DUNKIRK – City Council members questioned the role of the Dunkirk Local Development Corp. at a special meeting of the Council and the development corporation held Wednesday in City Hall.
Recently, the city lent the corporation $17,000 to help with a $50,000 mortgage payment on property on Route 5 that was formerly the Bertges Car Dealership.
Councilwoman Stephanie Kiyak asked if the city would get the deed to the property or be repaid. Steve Neratko, who is chairman of Dunkirk’s Planning Department as well as of the development corporation, said repayment could happen if the city sells or leases the property.
Mayor A.J. Dolce said a lease or sale is probably not realistic, because the cost of cleaning the property to environmental standards is unknown. The state Department of Environmental Conservation found old fuel tanks and contaminated soil at the site and hired a firm to clear the land and replace the soil.
Neratko said the costs of that project are unknown but that they should be available within a few months.
The development corporation was also involved in administering Housing and Urban Development funds under the Community Block Grant Program. HUD audited the city’s use of the funds and will reportedly prohibit funds from being used for development in the future. The funds will reportedly instead be used toward streets, revitalization and community service.
Neratko said he met with HUD representatives, who seemed pleased with the new budget for community development funds.
“We should know something in a few weeks,” he said.
The development corporation’s role has been limited by resources; some of the businesses that were given loans have defaulted or been slow in repaying their notes to the city.
Neratko said the corporation has been trying to set up payment schedules and hopes to have more monthly payments in the future.
Councilwoman Stacey Szukala also questioned the corporation’s role. She asked each member to talk about how they perceive their position. The members agreed to meet Oct. 30, review the corporation’s status and, hopefully, learn the status of HUD funds.
Dolce said the development corporation has played an important role in helping with development. Neratko agreed, and both said a restructuring would alleviate doubts about the purpose of the corporation.