Recycling's Continued Success

Posted by MJ

The Buffalo News reported on the new city recycling program's continued strong start.

City officials say Lockport’s participation in recycling since the city began privatized garbage service has far exceeded expectations.
Dawn M. Timm, Niagara County environmental coordinator and a prime mover in the new program, said the amount of trash land-filled in the first four weeks of the new system was 33 percent less than in the same period in 2010, a figure she called “incredible.”...
What a huge reduction in the amount of land-filled waste. The large wheeled recycling tote is the biggest factor for me. We have filled it to the top before every pickup and our 94 gallon garbage tote is usually only 1/2 filled because of it. Past experiences with the small recycling crates in Lancaster showed them to be a PIA since all cardboard had to be completely broken down to fit and they quickly ran out of space resulting in a lot of recyclables heading to the trash.

I have noticed several of the smallest garbage totes overfilled every week. Those users will most likely start to get some bad news in the near future in the form of warnings and tickets. The best solution to me is to be friendly with your neighbors and share extra space when needed on a rare basis for free as opposed to buying tickets for extra bags. Otherwise take the free switch to a different size tote. The $5 a month between the smallest size and largest should not be too big of a burden.
...Besides the savings on the landfilling, which costs the city $30.73 per ton, the city will earn about $1,500 for selling the recyclables collected in the first month of the program, Timm said...
While a small sum in terms of the overall budget, I'd love to see these "green" proceeds going to a dedicated purpose such as new street trees etc.

As a reminder the city refuse and recycling website is here. It does note this is the last week for free "extra" item placement. As of December 5th, all extra items placed to the curb will reqiure an “Additional Item Tag/Sticker”.


No Cave Tour Office at Canal St.

Posted by MJ

The Buffalo News and LUSJ reported that Lockport Cave and Underground Boat Tours will not be purchasing or, as they later requested, leasing the east most buildings.

The city’s deal with Hydraulic Race Company Inc. to turn Canal Street property into the base of a tourist attraction is off.

Hydraulic Race Company, the corporate owner of the Lockport Cave & Underground Boat Tour, last month informed the city that it no longer wished to purchase 79 Canal St. for various reasons. Instead, it proposed entering a long-term lease with Greater Lockport Development Corporation, which has a long-term master lease on all Canal Street properties.

GLDC’s board of directors has declined to negotiate property rental with the tour company, GLDC’s attorney, John Ottaviano, informed the company in a letter dated Monday.

Further, the purchase deal offered by the city, signed by Mayor Michael Tucker this past April but not signed by either Clancy Burkwit or Thomas Callahan, the shareholders in Hydraulic Race Company, should be considered null and void now, Ottaviano’s letter said....
While a nice fit in that area, I was a little hesitant to see 1/3 of the limited store fronts on Canal St. taken up by a seasonal business. A couple years back they sought variances to build on the land they own across street along the canal where the Holley buildings used to be but it sounds like they do not want to own. While nice to have their base close to the caves entrance, having it a little farther away increases the chances that visitors pass, and visit, other businesses.
...He said there are two companies whose proposals will go before the Greater Lockport Development Corp. board Dec. 15. One is interested only in 51 Canal, while the other wants both 51 and 79 Canal.
The only occupant of Canal Street is Trek Inc., the Medina-based maker of electrostatic measuring equipment. In February, it leased two floors of 57 Canal, the largest of the three buildings, for $90,000 a year..
Meanwhile, Burkwit said Hydraulic Race is looking for an alternative in downtown Lockport to its current Lockport Cave headquarters in Old City Hall, 2 Pine St....

In a little over two weeks we shall here who the other two interested parties are. As a side, note I'd love to see some signage for Trek on 57 Canal st to advertise that there is indeed life there.


