By NICOLE GUGINO
OBSERVER Assistant News Editor
SILVER CREEK - It has been two months since the demolition of a building on Central Avenue in Silver Creek. But as of yet there is no indication the owner will be responsible for the bill.
OBSERVER file photos
The building at 205-207 Central Ave. in Silver Creek was declared unsafe and was torn down two months ago but the owner has still not indicated he will pay the village back.
Silver Creek resident and former village trustee Anna Frederickson has attended every village board meeting since the demolition of 205-207 Central Ave. took place in mid-August.
"I want to know how much the demolition and removal cost the village and if the taxpayers are going to be responsible?," she has asked many times.
In previous meetings Mayor Kurt Lindstrom has said he has no answers to Frederickson's questions.
At the most recent meeting of the village board Deputy Mayor Amy Romanik, in Lindstrom's absence, answered some of Frederickson's questions.
"I wanted to address the issue of the cost for the demolition on Central Avenue. As noted at the last board meeting the village has paid $1,547 for the asbestos survey and $4,784 to dispose of the debris from the building at the county landfill. At a special meeting on Aug. 13 the board made a motion to hire D. Blakely Construction Company for demolition of the building at a cost of $24,000. Because the roof of the building to be torn down was connected to the roof of an adjacent building, the quote also included an additional cost not to exceed $4,000 for subsequent roof repair. There was no way to know what the repairs to the roof would be until after the tear down. I would like to reiterate that this building was not structurally sound and needed to come down and was a threat to the safety of the residents and surrounding buildings," she said.
In a phone interview, Frederickson said she was disappointed Romanik answered during board member remarks because she could not get the answer to the other, more important part, of her question - if the taxpayers will be responsible.
"The problem is when she addressed my question at the last board meeting, Mrs. Romanik addressed it in her remarks and I didn't get a chance to rebut ... The total of $34,331 by my calculations came out of the unappropriated fund balance and as far as I know they have not addressed the owner ... I understand it had to come down but will the taxpayers be on the hook for it? Mrs. Romanik did not address that during her remarks," Frederickson said to the OBSERVER.
Frederickson said at the next meeting she will also be inquiring about the amount left in the unappropriated fund balance.
"Another question I have is if they had so much money in the unappropriated fund balance why didn't they lower taxes? There are other dilapidated buildings in the village ... and they are not running to tear those down, so I don't understand why they did not get the commitment of the owner ... to pay tax payers back," she added.
According to Village Treasurer Janet St. George, the village has received the bill for the asbestos survey and has paid, however the other bills associated with the demolition have not come in yet.
The village does not have the option of relevying the costs onto the owner's taxes. Chautauqua County Real Property Tax Director Jim Caflisch confirmed in a phone interview, the county recently made a change in this policy.
"There was action taken by the county a couple years ago and municipalities were notified the county would no longer allow them to relevy code enforcement charges. This means when you relevy something the county is guaranteeing the municipality be paid back but the county no longer guarantees this. Municipalities still have the option to bring code enforcement matters to civil court but it is no longer an option for them to charge them on their taxes. ... The county decided to do this because it was becoming harder and harder to absorb these costs. There are many communities with structures in disrepair and the county is looking to code enforcement to address these before it gets to this point," Caflisch explained.
The village has had several unexpected bills this year, including a $7,600 DEC consent order payment, a storm sewer project on LaFayette Street and up to $3,000 on two windows and a door for the fire hall. However, according to St. George, none of these expenses have come out of the unappropriated fund balance.
She explained the DEC consent order payment was paid out of the sewer district fund balance, the Lafayette Street project is being paid for with state Consolidated Highway Improvement Program (CHIPS) funds and the improvements to the fire hall are being paid out of the contingency budget.
St. George explained the difference between the contingency budget and the unappropriated fund balance is that the village budgets the amount for the contingency each fiscal year. Last year the village budgeted $25,000. However the unassigned, unappropriated fund balance increases through unused funds or unexpected revenues in the prior year's budget. She described it as a "savings account."
However, St. George said she could not give the amount of the unappropriated fund balance because she had not received the numbers back from a recent audit by Baghat & Laurito-Baghat.
According to the comptroller's office, "towns, villages, and counties are permitted by law to retain a 'reasonable amount' of any remaining estimated unappropriated, unreserved fund balance for each fund, consistent with prudent budgeting practices, necessary to ensure the orderly operation of their government." However, there is no defined limit on what is "reasonable" like there is for school districts.
The village did utilize the unappropriated fund balance to offset the 2012-13 budget. St. George said the village used $226,000 to keep the tax rate down to $15.68 per $1,000 assessed value, a .93 percent or $0.06 increase from the year before.
The next village board meeting will be held Monday at 8 p.m. at the village hall with a workshop to be held at 7 p.m.