling it is the job of an arbitrator, not a judge, Kloch added.
Lockport Professional Firefighters Association filed a lawsuit aimed at stopping a dispatch transfer in August 2007, three months after the fire board directed Fire Chief Tom Passuite to facilitate the transfer. The union got a temporary restraining order in October 2007, good until a court hearing on the permanent request. The hearing ended up being postponed repeatedly over the past two years, leaving the city subject to the temporary restraining order the whole time...
-----
...The union’s contract with the city includes provisions for one firefighter on every shift to act as the dispatcher, that is, the staff member who takes incoming calls and summons rescue personnel.

The question of whether to turn that duty over to a third party is tied up in the Lockport Fire Department’s personnel expenses. Supporters of a dispatch transfer point to required shift staffing minimums and high overtime costs, and say a transfer would take some financial pressure off the city. Alderman at Large Joe Kibler and retiring 4th Ward Alderman Pat Schrader have argued for years the city should use central dispatch because residents help pay for it, in a special tax applied to landline and cell phones.

A succession of union leaders have said they’re not disagreeable to a dispatch transfer but the city is obligated, by the contract, to “negotiate” it first...

My first thought is why does this decision take 2 years? Are our courts this backed up?

As for the "negotiate", here is how I would envision it: City: "We would like to remove the dispatch requirement and put the firefighter back on the street. There is no loss of man hours since the platoon sizes will not be affected. It will more efficiently provide services to the taxpayers." LFD: "Well some of our personnel may lose overtime pay but it should not be expected anyways. We agree that the benefits of having another person available for manning the trucks plus helping out the taxpayers are worth it "

No need for lawsuits, lawyers, etc. ;) If anyone thinks the negotiation should go differently, if other facts pertain, etc, please comment.

UPDATE 12/5: LUSJ reporting arbitration on the subject expected this Friday.

12/03/2009

Ramp Estimate Up to $10mil

Posted by MJ




The Buffalo News is reporting the estimates for the ramp replacement now stand at $10 million.

This project, while forward thinking in creating the park on top, is not worthwhile on its own. The area where the ramp is located  is surrounded by developments with their own parking (Lockview Plaza, Ulrich City Center, Canal St) and the empty pay lots during the Molson Canal Concerts show there is plenty of free parking around to handle a large influx of people. A ramp is viable if the surrounding area is dense. There is no density here and dropping the thought of adding structures on top of it will not add any.What is left is a ramp for the Urban Park Towers and Ulrich Development/Mills Jewelers. A 2 year old article for the LUSJ had the usual parking pondering.

For downtown (or any urban area to flourish) it needs to be dense. Parking needs to be planned on a comprehensive scale for the density to occur. Having every small development surround itself with parking  and you end up with S. Transit in the town. Even if that is what we would want Main St to look like you will never compete with the cheap green fields required to absorb all of the parking (usually more parking square footage than actual building square footage). The main quality that a DT has to compete is the ability to provide large amount of mixed amenities on a small amount of land. To not try to foster it will only create (has created?) a long slide to a point where you chase enough of the amenities/people away that you finally have "enough parking".

The city would be wise to explore reestablishing planned-out municipal lots with less money instead of redoing the ramp. Design them mid block (Similar to UCC) with actual people-based uses at the street.  Get people walking a block or two to their cars and retail will grow with the new customers. Let people park right by their building and they step right into their cars and retail dwindles with the lack of foot traffic. Charge a fee to each development (in lieu of having to provide their own spaces. Encourage residential to make the lots 24 hr instead of 8 or 12 hour and to spread the costs of providing the parking (plus more customers!) If street side parking stays full while the free lots still have spaces, charge street parking fees at a price that keeps the spaces 80% full to create turnover

With everywhere requiring large amounts of adjacent free parking it's hard to say no. But it's a long race down to providing a country full of public places that no one wants to be.

Parking is Important where the place isn't important....In a dull place, you want a parking space right in front of where you are going. -F. Kent
 Take a bold step and try to create an "important" Lockport.

UPDATE 12/4: LUSJ Article

12/03/2009

Police Contract OK'd

Posted by MJ

LUSJ reporting that the comon council has approved the new police contract.

some highlights:

According to Tucker, gains for the city include:

• Union agreement to a lowered starting wage for newly hired police officers, as well as a longer period until their first raises. The starting wage, currently $42,600, will decrease to $39,900; and two new “steps” will be added in before the officer reaches the officers’ top pay step, currently $54,000. Ultimately, it’s projected, the city will save about $35,000 per hire over the length of his or her 20-year career.

• The union’s blessing of a city move to switch health-insured police retirees into lower-cost plans.

Citywide, the expected savings from assigning 152 currently covered retirees to comparable plans is about $600,000 per year.

“The big things for us are health care and the new (police pay) steps. They’re saving the city money,” Tucker said.

In return, union members will see some increased benefits including:

• Annual pay raises — 4 percent retroactively for 2009 and 3.5 percent in 2010 through 2012. The later raises will be granted at the rate of 2 percent every six months, which Tucker said produces some modest savings, compared with granting 3.5 percent at the beginning of every year.

• City agreement to pay some police retirees’ Medicare Part B expenses for the first time. When Americans turn 65 years old, they’re automatically enrolled in Medicare Part A. Part B is optional coverage, the $100 or so per month cost of which is deducted from retirees’ Social Security checks. The city will reimburse retired police officers that cost, as it already does for retired firefighters. The deal is good for currently employed officers only; the city will not pay Part B costs of police employees hired after Jan. 1, 2010. The long-term cost to the city wasn’t projected. “This won’t have an impact on the city for 20 years, for some (officers),” Tucker said.

• An increase in members’ clothing allowance, to $925 per year from the current $750. The additional cost to the city is $8,750 per year.

• A $50 per year increase in members’ annual longevity payments. These are bonuses paid to all city employees based on the number of years they’ve worked for the city. Longevity payments to 50 police union members will be: for five to nine years of employment, $750 in 2010, $800 in 2011 and $850 in 2012; 10 to 14 years employment, $800 in 2010 to $900 in 2012; 15 to 19 years of employment, $1,000 to $1,100; 20 to 24 years of employment, $1,100 to $1,200; and 25-plus years of employment, $1,200 to $1,300. The additional cost to the city is $7,500 per year.

