Niagara Gazette

Local News

April 3, 2013

Casino revenue crunch will impact lot maintenance, other city services

Niagara Gazette — Residents can expect to see more grass on city lots growing free and wild this summer.

That's according to Department of Public Works Director David Kinney who told city officials this week that his department did not have room in its budget to hire Niagara Grass Cutting, the landscaping firm it has had under contract for several years and the same one responsible for mowing lots owned by the city itself. 

"I want everybody to understand that we don't have the wherewithal or the equipment to do that type of work," Kinney said in an update for city lawmakers on Monday. "So those properties, as of right now, will not (be mowed). And as we add more and more properties, in rem (auction), demolitions, we're in that same situation."

The city now owns approximately 600 vacant lots.

Kinney's department had trouble keeping up on grass mowing last year with less money available to hire temporary workers. This year, he said he will have even less money available to put boots on the streets, take care of parks as well as maintain city lots and other public spaces.

The casino cash being withheld because of the dispute between New York state and the Seneca Nation of Indians over the exclusivity clause in the 2002 gaming compact was not counted as anticipated revenues in this year's budget as it had been in previous years. So, although the city council was able to hold the line on taxes and avoid layoffs during the budget amendment process, cuts to various departments like the DPW were made.

Kinney said to clean and mow a lot he would have to pull four or five workers off of other city work - mowing in parks and forestry work - as well as dedicate equipment used for other tasks.

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