By Justin Sondel
Niagara Gazette — The city’s plans to knock down more than 50 houses in targeted areas this year are off to a good start.
Seth Piccirillo, the city’s director of Community Development, told the city council that a combination of city, state and federal funds will allow his department to aggressively and strategically target blight in some key areas of the city.
“We’re on target to bid or execute our first downtown demolition this spring,” Piccirillo said during an administrative update at the 4 p.m. session of Monday’s council meeting. “We have a total of $1.1 million for demolitions.”
Piccirillo said his department will put out smaller bid packages for demolition contractors this year.
“We want to get away from larger contracts to help drive competition and to lower costs,” he said.
Piccirillo urged the council to pass a resolution to award an asbestos monitoring contract — which council members voted unanimously to approve — so that his department can continue to hit target dates for the demolition schedule.
“Now we can (put out a request for proposals) and, weather permitting, take down the houses in spring, summer,” Piccirillo said.
Councilman Sam Fruscione, who has said that demolitions are essential to stabilizing the city, is pleased that plans for targeted demolitions are on schedule.
“Seth (Piccirillo) is doing exactly what we expect him to do, which is to coordinate and move through the demolition process as quick as we can,” Fruscione said.
In other council news:
• The council voted down a measure to accept a challenge grant from the John R. Oishei Foundation by a 3-2 vote. The organization pledged to match the council for every dollar in funding that it restored to the Niagara Arts and Cultural Center. The council voted last month to deny an appropriations agreement that would have allowed Mayor Paul Dyster’s administration to execute a contract with the organization and deliver the $30,000 in funding outlined in the adopted budget. In both votes Council Chairman Glenn Choolokian and council members Robert Anderson Jr. and Sam Fruscione voted no while council members Kristen Grandinetti and Charles Walker voted yes.
• Niagara Falls police and fire departments honored Antwan J. Moore for his heroic effort to rescue an infant who had wandered out onto a roof wearing only a soiled diaper and socks in freezing temperatures on Thursday morning. Moore climbed onto the roof and wrapped the child in his sweater while waiting for police and fire to respond.
• The council approved a walk-on measure that will allow the Department of Public Works to replace an electrical transformer in city hall that overheated on Sunday, filling the building with smoke and causing the fire department to respond. The building is now being partially powered by a generator sitting on the front lawn. The generator rental and the replacement of the transformer will cost the city approximately $95,000, according to the resolution.$1.1M Amount city has for demolition work this year.