The Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority owes Buffalo $5.3 million for helping finance the Tonawanda Turnout during the building of the Metro Rail line in the early 1980s, a top city lawmaker claims.
Common Council Majority Leader Rosemarie LoTempio says she's been asking for the money to be repaid nearly every year for the past decade or so.
And now, with the city facing a projected $16 million budget gap, she says it's time to settle up.
"It's a debt that they owe the City of Buffalo. . . . We've waited long enough for these funds," she told a Council caucus Monday.
Mrs. LoTempio has filed a measure asking the city to take steps to recover the money from transit officials; and, if all else fails, she wants to take legal action. The Council is expected to act on the measure at today's meeting.
Meanwhile, city officials are seeking $16 million in budget aid from the state, lending added importance to the reimbursement request, she said.
"This money would be very appropriate to have right now. . . . If we can't get the $16 million, this money could be very important," she said.
But, according to Lawrence Meckler, acting executive director of the authority, the agency applied for the money more than 10 years ago and was turned down by federal transportation officials.
Meckler, who took over as NFTA head last month, also says he is willing to reapply for the funds if that will help the city. He said he ordered a search of the agency's archives regarding the matter.
According to Mrs. LoTempio, the matter began while contractors were tunneling near the LaSalle Street Metro Rail station in 1982 and ran into problems building a turnout for a proposed future branch line to the Tonawandas.
Officials wanted to build the turnout so they could complete the branch line in the future without disrupting the main Metro Rail line.
Transportation officials approached the city for help, and Buffalo agreed to borrow $3 million for the cost of the turnout, provided the NFTA would apply for a federal reimbursement.
Since that time, the debt service has increased the city's cost to more than $5.3 million.
Mrs. LoTempio said she decided over the weekend to again ask the NFTA for a reimbursement after Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, D-N.Y., urged Buffalo officials to apply for federal aid to build a new "super span" bridge.
If there's federal transportation money available for a bridge, why not the city's budget deficit, she asks.