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The Common Council gave Director of Engineering Allan R. Rutter the go-ahead Wednesday to seek proposals for the renovation of the downtown parking ramp.

The move did not commit the Council to approving the work, and Alderman Mark J. Dudkowski, D-6th Ward, flatly said that he opposes repairing the ramp at Main and Pine streets.

Mayor Kenneth D. Swan said owners of downtown buildings want the ramp fixed up. Its concrete is deteriorating, and it is little used because of frequent vandalism of vehicles there.

Dudkowski said, "I cannot in good conscience vote to spend that $1.4 million (a cost estimate for the work) on something that benefits so few people."

Dudkowski said the city would end up spending large sums for security at the ramp, and suggested that it be turned over to a developer to operate and repair, as he said other cities have done.

However, he had no supporters. Alderman Gregory M. Wik, R-8th Ward, said he was reluctant but concluded, "We can't give up on the parking ramp. It's a key part of downtown."

Rutter told the Council he intends to use the Quality-Based Selection process to choose a contractor. The method places the qualifications of the contractor ahead of price as a selection criterion.

He said the city will form a committee to review responses to the request for proposals, and narrow them to a short list of companies to interview. Those companies will prepare presentations costing $10,000 to $25,000, Rutter predicted.

On another topic, Council President Michael W. Tucker, R-7th Ward, told his colleagues he will sponsor a split proposal for new water and sewer rates at next Wednesday's meeting.

Tucker said he will propose the rate package submitted by city staffers for sewer rates, while using the Council's lower-priced alternative version for water rates.

Department heads had proposed raising the average quarterly residential water bill 15.69 percent, and the average sewer bill 16.65 percent. The Council version would raise water bills 7.97 percent and sewer bills 9.62 percent.

Tucker endorsed the 7.97 percent water increase and the 16.65 percent sewer hike. He said enough revenue will be generated to cover any deficits in the water and sewer funds.

City Clerk and Budget Director Richard P. Mullaney agreed, but cautioned that the water increase "does nothing to repay the (water) reserve fund," which has been drained to cover years of deficits. It is owed more than $900,000, according to City Treasurer James W. Ashcraft Jr.

The Council also:

Scheduled a strategy session for 5:30 p.m. next Wednesday to decide on a position for a 6 p.m. meeting with Lockport Memorial Hospital officials who have asked the city to trim the interest rate and extend the term on the mortgage the city holds on the hospital, while not insisting the hospital make up the monthly payments it has missed since August 1997.

Accepted the Public Health and Safety Committee's rejection of a resident's request that crossing guard hours be extended at the corner of South Transit and High streets.

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