Questions over ownership, maintenance and union jurisdiction are delaying the start of work on Trolley Stop Park on Main Street.
Despite last week's ceremonial groundbreaking and plans for work to start immediately, the low bidder has not been allowed to start work because of the questions, City Administrator Anthony J. Restaino said Friday.
The Main Street Business Association, which for nearly a decade had pressed the city to demolish two derelict buildings in the 1900 block between Cleveland and South avenues and create a green space, was to have maintained the park after it was constructed. But a question has arisen over whether the city's labor agreement with United Steelworkers of America unit that represents parks workers would allow anyone else to perform maintenance work on city property.
"We felt getting the merchants to maintain the park would be a win-win for everyone. Then a red flag went up that we've got to negotiate that with the union," said Robert J. Antonucci, project administrator for the city's Community Development Department. "Right now we're trying to think through the process and sit down with the unions."
The business association stands ready to take ownership of the park, according to Elizabeth J. DiChiara, president, although no action has been taken by the board yet. But Restaino and acting Corporation Counsel Timothy G. Bax said that while the association is a not-for-profit organization, it does not have tax-exempt status.
"I'll have to look into that," DiChiara said. "I know that if we bought the park we would have to pay for our own utilities and water. If we have to pay taxes, too, then maybe that's what we have to do."
The Pine Avenue Business Association developed and maintains Columbus Square Park on Pine Avenue and 15th Street, but Antonucci said that organization has tax-exempt status. Pine Avenue officials could not be reached to comment.
There also have been some "indications" that there may be problems with non-city unions because the low bidder, Faery's Landscaping Inc. of Ransomville, is a non-union contractor, Antonucci said, adding that he did not want to comment further.
"I had heard that," Restaino said. "I contacted (Faery) and told him he might want to contact union representatives to stave off any unrest. Neither of us wants any unrest."
No one at Faery's familiar with the situation was available to comment.
There is some urgency to get construction under way because a $34,000 grant the association received from the Niagara County Environmental Fund requires that trees be planted this fall.
"We've got to do this quickly," Antonucci said. "I'd say by next week we definitely have to have a course of action to go one way or another."
The Community Development Department is paying for preparation of the two lots, including grading, installing drainage, topsoil, brick paved walkways, underground electrical conduit and concrete foundations for light pole bases, for which Faery's submitted the low bid of $50,665. The business association has also received $1,000 from Niagara Falls Redevelopment, which will be used for park benches, an iron fence, decorative light standards, trees and flower beds.