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AUTO BUREAUS WILL GET MORE STAFF TO PROCESS ERIE RESIDENTS

The closing of all but one of Erie County's motor vehicle bureaus is creating jobs in Niagara County.

To handle the stream of Erie County residents bringing their auto transactions into Niagara County, the Niagara County Legislature voted Tuesday to hire as many as six part-time employees at its three auto bureaus.

It also approved increasing the hours of five existing part-timers for three months, and hiring private security guards to keep order at the motor vehicle offices in Lockport, Niagara Falls and North Tonawanda.

The cost of these changes will be $267,000, but the county is estimating $1 million in extra revenue from Erie County business. The county that processes the transactions keeps 12.7 percent of the fees, regardless of where the driver lives.

"This is an opportunity we need to seize as far as revenue is concerned," said County Clerk Wayne F. Jagow.

"If it's going to cost us $200,000 or $300,000 to make $1 million, why wouldn't we be all over that?" asked Legislator Lee Simonson, R-Lewiston.

Jagow said the newcomers would handle backlogged dealer transactions. Major auto dealerships like the Fucillo dealerships on Grand Island and the northern Erie County West-Herr operations have taken their business to Niagara County. "I don't want to lose those businesses," he said.

Since Erie County shut three of its four auto bureaus last month because of a budget crisis, Niagara County's auto bureaus have been inundated.

Jagow said 80 percent of the transactions done at the North Tonawanda office are for Erie County residents, and overall workload has risen 40 percent, to 8,400 transactions in March. Each of Niagara County's offices has only six employees.

In Lockport, half the work is coming from Erie County, and in Niagara Falls it's 30 to 40 percent.

Jagow said waits at North Tonawanda are averaging almost two hours, and sometimes the crowd is unruly. People have threatened the staff. We have to take that seriously," he said.

Bison Security Co., which already handles security at Niagara County Social Services offices, will add duties at all three auto bureaus at a cost of $82,000 for the rest of the year.

The six new part-timers will be paid between $13.95 and $15.74 per hour for 17.5 hours per week. Jagow said they will be hired off the civil service list except for one retiree who will be rehired.

Five existing part-timers, who have the same pay scale, will have their hours boosted from 17.5 to 28 per week for the next three months.

e-mail: tprohaska@buffnews.com