Tough year for Niagara Falls with water board, casino cash woes
By Joe Kissel
It’s not surprising that Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently snubbed Niagara Falls and rebuked calls for emergency state aid when that very same entity is contributing to this city’s downward spiral to a control board.
Which means Niagara Falls is on its own when dealing with a possible, nearly insurmountable $12 million budget gap next year caused by the cessation of payments from the casino revenue-sharing agreement between the Seneca Nation and New York State.
For years, Mayor Paul Dyster has been balancing city budgets using millions of dollars in funds that were supposed to be used for economic development.
Maybe the mayor knows something nobody else does, but he’s taking a huge gamble on the city’s future by maintaining the employment status quo at city hall and indulging in other questionable spending.
Meanwhile, other factors plague the city, such as its crumbling infrastructure.
Here, the Niagara Falls Water Board has received most of the bad publicity. In the span of a year it announced it was keeping the $3.4 million in rate-payer funds it had put unnecessarily into its fund balance and then followed up by raising rates.
Niagara County Democratic Chairman Nick Forster was nominated by City Council as their new representative, and he quickly fired most of the top staff at the plant.
What followed — the black, toxic discharges into the lower Niagara River — wasn’t new, having occurred previously dozens of times a year.
But because of staffing issues, the tons of offensive and illegal discharge were piped out of the plant during the afternoon at peak tourist season.
People were running from the Maid of the Mist and getting sick from untreated industrial waste when they are supposed to be enthralled by a wonder of the world.
The water board will be receiving $20 million from the state to help eliminate these dumps into the river, which cost it several $50,000 fines during its summer of shame.
Unfortunately, the city’s water problems don’t stop there. A massive water-main break in the city this week reduced pressure to households in affected areas including N.F. Memorial Medical Center.
There, they had to take buckets of water up flights of stairs in order for toilets to flush.
Unfortunately, the residents of Niagara Falls are going to be carrying a lot of water in 2018 and beyond as the city grapples with finding solutions to these problems.