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APR 07 - APR 14, 2015

The Dyster Administration was Engineered to Fail from Day One

By Anna M. Howard

April 07, 2015

Bob Curtis, Mayor Vince Anello's engineer was fired on day one of Mayor Dyster's administration
Ali Marzban, part of the "best and brightest" and to be paid in part by private donors whose names Dyster said he did not know.
Jeffrey Skurka's straight shooting, transparent style was anathema to Mayor Dyster's angling.
Mayor Paul Dyster has been in office for 87 months. During that period he has had a city engineer in office 43 months or slightly less than half the time. Not having a city engineer is a violation of the city charter but even if it wasn't it is nevertheless prudent to have one. Outside consultants who are paid by the hour earn more with each new problem and nothing needs to be solved quick. Here is the Dyster administration's city engineer history: Ali Marzban: Hired March 30, 2009, fired Aug 2009: Five months. Tom Radomski, hired January, 2010, fired June 2011, 17 months. Jeffry Skurka, hired July 2011 fired April 2013 21 months.

Paul Dyster came into office on January 1, 2008.

The first things he did, as we have previously written, were to hire Dave Kinney as his director of public works, and to fire then city engineer Bob Curtis.

Curtis was, by all accounts, a capable, conscientious, licensed engineer.

His dismissal came as no surprise to city hall insiders.

It was explained to the Reporter at the time that Curtis had two things working against him: his determination to hold the feet of the Ciminelli Company to the fire as they built the courthouse, and the enmity of Tom DeSantis, the city planner and close friend of Mayor Dyster.

Dyster built the courthouse and hired LiRo Engineers at a cost of just under $15,000 per month. LiRo worked throughout the courthouse construction period (January 2008 – June 2009) and Dyster then extended their contract beyond the project completion date.

Dyster also used LiRo to manage the courthouse "fit and finish" work in 2009. Fit and finish problems that that LiRo had been hired to guard against in the first place.

The fit and finish snafus included, in part, flooding jail cells, faulty automatic doors, ceilings leaking coolant, and an improperly ventilated police firing range.

Bottom line was a final courthouse cost of $50,000,000.

That incredible ultimate number was about 30% higher than even the highest pre-construction estimates. The vast difference between the estimate and the end product was never explained, much less audited by outside officials.

The Reporter finds it intriguing that the ballooning courthouse costs came at a time when Mayor Dyster insisted that the city remain "engineer-less." With no city engineer in place the city was essentially defenseless in the face of skyrocketing costs.

The Reporter detailed all of this in a number of articles as the courthouse was being constructed.

Just before the courthouse construction finished the mayor hired a city engineer named Ali Marzban. Marzban didn't have a license to practice in New York State. Mr. Marzban separated from the city when the Reporter revealed that he lacked that license.

Months later Dyster hired a new engineer, Tom Radomski, and this gentleman was removed from his position after several months due to his apparent violation of the city residency ordinance.

Mr. Jeffrey Skurka, after a lengthy search, was then selected by Dyster to serve as city engineer. By all accounts Skurka was hardworking and took his duties seriously. In fact he took them too seriously for Dyster because when Skurka raised concerns over safety issues on the Lewiston Road project Skurka was forced from his job in April 2013.

The facts are that the city has had no city engineer on the job while a $50,000,000 courthouse was built, and now has no city engineer in place as a $45,000,000 train station is constructed.

Many of the problems with the Lewiston Road project can be traced to there being no city engineer in place during most of the construction period.

It's believed that the problems with freezing water lines on 72nd Street are due to the lack of a city engineer as that road was being rebuilt.

The Hamister development deal was signed with no city engineer in city hall.

The repair of the city parking ramp, the building of the Culinary Arts facility, the extensive work at the ice pavilion, and all of the millions of dollars in casino cash for road repair have been done largely with no city engineer.

That lack of a city engineer has caused city overtime to go through the roof (some employees in the engineer-less department have nearly doubled their salaries) and put the city and residents at risk due to faulty work.

Some residents and media have fallen for the mayor's excuse that "I can't find an engineer to take the job, they don't want to live in the city."

We understand that at least one current Dyster department head is violating the city residency law by living in Erie County. That doesn't seem to bother either Dyster or the well-paid department head.

Does the mayor expect us to believe that he couldn't simply approach the University at Buffalo, a respected school with an outstanding engineering program, and hire a graduate that would be happy to start their career in Niagara Falls?

What are we saying?

We're saying that Mayor Dyster is doing just as he has planned from day one when he took office and fired Bob Curtis: he's doing everything in his power to make sure the city has no city engineer in place as millions of taxpayer dollars are committed to major construction projects.

Good licensed city engineers have a way of calling contractors out and demanding sound, safe work on behalf of the city, their employer.

Good engineers question change orders and overpriced work.

Good engineers are good for the city, but often bad for business.

The lack of a city engineer, the confusion caused by the lack of a city engineer, and the resultant skyrocketing project costs are exactly the way Mayor Dyster designed it to be from day one.





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