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Common Council members used their last meeting of the summer to complete two landmark measures.

The first allows the city, for the first time, to introduce privatization into a large city department.

The second completes Buffalo's police precinct consolidation, an idea first proposed 23 years ago.

Both actions are viewed as essential reforms in City Hall's quest to save money and improve vital services.

"It's proof positive that people will accept change," Mayor Masiello said Tuesday.

The Council also adopted a new get-tough approach in dealing with slumlords.

The Council approved a new ordinance allowing the city to publicly embarrass landlords by posting their names, addresses and phone numbers on signs outside their properties. Masiello plans to erect the first sign next month.

The Council, in approving the water deal, ensured that water rates will drop by about 8 percent this year.

The agreement allows the city's Water Board to contract with American Anglian Environmental Technologies of New Jersey to manage the department. Under the agreement, Water Department employees will remain unionized city workers.

Late this morning, the Water Board unanimously approved three agreements and a water rate reduction of 8 percent, completing the action set in motion early this spring to privatize management of the water system.

"This is really a historic public-private partnership," North Council Member Dale Zuchlewski said Tuesday.

The water agreement passed by an 11-1 vote, with Council Member at Large Beverly Gray casting the only no vote. Council President James W. Pitts, who had promised to oppose the deal, said he was called away to serve as acting mayor. Masiello was out of the state.

The Council also approved the fifth and final piece of its long-awaited police reorganization plan. The action
completes the consolidation of 14 precincts into five districts.

Precinct consolidation, first proposed in 1974, has been hailed by supporters as essential to reducing bureaucracy and putting more officers on the streets.

"I guess we could have maintained the status quo," said Lovejoy Council David Czajka, "but the old way of doing things wasn't working."

By adopting the final piece of the puzzle, the Council ended a yearlong internal dispute over where to house the last district station -- the Fillmore, Lovejoy or Masten district.

"This avoids a bloodletting," Fillmore Council Member David Franczyk said.

The plan will result in a new district station house at the former General Electric Co. site in the Masten District. The station will be at Fillmore Avenue and East Ferry Street, in the city's high-crime area.

To gain Council support, the Masiello administration agreed to keep open a sixth station -- Precinct 11 on Bailey Avenue.

In addition, the Fillmore District will retain a police presence by housing the Police Community Services facility in the Broadway-Fillmore area. The site is undetermined.

Residents praised the agreement during a gathering outside Precinct 11 Tuesday night.

"We'll stay protected on the far East Side, which is what we need," said Marge Hastreiter, vice president of the Iron Island Preservation Society. "We know the officers, we know they'll drive through here on their way to and from work. The other station would have been a 20-minute drive."

News Staff Reporter Todd Rhoads contributed to this report.

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