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NOV 19 - NOV 26, 2015

Cash for Penguins no Problem for Dyster;
72nd Street Water Main $$$ Cause Worry

Mike Hudson

NOV 19, 2015


There are plenty of places where there is no water, but who would have thought it would be in Niagara Falls?


With the question of how the city of Niagara Falls will pay for the $940,000 water main project on 72nd Street unresolved, how will a cash strapped city looking at a budget deficit of more than $7 million afford it?

In the run up to the election, Mayor Paul Dyster promised that the water mains would be fixed before the snow flies. In 2014 and again earlier this year, more than 200 households were without running water after the mains froze. 

Reconstruction of the roadway between Niagara Falls Boulevard and Stephenson Avenue is underway in an attempt guarantee water flows smoothly to homes on 72nd Street. Some spent weeks without water.

Dyster said the project would be paid for by a state grant, combined with funding from the city and the Water Board. The grant money has not been forthcoming and the Water Board has thus far refused to participate financially in the project.

"They’re still ongoing discussions between our corporation counsel and their legal counsel," Dyster said Friday. "At this point, we’ve not been successful in getting them to agree to cost sharing."

The Water Board has taken the “you break it, you bought it” position, noting that water service on 72nd Street was never a problem until a Dyster ordered street reconstruction project lowered the roadway, resulting in the water main being closer to the surface. The project also resulted in the removal of a substantial amount of clay that served to insulate the main from the cold.

"We’re building a piece of infrastructure that is an addition to the system they own," Dyster said. "They have to take ownership and operate as part of their system."

The city, for its part, has made public one grant funding application through New York State’s Environmental Facilities Corp., from which $20 million is available to address water projects related to public health. If selected, the Falls would be eligible for at least a 60-percent rebate on project costs and up to 75 percent, if an argument can be made for the reconstruction's necessity to overall public health.

The mayor refused to rule out a lawsuit in the case.

"There have been some suggestions on the part of the council chairman about other ways the city could go about making itself whole with the water board," Dyster said. "That’s not something, at this point, we’ve made any decisions on."

In any event, Dyster’s crying poor about the water main project seems strange in light of the numerous fanciful ways he’s found to spend taxpayer’s money over the past couple of years.

Like the $150,000 he spent for new penguin habitat at Aquarium of Niagara in April. Or the $707,000 he squandered on the Hard Rock Café concert series.

Dyster gave $1.5 million to USA Niagara Development, a state agency, in September.

And the mayor's unholy alliance with religious cults manifested itself when he gifted a relief organization called Isaiah 61 a whopping $500,000 of your money to convert an abandoned fire hall on Highland Avenue into a new clubhouse - without bothering to tell the Council that the executive director had just skipped town and their programs have ground to a halt.

Dyster gave Community Missions $150,000 to pay off a tax lien, the epic failure known as the Holiday Market got $225,000, the annual Blues Fest here took in $46,000, the ironically named Niagara Arts and Cultural Center raked in $210,000 and "City Planner" Tom DeSantis was given $6,500 to buy new carpeting for his City Hall office.

And in August he committed to shelling out $845,000 of your money to buy and “develop” a languishing brownfield property on Highland Avenue.

Half a million here, half a million there and pretty soon you’re talking real money.

Millions spent without Dyster once uttering a concern about where the money might come from. Or what the public benefit of all the spending might be.

But now, with 72nd Street residents possibly looking at a third winter in a row without running water, there’s a problem.






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