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Plea for clerical staff is a familiar one

The Common Council on Tuesday heard a familiar tune from a city official who said his department is overwhelmed with work.

Building Inspector Cosimo Capozzi made a plea for funds to hire additional clerical staff, saying current staffing levels have led to a "major problem" and forced him to deal with a deluge of day-to-day paperwork.

Staffing cuts over recent years mean he now performs 60 percent of the tasks his former secretary would do, Capozzi said.

"There's only so much you can dump on any department and expect it to function," he said.

Capozzi's previous appeals for a full-time secretary position did not lead anywhere. Funding was not included in the city's 2008 budget.

But Tuesday's request to the Council wasn't Capozzi's first attempt to relieve some of the pressure.

Capozzi drafted a memo Nov. 19 intended for all licensed contractors who work in the city, telling them to apply for license renewals with the city clerk's office.

Under the City Charter, the task lies with the clerk's office, Capozzi said.

The problem was, according to some city officials, nobody told City Clerk Thomas J. Jaccarino.

The two staffs only spent about an hour discussing the work that needed to be done, but no agreement was ever made to shift the duties, Jaccarino said.

Capozzi even declined his initial offer to help, he said.

Even though the duties are in the charter, renewing contractors' licenses was never handled by the clerk's office in his tenure, he added.

City officials directed the two offices to meet on the issue, but Capozzi did not appear optimistic about potential results.

"Tom is more concerned about his butt than any other department in City Hall," Capozzi said.

Jaccarino objected to Capozzi's assertion, saying his office helps all other city departments even though it is already busy with its own work.

"If I can help them, I do," he said. "Our office helps everyone."

Alderman Kevin J. Brick Jr. said he would like to see the Council approve funding for a full-time secretary, saying Capozzi's office "needs help now."

Council President Brett M. Sommer said he believes the city should look to reorganize clerical staff centrally in order to maximize efficiency.

In other city business, Council members and the mayor's office agreed to accept the terms offered by Niagara County for the purchase of a fire-training tower on Tonawanda Island.

The city will buy the land for $1 and agree to give any profits from sale of the land to the county in the first five years after the transfer.
The land was originally owned by the city and sold to the county for a nominal amount in 1967 to build a training tower for use by departments across the county.

e-mail: abesecker@buffnews.com

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