Election Update

Posted by MJ

The Buffalo News reported on the corrected election results:

...On Election Night, Tucker was reported the winner over Democratic challenger Michael J. Pillot by 200 votes, 2,297 to 2,097. But in the 2nd Ward, District 4, and the 4th Ward, District 3, Tucker’s vote was undercounted and Pillot’s was overstated. Correcting the errors makes the totals 2,345 for Tucker, 2,048 for Pillot. Absentee ballots have yet to be tallied.
Also closer than first reported was the 4th Ward alderman contest. Democrat Patrick W. Schrader was reported the winner over the GOP’s George A. Waskosky, 633 to 212. But two of the four districts in the ward reported wrong figures. The real result was Schrader winning 500 to 346...
The erroneous reports were first reported by the Buffalo News here.
They said the inspectors, many of them elderly people who just completed a 16-hour work day, incorrectly copied the totals from the ballot scanners onto forms that were used to generate the Election Night results posted on the board’s web-site

“It should be easy, but they make mistakes. That’s why the results are unofficial,” Casamento said.
plus swinging open doors....
Meanwhile, the commissioners said no ballots were lost or stolen in an incident Election Night in which several ballot bags fell out of a truck hauling them to the Board of Elections storage site in Newfane.

A Lockport police report said an officer found four bags at Market and Exchange streets and opened one, finding votes inside. Smith said five other bags were found by a Market Street resident.


Garbage Bill to be $147...

Posted by MJ

...with 60 days to pay. The Buffalo News reported.

All City of Lockport property owners will receive a$147 garbage bill by the end of this month, City Treasurer Michael E. White said this week

The bill is the same for all properties and must be paid within 60 days, White said. The charge covers the cost of the city-run garbage pickup service from Jan. 1 until Modern Disposal took over Oct. 10. That cost was left out of the 2011 city budget and the taxes that were levied this past January.
However, the city’s general fund had to front the money to pay for the garbage service and now has to be repaid, City Clerk and Budget Director Richard P. Mullaney said at Wednesday’s Common Council meeting. White said the privatized garbage service will operate on an October- to-September fiscal year and the user fees will be billed semiannually, with the first bill expected in May.


Housing Visions Subcontractors

Posted by MJ

Here is a document (PDF) I recieved from Jack Smith on the local subcontractors being used for the canal homes housing project. Also shows the processes for seeking bids, etc.

Direct mail was sent to the 200+ contractors that are licensed with the City of Lockport, local retail businesses were asked for references and legal ads were posted in papers for several weeks.

List showing firms chosen so far:


2012 voting results

Posted by MJ

In the mayor race Tucker is ahead by 200 votes at the close of polls. About 275 absentee ballots still need to be counted but the lead should hold.

Even though Pillot did not have much of a platform, the assessments (not controlled by the city), privatization of garbage (change is scary?) and the Hoffman job removal mess had me figuring it would be close.

If nothing else, the close primaries and actual election votes hits home the importance of voting.

In alderman news from the LUSJ:

City voters returned incumbents to the Common Council by sizable margins Tuesday. First Ward Alderman Richelle J. Pasceri, 5th Ward Alderman Kenneth M. Genewick and 4th Ward alderman- elect Patrick  Schrader, who served in the seat for 10 years, are returning to the Council table on Jan. 1. They’ll be joined by  veteran Alderman at Large Joe Kibler, newly elected 2nd Ward Alderman Anne McCaffrey and newly elected 3rd Ward Alderman Kathryn “Kitty” Fogle, who had no opposition to fill seats in the 2012-13 Council.
Entire Niagara County race results are at the County Board of Elections website.

Article from Buffalo News.

LUSJ Posted on the mayoral race and the other ones favoring incumbents.


Tucker - Pillot II

Posted by MJ

The LUSJ posted their detailed article on the mayor race. Some highlights:

“The city’s a much different place than it was eight years ago. I think there’s a lot of things that we can hang our hat on, that I’m proud of,” Tucker said. “The next four years are going to be extremely difficult years, when you look at the expenses the city incurs and the revenue it brings in, there’s going to be some very difficult decisions. I think I’ve proven I can make them.”
As I constantly mention, the cities budget solution must be increased investment in the city. Any cuts that start to (if not already have) hampered that will only set us back.Union concession will be huge since as the article states, 82% of our budget is salaries, health and pension.
The public  <refuse> program cost about $1.5 million a year inclusive of employees’ wages, equipment and fuel expenses and landfilling fees. Administration estimates privatizing will save the city $10 million over 10 years....

