NIAGARA FALLS – Funding for the city’s planned North End train station appears to have stalled on the tracks.
The City Council majority this week tabled a measure that would allow the city to be reimbursed by the federal government for some already incurred expenses of the new train station project.
In July, the Council majority tabled a measure that would have paid the city’s consultant about $400,000 of the nearly $1.1 million in services it has provided for the project. Ninety-five percent of that amount is reimbursable by the state.
Mayor Paul A. Dyster said that while he does not believe the lack of action cripples the project, the Council’s putting off a vote does create “a huge amount of uncertainty” with a project that’s been years in the making and for which a significant amount of money from other sources has already been spent.
“There was no reason for the Council not to vote on that,” Dyster said after Tuesday’s Council meeting.
The city is in the process of building a new train station – dubbed the International Railway Station and Intermodal Transportation Center – near the Whirlpool Bridge. The state and federal governments are picking up close to 90 percent of the costs.
Susan K. Sherwood, project manager for the Wendel Cos., the city’s consultant, called the measure “a standard agreement,” adding the move could mean the city will have to cough up close to $1 million out of its own pocket first, and then have to wait for the federal government to pay the city back.
But that money’s not guaranteed to stick around forever, officials said.
So far, about $12 million has been spent on the stabilization of the former Customs House, a new railroad bridge as well as engineering costs, Sherwood said. The city’s share is 20 percent of that, she added.
Council Chairman Glenn A. Choolokian, part of the three-member majority, on Tuesday said he just returned from vacation Monday night and did not have time to find answers to his questions before the meeting.
Choolokian said he planned to talk with Craig H. Johnson, the city’s corporation counsel, about the matter.
When asked why the measure was tabled, Councilman Samuel F. Fruscione, a majority member along with Choolokian and Robert A. Anderson Jr., noted Choolokian’s desire to find out more information.
Dyster said he sees a pattern of behavior by the Council majority “against anything that advances the city in any way,” pointing to the Hamister development proposal and the train station as examples.
He said the majority’s decision making “seems more about politics than economic development.”
Councilman Charles A. Walker, who is not a part of the majority and voted against tabling the matter, questioned this week’s decision, saying he believes the city could lose money it was given for the project.
“The stalling of this makes no sense at all,” Walker said.
The funding already has been set aside by the federal government, Walker said, acknowledging that it would be a different situation if the money wasn’t there.
Sean Edwards, business agent for Local 22, Plumbers and Steamfitters Union, said based on the cumulative action, to him it looks like “another viable project” is “going down the drain.”
Edwards said his union has members sitting at home, not working, but the Council majority, with this project and the proposed mixed-use development from the Hamister Group, “consistently says no.”