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Reporter Revives Probe of NFC Grants and Loans

By Mike Hudson

Mayor Paul Dyster's decision to reinstate the $58,000 per year position of director at the NFC Development Corp. may set the stage for a new round of grants and loans handed out to political insiders, campaign contributors and cronies, City Hall sources confirmed this week.

The top NFC job has been vacant since the retirement of former city councilwoman Fran Iusi who was appointed by Dyster to replace former city councilman Ralph Aversa, who'd been appointed by former mayor Vince Anello.

Who Dyster will choose to head the operation has been the subject of much speculation.

Names being mentioned are Tom Lowe, Ralph Aversa and Seth Piccirillo. The latter, it is said, would keep his present job as community development director and add this to his duties making him the 5th, $100,000 plus per year Dyster department head.

NFC Development has been the target of criticism by this publication because of the high overhead costs it incurs in handing out taxpayer money to what appears to be friends of the mayor.

The Niagara Falls Reporter studied the grants and loans made by the NFC from 2009-2012, and determined that the lending/grants arm of city government handed out $2,241,720 in grants to small and startup businesses.

Records show that the salaries for the director and two assistants with benefits amounted to between $18,866 and a whopping $41,667 for each grant or loan made by NFC in 2010 and 2011. In many cases the salaries amounted to more than the amount of the grant or loan being handed out.

Established as the city's banking arm with a mission statement that points specifically to the creation of jobs in the city, NFC has never been particularly effective.

But since Dyster took office and began funding the operation with money from the local share of the Seneca Niagara Casino revenue, all the NFC money given out is in the form of grants which do not have to paid back.

During the Anello administration, the NFC made mainly loans, which meant that when (and if) they were repaid, the city had revolving monies to make more loans.

A Freedom of Information request made by the Niagara Falls Reporter last week aims to discover how many loans have defaulted over the years, how those receiving loans and grants are doing in meeting their claimed projections of jobs created at the time of loan and grant, which businesses that received grants are even still in business and which city staffers outside the NFC office are being paid extra money - unknown to the public - for doing NFC work.

The Reporter has requested the meeting minutes, meeting schedules, announcements and agendas, and a list of officers and documentation of votes on projects etc.

To date, for reasons of its own, the Dyster administration seems to want as little information about NFC Development disseminated as possible.

What could be the motivation?

Stay tuned.



Niagara Falls Reporter - Publisher Frank Parlato Jr. www.niagarafallsreporter.com

Jan 21, 2014