A Niagara Falls city councilman believes the current delay in finalizing a development agreement for the planned Main Street courthouse, fire and police department headquarters can be blamed on Mayor Vince Anello’s quest to bring back a formerly rejected economic development consultant.

“The agreement’s been sitting on his desk for two weeks,” Councilman Lewis “Babe” Rotella said, about a proposed agreement between Ciminelli Development Co. and the city which would move the process of building the municipal complex ahead.

Anello denied accusations he’s waiting until the newly elected city council members take office at the beginning of 2006, who Rotella believes could be more favorable to a move to bring back Maryland-based consultant Donald Zuchelli.

“I can tell you that that’s a blatant misstatement,” he said. “As a councilman he should be ashamed of making remarks like that. Nothing’s holding up the negotiations.”

City attorneys and Anello were working for hours Thursday on the proposed agreement, Anello said.

When asked when a contract will be finalized, Anello responded, “When we’re totally convinced that the interest of the taxpayers of Niagara Falls are protected, that’s when we’ll have a contract.”

The council rejected retaining Zuchelli, who was involved in the initial development planning for the new complex, earlier this year.

Already in a bind for time, some officials have been concerned it’s a delay that may jeopardize completion of the project by a state imposed deadline of March 2007.

A top official with Ciminelli Development Co., however, is still holding out hope the project will get done on time.

“We think it’s possible, but a lot of things have to fall into place,” said Kevin Greiner, senior project development manager with Ciminelli Development, the lead firm of a team of development and architectural firms.

A 90-day development agreement plan has been in negotiation between counsel for Ciminelli and city representatives since early November. Negotiations were supposed to be wrapped up quickly, according to city officials. Mayor Vince Anello and corporation counsel Ronald Anton are handling the talks.

Once the agreement is signed, which now won’t happen until the new year, Ciminelli Development will begin to implement a property acquisition plan and then be able to work on a design for the building. Once the plans are finalized, the permitting process and public review process will begin, Greiner said.

Negotiations are continuing on a constant basis, but problems coming up with a final agreement isn’t helping all parties involved meet the required occupancy date set by the state Office of Court Administration.

Anello admitted the current negotiation process is taking a little bit longer than it should, but blamed the city council for resisting plans to direct an official besides the mayor and city attorneys to lead negotiations.

“We don’t have the point man for this project,” Anello said. “The city needs its own point man.”

Anello believes prosperity for businesses that will surround the municipal complex has already been given a shot in the arm through the advanced planning of city economic development officials.

Ultimately the cooperation of businesses and developers will pay off for the city, Anello said.

“We truly believe that the municipal building will be a catalyst for the North End,” he said.

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