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Union files grievance over land sale

Niagara County's blue-collar union, continuing its pitched battle with the County Legislature over land sales, has filed a grievance protesting the sale of a small strip of land to Lockport homeowners.

Edward McDonald, president of Local 182, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, asserted that county parks workers have been mowing the 75-foot-wide strip off Davison Road since 1961. He said the sale, approved in September, results in a loss of union work.

"I'm not sure what relief we can get, either reverse [the sale] or get [an arbitrator] to say they can't sell any more land," McDonald said.

The issue flared up again when the Legislature voted Tuesday on a resolution to deposit the $4,218 the county received for the land into an account for use on future construction projects.

Minority Leader Dennis F. Virtuoso, D-Niagara Falls, cast the sole vote against the measure, saying the county should wait until the grievance is settled. "I want to be very sure we're doing it right," he said.

Legislator Richard E. Updegrove, R-Lockport, said the land is wet and marshy and hasn't been maintained by the county anyway. McDonald said Updegrove is wrong.

"The union is not losing any jobs as a result of this," County Attorney Claude A. Joerg said. "The homeowners approached us."

The Waterford Estates Condominium Association sought to buy a buffer strip behind their buildings to protect them in case the county sold the Davison Road campus, which it has considered.

The total purchase was 1.2 acres. At the same time and for the same purpose, the Legislature sold 10.3 acres behind a row of homes on Windermere Road to a group of homeowners there for $37,080. The county still owns 84 acres, not counting the adjacent golf course.

"I don't want them to be giving our land away. Land is an asset," McDonald said.

A hearing on the unfair labor practices charge is set for Feb. 23.

AFSCME and the Legislature are fighting over the county's attempt to transfer 50 acres of undeveloped parkland on Day Road to the Town of Lockport for use as a park. State legislation is needed, and AFSCME used its clout in Albany to block that bill last year. McDonald vowed the union will do so again this year.

Also, the sides have a hearing May 3 over an AFSCME grievance claiming back overtime pay for snowplow drivers on the midnight shift.


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