The consultant under consideration for North Tonawanda's comprehensive master plan is also the engineering firm working on the proposed Wal-Mart Supercenter for the city.
James B. Sullivan, executive director of the Lumber City Development Corp., the economic development agency overseeing the project, told the Common Council on Tuesday that Bergmann Associates was the corporation's choice to assist the city in developing its master plan but noted the company's involvement in the Wal-Mart plan might be viewed as a conflict of interest.
But Sullivan and Council members agreed that it wouldn't be a conflict since the two are different divisions of the company and working on separate projects with different timetables. The city's attorneys also said it wouldn't be a problem and noted the national chain has used so many consultants that it would be difficult to find one not associated with it.
Mayor Lawrence V. Soos said the corporation should proceed since the city's attorneys don't see a legal conflict.
However, Council President Brett Sommer said, "I'm sure it will be a line of attack. We owe it to the people to explore the possible conflict of interest."
Sommer said concerns could be allayed by a representative from the company addressing the Common Council during a workshop in a couple of weeks. Also the Council president said a full Council should be present to discuss the issue, since 2nd Ward Alderman Kevin J. Brick Jr. didn't attend the workshop.
Sullivan suggested Bergmann should step aside and the steering committee take over when dealing with issues of land use during the master plan process.
The city has $50,000 for a consultant; Bergmann seeks $45,000 to $47,000.
"We went with Bergmann Associates more so based on the cost than anything else," Sullivan said. Also, a member of the Bergmann team successfully led the downtown redevelopment plan, he added.
The development agency received eight responses to its request for proposals for a firm to assist city agencies in the development of a master plan, Sullivan said. They were narrowed down to three based on what the city wanted. Peter J. Smith & Co., which requested $72,500, and Greenman-Pedersen Inc., which asked for $73,750, were the other two.