NORTH TONAWANDA – Despite some rough weather outside, the atmosphere inside was positive Wednesday as North Tonawanda Mayor Robert G. Ortt said the city was in a strong position.
He delivered his State of the City address to a full house at the Rotarian luncheon in Webster’s Bistro.
He said business owners have invested their futures in North Tonawanda with more than 600 jobs created and numerous new businesses and economic development initiatives in the works.
Ortt said in 2013 the city did not raise taxes and since 2010 has reduced the size of city government by 17 percent or $2.3 million, saved $1.7 million by transferring its emergency dispatch to Niagara County, and increased employees’ contributions towards health care.
The mayor said he is extremely proud of not raising taxes but added, “We must continue to be vigilant when it comes to reducing costs and streamlining.”
Ortt also said the city needs to find ways to remain fiscally conservative while improving the city infrastructure.
“If there is a silver lining, if you have a storm or a rough winter, it highlights all the areas that you need to work on and focus on,” he said. “When you have a weather-related event, it’s an opportunity to address those problems.”
He said in 2013 North Tonawanda, like many other Western New York cities, suffered from power outages and flooding, noting specifically storms on July 19 and Dec. 22, which left thousands without power and caused many residents to experience flooded basements and property damage.
“I want our residents to know that your government is taking concrete measures to upgrade our infrastructure and mitigate future storm occurrences,” Ortt said. He said he has committed nearly $1 million to the 2014 capital budget towards this effort, which includes emergency backup generators for critical stations, more durable PVC pipe water main replacements for aging water lines and separation of combined storm and sanitary systems.
He said city crews have begun cleaning out storm sewers on Rumbold Avenue, rebuilt a pump station at Rumbold and Division Street and repaired a broken storm sewer on Payne Avenue that could have led to a road collapse. In addition,the city worked with DeGraff Hospital in the fall to replace 400 feet of aging water main along Tremont Street.
“We cannot prevent the next storm, but we can be prepared for it,” Ortt said.
He said roads also are being repaired, with the city investing nearly $3 million since 2011 to resurface and repair more than 30 miles of streets. Another $800,000 is in this year’s budget, he said.
He said since 2011 the city has received more than $2.2 million in grants from New York State and will receive additional funding in 2014, which will be used to build three new kayak launches along the Erie Canal at the Botanical Gardens; another $500,000 for the new Webster Street green water filtration system, which began last year and will be completed this year, to collect storm water and prevent it from going into the canal and improve the streetscape; and funds to extend the Erie Canal bike path along Sweeney Street downtown into Mayor’s Park.