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Audio: NT Democratic chair questions spending

NORTH TONAWANDA -- City Democratic Committe Chairman Mark C. Houghton on Tuesday night questioned some recent spending by the Republican-dominated city government on a marina study and the hiring of a restructuring consultant.

Houghtonmark During the public comment portion of the Common Council meeting in City Hall, Houghton (pictured at left) also criticized the state of the city's streets, and questioned the need for a full-time mayor.

"I just think that it's kind of tough doing a $100,000 study just to tell us a marina's a marina," Houghton said.

Mayor Robert G. Ortt (at right) and all five Common Council members are Republicans. Orttrobert

Listen to the exchange between Houghton and the elected officials:

"Obviously our friend, the Democratic chairman, coming up I think officially kicks off political season in 2011," Ortt said before the close of the meeting. 

Listen to Ortt's concluding statement:

Four Council seats will be up for election later this year, as well as the post of city clerk-treasurer.

--Aaron Besecker

Audio: North Tonawanda Mayor Robert Ortt's State of the City

NORTH TONAWANDA -- Mayor Robert G. Ortt issued his annual State of the City address this afternoon at The Fairways at Deerwood restaurant on Sweeney Street.

Listen to Ortt's full speech:

Here's a review of some of the high points from the address:

1:33 p.m.: Among the dignitaries attending today's speech: Lockport Mayor Michael Tucker; North Tonawanda Schools Superintendent Gregory J. Woytila; Niagara County Sheriff James Voutour; Kaleida Health Vice President Anthony Zito; Niagara USA Chamber President and Chief Executive Officer Deanna Alterio Brennan;  Tonawandas Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Joyce Santiago; former Niagara County Republican Chairman Henry Wojtaszek; as well as various city department heads and other city employees.

1:26 p.m.: Ortt just wrapped up an approximately 25-minute address.

Check back soon to listen to full audio of the address.

1:24 p.m.: Under current projections, the city will have to eliminate 20 positions under next year's budget, Ortt said.

1:19 p.m.: The city will face at least a $2 million budget deficit next year, Ortt said.

The mayor said he will ask each department head to reduce their departmental budgets by 5 percent next year.

1:14 p.m.: Ortt says he hopes there will be a groundbreaking this year on the planned Walmart supercenter at Niagara Falls Boulevard and Erie Avenue.

1:11 p.m.: The Tonawandas Gateway Harbor Committee will not hold Friday night concerts this year in Gateway Park, instead putting on four Saturday night concerts, in addition to Wednesday night shows, Ortt said.

City officials should begin seeking a promoter for Saturday night concerts for 2012, he said.

1:05 p.m.: A study on the site of the former Niagara River Yacht Club will be presented to the Common Council on March 8, Ortt tells the crowd.

1:01 p.m.: "The City of North Tonawanda is at a crossroads," Ortt says beginning the main portion of his speech, after his greetings to the crowd of about 55 people on hand.

--Aaron Besecker

Forum for veterans planned in North Tonawanda

NORTH TONAWANDA -- A community forum for veterans will be held at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 10 in Common Council chambers in City Hall, 216 Payne Ave.

The program's agenda includes presentations by Thomas Konopka, director of Vietnam Veterans of America, Chapter 77; Jill LaMantia, of Veterans Administration Hospital, Buffalo, who will talk about benefits available to women veterans; as well as representatives who can speak about benefits available to veterans, including those who served in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Audience members will be able to ask questions and set up appointments with representatives to get more information.

The event is part of a quarterly series sponsored by City Clerk-Treasurer Scott P. Kiedrowski. For more information about the session, call 695-8555.

--Aaron Besecker

Video: NT street signs to an ambient soundtrack

Here's something interesting I just found on YouTube. It's called "The Streets of North Tonawanda."

According to its creator, it shows all the street signs in the city in less than two minutes.

--Aaron Besecker

Ortt sets State of the City address

NORTH TONAWANDA -- Mayor Robert G. Ortt will deliver the State of the City address at 1 p.m. Feb. 9 in The Fairways at Deerwood restaurant, 1818 Sweeney St.

The presentation is open to the public, and will follow a noon luncheon.

Tickets for the luncheon, which is sponsored by the Rotary Club of the Tonawandas, are $12. For more information about the luncheon, call Rotary Club President Shawn Glogowski at 984-0109. Anyone wishing to attend the luncheon must RSVP by Feb. 2.

A copy of the speech will be available at the Common Council meeting at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 15 in City Hall, 216 Payne Ave.

This will be Ortt's second State of the City address since taking office at the start of 2010. To read a story about Ortt's first State of the City, click here.

--Aaron Besecker


Street-naming contest, concert stage on NT lawmakers' agenda

North Tonawanda lawmakers will discuss the latest with plans for a new, portable stage at Gateway Harbor Park when officials meet this week.

Here's the agenda for Tuesday night's workshop, as published by the office of City Clerk-Treasurer Scott P. Kiedrowski:

6:30PM Mayor Ortt - Re: Concert Stage for Gateway Harbor
7:00PM Mayor Ortt - Re: Buffalo Bolt/Cul-De-Sac/Street Naming Contest
7:15PM Common Council - Re: Traffic Safety Recommendations
7:30PM Common Council - Re: General Discussion

In December, Mayor Robert G. Ortt announced a naming contest for the new cul-de-sac in Buffalo Bolt Industrial Park.

The meeting, which is held in the city clerk-treasurer's office in City Hall, 216 Payne Ave., is open to the public.

