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MASIELLO EYES TERROR FUNDS FOR POLICE-FIRE SHIFT

Mayor Anthony M. Masiello says he wants to use some of the $10.3 million allocated to the city by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to pay "re-engineering" costs for city's police and fire departments.

He expressed that wish Saturday when Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., stopped in Buffalo to provide details on various federal aid packages aimed at helping local governments and businesses.

"This money comes at the absolute right time, and I'm confident that it can go toward not only the delivery of quality police and fire services but re-engineering those departments," Masiello said.

He stressed that a large portion of the money would go for the primary intended purpose: equipment purchases, training and overtime associated with helping the city protect itself after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Buffalo was included on a list of 30 cities to share in a special Homeland Security fund of $500 million because it is at a key location along the country's northern border.

"Buffalo is a high-need city because of the border into Canada and because of the cell in Lackawanna," said Schumer, referring to the Lackawanna Six, whom authorities have described as an al-Qaida terrorist sleeper cell.

Local police and fire departments, Masiello said, are the "first responders" and require this additional aid to carry out their missions.

But, he added, in Buffalo's case, some of the money should go toward expenses associated with restructuring the police and fire departments.

The mayor is trying to obtain $20 million in accelerated state aid to help pay for the restructuring. He also is seeking state permission to borrow $29 million, which also would fund changes that include one-officer patrol cars.

Masiello said he has not received final word on whether he can use a portion of the federal dollars for that purpose, but he expressed optimism that ultimately would be the case.

Schumer also provided new details on last week's Senate tax bill, which would provide $29.6 million to Erie County and $48.1 million to other Western New York counties.

Half of the money would go to funding Medicaid costs, and the balance would be used at the discretion of the local governments.

The Senate, Schumer said, also passed a provision in its tax reduction bill to expand the size of low-tax federal "Renewal Community" zones.

The measure would triple the size of the zone that includes Buffalo and Lackawanna and expand zones in Niagara Falls and Jamestown.

"When the economy expands, this will bring new companies here," Schumer said of the bigger zones, which provide federal tax write-offs for businesses in those areas that build, expand or buy new equipment.

e-mail: lmichel@buffnews.com

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