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Questioning the legality of a proposed contract with Laborers Local 91, the City Council Monday tabled a proposal to give raises of $3 per hour to the union's members for work performed at the Convention and Civic Center.

The Council voted 6-1 to put the issue off until the new administration of Mayor-elect Irene J. Elia. Only Councilwoman Barbara A. Geracitano was against the tabling.

The Council passed an agreement with the Niagara County Building Trades Council in 1974 for work at the Convention Center, but it did not cover Laborers Local 91. Monday's agenda item was a rehash of the 1974 contract with Local 91's name inserted, but discussion at the Council's work session disclosed that the 1974 deal was never actually signed.

Michael A. Quarcini, Local 91 business manager, said, "I don't think anybody in this room can say Local 91 doesn't have a contract," Quarcini said. "Mayor (E. Dent) Lackey got sick and passed away (in 1975), if you recall. That's why it wasn't signed."

Councilman Vince V. Anello said that he is not against the raise but "the fact still remains that there's no contract, because no one ever signed it."

Quarcini said, "This 'phantom contract' has been honored all these years."

Acting Corporation Counsel Timothy G. Bax said, "I have not rendered an opinion that there's no valid contract with the Building Trades."

Quarcini said Local 91 had a contract with Spectacor Management Group, the former operators of the Convention Center before Niagara Falls Redevelopment took it over.

Council Chairwoman Connie M. Lozinsky replied that Spectacor "had no power to bind the city."

Quarcini said the Laborers have been working at Convention Center events since 1982 for $10.50 per hour. He said, "Other trades have been working at that Convention Center for higher pay."

Quarcini said the Laborers' standard wage today is $19.65 per hour, based on negotiations with local contractors. He said the terms of the 1974 Building Trades deal call for affected union workers to be paid 85 percent of the going rate, which in the Laborers' case would be $16.71. He said the Laborers were giving the city a break by asking for only $13.50.

Anello demanded of Bax whether he had reviewed the proposed contract with the Laborers, which was placed on the agenda by Mayor James C. Galie. Bax answered, "Not specifically, no. . . . It was presented by Local 91 to the mayor."

On another topic, the Council voted unanimously to cancel half the back rent owed by the operators of the golf dome in Hyde Park.

Cataract Sports and Entertainment Group did not pay rent for the first 10 months of its contract with the city. The Council agreed to accept payment of $15,787.49 and forgive an equivalent amount.

Bax said the deal was fair because Cataract Sports was hurt by city delays in removing the old sledding hill and other hang-ups before opening the golf dome. "They lost significant revenue," he said. "(Rent) payments since Sept. 30 have been made timely."

He promised the Council that when Galie signs the agreement, Cataract Sports will pay the 50 percent of arrears "forthwith."

Meanwhile, the Council gave itself until Jan. 31 to accept or reject the findings of a feasibility study on Hyde Park development. The deadline for action on the study by Nustadia Developments USA would have been today.

During the next five weeks, the city and Nustadia will negotiate terms for the hiring of the company to continue its study. If no deal is made by Jan. 31, the city will have to pay the consulting firm $25,000, according to a letter from Nustadia President Renzo J. Morassut.

Also put off until the new year were a new three-year contract with the Niagara Falls Police Club and a $29,500 contract with the accounting firm Deloitte & Touche for a long-term financial plan. Both items were tabled on previous meetings, and no one moved to reconsider them Monday.

The Council also approved:

A reduction in sewer rates. Residential, commercial and small industrial users' base fee of $24 for the first 1,300 cubic feet per quarter will remain unchanged, but the price for each additional 100 cubic feet drops from $2.27 to $2.17.

The sewer charge for major industries will drop from $1,562 per million gallons to $1,541. They are billed monthly.

Funding of $27,369 for a motor equipment operator job in the Street Construction Department. The job is required under the settlement of the union lawsuit over privatization of garbage collection but was accidentally left out of the 2000 budget.

Appointments of Timothy Polka, Zebedee Turk and Angelo D'Aloise to the Planning Board; Michael Bird to the Cable Commission; Sal Bertino to the Zoning Board of Appeals; and Deanna Grant Cudahy, Erika Phillips, Jay Rowcroft, Diane Scarupa and Dana DeFazio to the Youth Bureau. All terms are for three years, except DeFazio's, which is for two years.

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