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COUNCIL'S FUNDING OF TOWPATH TROLLEY CRITICIZED AS RASH JUDGMENT

When the Towpath Trolley cried for help, the Common Council answered -- perhaps too quickly.

After approving a city takeover of the historic trolley tour last week, the Council on Wednesday adjusted the budget to provide funds for the service.

But former Alderwoman Phyllis J. Green said the Council's vote last week showed rash judgment and was premature.

Green criticized the resolution, saying Council members were ill-informed about the issue.

"Sometimes you don't give people enough time to look into situations before you vote on them," she said. "I'm not against the trolley. I'm against the city insuring the trolley. The city is making a bad precedent."

Not only is the city taking on the liability for the trolley, but it is also paving the way for other tourist attractions to expect help from the city.

"If someone falls, we're in trouble," she said.

Mayor Thomas C. Sullivan, who spearheaded the effort to aid the trolley, said he was forming a task force to determine the attraction's fate.

Members of the Towpath Trolley Committee, set up by the Eastern Niagara Chamber of Commerce's Canal Development Task Force, thanked the Council for its assistance.

"The trolley is going to grow, and it's going to grow with the help of the Council and the mayor," said Clinton J. Stake, co-chairman of the committee.

Becky Burns, co-chairwoman of the committee, applauded the city for recognizing the trolley as part of the community.

"You heard of our plight, recognized the value of the trolley to the city and came to us," Burns said. "You've shown me that we have a government that understands."

The Council voted to take control of the trolley during an emergency meeting last Thursday after an arrangement for insurance coverage for the vehicle fell through. The deal calls for the city to pay Timkey Limousine Co., owner of the trolley, $8,900 to lease the vehicle from the company for the next four months.

The Eastern Niagara Chamber of Commerce and the Dale Association will pay the city $14,600 to cover fuel, maintenance and wages for the trolley's drivers, who will still be provided by Timkey. The city will place the trolley on its motor fleet insurance policy at no extra expense.

In other matters, the Council's Public Works Committee discussed a proposed increase in the sewer rate.

Just three months from the close of this billing cycle, the Council has yet to preview a resolution that could increase the rate by 6 percent.

With not enough information from the Town of Lockport and Delphi Harrison Thermal Systems, which together accounted last year for 43 percent of the city's $3 million water revenue, the committee moved to investigate the issue further and present a resolution at the July 5 meeting.

"We can't be in a guessing game in any way," Sullivan said. "We need to analyze what's best for the City of Lockport. It's not advantageous for us to continue on the path we're going."

The rate increase would work out to be $3.90 per quarter, or $15.60 per year, for an average family of four. The city has a deficit of $203,608 in its sewer fund. The increase would eliminate the deficit.

Part of the reason for the deficit is the loss of industry, according to a report by Brubaker and Associates of St. Louis. When big factories, which are accountable for most of the city's water revenue, leave town, the burden falls on taxpayers.

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