Based on a grant report provided to City Council at its December 5, 2022 meeting, only three out of 13 grants received by the City on the list had gone through formal acceptance and authorization by City Council.
Two examples of grants received by the city that had not been formally accepted include a $25,000 grant from the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation toward improvements of the Johnson Street Playground and a $1.2 million State Environmental Protection Fund Local Waterfront Revitalization Project grant.
According to a staff report on a resolution to purchase new fencing for Johnson Street Park in the agenda for the June 12 City Council work session, the City has already used the grant from the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation to purchase a new swing set, benches, picnic tables, new hoop, signage, trash receptacles, and repave the basketball court. As of Sunday, June 11, the basketball court with new hoop has been completed, but other new equipment had not been installed.
According to the City Charter, under Article IV, C-31.F for Powers of the Mayor,
“When authorized by the City Council so to do, the Mayor shall execute on behalf of the City all deeds, contracts and other papers to be executed as an act of the City. All contracts, agreements, obligations or other instruments made, executed or issued by order of the City Council or at the direction of the boards provided by this Charter and in behalf of said City or boards shall be signed by the Mayor except as otherwise provided by the Local Finance Law.”
At the Finance Committee meeting on June 5, Corporation Counsel Elliot Raimondo made the comment that per the Mayor, City Council didn’t need to approve a $4,310 grant awarded by the Chautauqua County Partnership for Economic Growth. Finance Committee Chair and Council member at large Kim Ecklund disagreed with that opinion at the meeting.
In a statement by Ecklund, she said she had requested council be updated monthly at minimum about what grants the city has applied for, but that has not been happening on a regular basis.
She replied to a request for comment on this matter, saying Council should be approving the acceptance of all grants, “.. just as we would any donation by a group or person. I have no idea why these have not been brought in front of us to do this and it should be corrected. In particular, I do remember speaking about the Johnson Street project at Parks Commission. We have not been aware of any reason why these would not come to a legislative body for approval. I honestly only asked for the grant list in March because of the ‘surprise’ FEMA Grant and had not received a copy again until today because I had to ask for it yet again. The bottom line is there is a lack of communication and honestly these grants and any other financial donation or in kind gift needs to come before the legislative body for acceptance and approval.”
Mayor Eddie Sundquist responded on the issue with a statement saying that, “For many of these grants, we may have been awarded them, but have not yet received a formal contract from the entity. In addition, some grants the City applies for on behalf of entities but the funding does not pass through the City. Many of the state grants, we may have been awarded but have not yet received a contract. ESD and some state agency grants require a pre-application resolution and in that resolution, it authorizes acceptance, if won.”
Council President Tony Dolce said he agreed that Council needs to formally vote to approve and accept the grants. He said in a statement that he had requested the City Clerk and Corporation Counsel bring forth resolutions to Council to approve those grants.