• Permission for new hires to live in the town as well as the city of Lockport. The expired police contract required all new hires to establish residency in the city only.
Tucker said he considers the expanded residency allowance a fair trade with the union. State law says municipalities can’t impose a residency requirement on police officers or firefighters, so the Hickory Club contract is unusual in that it supports some.

Is that true? When I went through the process in the 90's I had to be a resident of the town I lived in at the time. Does it just apply to cities? Could find anything definitive in a quick internet search.

12/02/2009

Firefighters Suing the City

Posted by MJ

Per today's Buffalo News.

The city firefighters’ union has filed suit against the city in an effort to get a judge to enforce a state mediator’s ruling requiring more firefighters to be assigned to each shift.
Randall Parker, president of the Lockport Professional Fire Fighters Association, also said Tuesday that the union has filed an improper labor practice charge against the city because of the Common Council’s refusal to vote on a new contract with the union.
Mayor Michael W. Tucker said, “I don’t foresee us changing our stance.”...
 Seems the other unions can get things done with the city that works to benefit both them and the city (residents).

UPDATE 12/3: LUSJ Article

...Of the new lawsuit, City Attorney John J. Ottaviano said Wednesday management expected it and will respond accordingly.

“We take great exception to (Campagna’s) decision, obviously, but decided not to try having it overturned unless the union pushed for enforcement. They have, so we will file for a stay (of the decision),” Ottaviano said.

LPFA President Randall Parker could not be reached to comment on the suit late Wednesday.

LPFA and city attorneys are due in Supreme Court today to argue the merits of a permanent injunction preventing the city from handing LFD communications over to Niagara County Central Dispatch. Currently, one firefighter on every shift is assigned to in-house dispatch duty. A hearing on this case has been postponed repeatedly since October 2007...
...Several city officials said Wednesday that the union seems eager to strike a deal with the existing Council, rather than take its chances on the 2010 body — some of whose new members have promised to pursue a harder line with the union....

With only a month to go, why not wait for the newly elected council to weigh in?

12/01/2009

From Ashe to Season's.

Posted by MJ

Wilhelm and Ashe has been sold and will be renamed Season's per LUSJ article.

Seasons is Wilhelm & Ashe Home under new ownership. Well-regarded floral designer Noel Daubney is buying the business from her former bosses, Margaret and Gary Ashe.

In addition to home decor and accessories, Daubney will begin selling fresh and silk floral arrangements. That’s a new retail offering on Main Street.


We have purchased several nice items from W&H and are sad to see them move on. Great news in that the store will continue and now offer additional items such as fresh arrangements. We look forward to our next visit. My only gripe is the loss of the Wilhelm and Ashe name as it had a nice upscale feel to it.

W&A has been a bright spot in the Ulrich City Center since it's opening. It has been the only retail in the development. More importantly is has embraced its front entrance and windows (facing Main St.) while still providing an entrance from the parking in the rear proving that it is not an impossible feat.

11/23/2009

Union Contract Savings

Posted by MJ

The Buffalo News and the LUSJ are reporting on several city union contracts.

Three city unions have ratified groundbreaking new labor contracts that may save the city hundreds of thousands of dollars and enable it to privatize garbage service.
The Common Council ratified new deals with the city’s blue-collar union and the department head union last week. The police union ratified its contract Thursday and the Council is to vote on it Dec. 2.
All three contracts are for five years, retroactive to Jan. 1, 2008; they expire at the end of 2012.
A key factor is the ability for the city to shift retirees into a less expensive Medicare Advantage health insurance plan, Mayor Michael W. Tucker said.
 The ability to privatize the garbage collection is huge. Nice work by all on the give-and-take.

11/20/2009

Housing Vision - Genesee St

Posted by MJ

The Buffalo News had an article on the city partnership with Housing Vision LLC yesterday. While waiting for some additional information from Mayor Tucker I give this post as a lead in.

Mayor Michael W. Tucker announced at Wednesday’s Common Council meeting that Housing Visions Unlimited is buying 15 properties on Genesee and South streets. It will rehabilitate some and demolish others, replacing the demolished structures with newly built three-or four-unit housing.
Alderman-elect Jack L. Smith Jr., D-2nd Ward, said he and some other members of his United Neighborhood Watch Group recruited Housing Visions in an effort to clean up the neighborhood fast.
---------------------
The mayor said, “These houses are like ours, Victorians. They’re immaculately landscaped. They don’t tolerate any nonsense. They’re very rigid. They interview people. Any police calls, they evict people. They go through the properties once a month.”
Tucker's been throwing hints about this project for a while and its great to see it reach this point. Some additional information on Housing Visions LLC:
- Housing Visions LLC Main Website.
-A Neighborhood Revitalization Plan that makes all too much sense.
-Pictures of past projects and the group's history and humble beginnings as a group of residents in a neglected Syracuse neighborhood.
-Past investments in Syracuse, Utica, Binghamton, Cortland, Auburn and Oswego

It's a welcome sign having an organization with a proven track record coming in to tackle what many consider to be Lockport's neighborhood most in need. The once grand houses which still sit on the street are an important part of bridging the recent investment dowtown with the adjacent residential neighborhood and halting disinvestment form further radiating outward. This is the type of project Buffalo needed 20 yrs ago before the string of random demolitions and scattered out-of-place new builds. Along with additional planning (infrastructure improvements, incentives for private owners to get on board, etc) and home owner involvement, this could end up being a model for the WNY area if done right. 

Public meetings involving the project are as follows:
The site plans will be presented to the city Planning Board at a Dec. 21 meeting, and the next night, the Zoning Board of Appeals will consider variance requests for multiple dwellings in a single-family zone.
I'll post more as I hopefully obtain more information. Thanks to Alderman-elect Jack L. Smith Jr., D-2nd Ward (United Neighborhood Watch Group), Mayor Tucker and all those involved in finally laying a foundation for what I hope to be long needed turnaround in the Genesee St area.

UPDATE: Write up in LUSJ 11/29

11/19/2009

Smart Growth's Last Shot?

Posted by MJ

LUSJ reporting that "Smart Growth" has submitted its last chance appeal on the current suit. Seeing that unanimous decisions against it are the norm, this should go the same way.

The Court of Appeals will rule by mid-January whether to grant or deny Smart Growth’s bid for another day in court. That’s a bit more than two years since the group first filed suit against the town and Walmart.

