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APR 21 - APR 28, 2015

The Nightmare on 72nd Street:
Dyster, Drof, Janese to Blame?

By Mike Hudson

April 21, 2015

The city and the Water Board shortchanged the residents of 72nd St. when the water board decided not to pay for new water lines when the road was reconstructed. Now the pipes freeze and will continue to freeze until the city or the water board digs up the road and buries the water lines deeper.

Ted Janese is the Chairman of the Water Board

The expert advice of a project engineer ignored. A contractor forced to perform work he knew to be substandard. The refusal of a man paid in excess of $100,000 a year by city taxpayers to answer questions concerning the botched project. A report commissioned by the mayor, and then concealed by him because it showed that he was mostly to blame.

These are the factors underlying what has become a two-year nightmare for residents on 72nd Street here, a hellish and completely unnecessary situation in which highly taxed homeowners can't know from one winter's day to the next whether they'll be able to take a shower in the morning.

In a city wealthy enough to lavishly promote concerts by washed up rock bands, throw money at do-nothing hotel developers and subsidize beer drinking with an annual festival that serves as little more than a magnet for drunks, the place to cut corners was on vital water service for those unfortunate enough to have purchased homes on 72nd Street, it was decided.

Those doing the deciding can be called out by name. Mayor Paul Dyster, who chose to locate his beer business in Tonawanda, Niagara Falls Water Board Executive Director Paul Drof, who makes his home in Williamsville, and the water board itself, Ted Janese, Gretchen Leffler, Renae Kimble, Gary Laible and Lawrence Edwards.

Janese, whose actual place of residence has been the subject of some controversy, Kimble and Leffler were appointed to the Albany controlled board by the state Senate, the state Assembly and the Governor's office, respectively, while Edwards was appointed by the mayor and Laible by the city Council.

Some board members are more culpable in the 72nd Street debacle than others. Kimble, for example, has been a staunch supporter of those who actually live and do business in Niagara Falls.

The trouble began in 2010, when the Dyster administration performed a $2.6 million road reconstruction on 72nd Street. The city's engineering department approved designs which called for a new water main for the southern half of the street while keeping the old water main for the northern half.

Accadia Site Contracting did the road construction and Paul Marinaccio, president of Accadia, told the Dyster administration that the old water line wasn't deep enough.

"I sent the city a letter saying that they should replace the water line and they said the Water Board would not approve the money," Marinaccio said.

But Dyster, ignoring the contractor's advice, ordered the job be completed as designed. During road construction, the compacted clay encasing the water main was displaced and filled with a cover of gravel and crushed stone.

"The dirt had been around the water lines for 70 years," Marinaccio said. "Now we come digging along and take the pressure of the dirt away and the water line starts leaking because they're deteriorated."

In February 2014, the pipes froze. Whole households went for weeks without running water. Dyster responded, as he usually does, by hiring Buffalo consultants to do a study.

On April 9, 2014, the Buffalo engineering firm of Clark Patterson Lee handed their report on the frozen water line problem to Dyster.

The four page report stated there was a "major deficiency" which was that the main water line had "inadequate cover" which led to a "partial systemic failure." The report specifically said water mains were shallower than they should be, which meant lateral lines were more susceptible to freezing, and noted that the city recommended that the Water Board replace the water main and put it deeper underground, but the Water Board decided against it.

Dyster was not happy with the report, which he stuffed away in a drawer and tried to forget about.

Then, in February, 2015, the 72nd Street main froze up again. Eighteen homes were without water service, a condition that persisted in some cases into this month. For homeowners who scrimped and save to purchase those homes, the American Dream had turned into an American Nightmare.

For his part, Dyster tried to pretend the Clark Patterson Lee report didn't exist. It wasn't until the Buffalo News and the Niagara Falls Reporter filed a Freedom of Information Law request that the findings were made public.

City Council members, rightly embarrassed and ashamed by the situation, are now looking at dissolving the water board, an entity created just 13 years ago largely through the efforts of then councilman Paul Dyster. Prior to that, from 1897 to 2002, water and sewer services were provided by city departments, much like the Department of Public Works.

And everything old is new again.






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