City Engineer Chester P. Szymanski III explains the gravity sewer project to the Common Council.

by Dave Warner

It was a busy night in Little Falls with regular voting still going on, an election night dinner at the Elks Lodge and three Public Hearings, as well as the regularly scheduled Common Council meeting going on at City Hall.

In the first public hearing, Jim Thatcher with the Little Falls Urban Renewal Agency went through the specifics of applying for a new Community Development Block Grant application prior to the end of the year. It would be for between $400-425,000 and notification of the approval or disapproval of the grant would be in the February to March, 2019 time-frame. A match from the City is not required for this grant.

In the second public hearing, Jim Thatcher went over the previous CDBG grant from 2016, which is a requirement of the program. It was an opportunity for the City to hear about what was done with the $435,000 of grant money.

According to Thatcher, “the program was run pretty well.” They have addressed problems with 16 housing units and used four different contractors.

“The program will be wrapping up next month. Nine of the projects are completed and all the others are under contract. The work goes on as we speak more or less so that we can get to that mid-December deadline. The amount committed to actual hard construction was $371,500 for an average just shy of $22,700 per unit,” said Thatcher.

Thatcher stated that several of the homeowners that were assisted were elderly, had a physical disability or were considered frail and needed a little bit of help with mobility.

The third and final public hearing of the night was about the 2018 Comprehensive Master Plan. There was no input from the public, so the plan will be sent to the county planning department. It should be back from the county in time to be on the December agenda so that the Common Council can vote on it.

Photo by Dave Warner - Mayor Mark Blask (left) presents John Scarano with a Proclamation from The City of Little Falls.

Photo by Dave Warner – Mayor Mark Blask (left) presents John Scarano with a Proclamation from The City of Little Falls.

The Common Council meeting started promptly at 7 pm. Mayor Blask wanted to take some time to recognize John Scarano, who recently retired after more than 13 years as head of the Herkimer County Chamber of Commerce, stepping down as its executive director after its 50th anniversary celebration this month.

“He went to school here, was incredibly involved in the community from coaching back in the day when his boys were younger, to still being active on some boards,” said Blask.

He went on to tell a story about how much Scarano was respected by people in the country and surrounding communities. “What a cheerleader John is for Little Falls. It just really comes across. All the ribbon cuttings that he’s done, all the business dinners that he’s gone to, where ever he is, he speaks highly of Little Falls,” Blask said.

Blask felt that the job Scarano has done, needed to be recognized by the City. Scarano was called to come up while Mayor Blask read a proclamation. “John put his heart and soul into the job and Herkimer County will reap the benefits for years to come,” stated Blask.

Scarano said “For thirteen years, Herkimer County was my world. As of Friday, Little Falls has become my world. I’ve always lived here, and I’ve always loved it here.”

In other business, the Common Council voted unanimously to adopt, post and distribute to all employees a model sexual harassment prevention policy drafted by the New York State Division of Human Rights.

They also unanimously voted to allow the City of Little Falls to enter into and authorized the Mayor to execute a contract with the Village of Dolgeville for the shared services of the City of Little Falls Engineer.

The City Engineer will spend 52 days a year working on projects as directed by the Village and in return, Dolgeville will pay the City of Little Falls $20,000. “Soon after we hired Chet, who is here tonight, I sat down with the Dolgeville Mayor to see if we could go about sharing Chet. Work for them, work for us, mutual benefit,” said Blask. “The $20,000 per year will help our bottom line.”

The Common Council voted unanimously to authorize the Mayor to acquire and execute the necessary easements for the installation and maintenance of a gravity sewer pipe to replace the failing wastewater pumping station located at Overlook Drive.

The failure of the station has been both a financial burden to the City and a hazard to the surrounding community through potential overflow.

City Engineer Chester P. Szymanski III said “The most cost effective solution to alleviate that problem is the installation of a gravity sewer system to replace the pump station. Building a new station would cost between $250,000 and $300,000.”

“A gravity sewer runs without power or essentially any maintenance by the City. I’m still working on a final number, but I estimate this project to cost between $150,000 and $160,000. There’s an operational cost difference as well,” stated Szymanski.

The City has already received a $100,000 grant for the gravity sewer project and according to Mayor Blask “we’re finding money in this years budget to account for the rest of it.”

The Common Council also voted unanimously to adopt a resolution authorizing the issuance of a revenue anticipation note or notes in the amount of $500,000. The money will be used to close a revenue gap in anticipation of the collection or receipt of sewer rents, water rents, state grant-in-aids and the City’s share of the county sales tax to be collected or received or due during the current fiscal year.

According to City Treasurer David Petkovsek “The City is currently at 90% of expenditures and 70% of revenue collection, so there is a short cash-flow problem. We’re going to borrow this money for four weeks and the interest on it will be less than $1,000. We don’t do it very often, but because of extenuating circumstances, we have to do it.”

The final Common Council action was the unanimous approval of Resolution #39, which authorized the submission of a 2018 NYS-CDBG Funding Application to facilitate city-wide housing rehabilitation projects.

Photo by Dave Warner - Mayor Mark Blask pays tribute to Kenny Gee during Tuesday's Common Council Meeting.

Photo by Dave Warner – Mayor Mark Blask pays tribute to Kenny Gee during Tuesday’s Common Council Meeting.

Mayor Blask closed the meeting by paying tribute to Kenny Gee, who passed away on October 22nd. “What a special guy. He was just so ‘Little Falls’. So many of us in this room saw him every single day. Walking downtown, having a cup of coffee at Stewarts, in a park. He always took the time to say ‘hi’ to you and pretty soon he was going to say you were his best friend. Everybody had so many good things to say about him.”

It’s important to remember Kenny for his parades, for how happy he was. He will certainly be missed and that’s how I want it to end tonight,” said Blask.