The Court of Appeals is its last stop in the fight over planning waivers, according to Town Attorney Daniel E. Seaman. If the court denies its request for a hearing, “that’s the end of this suit, period,” he said.

On Tuesday, Seaman declined to predict if the group could find grounds for further litigation.
 That the process takes up to two years says something about our court system and/or what is backing it up.
 Semi-related: Overlawyered is always an interesting, if not maddening read.

Super-center 2011? Last post on the topic here: Walmart Inching Closer

11/12/2009

Blog B-Day

Posted by MJ





Well it all started here a year ago stemming from poor behavior by "outsiders" on the LUSJ forums. Since then the LUSJ forums had cleaned up but then were pulled after some sparing with Tim. Comments started out moderated here but have been fully open to anyone for quite some time.. It's always enjoyable sharing my thoughts and hearing others on the present and future of Lockport.

The biggest source of action was around the Molson Concert Series as the tracking of the line-up created a spike in traffic (max visits 994 the day of the first concert.) that made the post on it tops on many search engines.

My initial offer still holds: anyone who would like to be able to post, please let me know by e-mail. If you have a Lockport based blog of your own let me know so I can link to it and participate. Some thoughts from other sections of the city (and its respective issues) would be great. I have some ideas for this next year too.

Thanks again,
MJ

11/12/2009

Electronics Dropoff this Sat.

Posted by MJ

Buffalo News reporting an Electronics Drop-off this Sat:


An electronic waste recycling day is scheduled from 10 a. m. to 2 p. m. Saturday in the parking lot of the Niagara County Courthouse, Park Avenue and Hawley Street.
The free event is sponsored by the county Environmental Management Council and Public Works Department and by the City of Lockport Recycling Committee. Items not being taken Saturday include microwaves, vacuum cleaners and other household appliances; light bulbs; dehumidifiers and fans; yard equipment; and gas powered equipment.
The event will double as a donation site for clothing and nonperishable food items for Community Missions.
 A great way to dispose of that old 14" CRT computer monitor taking up space in the attic.

11/10/2009

Find It in Lockport

Posted by MJ



LUSJ has an article on the 80th anniversary of Mills Jewelers. I figure it would be a good lead in to Find It in Lockport.com. The fledgling site put together by Lockport Main St. Inc aims to be a comprehensive listing of services in the city along with a place to rate them and leave reviews. Listings are free as part of the program (though a low $5-10) donation is appreciated.

I was thinking of something similar to this a while back and its nice to see it started. Spread the word/visit/etc so it can reach its potential.

Here is the sample Mill's Page from the site:

11/09/2009

Emergency Shelter Opening

Posted by MJ




The Buffalo News is reporting that Lockport CARES (Community Action Response Emergency Shelter) has finished up the residence at 192 Genesse St. and it is ready for use as an all volunteer emergency residence.

UPDATE: Lockport CARES website

Past LUSJ Articles:
LOCKPORT: Incredible 'Care' Project
CARES: You can go home again
OUTREACH: Shelter being pitched

Jim Haid of St. John the Baptist Outreach estimates well over 100 volunteers have put sweat hours into the old three-story building. The Rev. Steve Hall, pastor at Lockport United Church of Christ, estimates it will take more than 100 volunteers to staff the shelter, which will be open 24 hours a day, every day.
------------

The board is cognizant of the concern volunteers have about safety and has installed fire alarms, motion detectors and will provide a panic button for staffers. First Alarm was one of the first partners of Lockport Cares.
------------
Two-to-four people should be on hand when guests arrive, welcoming and setting up. Volunteers will cook and do the laundry — towels and bedding. Because of insurance concerns, guests cannot cook or do laundry.

Guests will be expected to be out of the house during the day, making contacts and getting back on their feet. Hall estimates the average stay will be five to seven days. The maximum stay will be 10 days.

11/07/2009

E85 Pump on S. Transit.

Posted by MJ

LUSJ is reporting the 2nd E85 pump in the county here in the city at the updated Wilson Farms at S. Transit and High St. I noticed this last week  (initially the price caught my eye) and it was nice to see the option locally.

E85 will return only 70 to 80% of the fuel economy of regular gasoline at standard engine compressions. So it is break even for vehicles on the upper end of the E85 fuel economy range and a tad too high for vehicles on the lower range.

Per the Article:
Reg Gas: $2.80/gal
E85 Gas: $2.26/gal
80% Reg: $2.24/gal
70% Reg: $1.96/gal

11/04/2009

Election Post

Posted by MJ

Election time approaches and in this post I will list links to articles pertaining to the individual races. Most of my contact with the city has been through Mayor Tucker (always considerate enough to answer my questions) and I have not had any contact with my alderman. Please feel free to share any experiences with your alderman, what you feel the important topics are or any other comments you may have.

UPADTE (11/4/09) - Winners listed in large font below and LUSJ results article here. Also County Legislature dowsizing wins in a landslide. I'm thinking of creating pages for each alderman (and mayor) where we can track/comment on our interactions with them and their answers (or lack thereof). Would anyone find that useful?

LUSJ Interviews
1st Ward: Pasceri (i) vs Richardson -
2nd Ward: Alexander (i) vs Smith
3rd Ward: McKenzie (i) vs Calhoun
4th Ward: Schrader (i) vs Chapman
5th Ward: Genewick vs. Hughes
At Large: Kibler (i) vs Mullane

Buffalo News Overview 

UPDATE: LUSJ Endorsements

11/03/2009

LFD "YES", Council "No"

Posted by MJ

The Buffalo News and the LUSJ reporting that the city council is not happy with the current negotiated fire department pact.

The firefighters union announced Monday that its members have proposed five-year labor contract with the city.

The Common Council has not agreed to the deal, however, and according to Council President John Lombardi III, isn’t likely to.
---------------------

“What’s on the table is a good start, but there are some things we absolutely do not want to be locked into,” Mayor Michael Tucker added.
 Details are in the LUSJ article.

Last post on this subject with comments is here.

10/30/2009

Main St Halloween Displays

Posted by MJ






For those who have yet to check out the DT merchant Halloween displays here is Caruso's at 3 Charles St. Check them out before they're gone! Anyone head to the Main St Merchant Trick-or-treating last night?

