The City of Buffalo has identified 71 derelict houses on border streets that it would like to raze with $600,000 earmarked by the County Municipal Consolidation Committee to help the city with demolitions, a county official told the committee Friday.
Brian Higgins, the County Legislature's chief of staff, said the structures are along a mile stretch on the city's border with Cheektowaga, Sloan and West Seneca.
"These properties were selected due to the danger they present to the public," he said. "The estimated cost of demolishing these 71 homes is in the $600,000 range."
The houses tend to attract and shelter criminal activity, Higgins said, and that has a negative impact on both city and suburbs.
"You are going to see a big difference in what happens in our demolition program," said Rosemarie LoTempio, Common Council majority leader.
The $600,000 is part of $2.7 million in the county budget that was designated by the Erie County Legislature to help pay for city services that benefit or have an effect on the county. Early this year, legislators appointed a 21-member consolidation panel to advise on how to spend the money.
The committee sent recommendations in May to the County Legislature. Chairman Charles M. Swanick, D-Town of Tonawanda, then proposed direct city-county negotiations that would produce a memorandum of understanding on spending the money.
County negotiators want $400,000 to repair Kenmore Avenue, which is jointly owned by Buffalo and Erie County. It would come from $920,000 that the panel earmarked for city roads that are co-owned with the county or that become county roads outside the city.
Vincent J. LoVallo, city street sanitation commissioner, questioned spending $400,000 on Kenmore Avenue and called for face-to-face discussions including city Public Works Commissioner Joseph N. Giambra, county Public Works Commissioner John C. Loffredo and Loffredo's deputy, David Comerford.
The County Legislature agreed at a meeting last month that it is time to end split responsibility for the street between the City of Buffalo, which owns the southern half of the road, and the county, which owns the northern half, because the two governments are unable to coordinate repair work.
A failure by city and county negotiators to end split ownership of Kenmore Avenue will upset the public, said Katherine Tarbell, spokeswoman for the League of Women Voters.
Ms. Tarbell said the public would have difficulty understanding why city and county negotiators find it so difficult to decide which government should own the road.
"It's strange to me," she said. "I find it very frustrating. I think the public would as well."
Repairs proposed for Kenmore Avenue would have a life of seven to 10 years, said David Rutecki, chairman of the consolidation committee.
"Hopefully, in 10 years this committee could . . ." he began. He was interrupted by laughter.
Rutecki said the committee can refuse to approve proposals from the city-county negotiators if they do not reflect the committee's recommendations.
"I believe the Legislature has enough faith in this committee that if we send it back, they will honor that," he said.
Other city streets that might get county funding for repairs are Dingens Street, Eggert Road, Mineral Springs Road and Dorrance Avenue, Higgins said.
Meanwhile, the committee's endorsement of County Executive Gorski's proposal to consolidate city and county youth departments under the county, resulting in the elimination of 11 jobs, is moving ahead, with predicted savings of $100,000.
Rutecki said Buffalo Youth Director Michael Norwood will probably become a division chief in the merged department.
It was suggested that the state Division for Youth should encourage the consolidation by providing funds.
But Assemblyman Paul A. Tokasz, D-Cheektowaga, said the state budget will pass before there are firm proposals from city and county negotiators. "The state budget is going to get done on or about Aug. 4."
The consolidation committee approved a county appropriation of $150,000 to help repair Electric Avenue, which the county owns with the City of Lackawanna.
Earlier this month, the committee approved a similar sum for a City of Tonawanda water study.
Higgins said Sept. 8 is probably the earliest that a package of proposals, submitted by negotiators and reviewed by the committee, would go to the County Legislature.