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Law would severely restrict sex offenders

LOCKPORT -- Newly designated sex offenders may in effect be barred from the city under terms of a proposed local law restricting where they are allowed to live.

The Common Council on Wednesday scheduled a public hearing for 6 p.m. March 1 on a law sponsored by Council President John Lombardi III that would bar registered sex offenders from living within a quarter-mile of a school, park, or other spot where children would congregate.

The city, which is only 3 miles wide from north to south and from east to west, contains 10 public schools, 27 parks and several day care centers and nursery schools, meaning it might be hard for sex offenders to find legal living spaces.

"Everybody would be outside the city limits," speculated Alderman Joseph C. Kibler, R-at Large. "Are we going to get in trouble sending them all to the town [of Lockport]?"

"The legislation isn't intended to do that, but if that's the end result, so be it," said Corporation Counsel John J. Ottaviano.

"Put them in the pasture," said Alderwoman Flora M. McKenzie, D-3rd Ward.

Mayor Michael W. Tucker said, "The Board of Education has been after us for quite some time to pass a law [restricting sex offenders]."

Lombardi said the law is copied from one passed in Amherst. Buffalo, Depew and Cheektowaga are among the Erie County municipalities that either have passed or are considering similar laws.

Lombardi said the law would apply to all convicted sex offenders who must report their addresses to the police, whether they are Levels 1, 2 or 3. But it would not be retroactive, meaning sex offenders already within the city wouldn't have to leave.

The state Division of Criminal Justice Services Web site lists seven current city residents as Level 3 sex offenders, the most serious classification. Figures on Level 1 and 2 sex offenders were unavailable Wednesday night.

The Council on Wednesday scheduled another public hearing for March 1 on a proposal to increase the property tax exemption levels for military veterans.

Assessor Vincent M. Smith told the Council on Feb. 1 that increasing the exemptions to the maximum allowed in state law would cost the city $85,650 in lost tax revenue. Lombardi said the amount of the increase isn't set in stone.

"Let's see what the public input is," he said.


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