...In order to cut city spending, administration had to get its employees’ consent to farm out bargained-for work. The pact Tucker worked out with AFSCME in 2009, in which it agreed to let the work go, along with 10 union jobs through attrition, was “unprecedented,” Tucker said....
...Pillot says he’s “100 percent for recycling” but questions whether the Modern deal was the best or cheapest way the city could finally land it.

He points to the Town of Niagara’s deal with Allied Waste Services, which he says pays the town $200,000 a year and picks up trash and recyclables for free; trash is burned and the heat is converted to electricity for businesses...
 Getting the union to give up 10 jobs (albeit through attrition) is huge (do many unions give away bargained for gov't jobs?) and long term the city saves money. I find this a hard topic to make the "big" stand on.  The reason that the town of Niagara gets paid by Allied plus gets "free" trash pick up is that part of Allied's dump is in the town . The other part is in the city of Niagara Falls. It is basically a payment in lieu of taxes agreement. Unless we want to create a Allied run land fill in our city, I'm afraid we will not be getting this deal. Either Pillot did not research that deep (took me a 5 minute internet search) or is not fully explaining things to rouse up voters.
Pillot, a city retiree, said he’s support privatizing city services and/or getting the city into shared-service agreements if they “can save the taxpayers money.”
Number's we've been shown show a savings in privatizing garbage. Does he have other numbers?
...The results of revaluation were mixed for residential properties. Some values were raised a bit, some more than a bit and many more not at all. Overall, values stayed the same or were reduced on two-thirds of all residential properties. Since the city tax rate is decreasing in the 2012 budget, those properties will get smaller tax bills.

Pillot says revaluation was “not fair to many of the residents. With home equity dropping 23 percent, the worst drop since World War I, and Niagara County being one of the highest-taxed counties in New York state, how can you justify the assessments?” ...
Seeing that the assessments were 10 years over due it should not be shocking that some changes were "shocking". Even if everyone got a feel good reduction of 20% tomorrow we'd all still be paying the same in taxes. Either he feels those on top were bumped up too much or those on the bottom were reduced too much. Which groups votes does he want grab?Or does he just want us to have a flat tax of some sort?
Pillot is opposed to taxpayer subsidy of the <Molson Concert >series, especially since it’s held on private property, and he says North Tonawanda, the city that used to host it, got paid by the series promoter instead. He doesn’t like the setup in the City Centre courtyard either; chairs are banned and concert-goers have to stand throughout the shows.

...Were it up to him, he said, he’d get the private sector bankrolling the stage and security, and/or change the setup so independent vendors, local businesses and charitable organizations could get in on the concert night hawking act. Currently, the promoter picks the vendors....

...“How can you justify, to the taxpayers, paying ... for a concert when they are struggling to pay their taxes?” Pillot asked. “I talked to a business owner who stated that the concert has lost them business because their regular customers have no place to park...
Anyone know a business open past 6 DT on a Friday? ;)  And technically while held on private property it was the city's initial agreement for the construction of the UCC to allow the parking lot/courtyard to be used for city events. That was while the concerts were still in N. Tonawanda. I'd have no problem with the city trying to find businesses to sponsor it's sponsorship of the series. Perhaps advertising outside the venue? The main issues with the Vendors inside is they are, along with the beer sales, how the promoters pay for the acts. I for one find it huge to get 400k people into what I've always heard as "Lostport" from many people in Erie County, etc. If we are failing on marketing during this opportunity, shame on us.
...In media interviews and trips to the microphone at Common Council meetings, <Pillot> questioned every aspect of the city’s agreement with Modern Disposal Services for private trash and recycling collection, denounced the results of revaluation as unfair and suggested City Hall can’t afford to shed any more employees. Residents have not been well-served by heavy-handed administration, he thinks...

....Still, 82 percent of the city’s projected spending in the 2012 budget is for personnel: employees’ pay and fringe benefits including health insurance and pension contributions.  “Obviously,” Tucker said, “this is where we’ve gotta go next.”...

