Lackawanna City Council members addressed questions Monday on how the city is dealing with four issues that have an impact on the quality of life or city finances. The issues were:
Playground fencing that is clogged with weeds despite repeated complaints.
What happened to the city's share of rents handled through the Lackawanna Community Development Corp.
The sale of city-owned properties without advertising.
The controversial "segmenting" of Route 5, a national scenic highway, to open the way to increase the number of huge overhanging billboards.
Phyllis Colafranceschi, president of the Bethlehem Park Club in the First Ward, asked why after her repeated requests, overgrown thorny bushes continue to protrude through the fence of the Bethlehem Park playground.
"Somebody has to be responsible," said Colafranceschi. "What do I have to do? I come up here every month and complain about the same thing."
Councilman Ricardo Estrada, First Ward, said the playground also requires fencing to prevent children from running into traffic.
Council President Norman Polanski said that if the Council controlled the work force, the problems of First Ward residents would be addressed.
"We have to call the mayor over and over," said Polanski.
James White, a onetime city development employee, warned that he believes city officials are wrong when they say they cannot supply information sought in his Freedom of Information request on a small business investment fund and rents from city-owned properties controlled by the Lackawanna Community Development Corp.
"There is almost half a million dollars in that fund," said White. "It's all public funding. It should be available. If it is not, why isn't it?"
City Treasurer Charles Katra said the records are the property of the development agency, not the city.
But White argued that the agency is under contract to the city and must answer to the city and provide records. He said if he does not receive the documents, he will appeal to the state.
Council members decided to review a proposed city sale of a recently foreclosed brick building and two lots at Electric Avenue and Elkhart Street.
According to Assessor Frank Krakowski, the city foreclosed on the parcel, which owed $31,000 in taxes. The next day, businessman Francis Warthling offered to buy it for $8,000, a sale advocated by Krakowski two weeks ago but tabled by the Council. Since then, Anthony Fruci offered $8,500 and Warthling withdrew from bidding.
"I'm not pleased with what I see here," said Polanski, who called for a Council work session to review proposed sales not advertised after the city forecloses.
An effort is under way to ease restrictions on Route 5 from the Lackawanna-Blasdell border into the City of Buffalo to pave the way for the installation of large billboards, said Joseph DiCenzo, a First Ward resident.
"They want to segment the Seaway Trail," he said. "Segmentation will make it much easier for billboard operators to erect signs."
DiCenzo, warning that federal funding will be jeopardized, said that the effort is targeting the scenic area of the Union Ship Canal, Tifft Farm, Gallagher Beach and other public recreation areas, and the entire stretch of the roadway, also known as the Hamburg Turnpike, within Lackawanna.
DiCenzo called on residents and the Council to urge elected state officials to reject the plan.
The Council also agreed to sell Mary Jane Partridge a vacant lot between 22 and 24 Rosary Ave.
Councilman Gerald DePasquale, Third Ward, noted that trees have been cut at a McKinley Avenue site where the Diocese of Buffalo will build a 13-unit building as housing for retired priests. The diocese, in response to complaints about water accumulation, will also construct a holding basin and dispersal system on its land between Holy Cross Cemetery and Rosary Avenue.