Weather is looking like is will clean up for the kids tomorrow evening. Some interesting information(?): Actual random Halloween poisonings are nill but unfortunately objects do occur (though rare). Hope everyone has a safe and fun night.

10/29/2009

DT Halloween Party Tonight

Posted by MJ

The DT Halloween event is tonight (LUSJ) (Buffalo News). Weather is looking better as the day progresses 56° and partly cloudy for later tonight (WIVB)

From Lockport Main St Inc:

Halloween Party & Trick-or Treat Downtown
- Join us for the annual Halloween Party on Thursday, -October 29th from 5:00 pm to 8:30 pm in the City all parking lot - One Locks Plaza in Lockport (sponsored by the City of Lockport Youth and Recreation Department).
-Begin at City Hall for pizza, games, and trick-or-treat bags!Then make your way Downtown for “Trick-or-Treating” from 5:00 -7:00 pm.
-Return to City Hall and check out the FAMOUS Kiss Concert! (from Livingston Place).

Pumpkin Decorating Contest
-3rd grade students from Lockport City School District and Market Street Art Center will be decorating about 400 pumpkins this Halloween.
- The decorated pumpkins will be on display at participating downtown businesses from October 26th – October 31st. Community members are invited to visit downtown businesses and vote on their favorite pumpkins!
 from The Buffalo News:
Also from 5 to 8 tonight and Friday, the YMCA, 19 East Ave., will host Happy House for children ages 6 months to 6 years. Described as an alternative to scary Halloween activities, it offers a life-size Candy Land game and happy stories. Admission is $1.

Official City (and town) of Lockport trick-or-treat hours are this Saturday 4pm-7pm.

10/26/2009

Windmills in lake Ontario?

Posted by MJ





Image - Lackawanna Windmill with Buffalo in the Background

 Buffalo news reporting that Niagara County is still in the running for the NYPA wind power project.


Next month, the authority will seek proposals from companies interested in building the wind power project, which is to be located somewhere offshore in Lake Erie or Lake Ontario.
Kessel said any suitable location from Ripley to the Thousand Islands could be considered.

I find them rather attractive in small quantities and I find they add to the scenery over at the Lackawanna/Buffalo border and to the south in the hills. As it is now there is not much to see except the horizon on the other side of the lake (except for the Toronto skyline sightings to the NE). I'd travel up to the lake from time to time to sit back, chill and watch them spin out in the water. A small village like Olcott Beach could pry cash in some with them located near by: another sight to see.

Although a fledgling technology I find the experimentation worthwhile in the long term quest to diversify our power sources and pushing ahead renewable technologies. Maybe it's as evil as Walmart. Time will tell ;)

10/23/2009

Revaluation Creeping Up

Posted by MJ



Image - F&M Building Reflected in Bewley Building


LUSJ reporting on the revaluation progress.

A city committee interviewed representatives of four private firms interested in taking on citywide property revaluation Thursday.

The committee, comprised of officials including Mayor Michael Tucker, Acting Assessor Joe Macaluso and Real Property Appraiser Lena Villella, is supposed to recommend one of the firms to the Common Council for hire next month.

If a firm is hired, it’ll be the kick-off of a revaluation project that’s expected to cost city taxpayers about $200,000 by 2011.
 ------------
When that happens, property owners are said to pay less — or more — than their “fair share” of property tax.

Revaluation is about “getting it so it’s fair for everyone. Right now it’s not,” Pat Schrader, 4th Ward alderman, said this week.
 -----------
“I think there are an awful lot of remodeled houses that are worth more than they were eight years ago. They’re not paying their fair share, and we need to catch up with ’em,” he said.
-----------
Third Ward Alderman Flora McKenzie believes the point of revaluation really is to make taxation fairer, but unlike those who see a scheme to raise everybody’s assessment, she fears the opposite will happen.

“There are some houses in really sad shape that shouldn’t be assessed as high as they are. There are houses in my ward that I wouldn’t pay $1 for,” she said. “The way I look at it, we’re going to lose, not gain (value)
-----------

"Fair". Is it fair to watch the F&M building deteriorate in a long term race to lessen its tax burden to the owner? Is it fair to watch your neighbor's tax rate go down because they do not invest in their property (and thus the neighborhood hurting sale prices) and watch yours go up because you took the risk to invest in the city? I have the same outlook as McKenzie as it is a predictable path of the process in older areas.

I think most people will agree that those who can pay more should shoulder some more of the tax burden. In a "growth" area, pure assessment will work as people have a much lower risk in getting a return on their continual investment. They will take a tax hit knowing that they will recoup investment upon sale with rising house prices. But in a low demand area investing is risky enough with near static (or dropping) home prices due to surrounding disinvestment and an increased tax hit is just another blow. The inertia of it all is very difficult to turn around.

Old, low demand areas must be creative in their taxation so that they promote investment instead of a long slide of disinvestment. Residents should be rewarded for taking a chance of bringing reinvestment to an area. The long term growth will far out weigh the "fairness" trip to decay. Reward people "draws" such as nice houses and buildings: not low tax empty buildings, empty lots and parking. A mix of land based and value based taxation along with other tax incentives for hard hit areas will help turn things around. Or how about freezing the tax-rate at the purchase price until it is sold again? It rewards people for sticking around and investing and it bases it off of a true market rate price. You'll make up the taxes upon the next sale (or sales as others have the incentive to invest also). There are probably many more ideas out there but straight assessments are pry the least conducive to spurring investment in the city.

10/20/2009

Discovery Center Art Donation

Posted by MJ



From the Buffalo News: Penney will give art to canal center.

 Art collector Charles Rand Penney said Monday he intends to donate his entire collection of Niagara County-themed art and artifacts, nearly 5,000 items, to the Erie Canal Discovery Center.
Melissa Dunlap, executive director of the History Center of Niagara, which operates the Discovery Center, said a $225,000 plan is in the works to remodel the building at Church and Ontario streets to include a second- floor gallery for Penney’s collection....

UPDATE 10/23/09 Buffalo News Editorial 

UPDATE 10/27/09 LUSJ reporting items are now in possession of the museum.

