Niagara Gazette

Local News

November 25, 2012

Mayor to veto proposed Seneca fees

Niagara Gazette — Mayor Paul Dyster will veto a resolution passed by the city council that would allow the city to collect money from the Seneca Nation of Indians and New York state for services.

The resolution called for an amendment to a city ordinance that would establish a structured system of fees to be charged to the Senecas and the state for city services — response to emergency calls, road maintenance, plowing — at the Seneca’s gaming complex and state parks that fall within city lines. That measure passed by a vote of 4-1 at the Oct. 29 council meeting, with Councilwoman Kristen Grandinetti being the only council member to vote no.

Dyster will veto the ordinance amendment because the ability of the city to enforce the charges is “highly questionable,” and the amount that the city would collect under the plan outlined in the resolution would pale in comparison to the millions of dollars the city is owed and is being withheld in the dispute over the gaming compact between the Senecas and the state, he wrote in a letter to Carol Antonucci, the city clerk.

“It’s more likely to lead to expensive litigation than to collection of any revenue,” Dyster wrote.

City attorney Craig Johnson declined to comment on the enforceability of the amended ordinance.

Dyster said part of the motivation for putting forth the veto was a letter from the Senecas, which he said he could not share with the Gazette without the permission of the nation, saying that they would never pay a bill for such services.

“What we receive from the compact goes well beyond what we render in services and rightly so,” Dyster said. “I think this just creates an opportunity for the Senecas to score a public relations win.”

Dyster reiterated that he understands the council’s frustration, but said that the amount of time that would be spent litigating the attempts to collect on these bills would end up being a drain on city resources and may actually give the Senecas an opportunity to offer to pay for the services only, an amount that would be dwarfed by the $60 million that the city is owed.

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