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James A. McGinnis, retiring as mayor of North Tonawanda at year's end, looked back last week at his five years in office and recounted the accomplishments of which he is most proud.

None of it would have been possible without the dedication of city department heads and employees, he said.

In a farewell message in which he wished his successor, Mayor-elect Ronald R. Dawson, well, McGinnis cited "initiatives" that made and will continue to make the city successful.

"We have completed more than $6 million in major projects to improve the quality and safety of our community's public facilities," he said.

He cited the reconstruction of Erie Avenue, Oliver Street, Payne Avenue and Esther Street and the separation of storm sewers on Christiana Street.

"North Tonawanda was very fortunate to receive substantial federal and state transportation grant assistance for Erie Avenue, so this very important $3.3 million project cost our community only $165,000.

"In support of neighborhood preservation and commercial revitalization, the city has secured more than $1.2 million in grant resources for housing rehabilitation in older areas, and public facilities improvement on Goundry, Webster and Main streets.

"North Tonawanda's unique location on the historic Erie Canal and Niagara River provides us with many opportunities for waterfront revitalization.

"The city completed the 5-acre expansion of Fisherman's Park initiated under former Mayor Elizabeth Hoffman, and we have seen the popularity of this waterfront recreational area grow each year.

"We have worked cooperatively with our neighbors in the City of Tonawanda and our state representatives to develop canal revitalization initiatives to encourage tourism and economic development in the Twin Cities," he said.

"The Tonawandas harbor is now the Western Gateway to the 524-mile canal system, serving as the point of entry for visitors coming from the Great Lakes.

"Through the cooperative efforts of our state representatives and the state's Canal Corporation, both the cities of North Tonawanda and Tonawanda signed agreements in October with the corporation for major canal front projects in our communities," he said.

"More than $1.4 million in state resources will be used for major improvements for Pinochle Park and the canal wall from Main Street to the Railroad Bridge, enhancing the Tonawandas harbor as the Western Gateway to the Erie Canal.

"Our harbor improvements will be enhanced by our $775,000 federal Canal Corridor Initiative Program awarded in August . . . to implement canal-related economic development and a Cultural Heritage Trail to link our historic sites with the canal.

"The Island Street Boatyard on River Road, a private development of more than $2 million is now under construction. This attractive complex will bring antique boat restoration experts to our community to share their knowledge and skills.

"I believe our waterfront revitalization activities will provide many long-term benefits to the Twin Cities and our region," McGinnis said.

"Another of my priorities has been the remediation of sites in our city with environmental problems, now commonly designated as 'brownfields'."

"Gratwick-Riverside Park, 53 acres in size, has almost 1 mile of shoreline on the Niagara River.

"An extensive remediation program will begin there in 1998. When completed, ownership of the parkland will be transferred from Niagara Mohawk Power Corp. to North Tonawanda . . .

"The 24-acre former Roblin Steel site is another brownfield which we hope to clean up and re-use for industrial purposes, creating new employment opportunities.

"The city was successful in securing state assistance under the 1996 Clean Water/Clear Air Bond Act to perform an environmental investigation of the entire Roblin site, and develop a remediation plan. Then the city will have the opportunity to request additional state resources to remediate the property so it can be redeveloped," he said.

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