The Dunkirk Common Council made quick work of its agenda Tuesday.
With no resolutions to consider, council approved four requests, two loudspeaker applications and read into the record a letter about the Dunkirk High School Class of 1942.
The biggest issue solved was the proper way for council to enter executive session - something that has apparently not been done properly for some time.
City Attorney Ronald Szot began the lesson.
"You can't have a stand-alone executive session, you can't just say you're going to have an executive session tomorrow," Szot explained. "You can't even convene a meeting and say we're going to have an executive session tomorrow and then adjourn the meeting."
Fourth Ward Councilwoman Stacy Szukala asked when was the proper time to call for an executive session.
Both Szot, a former county legislator, and Fire Chief Keith Ahlstrom, a current legislator, explained the county legislature's method, saying the county legislature usually has its executive sessions after official business is over. In most cases, the legislature conducts no business after the executive session, leaving the public with little reason for waiting for the executive session to end.
"We're not going to conduct any business, or are we going to come out and do any business," Szot explained of the wording needed.
Szot said executive sessions called for other than in an official meeting were held illegally. Szukala, who is in her second term, said executive sessions were held between council's workshop and regular meetings in order to not hold the public up.
Council did enter executive session after it conducted its business, with First Ward Councilman Michael Michalski making the motion. The motion was based on New York State Open Meetings Law Section 105 Conduct of Executive Sessions under paragraph f. That paragraph, which states in part, "matters leading to the appointment, employment, promotion, demotion, discipline, suspension, dismissal or removal of a particular person or corporation," was the justification given.
Before the motion passed, Szot wanted and received a clarification to state council would not take any action after the executive session.
Department of Development Director Steven Neratko spoke about the Community Development Block Grant program when Councilwoman-at-Large Stephanie Kiyak asked if any city officials would like to address council. Neratko said there's been a lot of dialogue regarding past performance issues with Community Development Block Grant funds and he wanted to update council on CDBG's present and future status.
"Due to some issues that were brought up by state agencies, as well as issues we found ourselves, we really need to go back and redo our action plan for 2012 fiscal year. Currently we have been asked to stop the current programs," he stated. "No money had been spent yet, but we did take applications for the housing rehab program and some other programs. Unfortunately, due to some concerns, we really have to look into the issues and make sure that we're doing everything correctly and our funds are being appropriated correctly. So as part of the process we're going to do a brief re-do of the action plan for this year.
"We're going to try and expedite that so projects, especially housing projects and some of the other building intensive projects, can move forward this year rather than wait for next year."
Neratko said a hearing on the 2012 plan would be held July 25 at 5:30 p.m. and added at 6 p.m. that same day, a hearing on the 2013-2017 action plan will be held. Both hearings are scheduled for the SUNY Fredonia Incubator on Central Avenue.
Mayor Anthony J. Dolce told council the trap, neuter and release cat program has restarted and internal discussions on water rate hikes have begun.
"We have begun to look at how we're going to need to adjust those rates to cover the necessary expenses in the consent order," Dolce explained. "We're looking to have some proposals out in August."
Dolce added a local law for the necessary bonding will be ready in August or September.
"These water rates will be attached to them and will be used as a dedicated fund, set up so anything new when the water rates are adjusted will go directly to the bonding that we have to do," he stated.
First Ward Councilman Michael Michalski had some good news for users of the Wright Park playground facilities - money is available in Phase III of the bike path program.
"There is upwards of $80,000 set aside. I don't think we'll be reaching that dollar amount, that's quite expensive," Michalski said. "I'm sure we could get it for about half; a decent swing set and equipment down there."
Neratko added phone calls were made to make sure the funding was still available.
Kiyak asked Police Chief David Ortolano about a recent story in the OBSERVER about his department.
"We're perhaps in violation of FOIL laws when it comes to copying what have you. I was hoping you could clarify for us if that's indeed the case or if that was not really stated correctly," Kiyak said.
Ortolano replied the department is currently in line with other area departments. He also said he was looking into the issue with the city attorney.