10/16/2009

Halloween in Lockport

Posted by MJ

From Lockport Main St Inc. a listing of the events for the upcoming Halloween season:

Halloween Party & Trick-or Treat Downtown

- Join us for the annual Halloween Party on Thursday, -October 29th from 5:00 pm to 8:30 pm in the City all parking lot - One Locks Plaza in Lockport (sponsored by the City of Lockport Youth and Recreation Department).
-Begin at City Hall for pizza, games, and trick-or-treat bags!Then make your way Downtown for “Trick-or-Treating” from 5:00 -7:00 pm.
-Return to City Hall and check out the FAMOUS Kiss Concert! (from Livingston Place).

Pumpkin Decorating Contest
-3rd grade students from Lockport City School District and Market Street Art Center will be decorating about 400 pumpkins this Halloween.
- The decorated pumpkins will be on display at participating downtown businesses from October 26th – October 31st. Community members are invited to visit downtown businesses and vote on their favorite pumpkins!

The Haunted Palace
-October 27, 28, 29 from 6-10 pm and October 30 from 6-9 pm the Historic Palace Theatre—2 East Avenue in Lockport.
- Call 716-438-1130 or visit LockportPalaceTheatre.com for more information.

Lockport Haunted Caves
-October 14-30. Weeknights 6:30-9:30 pm. Friday & Saturday 6:30-10:30 pm.
- 2 Pine Street in Lockport.
-Call 716-434-CAVE or visit LockportHauntedCave.com for more information.

Happy House at the YMCA
-Happy House is an alternative to scary Halloween for children ages 6 months to 6 years sponsored by the Barge Canal Optimist Club and held at the Lockport Family YMCA—19 East Avenue.
-For a $1 donation, children play life size Candy Land, visit Pooh’s friends and share a friendly story.
-Times are Wednesday, Oct 28 from 6-8 PM, Thursday, Oct 29 & Friday, Oct 30 from 5-8 PM and on Sat from 9 AM to Noon, during the YMCA Fall Open House.

Main Street Masquerade
-Join us for “Main Street Masquerade” on Friday, October 30th from 9:00 pm to 1:00 am at the Historic Palace Theatre—2 East Avenue in Lockport.
-Tickets are just $10. With your ticket purchase, receive $1.00 off admission to both the Haunted Palace and the Lockport Haunted Cave Tours.
-Music and Dancing, Costume Contests, Prizes, Basket Raffle, Appetizers, Cash bar— beer and wine.
-18 and older. Costumes encouraged.

10/16/2009

As the Staffing Burns...

Posted by MJ


Drift Wood Fire Next To Low Water Bridge. Oldtown WVa.

LUSJ has an update on the recent arbitration ruling on the fire dept. minimum staffing requirement.

To have guaranteed minimum staffing of 10 firefighters per shift, as the arbitrator ordered, would require the city to hire nine more firefighters, Chief Thomas Passuite said. Barring that, it would have to more than double its annual overtime allowance for the fire department.
--------
Property owners won’t foot the bill, Mayor Michael Tucker vowed. The city will petition state Supreme Court for review of the arbitrator’s decision, and if the decision is upheld, the cost will be covered by fire service and/or staff cuts, he said.

“I hear through the grapevine some of (the union officers) are bragging, ‘We beat the city’ in arbitration. They’d better hope they lose in court, because if they don’t, the (stuff) is gonna hit the fan. Enough is enough,” Tucker said.
 -------
The 50-man fire department is organized into four platoons that take turns manning 10- or 14-hour shifts. Given time-off privileges granted the men in the LPFFA contract, even the nine-man shift minimum isn’t being met without calling firefighters in on overtime.

Here’s why: The LPFFA contract allows for up to four firefighters per platoon to be off duty at any time. Three platoons have 12 firefighters while another has 11. Subtract up to 4 from either number; also subtract the number of “unscheduled” absences on a shift, due to sick call-in, injury or military duty; then figure out how many men have to be called in from other platoons, at 1.5 times their hourly pay rate, to meet the minimum manning number.
--------

The big issue seems to be the number allowed off a shift at any time (according to article that number does not include "unscheduled" time off: sick, injury, etc).  A third of the scheduled work force? It seems excessive. Freeze the minimum number at 9 (no injuries or potential threats due to reduced manning in the last 3 years per article). Trade the minimum off to 2 (would allow for 1 unscheduled absence per shift without invoking overtime) for the hiring of an additional firefighter to round out the last platoon to 12 like the others.

I also offered this up in a comment to a post last week:
Perhaps instead of full over time you have "on-call" situations. Pay someone a small rate to be on call on a one or two person short shift night (a bit like a volunteer). If a fire event happens where they need to respond to a scene and are called they can receive the overtime pay for that shift. The city of Lockport is small. They can arrive close to the responding vehicle.

Like most of the corporate world does, why not benchmark other similar sized NE cities that have the same good safety record yet do it with less money and/or overtime? No need to reinvent the wheel on our own.

Any other ideas? How about public referendums on budgets on public employee contracts? Or even a public comment period on them (is there one already?) It's always surprising to find out whats in some of them.

10/13/2009

Why to Love (and Hate) Walmart

Posted by MJ

For those interested in Walmart, some recent articles on MSN:

Why you should hate Walmart
Why you should love Walmart

In praise of Walmart - another pro, but some interesting facts pertaining to the economy. And...

Finally, those who fault large discounters for the decline of individual shopkeepers are ignoring trends that have been around for more than a half-century. Similar accusations were made after World War II, when the growth of supermarkets such as A&P contributed to the demise of locally owned butcher shops, vegetable stands and dry-goods stores. Yet today, the supermarket is a symbol of the American way of life, and specialty stores that cater to particular tastes, such as ethnic and gourmet foods, are still thriving.


Let me say that my family and I have not stepped into a Wal-Mart store for years. When one opened in Philadelphia a decade ago, we found the checkout lines far too long and personal service lacking. We prefer to shop at more "upscale" discount stores, such as Target.
But I vividly remember the people who shopped at Wal-Mart. Many were from Philadelphia's poorer neighborhoods, and they shopped as if every penny counted. When I see groups such as Acorn, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, lead the battle against Wal-Mart by claiming to fight for "the disadvantaged classes," a thought comes to mind: Have any of their members ever spoken to any of the millions of Wal-Mart shoppers for whom the chain's "everyday low prices" are critical for making ends meet?

As an older rust belt city, Lockport has a big lower income demographic. Why should they have to pay $2 more a roll for paper towels down the road? I know the main issue is that the proposed Walmart is "too big for the site" but this is more for those that throw in other issues, even though they pertain to almost any big-box store. I understand Walmart is the biggest so it is the best target to attack but failing to note that it also applies to the rest is a bit disingenuous.

