The Niagara County Legislature on Tuesday reaffirmed its support for the Industrial Development Agency's effort to take over the Niagara Falls International Airport, and pledged support for the effort if the IDA's private management company quits or fails.
However, the "support" clause was viewed as vague and not binding on future Legislatures.
County Attorney Edward P. Perlman said, "In general, you can't bind subsequent Legislatures to contractual obligations."
IDA Executive Director John R. Simon, who met with the Legislature behind closed doors for 25 minutes, said he wanted the resolution in response to a request from the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority for an expression of support.
He said he wanted the county to express the notion of stepping in if the IDA's airport management and operations team, American Airport Corp., leaves.
Simon said, "Should they or any of their successors fail, or walk away . . . it opens the door for Niagara County to step in if they care to."
Legislator Robert R. Villani, R-Town of Niagara, an IDA board member, said, "Legally, I don't know if we can bind the Legislature two years, or four years, or five years, or 10 years down the road."
Perlman said the word "support" has no fixed legal meaning without further explanation. The resolution mentions support "in operating and/or marketing the airport through resources of the county, primarily through in-kind contributions."
A motion to water that down further by making it read that the county would "consider support" failed by one vote in a meeting of the Commerce, Tourism and Agriculture Committee. The floor vote was unanimous and without debate.
The resolution goes on to state that the county "will consider other forms of in-kind and/or financial support . . . including but not limited to the acquisition, management, operation and control of the Niagara Falls International Airport" if the private operator fails or leaves.
Legislator Renae Kimble, D-Niagara Falls, said: "We must support the IDA in all its efforts. It's not a done deal by a long shot. They have very strong competition." A Spanish firm is bidding against the IDA for airport control.
Meanwhile, the Legislature did not act on the new position of personnel officer, but Perlman said further legal research had convinced him that the appointment of Albert T. Joseph, the human resources director, can take effect almost immediately after the Legislature passes a local law appointing him to the new job.
Perlman at first thought a 45-day waiting period would be needed, but further research convinced him otherwise. The law will take effect as soon as it is filed in Albany, he said.
That should be within a day or two after the Legislature passes it, which is expected to occur Jan. 18.
Legislator Clyde L. Burmaster, R-Ransomville, said the Legislature has dropped the idea of hiring an interim personnel officer, and will leave the job vacant until Joseph can fill it.
He noted the Civil Service Commission, which goes out of office at the end of the year, usually met only once a month. "We don't see that there's anything that urgent that couldn't wait until that (Jan. 18) date," he said.
On other personnel issues, Sharon Calabrese, the deputy social services commissioner, was named acting commissioner because of the retirement of Commissioner Bonita L. Quaranta. The county plans an extensive search for a new commissioner.
Majority Leader Shirley G. Urtel, R-Cambria, said Budget Director Sharon Sacco will handle the Youth Bureau director's paperwork.
In other action, the Legislature approved:
Assignment of $1.43 million from the county's first tobacco settlement payment to the road fund for use on the partial reconstruction of Beach Ridge Road in Pendleton and reconstruction of bridges on Fitch Road in Wilson and Porter Center Road in Porter.
Renaming of the County Office Building at Park Avenue and Hawley Street, commonly known as the Nelson Building, in order of Philo J. Brooks, a Republican legislator from Ransomville from 1966 to 1993. A $700,000 water main project by the county Water District, installing 9,900 feet of 16-inch pipe along Dysinger Road in Lockport and Royalton to improve service in southern Royalton.