By Justin Sondel
Niagara Gazette — The city council is continuing its stand against Mayor Paul Dyster’s administration’s use of consultants in the new year.
The council members — who cut $188,000 from budget lines set for consultants through amendments to Dyster’s proposed budget — voted unanimously to defeat a resolution from the mayor asking that they approve a change order for a consultant’s project at Tuesday’s city council meeting.
The measure called for the city to pay Stantect Consulting Group, Inc., an international consulting group with local offices in Tonawanda, for environmental testing the company has performed that fell outside its contract with the city for work on the John B. Daly Boulevard extension project.
The change orders would increase the city’s payment by $102,000 bringing the total price tag to $532,000. A funding source is available, according to Dyster’s resolution.
Councilman Sam Fruscione said continuing to pay consultants for work on the road project, which is supposed to extend the boulevard from where it now ends at Niagara Street through to Pine Avenue, is a waste of money.
“They’ve been talking for 15 years about extending John Daly Boulevard to Pine Avenue,” he said.
Putting down new road should not be a complicated project, Fruscione said.
“Plow out the road, put down some black top and be done with it,” he said. “Enough is enough with the consultants.”
Thomas DeSantis, the city’s top planner, said that the money for the consultant is part of a road project that is 95 percent refundable through federal funding from the Department of Transportation.
Several hundred thousand dollars has already been sunk into the project over the years and if the city does not complete the extension the feds could come calling to get that money back from the Falls.
“If you want the project to be complete you have to advance the project,” DeSantis said.
Part of the reason that the project has taken so long is that it has gone through the administration of at least three mayors and a long list of city engineers.
“Each administration had a different perspective on it,” DeSantis said.
The project is in the final design phase and is only waiting on federal approval and funding, DeSantis said.
“We’ve essentially been going in a loop in the design phase so we haven’t really completed design. That’s what we’re trying to do now,” DeSantis said. “In order to complete the design, of course, you have to pay the consultant for the design work.”
Dyster said the extension would open up more of the city to commerce.
“We want to open up the center of the city to bring additional business,” he said.
The city needed to update the engineering plan to make sure that it still meets the needs and wants of residents as well as federal and state guidelines, Dyster said.
“It required updating,” he added.
Dyster said that his administration has a good track record with getting projects going that have long been stalled, pointing to the Lockport Street Bridge project and Buffalo Avenue as examples.
In order to get projects moving again the city needs to stay current with the planning aspect of the work to make sure it is ready to start construction when federal funding becomes available, the mayor said.
“When the larger pots of money become available, you’re not ready to proceed and somebody else gets the money instead.”Mug of Fruscione, Sam Sam Fruscione Enough with consultants