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City of Lockport sells Canal Street business to developers

LOCKPORT - In a busy meeting Wednesday, the Lockport Common Council sold a building on Canal Street, squelched the notion of allowing overnight on-street parking and received a recommendation to slash the city treasurer’s pay and duties.

The Council also defeated a proposal to ask for a state audit of the assessor’s office.

The real estate sale was 57 Canal St., a three-story building being bought by Iskalo Development Corp. of Williamsville for $375,000. The top two floors are occupied by the research and development office of Trek Inc. The ground floor is vacant.

A recent hotel study eyed 57 Canal as a potential location for a boutique hotel.

“They said their vision for it is to add to the tourism fabric of the City of Lockport,” Planning and Development Director Brian M. Smith said. “It’s the right kind of developer for such an important building.”

An Iskalo executive didn’t return a call Wednesday, but the company website says it owns 25 commercial buildings, all but one in Buffalo or the Northtowns. Smith said Iskalo contacted the city after reading about the hotel study in The Buffalo News.

“It’s the last building on Canal Street going into private hands. We are proud to have another developer of this caliber investing in the City of Lockport,” Mayor Anne E. McCaffrey said.

In other matters, the special committee deciding what to do about the city treasurer’s job recommended cutting the job’s pay from $81,636 to $50,000, a move it can legally make only in July. The committee of three aldermen also called for giving all the treasurer’s duties except tax collection, bank deposits and borrowing to Scott A. Schrader, the $95,000-a-year director of finance. The reduction in duties would have to be approved by voters in a November referendum.

In state audits, Treasurer Michael E. White was saddled with the blame for the erroneous financial reports that led the Council to appropriate nonexistent surplus funds in the 2013 budget, leading to the city fiscal crisis.

The treasurer’s office will remain full-time with a four-year elected term, Council President Joseph C. Kibler said.

As for the election, Kibler said Alderman John Lombardi III, R-1st Ward, may run. “John’s interested. We know that,” Kibler said.

Lombardi said, “Now that we know what the duties are, a decision will be made soon.”

The Council voted 4-2 against a resolution from Alderwoman Anita Mullane, D-2nd Ward, asking for a state audit of the assessor’s office. The only other support came from Patrick W. Schrader, D-4th Ward.

McCaffey and the Republican aldermen said they thought the state Financial Restructuring Board, which is considering a city request for aid, including a grant of up to $5 million, is reviewing all departments thoroughly. “I think they should be given an opportunity,” Lombardi said.

Mullane, whose sister works in the assessment office, said, “That department is just as important as the Treasurer’s Office. ... All of the employees, under an audit, would be scrutinized. I have nothing to gain by this. The city has something to gain.”

Kibler said that because of Mullane’s family connection, “I don’t think you should even be allowed to vote on it.” Mullane sat out a vote last week to hire Michael S. Hartman as temporary assessor.