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AS NIAGARA FALLS
THE FUNNY, THE ODD AND THE STRANGE BUT TRUE IN NIAGARA COUNTY

More fireworks

Lockport city officials are excited about the prospect of a new telephone system in City Hall as early as next month.

City Clerk Richard P. Mullaney said it annoys residents who call City Hall, not realizing it's a holiday, when the phone rings and rings with no answer, not even a recorded message. That will change. When the building is closed, there will be a message, although live answering will be used when the building is open.

Council President Patrick W. Schrader saw an opportunity to use the messages to quell controversy.

He said, "We can put on the machine, 'The fireworks will be at Outwater Park.' "

"Pat, why bring it up?" moaned Alderman Scott A. Cercone, R-3rd Ward.

Is the caller there?

The new phone system may make other changes in Lockport City Hall.

Alderman at Large Joseph C. Kibler, who apparently has been getting no answer to his calls occasionally, asked Public Works Commissioner Gary M. Andes, "Does this guarantee that if we call your office, your secretary will answer the phone?"

"I can't guarantee that," Andes replied.

Leonard Baran, a salesman for Advance 2000, the phone supplier, was showing some features of the caller ID system to City Clerk Richard P. Mullaney, especially the automatic built-in caller ID.

"Dick can answer your call or put you in voice mail," Baran said.

"I don't know if I want that," said Alderwoman Phyllis J. Green, who is used to immediate response.

Life's a ditch

Government officials use the "shared services" catchphrase often nowadays, but in practice it can be a bureaucratic hassle.

Last year, the Niagara Falls School District sought to have a drainage ditch cleaned near the high school on Porter Road.

"Theoretically, it's a city drainage ditch because it runs to the city sewer system," said Kevin P. O'Brien, Niagara County public works commissioner.

But the city didn't do the work. "Apparently, they didn't have the capabilities," O'Brien said.

The county Highway Department examined the ditch. O'Brien recalled, "They said, the right type of equipment we don't have, but Porter does."

So a Town of Porter highway crew was sent to Niagara Falls to clear the ditch. The grateful school district picked up the tab of $8,592.33, which it paid to Niagara County.

At its May 6 meeting, the County Legislature voted to pay that money to Porter. Asked why the school district didn't just pay Porter directly, O'Brien didn't know.

Failed inspection

The county also had to refund $5,400 to a developer this month because it couldn't deliver building permits the developer had paid for.

Pine Grove Estates LLC, which is constructing a 24-unit senior citizen housing project on Bowmiller Road in the Town of Lockport, had obtained assistance in its project from the Niagara County Industrial Development Agency. That meant the county's code enforcement office was responsible for inspecting the job and issuing a permit.

However, the Legislature laid off the county's one-man code enforcement staff at the end of 2002. Pine Grove paid its $5,400 fee Dec. 23, and the job wasn't done before the end of the year. The county was thus unable to issue a building permit.

The Legislature voted to refund the $5,400 to Pine Grove, which had its site inspected by the Town of Lockport. The town has signed an agreement with the county to
take over inspections of IDA-assisted projects within its borders.

No recession here

Lewiston Town Supervisor Sandra J. Maslen misspoke when discussing personnel contracts last week. She told the board that after a certain period of time town hourly employees receive an automatic raise of $50 per hour.

Every single board member nearly jumped out of their seats to correct her error, noting it was 50 cents an hour.

She put her hand over her mouth, quickly corrected her misstep and then thanked her board for being so attentive.

Councilman Michael Johnson said at the suggestion of $50-an-hour increases: "Are there any job openings?"

Second time's a charm

Once just isn't enough for some people. Take, for example, the guy who sped away after being ticketed by Niagara Falls police Monday afternoon.

Officer Russell DeFranco said that he had just completed writing two tickets against a Fourth Street man when the man gunned it, speeding off at an estimated 50 mph in the 30-mph zone.

DeFranco followed and again pulled over Joshua M. Cusick, 19, this time charging him with speeding and moving from a lane unsafely. This time DeFranco hauled Cusick to the slammer for his alleged "disregard" for vehicle and traffic laws and the safety of other motorists.

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