...Pillot’s response: “Everyone knows they have to pay taxes to cover vital services, but we have to look at lowering the tax rate before we tax our residents right out of the city....”
So we have to lower the tax rate but we can't afford to shed more employees? Yet they take up 82% of the budget.  Does Pillot have an answer in there somewhere?

The removal of Hoffman / his job title was mess but other wise I have faith in at least a steady ship with Tucker. The city looks like a better place since I arrive in 2004. As for Pillot, I am not sure what he is trying to bring to the table. Besides trying to listen to all of us, who if they are the usual vocal minority, would equal no change at all, what could we expect?

Get out and vote tomorrow.


Save Lockport Housing

Posted by MJ

Guest Post

No matter who you speak with in the City of Lockport there is a reoccurring theme when the conversation turns to housing. Everyone wants to see the blight eliminated, and the owners of the property held responsible for it’s repair or restoration.

Neglected and Nuisance housing has been put on the back burner for far too long in the City of Lockport. In 2008 an effort was made by a small group of homeowners to bring blighted and nuisance housing problems out of the shadows and expose it as the social “Black Eye” that it is. A minimal amount of progress was made in 2008-09. Some of the same properties and the same problems remain unresolved to this day.
The prime culprit continues to be multi-unit income-based housing where landlords (mostly from out of the region) continue to neglect their property and thumb their nose at the legal system. That by no means ignores the fact that there are single-family houses that are in a comparable stage of funkiness. Unfortunately along with the neglect and the blight comes the proliferation of drugs, crime and more blight, as the scourge continues to seep into the surrounding areas.

As citizen advocates we have always preferred to work along side and in chorus with Government. It has become clear however that unless pushed and prodded, the City has difficulty maintaining any momentum when it comes to dealing with nuisance housing.

Here’s what Save Lockport Housing expects to accomplish.

§  Take care of the worst Housing problems first and bring them to a final conclusion
§  One year maximum on boarded up buildings before repairs must begin
§  Reward homeowners when they improve their property with TAX incentives
§  We are requesting a 3 year moratorium on conversions from single-family into multi unit
§  Assist the elderly and disabled with a helping hand
§  “Help a Vet”  housing program for returning veterans
§  Equal application of the law to all citizens
§  Sponsor “City of Lockport Clean-Up Week” the first week in May

 In most cities the initiatives being introduced are civilian-based with assistance from government and local agencies. It’s important to realize that the government can’t do all of the work. It’s incumbent upon every citizen to do his/her part. We have many initiatives that we plan to introduce. We will be seeking Common Council sponsorship, and help from private citizens, groups and organization, to join together to Save Lockport Housing.

Save Lockport Housing believes that we can find strength in numbers, and that we will make a greater impact if our membership is large. We are looking for a wide range of skillful people who want to become PART OF THE HOUSING SOLUTION!

I urge everyone to visit or web site savelockporthousing.com. , Facebook at Save Lockport Housing, or you can email us directly at savelockporthousing@gmail.com.

We plan to hold our first meeting in November. Watch for details.




2012 Election - 4th Ward

Posted by MJ

The LUSJ has the start of the article on the front page today. Unfortunately they have not been posting any of these articles on line.

Some quotes on the Waskosky - Shrader election for 4th Ward alederman.

...In a recent joint meeting with the US&J Editorial Board, they both professed belief in the city's need to cut  costs without gutting essential services, youth services among them. Both approve of privatized refuse and  recycling collection, and both have doubts  about the efficiency of turning police and fire radio work over to the sheriff’s department....
Nothing major here. My biggest gripe is still the chief saying the LPD would do it for "no cost" but then once it was transferred to the LPD the union start asking for compensation for the "extra" work.
...Waskosky identified property values as a factor working against city growth. As he’s been out walking the new 4th Ward, he says, assessments are the issue that many voters raise first to him. “I’ve been talking to  homeowners who say they can’t sell their houses for what they’re appraised at. They say, my house, I pay  one-third on the mortgage and two-thirds on taxes. The question we have to ask is, are we basically pricing the  city out of an evolution of growth of home ownership?” Schrader hears the fury too, he said, but he knows  from prior experience, “assessment isn’t controlled by politicians. They have no say in the numbers...
They both ave some points but the main point is the city has a budget and it has to be paid. Right now assessment of properties is the biggest chunk. Moving around assessments just shifts the burden from one owner to the next. Cutting more services reduces the draw of the city. The biggest change in most local government taxation would come from changing state laws and unfunded mandates. In the meantime the city need to search out creative was to promote investment.

