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PLAN WOULD PAY THOSE CALLED INTO SERVICE

City employees who respond to formal requests to help in New York City's massive recovery effort would receive their regular salaries under a plan that the Common Council will likely approve Tuesday.

Council Majority Leader Rosemarie LoTempio authored the resolution amid concerns that employees who volunteer to assist in the mission might otherwise be forced to take personal days, sick time or vacation.

"Any employee with special skills who is needed in New York City shouldn't be expected to take vacation days or personal time," said LoTempio.

LoTempio stressed that compensation would only be provided to those employees who are formally requested by the city or the Red Cross to travel to New York City. Workers who volunteer on their own would not be eligible for city pay. Disaster officials have been discouraging individuals from heading to the area without being deployed by a coordinating agency.

LoTempio's effort won immediate support from the Masiello administration.

"The mayor believes that any city employee who agrees to serve in this time of need should be made whole," said Chief of Staff Vincent J. LoVallo.

Six Buffalo firefighters and one fire captain arrived in New York City Friday morning to help coordinate hazardous material response efforts. If the need arises, up to 100 police officers could be deployed, city officials said.

LoTempio said it's impossible to predict how many additional city employees might be deployed in the coming days and weeks. But disaster coordinators have noted that Tuesday's horrific events at the World Trade Center will likely put a strain on New York City's emergency services and public works networks for many months.

"We've been told it's even possible that we could get requests for the services of our city engineers," LoTempio said. "Anyone who is needed shouldn't be penalized, and there's been a lot of confusion in City Hall about whether people will be expected to use comp time or personal days."

Delaware Council Member Marc A. Coppola said he expects lawmakers to unanimously approve the measure at Tuesday's session, stating that he was planning on sponsoring a similar initiative.

But Coppola said officials must closely monitor service levels in Buffalo.

"We certainly want to provide all the help we can, but we also need to cover our own shifts, even if that means spending more money," he said. "We can't let manpower in any key area drop to unsafe levels."

Officials acknowledged that the city is not in a financial position to absorb significant unexpected costs. Buffalo is facing a long-term budget gap that could exceed $31 million, a hole that officials are hoping will be plugged with additional state aid.

LoVallo conceded any long-term assistance by city employees in the recovery effort could cause additional fiscal pressure. "But anyone who looks at the dollars and cents isn't focusing on the right target," he said.

e-mail: bmeyer@buffnews.com

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