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Common Council Items of Interest

For those of you who can’t make it to the weekly Common Council meeting,
following is the briefing. From this week’s meeting as provided by the

The Council adopted a resolution sponsored by Lovejoy District Council
Member Richard A. Fontana requesting that the Buffalo Water Board, the
City of Buffalo Sewer Authority and the Departments of Public Works and
Law investigate the feasibility and legality of using hydrokinetic technology
to generate hydropower in the Niagara and Buffalo Rivers which are
primarily regulated by the Federal Environmental Regulatory Commission,
and to report their findings to the Common Council. New York State
(“NYS”) and Western New York (“WNY”) have some of the highest utility
costs in the continental United States. As a result, WNY businesses are
operating at a competitive disadvantage when compared to businesses that
are located in other regions of NYS where power is less costly. Also,
the high cost of power in the Buffalo region is a significant financial
burden to business owners and residents, especially during the City’s
long winters. The Council maintains that in order to make the City of
Buffalo and WNY region a more attractive and affordable place to live
and operate a business, that it is critical that local energy costs be
lowered. One strategy for lowering energy costs is the use of
hydrokinetic electric power generators in area waterways. Hydrokinetic
electric power uses underwater turbines that are attached to the floor
of river beds or other bodies of water to capture energy from currents,
tides, and waves. Unlike traditional hydropower generation, hydrokinetic
technology does not require dams and water intakes to operate, instead
the technology relies on turbines with fewer blades that spin at lower
revolutions per minute (“RPM”) and requires minimal land-based
equipment. The hydrokinetic power that is generated can be linked to
power grids or individual homes and businesses using normal power lines.
Due to the potential benefits of hydrokinetic technology to City of
Buffalo residents and businesses, the Council maintains that the process
warrants serious discussion and review.

