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Lena D. Villella wants to be city assessor. Mayor Michael W. Tucker has offered her the job. But union complications have held up the deal.

The assessor's position is one of five department head posts in city government covered by a union contract. The Lockport City Managers Association has yet to settle on a new contract with the city, and Villella said she needs to know what the salary and benefits will be before she accepts the appointment.

"She wants more money," Tucker said Friday. "I told her I'd get back with her Monday."

But the mayor said he opposes raising the pay for the position, advertised at $49,043, the salary Gerald P. Cash was receiving when he retired in April.

"That's not up to him," Villella said of Tucker, adding that the union contract, when settled, could alter the pay rate. "I can't do anything independently."

In offering the post to Villella, Tucker abandoned his position that the assessor must be a city resident. Villella lives in Royalton and is not being asked to move into the city as a condition of the appointment.

Tucker said the city received 37 applications and interviewed 10 candidates. Villella and Michael Sabansky, assessor for the Town of Butler in Wayne County, were selected as finalists.

"I'm not going to hire someone for the sake of hiring someone just to prove my point," Tucker said. "Qualifications have to come first. If there's anything I've learned from this, it's that you can't have it both ways."

Villella, who has worked for the city for 17 years, now earns $38,408 as the real property appraiser, the number-two position in the assessor's office.

After Cash retired, Villella was appointed acting assessor for 90 days. When that period expired, the city paid the Town of Lockport $4,100 a month to use its assessor, Kevin Van Dusen, a city resident.

Van Dusen, however, disclaimed any interest in becoming city assessor and served on the team that reviewed the candidates.


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