Is it election year politics or just a request for information?
A letter sent Aug. 13 from First Ward Councilman A.J. Dolce to the Dunkirk Local Development Corporation's Board of Directors and the Common Council may be a bit of both. Dolce has been endorsed by the Democratic City Committee for the at-large seat and is facing incumbent Councilman-at-Large James Muscato in the Democratic primary on Sept. 15 for the seat.
Dolce wrote to request information about the recent lease between the DLDC and Bertges Family, LLP for use of Bertges' parking lot on the waterfront west of the city pier. Terms of the lease allow the city to use the lot for parking for three months at a cost of $5,000. Dolce wants copies of the lease, the resolution approving the lease, minutes of the meeting at which the lease was approved and the legal notice for the meeting.
"While the DLDC is a separate legal entity from the city of Dunkirk, it is very much integrated with the city. Additionally, it is my understanding that the DLDC as a legal entity is generally subject to the same open-access regulations that municipalities, like the city, are," Dolce wrote. "The DLDC has been and can continue to be a tremendous asset to assist in the revitalization of the city. However, it is necessary that the proper accountability and transparency are present to preserve and protect the financial viability of taxpayer dollars."
Dolce also sent a copy of his letter via e-mail to the OBSERVER and WDOE on Aug. 13.
On Friday, Mayor Richard Frey was asked about the letter, the lease and the DLDC.
"Did we do some unusual things? Yes we do some unusual things. Did we do something out of expediency to get things done and get moving? Yes we do," Frey said.
"Everybody says we elect a council to run the city and so forth, but yet I'm elected to administer the city of Dunkirk and I think it's in the best interest of all of the tax payers, not a set group of taxpayers," he added.
The mayor said he didn't want to get into the politics of the letter concerning Dolce's questions.
"Would we have all these questions if it wasn't an election year? Would those people be asking the questions if they weren't running? I don't know," Frey said. "I've heard of council people that voted for resolutions and had everything explained to them and after they get all done, they rethink. Somebody will talk to them and they want to change. Then they start asking questions they should have asked prior to voting on it and accepting it."
The lease was just business, according to the mayor.
"The DLDC does exactly what we're supposed to be doing. I have the authority as the CEO of the DLDC to sign for $1,000 a month. I used that, which I have never used it before, to do this, to get it expedited immediately," he said. "We took the additional monies from our Festivals, which paid the bulk of it. I think we do a pretty good job of administering for the city to get traffic to the city, to the waterfront, which is one of our greatest assets that we have. I think it's paying off."
Frey said the city's goal of attracting more than 45,000 people to the waterfront is attainable, with the July 4 fireworks a big draw.
"Our accomplishments speak volumes," Frey said of the DLDC. "I think if you look at our board, they're all professionals, well educated, very business oriented. They come from corporate, they come from management positions, they come from several different walks of life. The little guy, the big guy and all the ones in between.
"I think we have a great mix on the board and I'll tell you what, we get an awful lot of input from them."
Frey said he took responsibility for the recent flap over a resolution that would have transferred property parcels from the city to the DLDC.
"It shouldn't have been in that resolution because that's not what I explained to the council. (Third Ward Councilwoman Floramo) Rose was exactly right when she said she was misled," he said. "She was not misled from what I told her, but this resolution was not what I had explained to the council. I take full responsibility for that. I apologize."
Frey said the intent was to allow for the controlled sale of parcels that can no longer be built on due to lot size regulations. According to Frey, the plan is still to offer such properties to the neighbors, both to get properties back on the tax rolls and get the city off the hook of having to maintain such properties.
"That was the original and only intent at that time. If we left it to the city they would have to go to public auction," he said. "This is what's hurting the housing market in the city of Dunkirk is this public auction thing. This is what we were trying to avoid. We didn't do a good job the first time we entered the thing. ... That was the original intent. That's the only intent now and that's what we're going back to council with."
Frey said net proceeds from any sales made of DLDC-owned properties would go to the city's general fund.
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