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Lewiston officials streamline police link to town and village

The lines of communication between police and Village and Town of Lewiston officials have been simplified.

Members of the village and town boards have agreed jointly to abolish the three-member civilian commission that was designed to be their eyes and ears on the Police Department.

Replacing it is a two-member liaison committee, made up of the village mayor and the town supervisor, or their designees.

The change, officials said, would "streamline the chain of command" and give both councils a better understanding of issues affecting the police and the public.

One of those issues is who should pay for the police department's services.

Although the town and village once operated separate police forces, they were merged in 1996 single townwide police department headed by Chief Christopher P. Salada.

After the merger, a three-member civilian commission was appointed to keep village and town officials informed about police matters. One member of that commission was appointed to represent the Village Board, another to represent the Town Board and the third to be a joint appointee representing the entire town.

Over time, however, confusion arose over the commission's role and its membership.

"In reality, we have a town Police Department, and the village contributes to its financial support," town Supervisor Steven L. Reiter said.

Reiter appointed Town Councilman Ernest C. Palmer, a former chief of the Niagara Falls City Police Department, as his alternate member of the new two-member liaison committee. "I think we are making good progress [with this action]," Reiter said. "It will streamline the chain of command."

Palmer agreed that the committee "is still moving ahead on the joint police force and streamlining its operation." He said there previously was "some confusion over who the Lewiston police chief reported to."

One of the remaining issues is how much the village should pay for its share of town police services. The village -- at a little more than a square mile in size -- is the most densely populated and most commercially developed part of the town, and thus it requires more services than rural areas of the town.

Salada, the police chief, said much of the force is sometimes assigned to the village to handle the influx of traffic and visitors to Artpark and other events.

Currently, the village pays about 25 percent of the $1.3 million annual police budget but that arrangement is being negotiated for the coming year.

Besides the chief, the department has six to eight full-time officers and six to eight part-timers.

Village Mayor Terry C. Collesano this week praised Alfred Soluri for his role as the village's representative on the old commission.

"Mr. Soluri took on a lot of responsibility, and his work has made the parking situation a lot better," the mayor said during a Village Board meeting.

The lack of enough public parking has been a problem in Lewiston, especially on evenings when free concerts are performed at Artpark.

Collesano said Artpark's recent decision to charge an admission price for the concerts would reduce attendance and make parking easier. He praised Soluri for helping to work out that arrangement.