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Verbal accord noted on recreation site

The city has a verbal agreement to make the former Lowry Middle School the home for its fall recreation programs, a Recreation Department official told the Common Council on Tuesday.

While the cost to the city has yet to be made final, the Payne Avenue property had been the top choice since programs were moved out of the Col. Payne Community Center, Recreation Director Jerome Whitehead said.

"This one offers more possibilities," Whitehead told Council members during a work session in City Hall.

The facility has a larger gym than the Col. Payne Center, and its swimming pool facilities may soon be operational and could be made available for the city's use, he said.

The Col. Payne Center, 460 Wheatfield St., had been under consideration for fall programs.

City officials would need to come up with the funds to pay for use of the facility under the current budget. Cost estimates for use of the site from Oct. 1 to the end of 2007 could range from $7,000 to $10,000.

The property has been the subject of a legal battle between owner Kevin Gersh and the North Tonawanda School District.

In other city matters:

* Police Chief Randy D. Szukala asked the Council to create a new dispatcher position.

While the department's five existing dispatcher positions are filled, one employee is out on a long-term illness, and another will start a 30-day leave in two weeks, Szukala said.

Staff shortages have caused concerns over dispatchers' stress levels, he said.

"It wears on you, even in a small city," he told the Council.

Szukala said he has enough money to fund the position for the rest of the year because another position has remained vacant since a retirement in February.

* Mayor Lawrence V. Soos told the Council he expects to appoint an acting fire chief within one week.

Soos has indicated he would take his time in naming a permanent replacement.

He had offered the job to one of the three candidates interviewed, but the candidate did not accept the position, he said.

"I'm not happy with the two other choices," said Soos, noting he may call for another list of candidates from civil service officials.

Former Fire Chief Gregory Frank retired June 14.

* Sherwood Avenue residents have rejected a proposal that would have seen property owners pay a special assessment in order to have their road reconstructed.

* The Council will hold its first budget work session at 6 p.m. Aug. 2 in City Hall, 216 Payne Ave. The last day the mayor can submit a budget to the Council is Aug. 1.

e-mail: abesecker@buffnews.com

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