Walmart is so well run even making it better than our own federal government at providing disaster relief: Walmart at Forefront of Hurricane Relief. Though that may not be saying much? ;) When criticizing something (or anyone) it helps to also note what they do well. Nothing is purely "evil" and noting that helps give credence to your negative points.

Can Walmart to better? Yes. Though they consistently have done better than their competition, nothing is wrong with raising the bar. None of it though should preclude a new super-center here.

10/12/2009

October Storm - 3 Years Ago

Posted by MJ

The Buffalo News is reporting on the lag of replacing trees damaged in the surprise large snow storm of three years ago.

I remember waking up for work and turning on the news to hear the concern over all of the breaking trees in Buffalo. After  the storm redirected up here to Lockport I became even more concerned. I ended up taping a a few flag poles together and knocking the snow out of my trees as high as I could reach and others along the street. Pry not the wisest move but one of the reasons I live in an older area is all of the old mature trees and the feeling of "life" they give.

Tree replacement is usually one of the first things cut in a budget (because "we already have a lot") but when it takes 20 years to grow another one the best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. To me, nothing reflects a neglected street or area like a city choosing not to replace the trees. It has a large subconscious effect.

10/09/2009

Sign Law Revision Proposed

Posted by MJ

LUSJ reporting that a new proposed sign law is ready for legislative review. The public hearing will be Oct 21st.

From the article:

Gone is an element of the 2008 law that triggered much resentment: imposition of a “preferred” colors palette for signs in the central business district.

The proposed revised ordinance would regulate only the type, size and placement of business and other signs — and authorize the building inspection department to issue sign permits instantly when the specifications are met.

The planning board would be asked to approve proposed signs only when they don’t conform with type, size or placement rules.
 It's logical to get rid of the need for the planning board to be involved and the resulting $100 fee. I look forward to reading the document.
Using quantifiable, physical attributes of signs, the proposed law still manages to ban or constrain certain types that might be regarded as “loud” or “tacky” by some. Banners, posters, pennants and other moving, fluttering, rotating, revolving and/or flashing devices — including animated/ video signs — are prohibited outright. Electronic message-board signs must hold a static message for at least 20 seconds before they change.
I'm curious how the new Aaron's  at Walnut and Transit got their signage through the old statue.



I find the huge back lit Aaron's sign very unnecessary coupled with the  pole sign on a street with a 30 mph speed limit and maybe a 2 block line of sight. Is this not "loud" and "tacky" to some (like me)? ;) There's no use (besides visual blight) for pole signs designed for 45-55mph arterials with pushed back plazas in an urban area. Not much luck melding the fakey drivit upper facade with the low slung modern design of the existing building but it did allow them to cram in a large sign. I'm curious to read the sign limitations etc in the new ordinance. Great touch on the full windows along Walnut though! If only the front looked half as good. People will say "well its their corporate look". The problem is their corporate look is the cheapest loudest design. For any chain retailer there are examples of instances where they design better stores where local ordinances require it.


10/08/2009

Budget 2010 Finalized...

Posted by MJ

...with a 1.7% increase in the tax rate. Stories here: LUSJ / Buffalo News. Cut were some empty positions, recycling program initiation and other line items. The city is using a third of its surplus  ($1.1) million to offset the increase in employee pay rates and pensions. This $1.1 million will need to be made up in next year's budget (2011).


LUSJ notes that Mr Chapman and Mr Smith, running for ward seats, were pretty vocal about it not being enough.


The budgets drew criticism from a couple of opposition candidates for Council. Jack Smith, candidate for 2d Ward alderman, and Andrew Chapman, candidate for 4th Ward alderman, both said the Council “failed” residents by approving spending plans containing any tax increase at all.

Ahead of the vote, Smith told the aldermen he hoped they would “think first about whether you’ve given your all to getting it down to zero. ... If you vote for an increase, I really think you haven’t done your job.”

After the vote, Chapman said, “I own a business and I’ve had to lay off a whole bunch of people ... . Sometimes we have to make difficult decisions in a difficult time. You failed the people.”

10/04/2009

Walmart Inching Closer

Posted by MJ

 LUSJ reporting that the latest Citizens for "Smart Growth" request was shot down. One more to go?

Walmart facilities have come a long way in the last 4 years. These delays will at least ensure we have a much better facility than we would have if it was built when originally announced.

10/01/2009

Budget Meeting Overview

Posted by MJ

LUSJ reporting today on the continuing 2010 city budget planning and then the budget meeting last night and the focus on recycling. The Buffalo News is also reporting.

It appears there was a change in the recycling plan that was discussed as Modern Disposal changed their bid (making it more expensive) and a city employee based service (picking up and delivering it to Allied in Kenmore) was submitted in its place. To get this city based option going it would have cost $102,000 or $0.16 cents per $1,000 of assessed value. The initial damage for recycling? $10.40 a year for a $65,000 house. That's a value meal at Subway. But public reaction at the meeting was still on the negative side. I'd only be hesitant on any long term costs of adding city employees.

Tucker was quoted as saying their is still hope.

Others argued it’s shameful that Lockport is one of the only municipalities in the region that still doesn’t offer a curbside recycling program. Instituting one now is about playing catch-up environmentally and morally, they said. ...... 
 The Council will hold a roll call vote on the final version of the 2010 budget next Wednesday. In the interim, Tucker predicted, “there’ll be a lot of debate about recycling. I think this Council pretty well understands, if there is a tax increase it can’t be any more than 3 percent. ... Can we have that and recycling? We’ll see.”
 If you are for it, be sure to let your council member know. The decision for this year will be coming next Wednesday.

Over all the budget is being whittled down with help from tapping reserve funds ($1.1 million).

During an afternoon work session, the Council approved some moves suggested by Mayor Michael W. Tucker and City Clerk and Budget Director Richard P. Mullaney that chopped the prospective tax increase from 12 percent to 3.86 percent

9/30/2009

Main St Inc Halloween Plans

Posted by MJ




The LUSJ had an article a while back highlighting some of the activities of Lockport's Main St Inc with a focus on the Halloween events:

• A painted pumpkin display by merchants. Groups of elementary school-age youths would paint pumpkins donated by Niagara Produce Lockport and have them displayed in participating shops for four to five days ahead of Oct. 31. Parents, grandparents and others would be recruited to visit each displaying shop and vote for the best pumpkins.

