This is in response to "The OBSERVER's View" (Oct. 21).
Quoted from that article: "Mistakes have been made by leaders in the past. But we cannot dwell on this."
Really? Well, maybe we need to. It's because of the past that we are facing some of today's problems when it comes to funding the city budget. Allow me to shed a little light on the subject:
The recent deal for the city Fire Department is “very good” for firefighters, the council leader says.
The payment in lieu of taxes plan for NRG called for a reduction in the 2013 payment by almost $740,000. This reduction is in the original contract and has nothing to do with mothballing or anything else the company may have plans for in the future.
This contract was put into place in 2008 - four years in which money should have been put aside, knowing this day would come. The past administration was downright negligent by not creating a line in the budget to save for this lump-sum reduction, knowing we would have to make up this huge shortfall. And let's not forget that NRG has indeed mothballed two of their four generators - we still don't know how this will affect future payments to the city, but we can be certain that it will be big.
The Chautauqua County Department of Health issued a consent order to the city of Dunkirk in October 2009 regarding Public Water Supply Violations and the mandated corrective action that must be taken. These repairs are in the neighborhood of approximately $16,300,000. Included in this cost is $1,400,000 for engineering services (the previous mayor contracted a firm based in Georgia - he couldn't find anyone qualified in New York? This same firm was also contracted for $420,000 for the wastewater treatment plant upgrade phase 3 in 2007).
Water rates should have been adjusted that very year, and yearly thereafter, to generate the necessary funds for the city to pay back the bonds (loans). Since rates have never been increased even in small increments and should have been, now we must make up for lost time and increase the rates significantly.
Let's talk about the union contracts negotiated by the previous mayor. For example, the firemen's contract - you know, the one that the OBSERVER has said more than once was a very good deal (and yes, it was and still is - for the firemen). As of Friday's budget meeting, Chief Ahlstrom told Council members that we should be close to $160,000 in overtime for 2012 for his department alone by year's end.
I will let that number sink in.
These are but a few of the serious issues the city is dealing with from decisions made in the past. And make no mistake - city issues are your issues.
All of this information is available to the public, so it should come as no surprise to any resident who's been following along.
The city collects money from everyone, and in return provides services. Just because less people reside in Dunkirk doesn't mean there are less services - it just means that we must all chip in more to ensure these services don't stop.
Ignoring expenses doesn't make them go away - sooner or later, the city must pay all its bills. Transparency coupled with realism is the only way your elected officials should be handling your money.
Stephanie Kiyak is councilwoman at-large for the city of Dunkirk.