In light of the multitude of infrastructure problems that have plagued Niagara Falls for the past year, mayoral candidate John Accardo today questioned the correlation between the city's infrastructure issues and the fact that the city does not have a licensed professional engineer on its payroll.
Jeffrey Skurka, the most recent city engineer, was fired in April 2013 after multiple conflicts with current Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster and members of his administration. Skurka subsequently filed a lawsuit against the city to get his job back as well as lost salary and benefits. Skurka sought "whistle blower" protection, and alleged that he was fired by Dyster as retaliation for safety concerns aired by Skurka related to the prolonged Lewiston Road reconstruction project.
"There are core responsibilities that this city should meet every day without hesitation," said Accardo. "Picking up the garbage of our residents, police patrolling our streets, making sure our roads are plowed, and ensuring that each end every resident can turn on his her faucet and know that clean, fresh water is going to come out of the tap. The current leadership is failing to meet our basic needs to deliver the most essential of services."
According to Accardo, the city's failure to prioritize the position of city engineer is having a direct and adverse impact on hundreds of city residents each and every day.
"Over the past year, the city has received a litany of complaints from residents of this city who have now been without water for months," said Accardo. "Instead of identifying and rectifying the problem, Paul Dyster's solution is to have water trucked in and delivered to residents. It is an unfathomable failure on the part of Paul Dyster and his administration."
Skurka, says Accardo, was a consummate professional who had over 15 years industry experience, but was fired after the Dyster administration cut his salary by nearly $20,000 in the prior budget.
"This is the epitome of penny wise and pound foolish," said Accardo. "The Dyster administration wants taxpayers to believe that they're saving them money by not filling this position, but on the water issue alone, the city has been forced to go to outside consultants to try to identify the problem, which obviously they have failed to do."
Meanwhile, as the city spends countless funds on outside contractors instead of funding the vital city engineer position, the city continues to recklessly spend casino funds that should be devoted to addressing the city's pressing infrastructure problems.
"In 2014, the Dyster administration paid a consultant $175,000 in casino revenues to consult on the ice pavilion, and another $300,000 to renovate the locker rooms at the same ice pavilion" said Accardo. "If Paul Dyster is so fascinated with ice, he should take a walk down Independence Avenue or 72nd Street and see the ice that's coming out of the faucets of the residents of those streets."