• Downtown trick-or-treating from 5 to 7 p.m. Oct. 29. This one’s a go so long as a sufficient number of merchants sign up to participate, Main Street program manager Heather Peck said. The Main Street program will supply participating merchants with an identifying window/door sticker; the only expense for merchants is the cost of candy. “It’s a simple concept and one that works in other communities,” including Medina, she said.

• A “Main Street Masquerade” at the Palace Theatre on Oct. 30. This costume party for adults only is a Main Street Program fundraiser. Tickets will cost $10 per person; the organizing committee wanted admission kept affordable so that a wider cross-section of local residents will be encouraged to attend, Peck said. A basket raffle will be held and complimentary hors d’oeuvres will be donated by Lockport-area restaurants. With every ticket sold, coupons will be given for discounted admission to the Lockport Haunted Cave tour and the Haunted Palace tour.

• A Halloween decorating contest open to all residents of the city and town of Lockport. Prizes for best decorators will include a $100 gift certificate from Mills Jewelers, dinner-for-two at Garlock’s Restaurant and a Skateland admission package. All registered participants will receive a gift from Lockport Haunted Cave; contest entry details are still being worked out. The organizing committee is working with Haunted Cave/Lockport Underground Cave and Boat Ride principal Tom Callahan, Peck said. The cave tours are marketed to a regional audience; and Callahan suggested widespread decorating could create an additional attraction for visitors.

Elmwood Ave in Buffalo always puts on a very nice business strip trick-or-treat event. Let's hope Lockport does well with its first. Kids will enjoy the sweets and seeing their pumpkins and the adults have an opportunity to check out the local businesses.

The goal of not-for-profit Lockport Main St Inc. is to promote Lockport, attract new businesses to Downtown Lockport while supporting the existing ones. Shopping malls, large plaza's etc are ran and marketed to an exact science. Types of stores, their placements, operating hours, special events etc are all well laid out and give a large head start in the competition for customers and their money. DT Lockport will do well to have an organization to help level the playing field. I hope that all businesses find their way to participating in the endeavor and moving forward as a team. More posts on Lockport Main St Inc to come.

9/29/2009

Planning Board Agenda-Oct.

Posted by MJ

The agenda for the Planning Board October Meeting is:

1) 80 Rosevelt Dr. Home occupation request to offer small classes/art instruction

2) Holiday Inn, 515 S. Transit Rd - remove old signs and install new signage for wall and pylon.

3) 325 Summit Street - Special Use Permit to operate tours of old house from Spring to Fall and a 4'x4' sign.

Meeting is at 5pm on Monday Oct. 5th.

9/29/2009

Public Meeting: Budget-Recycling

Posted by MJ




LUSJ is reporting on a public meeting scheduled for tomorrow pertaining to keeping recycling in the budget this year. The Buffalo News also has an article today.

Revenue and spending estimates were modified Monday by Mullaney, Tucker and Treasurer Michael White. The proposed general fund budget is just short of $24 million. The $1.35 million spending increase is to be covered mostly from a higher property tax levy because, year over year, there’s little growth in projected non-tax revenue such as sales tax, fees, fines, interest and state aid.

The document proposes taking $850,000 out of the $3.9 million general fund surplus, $100,000 more than this year’s budget did. The figure may rise to $1 million before the budget is approved, according to Tucker. If $1 million in surplus is appropriated in 2010, the city will sport a general fund balance of about $2.1 million, roughly the minimum 10 percent surplus recommended by the state comptroller to cover emergencies.

“There’s no way we’re going out there (to the public hearing) with a 5 percent tax increase, so I’d say we can take a little more (surplus), but not much more,” Tucker said. “There’s still some (budget) cutting to do.”

Of the $24 million projected spending, $19.6 million goes to employee costs, including 3 percent raises in 2010 for all members of the local CSEA and AFSCME units and the police and city department heads’ unions. The rest of the budget accounts for expected spending on supplies and contract/professional services retained by individual city departments, and annual debt payments
Also an article on Schrader's Garbage District proposal.

 Show up at the council chambers tomorrow (Wednesday Sept 29th) at 6:00 to be heard if you are for or against the added cost for a recycling program. You may also be able to write in to your council member if you prefer the "low-key" route.

I feel its long overdue and the cost per month is not unreasonable. It is a plus that it is contracted out and will not be adding employees or pension responsibilities to the city for the long term. I would also be for the garbage district to have everyone in the city pay for their garbage pickup thus more evenly distributing the costs.

9/25/2009

City Budget Time!

Posted by MJ

LUSJ posted and article: CITY OF LOCKPORT: City faces $2M spending hike

• Three-percent pay raises for all employees in 2010, in addition to 3 percent raises given retroactively for 2009, in light of anticipated union contract settlements. Straight payroll costs are estimated at $12.2 million, $1 million more than this year.

• A 13 percent/nearly $590,000 increase in the health insurance tab. The city fully funds insurance premiums for all employees and eligible retirees.

• A $136,000 increase in mandatory payments to employee pension funds. Thanks to the stock market crashing last fall, the state is raising the per-employee payment to 18.5 percent of payroll for police and fire employees, up from 14.4 percent, and to 11 percent of payroll from 7 percent for all other employees. Based on latest information from the state, City Clerk/Budget Director Richard Mullaney penciled in a $1.4 million payment to the police/fire fund and a $415,000 payment to the Employee Retirement System in 2010. Year over year, it’s a 7.5 percent increase in the pension bill.

Most of the 2 million comes from employee obligations. Even at time of 10%+ unemployment in the city, business closures, Delphi's eventual lower assessment etc it's nice to know that the public sector employees can always count on the remaining tax payers to give the cost of living raises and full health care. ;) Some people may read that as sour grapes, but as most companies are forced to streamline and grow efficiencies for even survival in this economy it's alarming that government bodies can just keep on rolling along.

I'm all for public referendum's on public salary contracts, etc. (There's not much better than watching the NYS legislature grant itself a raise). Provisions are needed on the municipalities ability to pay. 

