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Wednesday, January 28, 2015
Jan. 27, 2015

Before I begin, I would like to take a moment to thank the Rotary Club of Lockport for hosting me today. The Rotarian motto of “Service above Self” is evident in my fellow Rotarians and Lockport is a better place because of your service.

I would also like to recognize members of the Common Council who are here today: Council President Joe Kibler, Alderwoman Kitty Fogle and Alderman Pat Schrader.  Thank you for your leadership.

In addition, I have several City Department Heads and staff that I would like to recognize who are here today: Corporation Counsel John Ottaviano, Director of Planning and Development Chuck Bell, City Treasurer Mike White, City Clerk Richelle Pasceri, City Engineer Rolando Moreno, Wastewater Treatment Plant Chief Operator Doug Sibolski, Pretreatment Coordinator Vicki Haenle, Water Treatment Plant Chief Operator Pete Degnan, Police Chief Larry Eggert and Police Captains Haak, Palumbo, Niethe, and Wentland, Interim Fire Chief Pat Brady, and my secretary Brandy Martucci.   In addition, Brian Smith from the GLDC is here.

These individuals are the backbone of our city and I appreciate their hard work, especially with lean resources, and I thank them for coming today.  Thank you to the staff of the Lockport Town and Country Club for preparing and serving our lunch today.

I am happy to be here today to share with you the optimism and confidence that I have that the City of Lockport is getting stronger every day.

2014 was a rebuilding year. It required understanding systemic problems and required immense troubleshooting to implement correction plans. We have developed the strategies and laid the groundwork for a successful 2015.

The financial struggles of the City this past year required immediate and drastic measures in order to stabilize the City. These measures included: deficit borrowing, a requested advance of state aid funding, reductions in personnel, ceasing city-paid ambulance service, an application to the State Financial Restructuring Board and a tax increase.  All of these measures were necessary to get us through the year and begin 2015 with a balanced budget.  The City’s financial position has stabilized and is beginning to improve.  For the first time in almost one year, the Comptroller’s Office is no longer a daily presence at city hall and they have no immediate plans to return.  We’ve listened to their recommendations and we’ve implemented them.  Through all of this, I am proud to have the Common Council with me as we make the decisions to put Lockport back on the path to fiscal prudence.

And we have new structures in place to prevent a fiscal crisis of this magnitude from occurring again.

We have a newly established Audit Committee, comprised of business and financial professionals, who will ensure that the City hire a qualified external auditor to produce the annual audited financial statements and that the audit is thorough and effective.  We have a new policy in place that requires the city to go out to bid for an external auditor every 3 years.  We will be hiring a new Director of Finance who will ensure that the budget is monitored monthly and that city officials have the financial information necessary to make good decisions.

I believe that solid ethics are the cornerstone of good government.  With assistance from the NYS Conference of Mayors, we implemented a new code of ethics and have a newly appointed non-partisan Ethics Board.  I am pleased that our new code clearly delineates ethical standards of conduct.  It is important to me that the Mayor’s Office and the City of Lockport are run with the honor, ethics
and integrity that the public expects and deserves.

It’s encouraging to consider that despite our fiscal challenges, the development community sees Lockport as an area for growth and opportunity.

2014 saw the single largest investment in Lockport’s downtown in years - the construction of Cornerstone CFCU Arena, a $15 million state-of-art ice-skating facility.  The arena’s immediate impact is significant.  It cleared blight, created 20 new jobs in downtown, and brought the return of ice skating to our community for the first time in almost 30 years.  Just as exciting is the facility’s long-term effect on our city.  Expected to attract approximately 150,000 visitors annually, the arena will bring more people into downtown, increasing the number of customers for existing businesses and creating a demand for future development.  We were able to see firsthand the impact two weekends ago when the arena hosted a Junior A Showcase tournament that drew over 2500 people.

The other major investment this year was the completion of Phase I of the Flight of Five - one of the most significant historic preservation projects taking place right now in Western New York. In addition to restoring this important piece of Lockport’s history, the project has tangible economic benefits.  Once entirely completed, the Flight of Five, which is an engineering marvel and heritage tourism site, is expected to draw thousands of visitors each year.  The canal tourism, supplemented with the arena as a winter draw, is creating a year-round climate that businesses can thrive in.