I'd still like to see something that is the average assessment on the block. Those investing wouldn't get as hard of a hit. Those lacking in investment would still be paying more so possibly there would be incentive to invest.
...Regarding economic development, Waskosky shows impatience with the same old approaches. City officials ought to look at what’s working in other communities and consider emulating it, he said. “The problem is  there are not any real brand new ideas, there are ideas out there that people have done and tried. We should look at others,” he said. “In Georgia, there’s a one-industry town that transformed its downtown into an  Internet-commercial area...
I mentioned this back when Yahoo was announced. Part of the requirement should have been bringing in the super high speed Verizon lines into DT up to Harrison place.It could have been an incubator or more for business relying on real time connections for there businesses.


Candidate Sites

Posted by MJ

Does anyone know of any sites for candidates in local races? I'd like to place them here. In today's electronic age I'd figure everyone would have one.

Here is a link to all of the races as listed by the Niagara County Board of Elections which runs all of them.

Niagara County - 13th district
Andrew Chapman
Keith McNall

Lockport City Mayor
Micheal Tucker
Michael Pillot

City of Lockport Alderman 1st Ward
Shirley Nicholas
Richelle Pasceri

City of Lockport Alderman 2nd Ward
Anne McCaffrey

City of Lockport Alderman 3rd Ward
Kathryn Fogle

City of Lockport Alderman 4th Ward
George A. Waskosky
Patrick W. Schrader

City of Lockport Alderman 4th Ward
Bret E. Pabon
Kenneth M. Genewick

City of Lockport Alderman at Large
Joseph C. Kibler


2012 Budget Approved

Posted by MJ

Here is a PDF copy of the budget as it stands.

Proposed 2012 City of Lockport Budget .

It list income - costs back as far as 2005 line by line through 57 pages. I won't have time to look at it until lunch. I'll give some thoughts then. Thank you to to Alderman Chapman for getting it to me.

The Buffalo News reported on last nights approval of it by the council.

Angry taxpayers verbally pummelled the Common Council on Wednesday as it voted 4-2 in favor of a 2012 city budget that increases the amount of taxes to be collected by 9 percent.

Voting for the budget and for a measure to lift the state’s 2 percent tax cap levy were Council President Richelle J. Pasceri and Aldermen Joseph C. Kibler and Kenneth M. Genewick, who are running for re-election, and Alderwoman Flora M. McKenzie, who is not.

Opposition came from Aldermen Andrew D. Chapman, who is running for the County Legislature, and Jack L. Smith Jr., who lost a bid for mayor in the Democratic primary.

Chapman said the city would have had to lay off 23 employees to avoid overriding the tax cap.
There were no layoffs; the budget actually adds one job, a $36,699-a-year housing inspector.
“The intent of the property tax [cap] law was to produce meaningful reform in local government,” Smith said. “There just wasn’t any meaningful reform in this budget.”

Spending in the budget rises $1.84 million, or 8.6 percent, to $23.3 million. Most of the difference comes under salaries and benefits...
...Mayor Michael W. Tucker, who is
running for re-election, said the exceptions the state put in the tax cap law doomed any hope the city would have had to comply with it.
“Pension costs are the biggest one,” Tucker said. “Even if we had no increases in anything else, the pension costs would have put us above the 2 percent.”...
 Similar to the school system the legacy costs of employees is the largest burden. Until real reform comes to how they are structured both budgets will continue to grow grow grow and we hack at away at items which would probably serve us well.

For example, the owner of a $100,000 house whose assessment was unchanged will save $52 on his taxes. But if the $100,000 assessment was raised to $110,000 this year, the tax bill will rise by $95. 
It seems those owning houses over 100k get an increase, those under get a tax decrease.


