City Lawmakers Feel Road Pain, Take Action to Plug Potholes
By Tony Farina
Quality of life matters, even in a city as bankrupt as Niagara Falls, and that’s why council members are choosing to plug the city’s 13,000 potholes and cut acres of overgrown lots that are an eyesore to local residents and visitors alike.
“It’s time to take these matters into our own hands and get things done,” said Council Chairman Glenn Choolokian on the eve of Monday’s council meeting where the action was taken to address resident concerns about the deteriorating condition of the roads and the grass-buried empty lots.
More than 85 percent of the city streets surveyed by this newspaper recently were found to be marred by potholes, major cracks, and other conditions that create a dangerous gauntlet for humans and their automobiles. This newspaper published the results of that unscientific survey last week and Choolokian acknowledged the story and accompanying pictures along with numerous complaints from residents have prompted lawmakers to take action.
“We’re well into the year and nobody is addressing the problem,” he told the Reporter. The chairman said he called a meeting of city officials including Controller Maria Brown, Corporation Counsel Craig Johnson, Councilman Sam Fruscione, and Public Works Director Dave Kinney to deal with the problem and came up with a plan to lease the repaving patcher known as the Pothole Killer to fix the roads.
“If the mayor won’t take on these day-to-day issues, then we [city lawmakers] have to step in,” said Choolokian. “I’m not a great fan of the Pothole Killer long term, but right now that’s what we need as the roads are in very bad shape.”
Lawmakers on Monday night approved using $140,000 from the capital account to pay for the patching machine, including the $70,000 stilled owed from last year when the Pothole Killer patched more than 13,000 potholes, about the same number facing motorists this year.
In addition to the pothole problem, the council is taking $50,000 from the security fund for the city parking ramp to get the overgrown lots cut down, removing an eyesore from a city that boasts tourism as its number one commercial enterprise.
Choolokian is hoping the short-term measures taken by lawmakers to deal with the immediate problems won’t preclude the city from coming up with a plan to deal with roads, lots, and other quality of life issues going forward.
Council member Bob Anderson was quoted in our story last week as saying the conditions of the roads are brutal. “I have been to Third World countries during my time in the military that have better roads than we do,” said the Air Force veteran and longtime public servant. Now Anderson and his colleagues have taken steps to try and get the city roads in shape for the coming season.
While the mayor has contended that he has done a good job on the roads, the flood of calls to the council and the up-close inspection by this newspaper tell a different story. The roads are bad and getting worse. Lawmakers have recognized the road pain and have now stepped in to try and stem the pothole tide and reassure taxpayers that quality of life does matter.
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