A project that could bring development to the city of Dunkirk's waterfront received support from Common Council on Tuesday. It was not unanimous however, as Fourth Ward Councilwoman Stacy Szukala provided the lone no vote.
Mayor Anthony J. Dolce called on SUNY Fredonia's Interim Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Kevin Kearns to address the resolution during Dolce's report time.
Kearns called the project, which would include a Lake Erie research station built on the harborfront between the Clarion Hotel and Tim Hortons, "exciting and potentially transformative."
OBSERVER Photo by Gib Snyder
Kevin Kearns, SUNY Fredonia’s Interim Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, addressed city officials Tuesday at the Common Council meeting. Kearns spoke about the proposed partnership between the city and the college to construct a Lake Erie Research Station on city property located on the waterfront between the Clarion Hotel and Tim Hortons.
Kearns said the grant application would be in competition for part of the $60 million set aside "through SUNY for community projects and partnerships with universities; the purpose of which is to facilitate economic development and to strengthen those partnerships as well as to help with programming at the university so we have more real world offerings for our students."
Kearns said the proposal was exciting and in an early stage. He added it would be a community opportunity and provide an opportunity for research.
"Its a tremendous opportunity for, we believe, economic revitalization," Kearns explained. "It should result in a very positive job outlook and development over the years as well as related revenues to the small businesses in the area."
He added it would be a partnership similar to the one that brought the Incubator, which has generated some 60 jobs, and will have a business leaving the Incubator for a city site this week.
Szukala began her reasoning for voting no by saying the area might not be the right fit, although she was in favor of partnering with the college on the "fabulous idea." She added she was not in favor of the property becoming tax exempt and thought the Cedar Beach area, or a site near the city's wastewater treatment plant, would be better.
"Knowing that we've only been given a small portion of the discussions, I still have a lot of reservations, a lot of questions, as to what are the city's basic needs," she stated.
Szukala said the city has three basic needs; increasing the tax base, increasing revenue and creating entry-level jobs; and putting a building on that piece of harborfront property would not accomplish any of the three. She added a concern about the language of the grant application.
"Once that is submitted and accepted and you get that money, you're bound to the language of that grant application. So I think, that for me, there were a lot of things that were unknown that I would have liked to have been hammered out, or details to go through before that application actually goes through," she explained. "I would be willing to bet that other people feel the same way."
First Ward Councilman Michael Michalski said clarifications about the grant were needed but his understanding was the vote was to show support for the grant submission and was not a go-ahead for the project.
"All I am asking is that the people involved keep the council in the loop as far as the plans," he stated. " ... I don't want to show up some day and say here's the project. Is it a go or not? Keep us informed along the way."
Dolce read part of the resolution before taking on Szukala's concerns.
"At no point tonight are we agreeing to turn over the land, but that is a suitable location and your three concerns are going to be more than addressed if this project is successful," he explained. "Imagine the residual benefits of this project. Initially, we're looking at a $10 million project. You're concerned about job creation. You don't think that a $10 million project isn't going to bring jobs?"
Szukala's mind was not changed.
"I believe those jobs are going to be highly-educated people that are going to be transferring here. ... I don't see entry-level, blue-collar jobs being created. ... There's no disrespect meant to anybody. ... Let's agree to disagree," she replied. "I stand corrected if it all falls into place, but we cannot afford to keep giving away property that's exempt without having certain things in line to make sure we're protecting the city's best interests."
She added a concern about the site being set once the grant application goes through. Third Ward Councilman Adelino Gonzalez said he was also concerned with the location.
"What we're approving today is the collaboration and going ahead with the grant," he stated. "As far as the location ... that will be discussed later."
Second Ward Councilman William Rivera added it was a resolution of support and he gets "a little starry-eyed thinking what this could be. ... We certainly have our areas of need in the city. ... I hope it fills the whole lot."
Councilwoman-at-Large Stephanie Kiyak said it would set a positive direction for the city.
"You have my full support at this point," she stated.
A resolution allowing the sale of a small piece of city property for the Millennium Parkway project along Talcott Street was pulled at the request of Szukala with the concurrence of council. Szukala read a letter from County Executive Greg Edwards which said waiting until the next meeting to approve the sale would be all right and the county would meet with council to discuss further details.
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