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CROWDED YEAR-END AGENDA SURPRISES CITY COUNCIL MEMBERS

The City Council faces a full agenda at its last meeting of the year Monday as officials try to tie up a number of loose ends before the change in city administrations Jan. 1.

But some City Council members were surprised at the last-minute flurry of activity and said they prefer to leave many of the items -- some previously tabled -- undecided until the new mayor and three new Council members can be part of the decisions.

Mayor James C. Galie is asking the Council to approve an agreement with Laborers Local 91 over work at the Convention and Civic Center. It is identical to a 1974 agreement with the Niagara County Building Trades Council except for a $3-per-hour wage increase, which would be the first increase in 25 years, according to a letter to the Council from Galie. The increase would raise the pay rate to $13.50 an hour, City Administrator Anthony J. Restaino said.

Councilman Anthony F. Quaranto questioned why the agreement, the original of which dated back to the opening of the center, was being brought up in the last week of Galie's administration.

"I'm going to ask to have it tabled. It hasn't come up in 25 years. Why now?" he said.

Restaino said the agreement has been under discussion for at least six months and is just a "reaffirmation" of what the laborers have been working under since 1974. The agreement doesn't take any work away from city employees, because there always has been some work at the center done by outside labor, he said.

"The original contract was with the Building Trades Council. Since that time, the building trades have entered into separate agreements with the city for citywide projects, not just the center. We don't have a similar agreement with Local 91," Restaino said.

Councilwoman Barbara A. Geracitano and Councilman Guy T. Sottile also questioned the timing and why Local 91 isn't covered under the 1974 agreement with the Building Trades Council.

Geracitano said she expected the Council to get a more-thorough explanation at Monday's committee of the whole session. She wasn't opposed to the agreement on face value.

"The Council has passed a prevailing wage agreement. And, of course, I'm always in favor of hiring local labor, which I make no bones about," she said.

The Council also will be asked to forgive about $20,000 in rent owed on the Hyde Park golf dome by the developers, Cataract Sports and Entertainment Group. The developers did not pay rent for the first 10 months of operation, claiming that construction delays and other occurrences beyond their control caused a substantial loss of revenue. The agreement negotiated by acting Corporation Counsel Timothy G. Bax with the developers calls for payment of $15,787.49, which he said is 50 percent of the rent owed under a 1998 agreement. .

"It would be nice if they talked to the Council prior to putting these things on the agenda," said Geracitano. "My feeling is I think we should collect the money that's owing to us."

S Two items -- a new bargaining agreement with the Niagara Falls Police Club and acceptance of a feasibility study on development and revenue potential at Hyde Park -- tabled two weeks ago, are also on the agenda.

The Council tabled the three-year agreement with rank-and-file police officers over concerns about a clause that would have allowed officers to move out of the city after 10 years of employment. The Council has consistently urged stricter enforcement of the city's residency law.

"Unless we resolve the residency, I don't know where that is going," Sottile said, adding that the Council already is concerned that there are police officers sworn to uphold the law who are violating it by living outside the city.

The Hyde Park feasibility study performed by Nustadia Developments USA was tabled after Council members said it exceeded the scope they agreed to in a Sept. 30 contract.

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