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Disaster-readiness grouping of Niagara with Erie/Buffalo called 'terrible shame'

Town Supervisor Fred M. Newlin on Monday strongly criticized a federal disaster-preparedness grouping that links Niagara County and Erie County/Buffalo together for grant considerations.

Newlin told the Town Board that linking the two communities was "a terrible shame."

"Niagara County has many vulnerabilities, but Buffalo has been ranked a second-tier city, and our future funding stream is in jeopardy. There's no reason [Niagara County] shouldn't be in the forefront," Newlin said.

Newlin represents all Niagara County town supervisors in county disaster-control preparedness. Statewide, he said, Niagara County is a recognized leader in preparedness.

However, he said, there was little being done at a regional level. He wants the town to have an integrated plan that would be used if a disaster were to strike.

"We are the only town with its own hazardous-materials team, and we have our own police force. We also have four [volunteer] fire companies," Newlin said.

He said he expects to discuss the creation of a position of disaster-preparedness coordinator at the next meeting and appoint a person to the new position.

Newlin said each town's work force needs to receive specialized training in disaster preparedness by Sept. 15. He noted that many town employees already have completed the training.

In another matter, Councilman Sean A. Edwards said he met with Jamestown Board of Public Utilities General Manager Walter W. Haase to discuss how the town will distribute the 6.5 megawatts of electricity it plans to receive from its share of the State Power Authority relicensing settlement, beginning in 2007.

Edwards said Jamestown is a much different model than Niagara County, but he said Haase was clear that it would be difficult for seven municipalities, all very different objectives, to operate out of one municipal distribution agency.

"After leaving my meeting with him, I have a lot of concerns about a joint venture," Edwards said.

"This just echoed what we believed," Newlin said after hearing about the Haase meeting. "We are capable of going out on our own."

Lewiston has already been considering formation of its own Municipal Distribution Agency and has met with one legal firm about the process. Other public interviews are planned for forthcoming board meetings.

Edwards said that representatives from the Power Authority and National Grid should be invited to share information with the board at a future meeting.

e-mail: nfischer@buffnews.com

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