--Aaron Besecker


Review online chat with State Sen. George Maziarz

Check out an archive of the live chat we had today on with State Sen. George Maziarz:

Niagara County News Week in Review - Dec. 24

Here's a look at this week in Niagara County news:


Former Niagara Falls Mayor Vince Anello, right, gets ready to leave the Federal Courthouse in Buffalo on Monday after he was sentenced to federal prison while his attorney, Joel Daniels, talks with reporters. (Derek Gee / Buffalo News)

Former Mayor Vince Anello was sentenced to 13 months in federal prison.

Florida tourism officials were greeted at Niagara Falls International Airport.

Niagara University will offer a new degree in leadership and policy.

Real estate transactions for week ending Nov. 12.


Staff Reporter Dan Herbeck takes a closer look at former Mayor Vince Anello's fall.

Two Buffalo men were arrested in a sales scam in area parking lots.

A federal probe involving two inspectors and the former buildings commissioner brings another subpoena to City Hall.

The city School District denies wrongdoing in the hiring of its attorney's daughter to $120,000-a-year post.

The city School Board has authorized the use of reserve funds to pay for retirement system obligations and benefits for a former superintendent.

The city is holding a street-naming contest for a roadway in a new business park.

Raising funds for charity by selling movie-themed chocolates are, from left, Niagara University students Talon Fee and Michelle Martineau, professor Bill Angus and chocolatier Mary Ann Hess. (Charles Lewis / Buffalo News)

Soup kitchen and food pantry benefits from a movie-themed, gourment chocolate raffle.


A music teacher has recorded a Christmas song written by her father and is offering it free to active-duty service members and veterans.

A county judge refused to reduce the bail for a murder suspect.

The city and Walmart want a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit against them.

A silicon plant in the city will benefit from a Commerce Department ruling, according to Sen. Charles Schumer.

Arguments in the lawsuit aimed at stopping a proposed Verizon data center will be heard by a new judge.

Motivational speaker, hip-hop artist and Buffalo native Tee Nyce signs autographs Tuesday for Niagara Falls High School students Lashwana Lowery, center, and Aolyha Holifield. (Sharon Cantillon / Buffalo News)

A Buffalo-born rapper brought his motivational talks to Niagara Falls High School.

The city announced its schedule for holiday closings.

The three area international bridges will be toll-free on Christmas.


Former Niagara Falls police officer Ryan Warme is sentenced to 13 years and nine months in federal prison.

Robert J. Thousand is escorted into the courtroom for his sentencing Wednesday. (Derek Gee / Buffalo News)

An accomplice in the killing of a group home worker gets 20 years in prison.

A lawsuit challenging the review of plans for a Verizon data center heads to court.

A former city employee accused of stealing on the job pleads guilty.

The city has total control over the vacant Rainbow Centre mall, site of the proposed Niagara County Community College culinary institute.

A Buffalo man has pleaded guilty to charges from a January home invasion on Moyer Road. 

Holiday hours have been announced for local auto bureaus.

Be sure to visit our various community pages for the latest news from your area.

For today's Niagara County news, visit our Niagara County page at

--Aaron Besecker

Audio: North Tonawanda lawmakers wrap up the year

A planned Walmart on the site of the former Melody Fair theater, pictured above in a file photo taken in May, is the subject of an ongoing federal lawsuit. (Mark Mulville / Buffalo News)

NORTH TONAWANDA -- Walmart. Water pipes. Christmas lights.

Those were some of the issues on the minds of city officials on Tuesday night during the Common Council meeting in City Hall.

Here's my wrap-up story.

Listen to raw audio from the full, 30-minute meeting here:

--Aaron Besecker

Witryol touts need for campaign finance reform

Amy H. Witryol, Lewiston resident and Democratic candidate for the 62nd state Senate district, speaks to a crowd of about 20 people outside North Tonawanda City Hall this afternoon.

NORTH TONAWANDA --The Democratic challenger running against Republican State Sen. George D. Maziarz continued her call for campaign finance reform during a campaign stop this afternoon.

Standing in front of North Tonawanda City Hall, Amy H. Witryol of Lewiston said she believes the state's campaign finance laws have so many loopholes and allow so much money into the system, the influence from ordinary voters is diminished.

"This, in my view, is one of the major causes of the problems in the state of New York," Witryol said in front of a crowd of about 20 people. "We have a system that’s an obstacle to challengers to incumbents and to people who have different experiences and expertise to bring to the Legislature. And that’s why I'm running -- to change that."

Witryol also took aim at money she said has been raised by Maziarz, a 15-year incumbent and Newfane resident who is a former North Tonawanda city clerk and a city native.

If elected, the former banking industry executive said the first piece of legislation she would introduce would be a bill that would return unspent campaign funds at the end of each election cycle to the district covered by that office.

The name of the bill: "You Can't Take It With You."

"Legislators can take all of the money they raised while in office and use it to make money when they leave office by lobbying with it," she said. "That’s got to change."

Campaign finance reform has been the most pronounced message from Witryol's campaign in the race for the 62nd Senate District, which covers all of Niagara County, except for the City of Niagara Falls, as well as Orleans County and a section of western Monroe County.

According to the most recent filings with the state Board of Elections, Maziarz's campaign account has $698,971 on hand, while Witryol's campaign account has $8,919.

Speaking of campaign finance, here's a story from August by my colleague Thomas Prohaska about Maziarz's campaign coffers.

Here's a story from July when Witryol joined the race.

--Aaron Besecker

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