Quick search found Hampton N.H. voters turning down town employee contract amendments:

Article 12 - $69,321 to fund the cost items relating to the Teamsters, Local 633, salaries and benefits for 2009: 925 yes, 1,758 no.
Article 13 - $23,554 to fund the cost items relating to the Hampton Police Association (Sergeants), salaries and benefits for 2009: 971 yes, 1,732 no.
Article 14 - $144,187 to fund the cost items relating to the Hampton Police Association, salaries and benefits for 2009: 890 yes, 1,798 no.

Actually reading through that article the Hampton people get a say on a lot of aspects come voting time. The recent town board reductions in Erie County show how people will come out to vote when they actually get a say in something, beyond just picking someone to represent you and then hoping for the best.

9/24/2009

ESDC Leaving Us in the Dark?

Posted by MJ

Yesterday, The Buffalo News wrote about the dissatisfaction in the Niagara County Legislature that the county was not invited to the table to discuss what became First Niagara's headquarter's move to the east side of Buffalo accompanied with a $1.3 Million gift from the state.

Today both The Buffalo News and the LUSJ posted the response by the ESDC and First Niagara. It seems as long as some jobs were created, they justify behind their decision to not include Niagara County in the discussions.

Katie Krawczyk, upstate public affairs director for Empire State Development, said the corporation’s top priority is creating and maintaining jobs in New York. “We are pleased with our work on this deal as we were not only able to bring 300 new, high-paying jobs to both Niagara and Erie counties, but we also helped to secure the company’s existing work force of over 1,000 employees across upstate New York,” she said. “First Niagara will be maintaining the current number of positions they have at their Niagara County office while expanding this facility to serve as their main administrative office. It was important to ESD to ensure that both Erie and Niagara Counties benefited from First Niagara’s expansion,” Krawczyk added.

The sponsor, Legislator Renae Kimble, D-Niagara Falls, said she would have liked to see those 300 new jobs in Niagara County. She also railed against the lack of notice the bank gave Niagara County officials. “It’s another case of Niagara County being marginalized and ignored,” she said. Legislature Chairman William L. Ross said he didn’t find out about the deal until 7:30 p. m. Sept. 10, the night before it was announced. Niagara County, whose Economic Development Department has a business retention operation, was never given a chance to try to keep the headquarters, Kimble complained.

I was (and still am) fine with the ultimate decision to financially help First Niagara expand in an area that needs help and reuse (east side of Buffalo). As opposed to getting paid to move to Crosspoint Business Park etc, then I would feel differently (even the pick up and move to the Pendleton location was a stretch - were incentives given then?)

It should still be a concern that the host (and neighboring) community was left out of the loop. The legislature is free to have someone from the ESDC come in and explain themselves though more will need to be done to ensure a more open dialogue between affected governmental bodies within the state. Although there are some bright spots to how this played out, it could very well not be the case the next time it happens.

9/16/2009

First Niagara Off to Buffalo

Posted by MJ

As we may already know, First Niagara (former Lockport Savings Bank) is expanding again thru acquisitions and moving it Headquarters to Buffalo in the process.

Image: Improvements to Larkin District in Buffalo. LCo Reuse Structure in Rear.

Last weeks' articles:
First Niagara move of HQ to Buffalo seen as boost - Buffalo News
First Niagara moving HQ to Buffalo - Buffalo News
BANKING: First Niagara moving corporate headquarters to Buffalo - LUSJ
First Niagara Invests in Larkin's Future - Buffalo Rising

The good news is that 300 jobs are coming to the area while the local bank continues to grow. The move to Buffalo makes sence for a more central location and a higher profile than "Pendleton". Even better is their commitment to the Larkin Building, the 10 story former Graphic Controls Facility (TYCO) that was put on most people's death pool lists as it sat alone and disconnected from DT Buffalo. A great re-use success story that most people thought could not happen.

The Larkin Building shows what a Class-A transformation can do for an old structure. Granchelli's F&M building shows what good a "for lease" sign does along with no improvements (a lower assessment? ;) ). Harrison Place sits in the middle, tiny updates chasing low rent paying class C or lower users. This at least gives it hope for a better future.

The one Buffalo News article mentions:
"And if First Niagara keeps growing as bank executives hope, there could be more opportunities for new jobs locally in the future. "In the long term, where do we go with the call center? Where do we go with the data center?" Koelmel asked in an interview. "These are some of our bigger challenges."
Where do they go? The answer should be obvious to us. Will the City of Lockport get a call center? Will the Town of Lockport score another data center? Will space be ready to go? When Yahoo employees split off on their own endeavors will they want to stay and lay down roots here?

Harrison Place can be the Larkin Building and better. Residential directly to the south, DT directly to the north, summer concerts directly out the front door. Everything they are trying to create from scratch in the "Larkin District" already exists around Harrison Place. Maybe the Larkin Development Group would like to dabble a bit in Niagara County? They could have future First Niagara expansion in tow.

 
Image: LCo Reuse - Similar Fate Possible for Harrison Place?

9/11/2009

Halloween Split

Posted by MJ


According to the LUSJ and The Buffalo News, the Town of Lockport has noted it is not participating in the joint city-town Halloween celebration this year. They have chosen to put on their own speparate "Fall Fest" earlier in the month. This has caused some last minute planning needs for the Melissa Junke and the rest of the city youth department.

“We’ve been thinking the last few years about doing something different, something to get people outside,” she said Wednesday. “The party last year was very successful, but there was a ton of people; we heard some concerns (from volunteers) about safety and the difficulty of showing everyone a good time when there are so many people.”
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“This late in the game, the town pulling out definitely will have an impact on (the party). It’ll cost the city more money and, at this point, I don’t know where we’re going to have it,” Junke said. “Halloween seems like a long time off, but it’s not, really, to plan an event of this size.”

 The money shortfall and lack of location (was held at volunteer fire dept in town) leaves several questions to be quickly answered. The article mentions Mayor Tucker submitting Canal St. as a location. Not sure on the status of the buildings on the inside, but it could make a unique indoor-outdoor set-up. As for the extra money the LUSJ mentions today that Gary Chapman of Papa Leo's has started a fund raising challenge. Gary has been civic-minded lately for recent events and future ones including planning for this year's DT New Year's Celebration.

Has anyone attended the recent Halloween events and care to share their experience?

As for the lead in image, we decided to humiliate our lab as a Lobster this year. Keep an eye out for her handing out candy on the South Side this year. ;)

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