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.”
------------
“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. ;)

9/07/2009

Robbery at the KFC

Posted by Black Phillip

(All times are approx.)

About 8:50 there were tire squeals.
Followed by sirens.

9:00 Helicopter overhead with searchlight.
Streets are being blocked off.

9:05 Presence seems to be spreading out, still heavy.

9:30 Police are still going through backyards, copter is still in flight.
Anyone in the area should stay inside, lock their doors and windows.

9:40 I heard through the grapevine that KFC was robbed.

10:00 Thanks for the updates below. It looks like they are starting to blanket the whole city now.

10:15 Still doing backyard searches in the north end. I heard there was some action over on Gooding Street.

10:20 It looks like the helicopter is hovering over Gooding.

10:30 Channel 4 is reporting an officer was clipped by the car, sent to hospital. More news from the networks at 11:00.

10:40 Looks like they are have moved eastward, as Liz indicated below.

11:05 Channel 4 says that the officer was pinned in between the suspects' car and his police car as they fled from KFC. Injuries are minor. Also, according to the report there was quite a bit of action on Washington street. Nothing else much, so no further updates tonight. Thanks to everyone who added info below.

And as an aisde... what did Channel 2 and 7 lead with? Events that they've been talking about all day long.


There are two videos looped on the one page, the full report and a stay tuned report.

Slightly different story from Channel 2

Looks like Channel 2 has the worst story out there... Here's a rather good one from the Niagara Gazette site:

More news updates...

9/04/2009

Upping the New Year's Ante

Posted by MJ

 
Image - Fictional Fireworks on Main St Lockport NY
Seems I may have had a premonition when I created the above image. The LUSJ is reporting that Gary Chapman from Papa Leo's has planning and fund raising underway for a larger New Years' Eve celebration in DT Lockport including fireworks from the parking ramp. The event would move from its recent location at the wide bridge over to the UCC court yard (parking lot) where the Molson Canal Concerts are held in the summer.

The general manager of Papa Leo’s restaurant, Main Street, wants to put on the city’s biggest and best New Year’s Eve celebration yet. He’s already holding fundraisers and courting sponsors to support a bash in the Ulrich City Centre courtyard, with heated tents, food vendors, live bands, kids’ games and a petting zoo, a ball drop and fireworks shot from the roof of the city parking garage.

Rockin’ the Locks “has the potential to be really big, like First Night Buffalo,” Chapman said. “I’ve always had visions of it being bigger and better, especially after my involvement in the Dog Day of Summer” fundraiser for Chet Secrist.
Past years have failed to lure me out of the house or events at other locations. This one sounds like it very well could. It will be exciting to watch it all come together. Also, an early thanks to those who are volunteering and donating.

Also, a fund raising raffle is ongoing through Jan. 3. Prizes including a $100 gift card from Tops, dinner for up to 40 people from Papa Leo’s and a 60-inch LCD TV donated by Aaron’s Inc. will be awarded in time for Super Bowl XLIV. Raffle tickets can be purchased at Papa Leo’s and Aaron’s, 1 Walnut St.

Already, volunteers and sponsors are stepping up to support the event, Chapman said. The Palace donated space for the Blues Festival, Lakeview Animal Sanctuary will set up the petting zoo and Tom Brigham of Gasport, who arranges the July 4 fireworks show at Royalton Ravine, is taking charge of the New Year’s Eve fireworks.

Depending on the size of their donation, sponsors will receive a number of free tickets to the Blues Festival and a V.I.P. heated tent at the New Year’s Eve event, plus publicity. To discuss a sponsorship, call Chapman at 990-5494; or mail donations (checks payable) to Lockport Promotions, 6290 Robinson Road, Lockport, NY 14094.

9/04/2009

Walmart Update

Posted by MJ

 
Image - New Super Center Going Up Near Dunkirk NY - Aug '09
WLVL reporting that the town of Lockport expects Walmart to purchase the old Lockport Mall by the end of the year and start the building process the early next year. It appears they do not see much threat in "Smart Growth's" latest appeal which has yet to be ruled on (expected Oct 2nd). I expected it to delay the project longer, so this is a nice surprise. Hopefully this schedule pans out.

9/03/2009

Contracting Assessment

Posted by MJ

Image: F&M Building Reflected in the Bewley Building

LUSJ is reporting that the city counsel is looking to bid out the city wide reassessment.

Macaluso, who works for the city on a contractual basis, has already told Tucker that revaluation services by a private appraising firm could cost $200,000 to $250,000. Updating the city’s property inventory, which is known to be rife with inaccuracies, and checking/adjusting the assessed value of every parcel is expected to take about 18 months.
------
Adjustments have been nominal since mid-2006, when then-Assessor Vince Smith quit the post in light of widespread public outrage over his proposed value hikes. His successor, Peter Galarneau, quit earlier this year, after informing Tucker he could not manage revaluation without some outside help.
I can guarantee there will be outrage again. ;)

The city would be wise to find ways to make the assessment positive. No one likes to be penalized for upgrading their properties while others get "rewarded" for neglect. Case in point being the reduced assessment on the F&M building because of water damage and no tenants.  In most instances the system is backwards.

The truest value is sale price. What about setting the assessed value at what the the house was purchased for and keeping it there for that owner? Find a way to reward those who stick around and those who take run down houses and invest in them. Next time it is sold the assessment will automatically bump itself up to the fair market value. (of coarse loop holes would have to be closed) As for DT, how about some partial land based tax components to deter parking lots and sitting on empty buildings?

The assessment process should be another tool to promote investment; not to deter it. The citizens would be much happier.

9/03/2009

Devaluing Harrison Place

Posted by MJ

 Image - Larkin Reuse East Side Buffalo

Both the LUSJ and The Buffalo News are reporting on County Manager Gregory D. Lewis' report on moving some county departments to Harrison Place (records and mental health).

The summary of the report in the articles reads as if the Lewis either has his mind made up on another location (or the existing one over at the Mountain View complex) or is unfamiliar with proven current day building reuses.

“I don’t know what they expected, if they expected to walk into the Larkin Building or the Rich Atrium,” Tucker said. “It is what it is, it’s an old industrial warehouse. It’s got mold, it needs a new roof in one place, but it’s structurally sound. I was unhappy the county manager would release such a scathing report about one of our assets.”
----------
Tucker said the city has shown it can clean up and reuse old, run-down buildings, pointing to a former shirt factory that now is home to Niagara County Produce’s Lockport location, and the once-decrepit buildings on Canal Street that now await commercial tenants.
“It’s not like we don’t know what we’re doing. We have a track record,” Tucker said.
 While government has the responsibility to give us the best use of our money it goes beyond just building the cheapest buildings it can. Public buildings should be central and add value to the area around them. The Harrison complex would benefit from being a mixed use facility of commercial/residental/governmental. The mixed use would create a 24-hour building and would protect the shield the building from drops in demand in one of the sectors and the gov't sector could give it some needed stability.

It would give the "bad" area around it a boost and a reason for some investment confidence. You turn around a bad area by investing in it; not by ignoring it through disinvestment.

Similar to the old Larkin Factory on the east side of Buffalo (top image) the Harrison Complex could be the biggest jewel in DT Lockport. Recently all types of tax incentives/credits have been legislated for mixed use and historic properties. We just need some leaders with some forward thinking to help us on our way to a whole that is greater than it parts. I hope they keep pushing and succeed.

9/03/2009

Long Time...No Hear...

Posted by MJ

I've been busy around the house and enjoying the end of August so the posting has been slim. Will get back to posting today.

Anyone notice the lack of on-line material from the LUSJ lately?