The Council adopted a resolution sponsored by Lovejoy District Council Member Richard A. Fontana and co-sponsored by North District Council Member Joseph Golombek, Jr. requesting that David Comerford, Commissioner of the City of Buffalo Sewer Authority (“BSA”) appear before the Common Council to discuss the policies of the BSA for handling hydraulic fracturing (“hydro-fracking“) flow back fluids also known as “frack water”. The resolution is in response to recent allegations that the United States Development Corporation, is transporting frack water from its wells located in Medina, New York, to the BSA for treatment. The hydraulic fracturing process utilizes surface and ground water mixed with numerous chemicals to release the natural gas trapped inside underground rock formations. Once the rock formations are fractured, between 15 to 40 percent of the water is recovered as flow back fluid. The flow back fluid or “frack water” that either escape or is recovered from the well can be up to five times saltier than sea water and the longer that frack water stays in the ground, the greater the chance for salts and sediments to collect in the frack water. In some circumstances conventional sewage plants, and possibly the BSA, may be unable to remove fracking salts, chemicals, and other additives from the recovered frack water. The Council on behalf of City residents is concerned about the serious ramifications of frack water on the health, safety, and welfare of local residents and especially should the BSA release frack water into the Niagara River or surrounding waterways. The Council is also requesting that Commissioner Comerford furnish a list of the chemicals that the BSA is capable of successfully treating in frack water and to furnish a copy of the BSA’s policy regarding the acceptance and treatment of frack water.
The Council adopted a resolution from Council Members Joseph Golombek, Jr. and David A. Rivera requesting United States President Barack Obama, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo and the Spending and Government Efficiency Commission (“SAGE”), and Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty to undertake a review of the operations of the Niagara Falls Bridge Commission and the Buffalo and Fort Erie Public Bridge Authority and to identify the process to merge these entities so that the shared border crossings can be managed in a more efficient and cost effective manner. The Niagara Falls Bridge Commission is an international public authority consisting of an eight member board with equal representation from the United States and Canada, which owns, operates and manages the Lewiston-Queenston, Rainbow, and Whirlpool-Rapids Bridges. Similarly, the Buffalo and Fort Erie Public Bridge Authority, which oversees the operations of the Peace Bridge, is managed by a 10 member board of directors with equal representation from the United States and Canada. At times, these quasi governmental agencies have been accused of ignoring or minimizing the effect of their planning and operations on the health, quality of life, and property values of local residents, particularly those who live in close proximity to the City of Buffalo’s waterfront. Governor Cuomo formed SAGE to recommend ways to make New York State government leaner and more cost effective. The Council maintains that although it is unlikely for the United States, Canada, New York State, or the Province of Ontario to unilaterally bring about the reform and consolidation of these two international public entities, cooperation of all of the parties involved is needed and can result in significant changes.
The Council adopted a resolution sponsored by Council Members Demone A. Smith, David A. Rivera, Bonnie E. Russell, and Darius G. Pridgen directing the City of Buffalo Department of Law to draft a Strawman Legislation Ordinance amending the City Charter to provide restrictions on irresponsible straw-bidders at the Annual In Rem City Auction. Annually, the City of Buffalo by public auction, disposes of properties acquired through the In-Rem foreclosure process. At the auction, perspective bidders signal their intent to bid by raising a numbered paddle which correlates to information furnished during the pre-auction negotiation process. Immediately after the sale to the highest bidder, the successful bidder is required to pay 20 percent of the purchase price of the property as a prerequisite down payment to consummate the legal sale of the property. However, if the down payment is not made, the property is re-auctioned later in the day even though many potential bidders may have already departed. Unfortunately, the system for auctioning properties in the City is subject to abuse by straw-bidders, who enter the highest bid without ever intending to consummate the sale, thereby preventing legitimate buyers from purchasing the property. When the property is reintroduced for auction later in the day, the number of potential bidders has diminished substantially and the straw-bidder is then able to purchase the property at a much lower price. The actions of straw-bidders and those cooperating with them often substantially reduces both the sale price of a property and the auction proceeds that are collected by the City. The Council maintains that to provide for transparency and competitiveness in the auction process, any bidder who is unable to consummate the auction sale must be disqualified from bidding and that the respective property be re-auctioned at a subsequent date/time to enable all potential bidders to have an equal opportunity to purchase such properties. The Council is also requesting of the City of Buffalo Departments of Law and Permits and Inspections that they formally provide strategies for combating, curtailing and hopefully eliminating straw-bidders from the City’s In Rem Auction process.
The Council adopted a resolution sponsored by Fillmore District Council Member David A. Franczyk requesting representatives of the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority (“BMHA”) to appear before the Common Council to explain why the BMHA is refusing to adopt a new management plan for the Marine Drive Apartments (“MDA”) as proposed by the MDA Tenants Association and what role the BMHA will have in current and future management of the MDA. The MDA Tenants Association has proposed a plan to manage the troubled Marine Drive Apartments in response to years of mismanagement under the BMHA. Sadly, the Common Council’s unanimously adopted June 2010 resolution asking the BMHA to allow the MDA Tenants Association to assume control of the management of the MDA has been ignored. The continued instability of the MDA is profoundly upsetting to the residents of the complex and jeopardizes the revitalization of the waterfront. MDA tenants are committed to sound management of Marine Drive with a diverse mix of residents, a situation contrary to many of the housing projects run by BMHA.
The Council adopted a resolution sponsored by Ellicott District Council Member Darius G. Pridgen and co-sponsored by University District Council Member Bonnie E. Russell requesting of the elected officials of the Buffalo – Niagara region, that they join together with the Common Council to discuss the University at Buffalo (“UB”) 20/20 Plan and how it can be advanced at an upcoming “Government for the People (“G4P”) Summit. For some time, UB has been advocating for the New York State Legislature and the Governor to approve UB 20/20 legislation, which would enable the school to increase its size and forge a coherent university-wide vision. In addition, the passage of UB 20/20 legislation is expected to enable the university to sharpen its focus, enhance its physical appearance, improve academically, and attract the critical mass of top-flight faculty and researchers needed to compete with the nation’s elite universities. The Council maintains that a G4P Summit would ideally take place no later than April 1, 2011.
The Council appr
oved a resolution sponsored by North District Council Member Joseph Golombek, Jr. approving and endorsing the application of Keep Western New York Beautiful (“KWNYB”) for a grant under the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (“NYSDEC”) Urban and Community Forest Program for a project known as the City Canopy. KWNYB is applying to the NYSDEC for a project grant under the Urban and Community Forestry Program to be located in targeted neighborhoods and schools located within the territorial jurisdiction of the City of Buffalo Common Council. As a requirement of this program, KWNYB must obtain the approval and endorsement of the Common Council.
The Council approved a resolution sponsored by Lovejoy District Council Member Richard A. Fontana granting a waiver of Peter J. Machnica Community Center room usage fees to the Kaisertown Coalition Block Club for the year 2011. The continued safety and cleanliness of City of Buffalo neighborhoods depend on the care and concern of its residents. Block clubs exist as a means for residents to organize in order to address issues relating to their community. The Kaisertown Coalition Block Club works diligently to serve the Kaisertown Community of the Lovejoy Common Council District. The Council maintains that the Machnica Center room usage fees should be waived so that the Kaisertown Coalition Block Club may continue to serve and advocate for the community.
The Council approved an ordinance amendment to Chapter 288 of the Code of the City of Buffalo prohibiting the exploration for and extraction of natural gas and the storage, transfer, treatment or disposal of natural gas exploration and production wastes within the City of Buffalo. The purpose of this ordinance amendment is to preserve and protect the public health, safety, and welfare of the residents and neighborhoods of the City of Buffalo. This ordinance will repeal any prior inconsistent ordinances contained in the Code of the City of Buffalo maintaining to regulate or allow natural gas extraction and the transport, storage, treatment or disposal of natural gas exploration or extraction waste.
Sale of City Owned Property–The Council approved the sale of the following City owned properties:

