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Mark Lazzara is back in West Seneca, and he didn't even have to leave.

The director of West Seneca's Youth Bureau accepted a job in community development with the Niagara Mohawk Power Corp. earlier this month, but has rejoined the town -- with a hefty raise.

Lazzara, who also administers the AmeriCorps and Vista programs out of the Youth Bureau, will be paid $59,500 a year, a raise of $11,574 over the $47,926 he was scheduled to be paid. The raise still must be approved by the Town Board, although Supervisor Paul T. Clark said all the board members support the deal.

"The Town Board was heavily recruiting me," said Lazzara. "They're not offering me as much as Nimo, but they're offering me a lot.

"I officially never left. Since they started recruiting me, they never put it (the resignation) on the agenda. The truth is my heart is there. It was hard to leave, and now the Town Board is making it easy to stay."

While Lazzara had started working for Niagara Mohawk, he was still using his West Seneca vacation time.

"We've never terminated him, so we won't need to rehire him," said Clark.

He added that he didn't think Lazzara's move to leave was a ploy to get a pay raise.

"I don't think so," Clark said. "Our only regret was that we didn't move sooner, realizing what he meant to the town operations, especially in AmeriCorps." The AmeriCorps and Vista programs run through the West Seneca Youth Bureau employ about 260 workers, with a budget of about $3.5 million per year. Most of it is federally funded, and workers are spread throughout Western New York.

Niagara Mohawk spokesman Steve Brady said of Lazzara's departure, "As far as I know, it was amicable and it was his decision. These things happen."

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