Urban Park Towers owners to renovate emergency system

Jan. 10—Orbach Affordable Housing Solutions (OAHS), is looking at putting more than $9.4 million into a project to renovate Urban Park Towers in the City of Lockport. Renovations include bathroom, kitchen and general interior updates throughout all of the building's 150-units.

One of the improvements the company is making is the building's emergency response system. Currently a pull-chord or switch is located in each unit, a throwback from when the property was strictly senior living. As the clientele of the building has changed, this response system continued to be activated, often times by accident.

According to Jay Reinhard, president of OAHS Urban Park TC LLC, the emergency switch will be taken out as it rehabs the building and its replacement will be a button tenants can wear around their neck. The cost for the switch is $75,000.

"Our mission statement is to help people," Reinhard said. "And own good buildings that are run well."

Currently, the Common Council is looking over a proposal to allow a tax-deal for OAHS in which the company will make a Payment-In-Lieu-Of-Taxes (PILOT) of $61,353 annually with a 2% rise each year. The payments will continue for no longer than 40 years and is not contingent of any improvements OAHS plans to make.

City Assessor Tracy Farrell noted that the company is not obligated to pay anything and is tax exempt, but that all building owners she knows of pay some sort of taxes.

"They're doing what is normally done," Farrell said.

Council President Paul Beakman said he was "thankful" for the work being done, especially for the emergency response system. The alarm does not alert the tenant when it has been pulled, but fire and police automatically respond to the alarm.

This does not only cause wear and tear on vehicles, it also ties up resources that could be used to respond to a bona-fide emergency, Beakman said.

"I'm thankful for the rehab," he added, noting a recent decision on ambulances in the city. The debate on the issue ended with plans to put two Lockport Fire Department ambulances on the road, however the city will continue to depend on some volunteer and paid ambulance companies responding to calls in Lockport.

"With the ambulance issue, we can't be responding false alarms," Beakman said.