Small $$ Big Effort

Posted by MJ

Buffalo Rising and The Buffalo News reported on the increase in investment in the area west of Richmond Ave in Buffalo. Once written off as a dead war zone it has shown signs of growth and reinvestment as people who were priced out of the neighborhoods lining Elmwood Ave forged a new frontier. On one block alone housing values raised from 2k to 150k. Home ownership from 50% to almost 100%.

A few quick points:
  • The city is hardly involved. Why it is nice when the city gets things correct, the change agent will be us.
  • House by house civic groups bring people together to be change they are looking for.
  • The example house shown above is much better than a vacant lot. It shows commitment to the street and it adds another good property owner to the street. I'm more prone to invest when I see investment (house being updated) than disinvestment (demolition). The 10k to demo the house could easily be used as matching grants to someone willing to reinvest in it.
  • A walkable shopping/living area is acting not just as a catalyst for the surrounding 3-4 blocks but its effects continue to reach outward.
  • Volunteer effort is king. Be it parks, home updating, eyes on the street etc. Neighbors who know each other and work together great things, once thought unthinkable, happen.


Budget Update

Posted by MJ

The Buffalo News and the LUSJ gave updates last week on the city budget.

Except for a few fine points, the 2012 city budget appears to be done, carrying a tax levy increase of 10 percent despite a tax rate decrease of 2.55 percent.

At the Common Council's second public hearing on the $23.3 million spending plan Wednesday, Mayor Michael W. Tucker said the Council will reconvene at 5 p.m. Tuesday for a final budget review.
The Council is to vote on the spending plan at 6 p.m. the next day, after a public hearing on a proposed law to override the state property tax cap.
The 2 percent cap applies not to the tax rate, but to the levy, which is the total amount to be collected in property taxes.
Spending in the budget is rising by 9 percent, or almost $2 million.
There are no layoffs, and one new job, a $36,699-a-year housing inspector, is being created.
City Clerk and Budget Director Richard P. Mullaney said the budget is balanced with one-shot moves and heavy use of reserve funds.
 As mentioned above the public comment period will be this Wednesday. Earlier Smith gave me a copy of the initial spreadsheet but I have yet to get my hands on PDFs of the latest revision like I did last year.

UPDATE 11-02-11

The LUSJ gave an update on last nights pre-meeting.

So long as a majority votes to override the state’s so-called tax cap, the Common Council will also vote tonight on adoption of a 2012 city budget that calls for a 3.4 percent tax rate reduction.

There were some disharmony in the Council meeting room Tuesday night, as the aldermen convened to go over the proposed $23.2 million budget one more time, line by line, with an eye on cuts.

Fourth Ward Alderman Andrew Chapman and 2nd Ward Alderman Jack Smith were pushing for more bigger line cuts, in areas including staffing, because while the tax rate may be decreasing by 52 cents per $1,000 of property value, the year-over-year increase in the tax levy — the amount of city spending being covered by property tax — is still 9 percent...

The budget went up 9%. The tax rate per thousand assessed value went down due to the increase of he value of property in the city over the last 10 years. About 1/3 of residential properties and 1/2 of business properties went up in assessment this year. They will see a tax bill increase. The other 2/3 of residential and 1/2 of businesses will see a smaller tax bill. It is what it is. More important is where the money is going and how it is being used. Yet all we see is the superficial arguing over statistics. We should be demanding a deeper conversation.

The public hearing is tonight at 6 at City Hall.


Walmart to Break Ground

Posted by MJ

Both The Buffalo News and LUSJ reported.

Work is expected to begin on the Town of Lockport’s Walmart Supercenter by the end of the year, according to what town officials were told last week.

Supervisor Marc R. Smith relayed the information to Town Board members at Monday afternoon’s work session meeting. The well known discount retailer’s public relations office spoke with Smith last week.

“We received word from Walmart that they are looking at starting site work no later than the end of December,” Smith said. “That would be water, sewer, electric and gas connections.”

However while additional details weren’t shared by Walmart with town officials, they should be available soon in the next few weeks, Smith said. The original timeline called for completion of the Walmart supercenter by November 2012....
 Only 8 years after initially announced. Not too bad...