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PETITION SWINGS PLAYGROUND REPAIR INTO ACTION

The city will be looking into revitalizing the New York Avenue playground after a petition with 47 signatures was received at Tuesday night's Common Council meeting.

Part of the petition pledged neighborhood help with restoring the playground.

The city had looked into the matter for a couple of years, Fiscal Affairs Officer Terrance Valentine said, but the funds were cut out of the budget.

Public Works Director Norman Nalepa added that the unsafe equipment and building on the property will be demolished Saturday, weather and personnel permitting.

"The grass has to be mowed. The kids can get lost in it, said Councilman at Large Edward Divine, adding, "We want to get a phased plan for the playground."

In another public works matter, the Council authorized a contract with engineering consultants Nussbaumer and Clarke of Buffalo for a study of the wastewater treatment plant.

That was part of the discussion city officials had with officials of the Buffalo office of the state Department of Environmental Conservation on Tuesday.

"The meeting this morning was positive," city attorney Ronald Szot reported.

"The DEC is pleased with the progress, and we are cautiously optimistic on negotiating a mutually acceptable consent order with as little pain for the city as possible," he said.

The city has been working with three major food processors about handling their wastes. Some is being trucked elsewhere. The wastewater plant had a crisis at the end of May, and the discharge into Lake Erie violated conditions of the city's permit.

The food processors -- Cliffstar Corp., which makes juices and fruit products; Carriage House, which makes mayonnaise and salad dressings; and Fieldbrook Farm Ice Cream Co., which makes frozen desserts -- are now sending less waste to the city's plant. Some waste is being trucked elsewhere.

In other business, the Council:

Learned that Fire Chief Michael Edwards has resigned his position to become a paid firefighter. He will fill a vacant position. Assistant Fire Chief James Muscato II will take over.

Heard Nalepa report that his department has been hit with a rash of absenteeism because of illness. When asked whether anything can be done, he said, "It's contractual." The department has two vacancies because of retirements. The positions have not been filled. Nalepa said the lack of manpower has made scheduling difficult, which he believes contributes to the absenteeism.

Introduced a local law to increase the mayor's term from two to four years beginning in 2003. A public hearing will be held at 6:55 p.m. July 3. If the law is approved, it must be submitted for a public referendum in November, because it is a change in the city charter.

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