Ellicott District
627 Broadway was sold to Mrs. Clara Davis for $3,500

Fillmore District
34 Sobieski Street was sold to Mr. Iftekher Ahmed for $1,600
68 Sobieski Street was sold to Mr. Ejaz and Mrs. Miadda Khokhar for $3,100

Masten District
837 Woodlawn Avenue was sold to  Mr. Carnell Jones for $1,400

The Council appointed the following individuals to the Hate Crimes Task Force for the City of Buffalo:
Theresa Warburton
Joshua Cerretti
Donna Berry

The Council appointed the following person as its representative to the Living Wage Commission in the City of Buffalo:
Erin Hatton

The Council accepted the appointment of the following individual to the position of Legal Aide to Bureau of Administrative Adjudication within the City of Buffalo Department of Law at the base salary:
Nancy Nicole Walker Renzoni
Upon the recommendation of the Department Permit & Inspection Services, the Council approved the following license and permit applications:

Delaware District

Permit to Create Additional Seating on 2nd Floor of Existing Restaurant
P. Tsoufliois, owner of the property located at 708 Elmwood Avenue

Permit to Install Awning Sign
J. Mirro, owner of the property located at 734 Elmwood Avenue

Ellicott District

Used Car Dealer License
Ben’s Tire Center Inc. located at 50 Sycamore Street

Fillmore District

Food Store License
Lucky’s located at 860 William Street

University District

Food Store License
Dollar General located at 3079 Bailey Avenue

Second Hand Dealer License
SEI Aaron’s located at 3411 Bailey Avenue
Claims, Contracts, Change orders & Agreements

Upon the request of the City of Buffalo Department of Public Works (“DPW”), the Council:
Authorized DPW to reduce the retention held on the contract with Destro & Brothers Concrete Co., Inc. for the Overlay of City Streets – 2010 Project. The contract retention was reduced from 5 percent to 1 percent.

Upon the request of the City of Buffalo Department of Police (“BPD”), the Council:

Authorized BPD to purchase 15 unmarked vehicles to replace existing vehicles that are in need of constant repairs and/or have become unsafe to drive. Currently, BPD has 53 unmarked vehicles that are from the year 2003 or prior. The older unmarked vehicles have outlived their usefulness and will be removed from the fleet through the City’s auction process.

Authorized BPD to replace an unmarked 2000 Ford with a 2003 Suburban as a way to update its fleet. The 2000 Ford requires extensive repairs, has more than 135,000 miles, outlived its usefulness, and will be included in the next upcoming auction. The United States Customs office has agreed to release the 2003 Suburban to the BPD with no fees or costs to the City of Buffalo.

The Council approved the reports of bids from the City of Buffalo Department of Public Works for the following projects:

The Milling and Resurfacing of City Streets in South Buffalo Project. Of the bids that were received, Destro Brothers Concrete Company, Inc. was the lowest with a bid of $1,175,156.

Photo: Delaware District Council Member Michael LoCurto (left) and Masten District Council Member Demone Smith (right) in Council Chambers

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