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Dunkirk Council discusses Wright Park playground, seawall project

DUNKIRK – City leaders have called the playground at Wright Park a “safety problem” and asked the Department of Public Works to tear it down.

At Tuesday’s meeting of the Public Works Committee, Councilwoman Stacey Szukala said, “I think the playground is a safety issue.” She asked if replacement equipment could be purchased for the site.

DPW Superintendent Tony Gugino agreed that the playground is not in as good shape as other play areas in the city. He said replacement of the equipment was supposed to be part of the third phase of a bike path project that also included replacement of the seawall.

The topic of seawall replacement brought out a lengthy conversation among city leaders. Gugino reminded them that he believes a $250,000 grant from the office of State Sen. Cathy Young will expire at the end of this year.

He said the grant funding was supposed to be used toward replacement of the seawall along Lakefront Boulevard.

Szukala expressed frustration that the project had not started yet. Gugino recommended that the Council members ask the city attorney to prepare the necessary resolutions to start the project.

Gugino said he was not sure if the funds could still be claimed if construction did not start. “Realistically, there would be no construction this year even if you start the process,” said Gugino.

Council members asked Mayor A.J. Dolce to address the issue. He said that if they wanted to start the project, they would also need to be prepared to support a motion to seek long-term financing for the program. “Be prepared to go out for bonds,” he said.

Gugino reminded the Council members and mayor that the entire project would require the support and approval of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as well as the Department of Environmental Conservation. He said the replacement of the seawall is a high priority on his list of projects for the coming year.

The committee agreed to seek alternatives to paying for new equipment at the Wright Park location.

One option may be the Bill Cease Fund, a private donation made to the city with the requirement that funds are used only for youth recreation purposes.

The committee members also asked Gugino if he could explain some recent increases in overtime costs. He replied that hiring would help ease the burden of overtime in the departments he supervises.

Szukala said she thought there was funding in the budget to add a Street Department worker.

Gugino said his department has been cut from 25 to 13 employees in recent years. He said the Street Department has the most need for new staff. Committee members encouraged him to put together the postings for the position.

Several issues of possible housing violations, including complaints of people repairing autos on the streets and in driveways, were brought to Code Enforcement Officer Al Zurawski.

He was asked to look into the issues and report to the committee at the next meeting.