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The Lancaster Village Board Monday withdrew an amendment designed to put teeth into the village law dealing with sidewalk maintenance after a resident complained that the village was trying to shift legal liability to homeowners. "This is an attempt by government to relieve itself of its responsibility and liability," Albert Martin of 21 Cayuga Ave. told the board during a public hearing.

The proposed amendment reads in part: "In the event that personal injury or property damage shall result from the failure of an owner or occupant . . . the owner and the occupant shall be liable to all persons injured or whose property is damaged. . . ."

Some trustees said they hope that amending the law will spur compliance with the first part of the law that makes it the duty of the property owners to keep sidewalks in front of their homes in good order and repair.

"What this is attempting to do is give the ordinance some teeth," Village Attorney Arthur A. Herdzik said. Later he suggested that the words, "or occupant," be deleted from the entire law because they raise tenant issues.

However, Martin noted that his property deed does not include the sidewalk in front of his home, and charged that village trustees were trying to protect the village from lawsuits, while exposing homeowners to lawsuits.

"You can't give us the responsibility for village property. It's wrong . . . even if it's legal. I feel it's morally wrong," Martin said.

Another resident said what he wanted to see is the village enforce rules about sidewalks equally. Francis Saelzler of 2189 Cuomo Park Blvd. noted that the village made him put in sidewalks in front of his home at a cost of about $900.

"Are you now going to enforce the ordinance, and for everyone? It's been two years, and nothing has been done," he said, noting that some village sidewalks were inadequate where they do exist.

Trustee Mark Good said the Village Board needs to enforce the laws already on the books. Village Public Works Superintendent William Natalzia said the amendment was a necessary first step toward improving sidewalks because it would put homeowners on notice to take care of the area in front of their homes.

Mayor William Cansdale Jr. referred the amendment to the Public Works Committee for further study.

In other business, the board approved a $50 payment to Don Gallo, the engineer doing the planning work for the village's $2.2 million water reconstruction project. Trustee Good noted that eventually close to $200,000 in engineering fees will be necessary to take the project through its reconstruction phase that will cover a variety of water lines.

"We may not want to automatically go with this individual," Good said, suggesting that because of the amount of money involved, further engineering services for the project should be put to bid.

However, other trustees noted that they were pleased with Gallo's work so far and saw no reason to change as the project headed into its construction phase.

"I'd be very leery of stopping in midstream and turning the reins over to someone else," Cansdale said.

The board set the public hearing on the tentative budget for 8:30 p.m. April 10.

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