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City remains strong despite needed infrastructure repairs

North Tonawanda Mayor Robert G. Ortt during his 2014 State of the City address, held at Webster's Bistro.

BY: Kori Sciandra | February 05, 2014

As North Tonawanda continues to grow and remain a strong city, Mayor Robert G. Ortt believes there are always areas within the city that can be strengthened and improved. Among the areas Ortt is referring to is the city’s infrastructure, which Ortt addressed during his State of the City speech, held Wednesday at Webster’s Bistro, North Tonawanda.

As a result of the July 19 thunderstorm, the city experienced severe flooding. Specifically, 4.3 inches of rainfall was accumulated in a short period of time. This caused massive power outages to occur throughout the city, and left 4,000 homes without power. In addition, the Dec. 22 winter storm caused just about half of the amount of power outages the July storm did, with a total accumulation of three inches of rain.

“These storms put significant pressure on our water and sewer systems, and in some areas, exhausted them,” said Ortt. “Many of our residents experienced flooded basements and property damage as a result of these storms.”

These types of weather related occurrences are always unpredictable, however, Ortt has a plan to ensure the city and its residents are prepared for future weather related damages.

Ortt has committed nearly $1 million dollars in the 2014 Capital Budget, to be used toward upgrading the city’s infrastructure.

Among these changes is the request of $300,000 for emergency backup, natural gas generators at six of the city’s most critical lift stations.

Replacing the aging water main in the city is a top priority for city government. The city intends to use PVC piping, because it is cheaper and allows the city to replace more feet of the main. The PVC is expected to hold up better over the course of time, there is $300,000 allotted for this project.

In addition, Ortt is calling for $300,000 to be used for storm sewer separation. There are sections of the city that have combined storm and sanitary systems.

“This causes an increased risk of backups,” said Ortt.

The city plans to identify these areas and separate them.

This winter brought with it a blast of cold weather and will leave behind a slue of damaged roads.

“Since 2011, your city government has invested nearly $3 million in street repairs, including $800,000 in this year’s budget,” said Ortt. “We have resurfaced more than 30 miles of streets in that time.”

Ortt plans to ask for an additional $200,000 in the year’s Capital budget for resurfacing and repairing city streets.

While the city’s infrastructure is a major concern of Ortt’s, he is always looking toward bettering the future of North Tonawanda. To do so, Ortt plans to implement performance contracting. This allows the mayor and his administration to focus on cutting costs, specifically the cost of energy.

“There are many improvements that we could make that would be more energy efficient and would improve our infrastructure. However, the cost is too high,” said Ortt. “Performance contracting is a process whereby the savings from reduced energy costs are guaranteed by law to pay for the project. That translates into zero budgetary impact for the taxpayer.”

Ortt intends to send a proposal, requesting a full, comprehensive energy audit. Once those results are received, the city can move forward with making improvements to the infrastructure, as well as making public buildings more energy efficient.

Leading North Tonawanda into 2014:

A major focus for the upcoming years is the revitalization of Oliver Street.

“Today Oliver Street is a far cry from the bar and entertainment district it used to be...However...there is a good foundation for the Oliver Street of tomorrow,” said Ortt.

The city submitted a grant application through the New York State Consolidation Funding process, seeking funds for structural improvements, which were approved. The city received $200,000 toward these improvements.

A similar grant was used during the build up of Webster Street. Ortt is optimistic about these improvements.

After many years of waiting, North Tonawanda residents will finally see the completion of the Meadow Drive Extension.

“This long awaited extension has been discussed for years, and finally broke ground last fall, thanks to the efforts of my administration and the hard work of city attorney Shawn Nickerson and Dale Marshall,” said Ortt.

The Meadow Drive Extension will connect the mid-city business district to Erie Avenue and the Walmart Supercenter.

City projects and expected completions:

Among many different projects that are underway throughout the city, the following are at the top of the list in North Tonawanda:

•Three kayak launches/docks along the Erie Canal at Botanical Gardens, Service Drive, and downtown

•Plans for sharing water purification and distributing services with the City of Lockport have been in place for the past few years. Both cities have been working toward a common goal of cost saving through the use of shared services.

•The Webster Street Green Infrastructure project will be completed this year. The city received $500,000 toward a new green water infiltration system. The system will collect storm water and prevent it from running into the canal.

• The Erie Canal bike path extension will be completed.

•The $2.3 million completion of the Durkee Bridge is a major connection point from mainland North Tonawanda to Tonawanda Island.

• Lastly, the city received an additional $208,000 in state funding for the Gratwick Riverside Marina project. Work on the docks and marina will continue.

Ortt plans to continue working hard while leading the City of North Tonawanda to a brighter, better future.

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