The city is making progress but there is much to overcome and do.
That was the theme Friday as Dunkirk Mayor Anthony J. Dolce presented his State of the City address in Dunkirk High School's large group instructional room before some 30 people.
Dolce began by thanking Superintendent Gary Cerne and the district for allowing the use of the facility and recognizing elected officials in attendance.
OBSERVER Photo by Gib Snyder
City of Dunkirk Mayor Anthony J. Dolce gave his State of the City address Friday at Dunkirk High School.
"Our main challenges and there are many, these are the first four," Dolce stated.
"Aging infrastructure. Our New York state audit findings. As you know those were released over the summer and they found a lot. HUD findings and DLDC loan statuses. ... There's no quick fixes to any of those and we will be working on those throughout the next couple of quarters."
Dolce said the next three were lumped together for a reason.
"Our industry is in peril. Carriage House, Cott and NRG have made the news frequently throughout 2012 and into 2013. We are working with these companies the best we can. We have a great relationship with NRG, the situation we're running into with the top two, those are now multinational corporations and it's very difficult to make direct contact with them but we continue to do what we can.
"I'll also admit you have heard me talk about them numerous times throughout the year and at this point it may sound like we're making excuses but I felt it was important to mention them because that is the context that we're working under right now."
Dolce said there were positives and he was excited to mention them.
More stringent internal controls topped the list, with the mayor citing balancing the 2012 budget which had a $1 million general fund revenue gap. Dolce said that was resolved with a tax increase and spending cuts estimated at $250,000, along with spending cuts in each of the water and wastewater funds of over $250,000.
"It was a lot of tough choices but things we had to do to make up that kind of gap," he said of the general fund. " ... Making those cuts in Funds II and III allowed us to fund that Fund I gap so we took $250,000 from Fund II and $250,000 from Fund III and used them for administration fees in Fund I."
Dolce said his administration was most proud of collaborative efforts established.
"I'm thrilled with the relationship with SUNY Fredonia," he said before citing grants, the SUNY Fredonia Incubator and its administrator, Bob Fritzinger, as assets for the city.
Dolce talked about the police patrol contract with the town of Dunkirk along with regional water system delivery, including water delivery from Dunkirk to Silver Creek and the possibility of the Chadwick Bay Regional Development Corporation's north county approach happening. Dolce said the financial numbers for both possibilities will be analyzed.
Dolce cited collaborative efforts with the school district, including a rebirth of city league basketball in the high school gym. He then went over the work of various departments, including law and the city clerk, which he said have worked to save money for taxpayers.
Dolce praised police department efforts in addressing crime in the city, including a new special response team he has seen in action.
"I've had the opportunity to witness the team in action firsthand. The focus of this team is mainly narcotics, drugs, breaking in the door, getting the bad guys, all that good stuff," he added.
The mayor noted efforts of the public works department, including Lake Front Boulevard waterline project completion, continued work on water system upgrades and designing a new pothole patching system.
As for projects and goals, Dolce talked about grants received, more being sought, and continuing to push with SUNY Fredonia for a science center on the waterfront.
"They have been very instrumental in helping us with these grants, we have a few grants that we have gone out with them," he explained of SUNY Fredonia. "We have worked closely with the Incubator to help bring in new tenants when they leave. Our goal is to have them relocate right in the city of Dunkirk."
Cleanup efforts on the waterfront and other sites in the city were additional goals.
Economic development, infrastructure and housing improvements were listed as goals under Community Development Block Grant funding. Dolce said the city will have to pay HUD an undetermined amount of money back but work with the city's consultant is being done to try and lessen the city's payback.
The mayor called for a study of the city's fire halls, including their structural needs and a look at a long-range plan, including going to one or two halls, or keeping all three.
"We need to make that decision and go forward. We have such an aging infrastructure, whether we're talking about fleets, roads, equipment, buildings. We're really behind the eight ball here," Dolce stated. "We really need to develop some long-term plans going forward."
Dolce cited a course of action that included more civic involvement, promote business development where possible, continued intra-department cooperation, build on positive relationships with other government officials and continue to push collaborative efforts.
"This has been a challenging, yet productive time, for the city of Dunkirk," he stated. "I am proud of the achievements, yet realize we still face a tremendous amount of work ahead of us. ... We will continue to reach out to neighboring communities and agencies that share our vision, because to me what government should really be about is working together for that better tomorrow."
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