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OUT OF OFFICE AND WONDERING WHAT HAPPENED

The North Tonawanda mayor and four of five Common Council members, all voted out of office as of the new year, still aren't sure why they lost.

Mayor Ronald R. Dawson said leaving office after one term is a "bittersweet" experience, but he is satisfied that he stood by his convictions and served honorably.

Paul P. Reidenouer, 4th Ward alderman and Council president, is taking his loss philosophically and said it could be a number of somewhat unpopular issues that he supported, including abolition of the two-tier city tax system, which favored homeowners at the expense of business property taxpayers.

The change back to a single-level tax places the burden back on homeowners while reducing taxes for business and industry, a measure supported and applauded by the Chamber of Commerce of the Tonawandas.

Reidenouer was a leader in promoting the city's business interests and was publicly thanked by Thomas Brick, a Chamber leader.

At the same time, Reidenouer was attracting the enmity of the city's Civil Service Employees Association, whose members fought him on his drive to explore the possibility of a city-private business partnership at the city's waste-water and water-treatment facilities. While Reidenouer claimed this would save taxpayers money, the city employees said they can do it cheaper.

Reidenouer's avowed goal was to reduce the cost of city government by attracting more business.

Reidenouer believes that the outgoing Council "left a positive legacy" to the city and that return of city property taxes to a single level is the only way for the city to compete with its neighbors to attract business.

Another measure he supported -- the creation of a civilian police radio dispatcher system -- will free up more police officers for street duty, he said, and save taxpayers money by replacing the radio operators with lower paid civilians.

The new City Charter, which he also supported, will ultimately reduce the cost of government, Reidenouer said.

One of the goals he did not achieve, but which he urges the incoming Council to pursue, is an update of city property assessments, on which taxes are based.

Current assessments are "out of whack" and are unfair to taxpayers, he said.

Council support resulted in another achievement, according to Reidenouer. That is the tax foreclosure campaign by city Attorney Henry F. Wojtaszek to collect delinquent property taxes, which netted almost $7 million for the city.

Leonard J. Wudyka, an eight-year veteran of the Council representing the 2nd Ward and Council president, was surprised at the loss of his seat and others.

"Maybe it was just time for a change," he said, adding that only time will tell whether support of abolition of the two-tier system and the new City Charter "were the right things to do."

With only two years in office, Scott Kiedrowski, of the 5th Ward, said he doesn't see great changes but said of his colleagues, "We worked well together."

Dennis J. Barberio of the 3rd Ward, also a one-termer, said it is a "tough job," but he may run again.

First Ward Democratic Alderwoman Catherine G. Schwandt, the only survivor of the voter housecleaning, said she doesn't know why she won any more than the others know why they lost.

"I guess it was God's will," she said.

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