N.T. Council Shades Solar Panel Resolution, Water Treatment Upgrades on Tap for NT/Lockport

A position in North Tonawanda city government vacant since Election Day, and one of two full-time positions in the mayor’s office, that of Assistant to the Mayor, has been filled by David Divirgilio, who will earn $45,000. Mr. Divirgilio had previously worked for the city briefly in 2017 as a newly trained police officer.

During Tuesday’s meeting, new council member Austin Tylec scored his first successful board action, raising concerns about a resolution and getting the council to support his tabling of it.

The resolution dealt with accepting the city assessor’s recommendation that solar panels should not be an item the city assesses.

No explanation was given as to why these increasingly important home-energy infrastructure improvements would be left out of the city’s property valuation.

Councillor Donna Braun seconded Tylec’s motion to table, and it passed unanimously.

Mayor Art Pappas also delivered his state-of-the-city address, citing a broad list of accomplishments in 2017, and in particular, touting the city’s waterfront and the development potential of its 85-acre Tonawanda Island.

“Not many cities have their own island,” Mayor Pappas said of the man-made island which is currently empty except for one restaurant.

When Gov. Andrew Cuomo visited the Lumber City in October, a trip to the island with various area officials was scheduled after a public ceremony marking the award of $2.5 million for downtown development. However, the visit did not materialize. Additionally, the city still has not announced how those millions will be disbursed.

During the mayor’s speech, Pappas also mentioned the multimillion upgrades and reconfiguration of DeGraff Memorial Hospital, which is owned by Kaleida Health.

Others in the city’s medical community, however, have asked what’s being done with the rest of the hospital, having heard multiple possibilities but no clear answer from Kaleida.

After his speech, Pappas cited the wastewater treatment plant as the city’s biggest challenge.

With up to $20 million needed in repairs and upgrades, the city and its engineering firm Wendel are scrambling to find grants to help fund it.

In other water treatment plant news, a presentation about upgrades to the city of Lockport’s water infrastructure took place during Wednesday’s “Meeting of the Whole.”

Engineer Brooke Hamburger spoke about the city’s combined sewer overflows — a problem facing other municipalities in Niagara County as well as the city of Buffalo.

When Lockport has a high-rain incident, untreated municipal waste flows into Eighteen Mile Creek. For the other cities, it’s various points along the Niagara River.

The engineer wasn’t there to discuss solutions but more modern monitoring (The previous system consisted of a water bottle getting knocked over by rising water when the city’s treatment plant can no longer handle the volume).

In North Tonawanda alone, Wastewater Treatment Superintendent Bill Davignon estimated it could cost the city $200 million to separate the city’s combined sewers, portions of which feature wooden pipes.

By: Joseph Kissel

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