A week after agreeing to borrow $975,000 for park improvements, building demolitions and a new snowplow, the Lackawanna City Council met Monday to consider taking on as much as $3 million more in debt.
Joined by Mayor Geoffrey M. Szymanski, the Council discussed pursuing a bond to fix crumbling city bridges and roads and purchase garbage totes.
The city doesn’t have enough wiggle room in its operating budget to pay for the repairs outright, but it can safely borrow up to $3 million to address some of its most pressing infrastructure needs. The bond would be paid back with interest over 10 years.
“We have bridges that are failing throughout the city. We have roads that are in brutal shape throughout the city,” said Szymanski.
The biggest expense in the proposed bond is the repair of a bridge on Ridge Road near Rosary Avenue that the state Department of Transportation has put on its yellow-flag list.
Fixing the bridge is estimated to cost about $1.2 million. The bridge would have to be closed three to four months.
Repairs to four other bridges would cost around $100,000.
A rough estimate for the garbage totes is $350,000, said Szymanski, who is negotiating with the Town of West Seneca on an intermunicipal deal to purchase totes at a bulk rate.
The mayor said the totes are essential if the city wants to address its worsening rat problem.
The Council met with Szymanski in a special work session and did not vote on any measures related to a bond.
Last week, the Council approved a bond issue to pay for a $500,000 snowplow, $200,000 demolition of blighted buildings and $275,000 in upgrades for parks and recreation.
Lackawanna two years ago borrowed nearly $5 million for firehouse renovations and road improvements in the 3rd and 4th wards.
That borrowing resulted in Moody’s Investors Service downgrading the city’s long-term general obligation rating to A2 from A1. Moody’s characterized the city’s debt as manageable.
Council members said there are plenty of additional streets throughout the city that need paving. An engineer recently estimated it would cost an additional $5.5 million to fix 29 city streets identified by Council members as priorities.
Among the streets are South Park and Electric avenues, which combined would cost $3.2 million.
“We can’t afford, with a $3 million bond, to do those streets,” said the mayor, who has asked Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, to seek federal funds to offset those costs, especially for South Park Avenue.
“It’s the gateway to the South Towns, and it’s in deplorable condition,” he said.