As we pursue the completion of the Flight’s restoration, we submitted a grant application through the Governor’s CFA program to obtain funding to begin Phase II.  From that application, the WNY Regional Economic Development Council named the restoration of the Flight of Five a “regional priority project” which was the only priority project in Niagara County.  We were then awarded a $700,000 grant to move into Phase II of the restoration of the Flight of Five, which is expected to begin later this year.  Since the
announcement that the Flight of Five would be restored, there has been over $1 million in private investment in the Locks District, most notably Lake Effect Ice Cream and the Flight of Five Winery. Last month the City was awarded $630,000 in state funds to leverage even more private investment in the Locks District.

I think that we Lockportians sometimes take for granted the beauty of the Canal and the uniqueness of Lockport.  I can say that visitors to Lockport don’t always take it for granted.  We are fortunate to have caught the attention of the film and advertising industries.  Some of you may recall that scenes from Sharknado 2 were filmed in the Lockport Caves and a Red Bull video on You Tube.  The Red Bull video continues to gain popularity as it features professional wake skaters riding through the Erie Canal Flight of Five right here in Lockport.  Quite a feat.

In other development, Harrison Place is now a hub for entrepreneurs looking to begin or expand businesses right here in Lockport.  First the backbone of Lockport as Harrison Radiator, then an empty, blighted reminder of industry that left our city, Harrison Place now has over 40 tenants with 200-plus people working on the campus.  Trek, Inc., who moved to Harrison Place in 2013, just received a “Green Manufacturing Award” from the Niagara USA Chamber.  They are now expanding as they bring Torrent, their wholly owned subsidiary, to Lockport immediately adding 20 more jobs to downtown with the expectation to grow even more.  We are proving that Lockport is a good place to do business.

The Lockport Community Market is growing each year and is becoming a must-stop-by destination during the summer.  We hosted Locktoberfest, in conjunction with the NYS Canal Corporation, which will be an annual celebration.  You can see and feel the energy with the Flight of Five restoration, the hockey arena, Trek and Harrison Place.  We are seeing an interest from developers that we have not experienced in a very long time.  We are awaiting the results of a hotel feasibility study to see if the market will support additional hotel rooms.

Because of our recent economic development success, Chuck Bell, our Director of Planning and Development, received a Buffalo Business First’s “40 Under 40” award recognizing him for his positive influence on the region.  The Greater Lockport Development Corporation was named “Organization of the Year” by Leadership Niagara.  The hockey arena received the “Groundbreaking Award” by the Niagara USA Chamber for the project’s potential impact.  And next week the Flight of Five is receiving the Historic Preservation Award by the American Public Works Association, along with Canalside and Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp.  Positive things are happening in Lockport and people are taking notice.

In addition to economic development, we have new initiatives that will increase the pride that we feel in our city.  First, we have a new non-profit forming – the Historic Lockport Millrace Corp. who plans to restore the Gas and Electric Building – one of Lockport’s most historic buildings on the banks of the Erie Canal. We have a committee working to complete a Mural on Main Street.  It is the Palace Theatre’s 90th birthday and the City’s Sesquicentennial.  2015 will prove to be a memorable year for the right reasons.

We know that we live in an historic city but along with that comes aging infrastructure.  With the help of our newly-engaged engineering firm, we intend to begin new plans for preventative maintenance on our water lines, sewer lines and street repair.   We have been proactive in seeking state funding to assist us in making infrastructure improvements and we expect to receive over a million dollars in state funding in the next year to assist us in this effort.

Public safety continues to be of paramount importance to us and we are proud to have a new K-9 dog in our Police Department and we are purchasing police body cameras – both public safety measures that our residents have stated that they wanted.

The city’s financial problems of 2014 are becoming history.  We are seeing a renewed energy, optimism and excitement that we haven’t seen in some time.  The City of Lockport has momentum right now and my goal continues to be to keep the momentum going and to make Lockport a place of pride to live, work, play, and visit.  I believe that we have positioned Lockport to be a better and stronger city for years to come.  Thank you.

— Mayor Anne McCaffrey

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