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Pilozzi sets an agenda for fiscal challenges

Mayor Ronald J. Pilozzi on Tuesday addressed the challenges that the City of Tonawanda faces during fiscally hard times.

While the city would be helped if the state relieved it of costly mandates, he said during his annual State of the City address, cooperation between the city and its employee unions to control costs and pursuing shared services with neighboring municipalities also are vital.

"We also need to complete important economic-development initiatives without delay," Pilozzi said.

Pilozzi delivered the address during the first 15 minutes of the City Council's regular bimonthly meeting.

In an attempt to expand the city's tax base, he said, the city plans to aggressively market the newly remediated former Spaulding Fibre site on Wheeler Street. The plant was closed in 1992, and the derelict facilities on the site were demolished in 2006.

Pilozzi said that about $20 million in federal, state and county funds were used in the remediation and to provide new infrastructure at the site.

"We took the tack that if we could provide infrastructure -- we extended Gibson Street all the way to Hackett and have James Street come in and intersect the extension of Gibson -- and put all the underground utilities in, it's shovel-ready," Pilozzi explained after Tuesday's meeting.

"What we did several months ago is pass a resolution that allows real estate agents to get an 8 percent commission on whatever sales they come up with. Therefore, it's an incentive for those folks to go out and try to market that."

The Council also authorized the mayor to enter into a shared-services agreement with the Town of Tonawanda to split the cost of its part-time town assessor. The city will reimburse the town $39,848 in the first year of the agreement, for an estimated savings of $44,152 relative to what it previously cost the city for its own full-time assessor.

"[After] we lost our assessor, it made sense to me to take a look at our shared-services agreement, because we're a small community sandwiched in between several larger communities," Pilozzi said.

"If you really look at how we do business in the City of Tonawanda, we're kind of like the poster child for shared services. The reason why I say that is because we already share services -- pay for the services, actually -- with the Town of Tonawanda for sewage treatment. We've done that for at least 25 years. In 2004, we allowed the Erie County Water Authority to buy our water system and to provide us with water."

Had the city not sought agreements to share services with other municipalities, Pilozzi said, efforts to stabilize city taxes would have been greatly impeded.

Meanwhile, he noted, the city has reached an agreement with the city police union and a tentative agreement with its firefighters union that will help control overtime and other employee costs.