County Not Ready To Pay For Dunkirk Dock Cleanup

An unpaid bill to remove some old docks off the shores of Lake Erie in the city of Dunkirk has yet to be resolved.

Last month, the city of Dunkirk had requested the Chautauqua County Legislature pay $50,000 to help settle a $107,500 bill to a contractor out of Pennsylvania that removed the docks. The money was proposed to come from the county’s Occupancy Tax Reserves, which is a special tax charged to those who use motels, hotels and short term rental properties.

The Lake Erie Management Commission previously agreed to spend $12,000 to help pay for the docks’ removal. They thought that’s how much the project would cost. That commission also gets its funding through the county.

On Thursday, the legislature’s Audit and Control Committee discussed the payment with Dunkirk City Attorney Elliot Raimondo.

Raimondo, who began representing the city Jan. 1, said this work was done before he was hired and said it has many legal issues.

Raimondo handed out a bid proposal dating back to July, 2023 by A&K Marine, which he said was not created by either himself or his predecessor Michael Bobseine. Raimondo said Bobseine became aware of the bid in December, 2023, when the bill for the work was turned in.

Raimondo said in his legal opinion, the proposal should have been legally required to advertise for proposals instead of just having this contractor do the work. The bid proposal was $12,000 a day to remove steel pilings. The pilings were removed last summer and took eight days to do the work.

Raimondo said city officials thought the work would be done in a single day. “It was not presented to the Dunkirk Common Council as a bid for multiple days. It was presented to the Dunkirk Common Council, who are my clients, as a one-time, $12,000 clean up of their marina,” he said.

Raimondo said if the contractor decides to take the city of Dunkirk to court, they would argue that because the state’s procurement policy was not properly followed, the contract should be made null and void.

According to Raimondo, the procurement policy goes into effect for costs that exceed $30,000, which city officials apparently thought this would be permissible, thinking it would cost $12,000.

If the county agreed to pay the $50,000 to the contractor, Raimondo said the city would not pay the balance, because of its financial issues, as well as because there’s no contract.

Legislator Dan Pavlock, R-Ellington, said the reason the proposal has returned to the Audit and Control Committee is because the county paid the initial $12,000 and is now being asked to pay another $50,000 with Dunkirk trying to negotiate not paying any more. “The city of Dunkirk doesn’t have any skin in the game,” he said.

Legislator Bob Scudder, R-Fredonia, objected because the invoice submitted doesn’t have a breakdown of how the contractor came to the determination of $107,500. He wants to see specifics of how many hours were worked, the number of people on the job and what specific work was done.

Raimondo said Dunkirk can’t pay anything at this time. There’s no money budgeted for the dock work in this year’s budget and because the city of Dunkirk is borrowing money from the state through the Dunkirk Fiscal Recovery Act, the state Comptroller’s Office would need to approve putting a payment in the 2024 budget. “It’s not an easy path for them to get the remainder of this money,” he said.

Raimondo said if the county pays the $50,000, $25,000, or nothing at all beyond the $12,000, the contractor will need to decide for themselves if they decide to pursue court action, knowing there was not a contract and that Dunkirk is insolvent.

He said it’s not a slam dunk for Dunkirk because there were electronic communications between the city and the contractor, and city officials were apparently kept informed of work as it progressed.

Legislator Terry Niebel, R-Sheridan, said he is not opposed to the county helping with this but asked Raimondo to go back to the contractor and asked what is the minimum they will take as a payment. “I’d like to see it negotiated as low as you can,” he said.

Raimondo agreed and said he would also get a detail of how the bill was determined, which was Scudder’s request.

On a side note, Dave Wilfong, R-Jamestown, who is the legislature’s majority leader, said he reached out to the Dunkirk Common Council for a meeting but was only offered to speak during privilege of the floor.

He said he would like a meeting with the Common Council, which Raimondo said he would try to set up.


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