NIAGARA FALLS – Some community groups that faced last-minute cuts last year got some money from the city Monday night, while the City Council got itself a new confidential secretary.
The Niagara Arts & Cultural Center, Niagara Community Action Program, Niagara Beautification Commission, Niagara Falls Block Club Council and Niagara Military Affairs Council had funding agreements approved by the Council, though the money was already included in the city budget.
With the Council approvals, the NACC will receive $30,000; Niagara Community Action Program, $27,500; Beautification Commission and Block Club Council, $10,000 each; and NIMAC, $2,500.
Last year, the NACC, the Block Club Council and the Beautification Commission saw their funding included in the budget but cut early in the year by the former Council majority, a move that stirred a public uproar.
This year, there were no votes against the funding.
Council Chairman Charles A. Walker abstained from the vote involving funding for the Niagara Community Action Program. Walker said he has just become a member of the organization’s board.
The Council also voted, 3-1, to hire Ryan J. Undercoffer as the Council’s confidential secretary, replacing Kevin J. Ormsby.
Undercoffer, 24, is a Falls native and worked in the Buffalo office of Rep. Louise Slaughter for 14 months, ending in January of last year, when her district was redrawn in congressional redistricting.
He then worked for the state Department of Labor until August, when he began pursuing his doctorate in political science at Syracuse University, from which he has taken an indefinite leave of absence.
There were no other expressions of interest for the job besides Undercoffer’s, Walker and Councilwoman Kristen M. Grandinetti said.
Ormsby, a former city Democratic Committee chairman, held the at-will position last year and was the city’s tourism manager before taking the Council office post.
Grandinetti called Undercoffer intelligent, organized and trustworthy, noting that she had worked with him during his time in Slaughter’s office.
She added that he had come highly recommended from individuals “high up in state and federal politics.”
Grandinetti also said she thought it was an opportunity to bring in a “young, fresh face” to the Council office.
Choolokian, who voted against the appointment, saying it was “nothing against Ryan,” praised Ormsby’s work and said he thought Ormsby should have been retained.
Councilman Robert A. Anderson Jr. abstained from the vote, saying he was not part of “this scenario that went down.”
The Council also put on hold making several appointments to the Planning Board, Zoning Board of Appeals and the Water Board.
Grandinetti, who initiated the move to push back making the appointments, said there are more vacancies than what was to be voted on Monday and she wanted more time to review the openings and discuss potential candidates with her colleagues.
The appointment of Chester Hyla to the Traffic Advisory Commission Board proposed by all Council members was approved unanimously.