Sometimes a seemingly simple question can just cause a problem. That was the case Tuesday at a meeting of the Dunkirk Common Council when city resident James Muscato, a former councilman-at-large, spoke during the privilege of the floor portion of the meeting.
Muscato wanted to know about a recent council committee meeting during which Development Director Steve Neratko said there was a committee being put together concerning the cleanup of the Al Tech site.
"What is the city's role in that?" Muscato asked. "The city does not own any property over there."
OBSERVER Photos by Gib Snyder
Former councilman-at-large James Muscato and current councilwoman-at-large Stephanie Kiyak disagreed Tuesday over how the privilege of the floor during council meetings should be handled.
Councilwoman-at-Large Stephanie Kiyak didn't want to hear any questions.
"Mr. Muscato, this is a time where you have an opportunity to state your opinions. If you'd like to ask any specific questions you can speak to Mr. Neratko after this meeting," she stated.
"You're wrong, I have the privilege of the floor," Muscato replied.
"Yes, you do," Kiyak interrupted.
"I'm asking him a question. If he don't want to answer now, fine," Muscato continued. "I'm just saying the city does not own any property in that site, the DEC has already had a plan of operation for it, and I'm just curious what this steering committee is because it sounds like the city's involved with it setting up. Can you explain that or do I have to have a private session, I guess."
"Yes, you can ask him questions after this meeting," Kiyak replied. "Is there anything else you'd like to discuss?"
"There's no transparency then any more?" Muscato asked.
"There absolutely is, you are welcome to speak," Kiyak replied.
"Well, the public would like to know," Muscato stated.
"If the mayor would like to answer you he can," Kiyak replied.
"What's the difference between the man that said it and," Muscato began before being cut off.
"Because this is my meeting and I'm allowing the mayor to speak to you," Kiyak said.
"Thank you very much," Muscato said and sat down.
Kiyak called on Dolce to speak but he said he would wait until his report time, which was next on the agenda.
Dolce thanked those who attended the State of the City address and noted there were 87 views of the address online. After saying the committee in question still needs members, he then turned his time over to Neratko.
Neratko said there were two projects going on with regard to AL Tech.
"One of them is the Lucas Avenue side of things, which the DEC is the lead agency on that. They have done studies, they are going to do some cleanup work there this year," Neratko explained. "The other part of things is we did receive a couple years ago a rather large planning grant, over $300,000, for planning on the larger AL Tech site. That is actually the group that we're organizing now."
"We have to do the planning before receiving any more money to do the cleanup," Dolce added.
"There is additional funding that can be available for the cleanup of the larger Al Tech site but that would be a Phase 3 project. This is Phase 2 planning of the cleanup and future use of the site," Neratko explained.
After the meeting Kiyak was asked about the interchange with Muscato.
"The public floor is meant for the public to come and give voice to any kind of concerns or opinions, but it's not a time for give and take exchanges and questions," she began. "Mr. Muscato, having been a previous at-large, is the first person who understands that rule. Why he attempts to disrupt the meetings in the way that he does I don't know, but he is well aware that there's time for questions at committee meetings. He can always come visit during business hours. He can always pick up the phone, send an email, but question and answer time is not during the public floor.
"It is strictly a time for the public to stand up and use their three minutes to voice anything that they'd like to voice. I have given latitude in the past in allowing questions and answers but that's not something that's a given with these meetings, that was because I gave that allowance at the time."
Kiyak was asked if she would make that type of decision on an individual basis.
"Usually it is about somebody standing up and voicing whatever they have to say and it is not a question and answer time, so at this time that's all I can say about it."
According to the City Charter, a person may speak for three minutes, five if representing a group. In addition, it states, "The Chairman shall maintain good order and may require any speaker to cease speaking if remarks are made in bad taste or are slanderous or not germain to any action taken or contemplated by the Council."
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