Mayor lauds progress, admits there’s more to do

Dunkirk City Mayor Wilfred (Willie) Rosas addressed a packed courthouse during Friday’s State of the City Address.

Dunkirk City Mayor Wilfred Rosas delivered a succinct, efficient and promising State of the City address Friday afternoon in front of a packed house of officials and members of the public. The overall theme of the mayor’s speech seemed to echo his style of leadership, which is all about building relationships.

Among the many promising relationships the city has been making, Special Metals is one of the more intriguing.

Rosas announced that “We’re looking to do a $30 million expansion (with Special Metals). If that happens we will then have 18 to 20 more jobs…these are good-paying jobs. Minimum wage in that company is about $23 an hour.

Rosas announced other 2018 business investments to look forward to, including:

¯ Phase I of the marina development.

¯ A cold storage warehouse to be developed on Brownfield site in the city. “We have a developer we’re working with,” said Rosas.

¯ Battery Point Villas, Phase I development to happen. “This is happening because of a spinoff from the announcement of Athenex,” said the mayor. “The majority of the people inquiring about the development are not city residents, though they did mention there are some residents that have applied already.”

¯ STEL Route 60 development project.

¯ DFT Communications to increase broadband services within the city. “From Wright Park to the Point, we’re looking to provide free wifi.”

Rosas said that “2018 is all about focusing on improving local businesses and bringing in new businesses. Small business loans will be reactivated. Incentives to locate downtown and on Central Avenue will be offered. Grant assistance for facade improvements will be applied for.”

When it comes to fiscal responsibility Rosas lauded his accomplishments, the proof residing in the 2016 audit.

“We finished the year in the black by over $1.3 million,” Rosas said. “We have minimized our reliance on outside accounting firms, thus reducing our expenses city-wide. Financial policies and procedures were established to ensure the residents the city’s commitment to sound financial management and fiscal integrity.”

Rosas said 2018 will continue in that same responsible direction by continuing “to reduce our inter-fund balances and keep strict control of the city’s budget through positive implementation of our policies and procedures.”

One area the mayor admitted needs more work is with the police department.

“We have been out of compliance in many ways in our police department,” Rosas said. “Kudos goes to our guys who have to work in that environment. Good news is we’re going to be changing that. We’ve budgeted some funds to address some of these issues. The chief is working with our engineers to ensure we have a good plan in place. I will try to support that budget-wise as much as I can.”

Rosas listed a number of grants awarded to the city in 2017.

“The city received and had begun the implementation of eight grants totaling $3,935,265 and over $5,943,751, including Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) projects.”

Expected project programs for 2018 include:

¯ Emergency roof repair program

¯ Continued funding for Chautauqua Striders and Boys and Girls Club.

¯ Sidewalk repair and replacement program.

¯ HOPE Community Services Center.

¯ Rental rehabilitation program.

¯ Closing cost and down-payment assistance programs.

¯ Public art installments.

Rosas said that the water treatment plant upgrade is in its final phase, which includes a $2.5 million grant and a no-interest loan for the rest of the project.

“(The water project) will help the city bring in more businesses and developers and employers that will bring in more jobs,” Rosas said. “When that project is completed the city will have spent $23 million for upgrades to our water filtration plant. That’s important because in 2018 we’re looking to become the sole supplier of water for the North County Water district, so again, increasing our customer base.”

Perhaps the most significant example of the mayor’s ability to foster healthy relationships was his accomplishment in securing union contracts in the city.

“In less than two years, I’ve been able to successfully negotiate all the union contracts,” Rosas said. “We had union members who had not had a contract for almost 10 years.

“One of the biggest things I had to do as mayor was build relationships. Building relationships statewide. Many different entities including education, relationships at the county level, building relationships with our federal representatives, our state representatives. When I go to Albany I make sure I meet with, not only our state elected officials here, but I meet with other officials.

“I’m very proud of the relationships I continue to build.”

To see video portions of the address, go to the OBSERVER Twitter feed.