New Salamanca Council

The Salamanca Common Council began its new 2019-20 term with a reorganizational meeting Wednesday. Present are (from right) Mayor Michael “Smitty” Smith, John “Jack” Hill representing Ward 1, Michael Lonto of Ward 3, Sandra Magiera of Ward 4 and Janet Koch of Ward 5. Ward 2 council member Timothy Flanigan was absent.

SALAMANCA — Wednesday was not only the first Common Council meeting of 2019, but the first one of the recently elected council members’ new term.

Although technically a new council, four of the five members and the mayor ran unopposed in November and were re-elected. The newest member was also a veteran of the council, last serving during the 2015-16 term.

In its first action of the new year, the council elected Michael Lonto, R-Ward 3, beginning his third consecutive term, as council president for the third time. He was nominated by Sandra Magiera, D-Ward 4.

Additionally, Janet Koch, D-Ward 5, was nominated for president by John “Jack” Hill, D-Ward 1.

Recovering from recent surgery, Timothy Flanigan, R-Ward 2, was unable to attend the meeting, so Mayor Michael “Smitty” Smith was called upon to break the 2-2 tie.

“I have been on the phone with Tim for the past two days,” Smith said. “He wanted to be here, but we told him he can’t. I’m casting my vote as Tim would have.”

THE COUNCIL ALSO voted to relieve the City Comptroller Kathy Sarver of the obligation to sell tax sale certificates at the annual tax sale for the properties listed by Dec. 31, 2018.

The council further moved all unredeemed certificates to tax pending status and directed the city comptroller to send out all the proper notifications and required legal advertisements.

“Kathy did one heck of a job getting these out. We did not reinvent the wheel this year, which we did last year to get these handled,” Mayor Smith said. “The redemption process went very well. I’ll tell you, we gained $20,000-plus for the city.”

At the end of 2017, Sarver said there were between 30 and 35 properties with three or more years of unpaid taxes. During 2018’s reorganizational meeting, the list had 15. At Wednesday’s meeting, she said there are nine.

“Hopefully, we can hold a tax auction and get the boundaries better framed for the tax auction and not wait until June to hold it,” the mayor said.

Council member Koch requested the council keep the process progressing ahead by moving future tax auctions back to Dec. 31 of each year, as it had been previously done, as well as reduce the back-tax time frame from three years due to two, as it reads in the city charter.

“I think it’s a grand idea. The charter says two,” Smith said. “In our tour, we’ve done three (years). We’ve now narrowed the list down to nine places, but there’s a sizeable list of those that are two years back.”

Council member Lonto asked Sarver how much of a burden those changes would have on her in the preparation process.

“It couldn’t happen right away, that’s for sure,” she said. Sarver said once the city gets through the next tax sale and transferring those properties, then she can start in on the list of properties that owe at least two years of back taxes.

“Once we get through the nine people, then we can start a new process and have another tax auction before the end of the year,” Koch added.

ALSO OF NOTE, the council designated the Salamanca Press and the Olean Times Herald as the official newspapers for the city as part of their reorganizational items.

(Contact managing editor Kellen Quigley at