Update: Tuesday, Jan. 9
Concerning negotiations between the City of Batavia and the Mall Merchants Association, Dr. Marlin Salmon this morning said that he is concerned over the parking situation in proximity to his dental practice located at the City Centre Mall, calling it a "significant issue" that has prevented him from signing the proposed agreement.
"I have talked with Jason (Molino) in the past and expressed my concerns," said Salmon, who is seeking consideration for parking spaces near his business. "The initial agreement gives us a pedestrian easement, but really what does that do?"
Molino said that the City has offered to restripe a portion of the east lot to have two-hour parking instead of all-day parking for "quicker turnover," but added that "there are only so many parking spaces close to his storefront."
The matter is on the docket in Erie County Supreme Court at 10 a.m. Wednesday with Judge Catherine Nugent-Panepinto presiding.
No one questioned his suggestions and no one shot down his recommendations. Jason Molino's final meeting as Batavia city manager was a smooth one.
At tonight's special conference meeting at City Centre Council Chambers, Batavia City Council members unanimously signed off on Molino’s advice to appoint Department of Public Works Director Matthew Worth as the interim city manager and to contract with a recruiting firm to find Molino’s long-term replacement.
The meeting culminated a nearly 12-year association with the City for Molino, whose last day on the job is this Friday. He starts his new position as Tompkins County administrator on Jan. 29.
Council members -- after re-electing Eugene Jankowski as president and Paul Viele as president pro tempore for 2018 -- thanked Molino for his service through an official proclamation, which pointed to his budgeting and strategic planning expertise and his “leadership and creativity,” while also acknowledging his “integral” role in Batavia receiving a $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative award from the state.
Molino accepted the proclamation from Jankowski, quipping that “I bet you would have never predicted 12 years ago that you’d be giving me this,” referring to a situation where Jankowski’s position on the police force was eliminated midway through Molino’s tenure.
“It has been a fun time … quite the roller-coaster ride, with a lot of ups and downs,” Molino said. “The staff has been remarkable to work with, and you’re in good hands as you look for your next leader.”
The reins, at least temporarily (it could take up to six months to hire a new manager), are being handed over to Worth, who along with Ray Tourt, maintenance superintendent; James Ficarella, water and wastewater superintendent; and Lisa Neary, deputy director of finance, will be taking on additional responsibilities.
Council approved these appointments, which will come with additional stipends of $1,000 per month for Worth, and $750 per month each for Tourt, Ficarella and Neary.
Worth said he's ready to do what's needed to keep the City running efficiently.
"It’s really just a matter of need," he said. "There’s a gap and they felt that I could help to move forward until they could get that permanent solution for the city manager. The City has been awful good to me over the years, and if I can help them get through this interim area, I was happy to do it."
Molino’s departure means that both key leadership positions in the City will be vacant as Batavia also has been without an assistant city manager for some time.
As reported previously on The Batavian, Molino suggested that due to several major infrastructure projects on the table, Council would be wise to postpone a water line replacement project and a sanitary sewer design project on several streets until 2019 and 2020, respectively.
“From a construction perspective, it would be best to postpone them to next year because you won’t have the manpower available,” Molino said.
Worth said there will be plenty of construction work in the months ahead.
"The priorities, of course, are first and foremost are to assist Council in getting the new city manager search started, and get that moving forward," he said. "After that, the big tickets items that are outstanding are the few capital projects that were discussed – the TIP project and TAP project, which are sidewalk and large resurfacing. Hopefully, (there will be) a resolution to the mall issues and the sales tax/water agreement with the county are the big items that need all of our attention."
When asked if he was onboard with putting off the water line replacements projects on Union Street, Brooklyn Avenue and South Main Street, Worth said a year delay won't make much of a difference.
"Well, I can say I dug more holes in Union Street that I care to think about over my career, so I very much am looking forward to replacing that water main, but then again, that water main’s close to 100 years old -- so one more year, it seems that it’s a reasonable step to take," he said. "We want to do it once, and do it right. Those projects are projects that will be in place for 100 years ... so let’s make sure we spend the time and do it right."
Molino said he was confident that Worth, Ficarella, Tourt and Neary would be able to navigate through the projects, which include an overhaul of the city’s entire software system, sidewalk construction, street resurfacing, facilities capital plan, City Centre concourse improvements and the Ellicott Trail bicycle and pedestrian pathway.
“The budget probably will be one of the easiest things to get through since the department heads are involved in this,” he said.
As far as the search for the new manager is concerned, Council agreed with Molino’s contention that hiring an executive search firm – which could cost up to $20,000 – would be the best way to “recruit the best talent with a fresh perspective and not placing a huge responsibility on the staff.”
He made a point of stating that candidates at this level “are interviewing you (City Council),” not the other way around.”
“The reality is that they are interviewing you to see what you have to offer,” he said.
After some discussion, Council formed a committee of Jankowski, Robert Bialkowski and Adam Tabelski, which will reach out to three or four recruiting firms and get proposals prior to its Jan. 22 meeting.
Jankowski said he liked the idea of “formulating a hybrid committee” of Council members, business people, citizens and department heads to conduct the initial screening, but Kathleen Briggs said she was in favor of department heads and council members.
“No business leaders at this point,” she said, adding that Council was responsible for the hire.
It was agreed that the committee of three would work with human resources specialist Dawn Fairbanks to contact search firms and report back as soon as possible.
“I’ll make sure everyone is informed every step of the way,” Jankowski said. “We want to act on this as quickly as possible.”
In other action, Council:
-- Voted in favor of two resolutions dealing with the JC Penney store at the City Centre Mall, continuing the practice of having unique agreements with the department store – the mall’s anchor tenant.
The resolutions granted an easement for JC Penney, formally known as 40 Batavia Centre LLC, for its use of the loading dock which actually sits on city property. Last week, Black Equities transferred ownership of the property to 40 Batavia Centre LLC.
This latest action is “one of the final pieces of the settlement documents in getting them passed by Penney’s and their new property owner.”
Molino said just one property owner – Dr. Marlin Salmon, DDS, Salmon Orthodontics – has refused to sign the settlement agreement that calls for the city to retain ownership of the downtown facility's concourse, pay 100 percent of capital improvements, and take care of mall maintenance and operations.
Dr. Salmon’s business is located on the north side of the mall, next to Batavia Family Dental.
Molino said that Dr. Salmon’s case will be reviewed by a judge in court on Wednesday.
Molino said JC Penney owners have “given their affirmation of wanting to stay in this community, which is good for our dialogue with them. They confirmed they want to be here; having that good anchor tenant is always a good thing.”
In photo at top, Jason Molino receives a farewell hug from Council member Rose Mary Christian. "You're the best manager we've ever had," Christian said, adding that she promised to "be good to these guys (his interim replacements) for the next six months."
Photos by Howard Owens.