LOCKPORT – A resident’s proposal at Wednesday’s Common Council meeting that the City of Lockport should be dissolved caused a furor, but the idea is illegal.
Officials for the state Department of State and the New York Conference of Mayors agreed Thursday that there is no provision in state law that allows for the dissolution of a city.
The idea voiced by Dana Barish, of Church Street, during the Council’s public comment period may have been inspired by dissolution controversies currently going on in the villages of Medina and Wilson.
During the meeting, he said that a threat to shut down the city might give the city an edge in union contract negotiations and that merging the cash-poor city with the cash-rich Town of Lockport might reduce taxes.
Barish has a website, xlockport.com, that gives the text of a proposition to repeal the City Charter without replacing it.
He asked the Council to vote on it, which Council President Joseph C. Kibler said he would never do. Failing that, Barish said, he would gather enough petition signatures to get the item placed on the November election ballot this year or next.
But although state law includes elaborate instructions for doing away with villages, those provisions don’t apply to cities, said Laz Benitez, spokesman for the Department of State.
“No state law enables cities to repeal, without replacing, an existing charter; such an action may only be authorized by the State Legislature,” Benitez said in an email to The Buffalo News.
“In addition, the State Legislature has not authorized the dissolution or consolidation of cities by local action or proposition.”
Peter A. Baynes, executive director of the Conference of Mayors, agreed. “In New York State, cities are created by an act of the State Legislature. Furthermore, dissolving of a city can only be enacted by the State Legislature,” he said in an email to The News.
Cities are not included in the list of entities that may dissolve themselves in Section 750.13 of the General Municipal Law, the statute in which the dissolution process is described. That section says it applies to towns, villages and special districts – not cities.
Barish did not respond to an email seeking comment Thursday.
Mayor Anne E. McCaffrey said, “The idea of dissolving the City of Lockport is absurd, and I cannot imagine that any of the Common Council members would support it.”
Meanwhile, the Council learned Wednesday that the long-delayed new downtown parking lot should be open by Tuesday.
The split-level, 44-space lot with entrances off Main and Pine streets will stand on the site of a parking ramp that was torn down last year.
Empire Dismantlement of Grand Island won the $1.17 million contract, which included the demolition of the closed five-level, 260-space ramp.
The Council’s decision after the bidding was done to have two entrances and two levels, with a wall separating them, added about $190,000 to the cost of the project, according to R. Charles Bell, city director of planning and development.