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Lockport seeks grant to improve South Street conditions

LOCKPORT – The City of Lockport is looking for a state grant to make plans to improve a neighborhood on the southern border of the downtown business district.

The Common Council voted this week to apply for a $50,000 grant for a community needs assessment, which Planning and Development Director Brian M. Smith said would be targeted for South Street, a run-down street that borders on Harrison Place, the former auto parts plant which now houses Trek Inc. and about 20 smaller businesses.

If the city receives the grant, the city likely would hire a consulting firm to “identify the assets of the community and identify potential concerns,” Smith said.

Such a study would seek to find “ways to overcome obstacles and address challenges,” Smith said.

The street is eligible because it’s in a high-poverty census tract. If the city obtained the money, which originated as a community development block grant to the state from the federal government, the city would have to supply a 5 percent match, which would be $2,500 for a full $50,000 grant.

City Clerk Richelle J. Pasceri said the city probably won’t see any funds from the application, which is due July 31, until next year. Thus, the matching money should be included in the 2016 budget, she said.

Mayor Anne E. McCaffrey said winning the grant might help the city obtain other funding.

“It’s an important tool to have when applying for funds to implement projects that will benefit the community,” she said.

On another topic, the Council approved a new means of paying for the seasonal employees at the city’s visitor center, which is inside the Erie Canal Discovery Center. That facility, at Church and Ontario streets, is operated by the Niagara County Historical Society.

Up until now, the city has been paying the workers directly, but under the new terms, the city will send the Historical Society a stipend and the society will use it to pay the workers. The money will come from the city’s “bed tax” on hotel and motel bills, not from the regular budget.

Director of Finance Scott A. Schrader said the stipend will total about $11,000.

The city also intends to buy its own “correlator,” a machine that can be used to detect leaks in water lines. The city rented one last year in a fruitless attempt to nail down the source of a leak that was flowing into the basement of Cornerstone Arena as it was under construction.

The low bid of three received for the new correlator is $20,394 from Pow-R Mole Sales of Lancaster.

Pasceri said the Council probably will award the contract at a brief special meeting Wednesday.