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The Tonawanda Common Council took the first step toward abolishing three city departments -- in hopes of improving departmental efficiency and saving money -- by adopting a local law during a regular session Monday night.

The Electrical, Sewer and Parks departments would be consolidated into the Public Works Department if the measure is approved. The move was designed to allow city services to be handled by a larger group of employees so supervisors can plan to the community's needs.

The move will not affect the Recreation Department, which was split from the Parks Department nearly a decade ago.

Part of the transition has already taken place. When the Erie County Water Authority took over Tonawanda's service in August, the city abolished the Water Department and moved six employees to Public Works. Council President Carleton R. Zeisz said that incorporating the employees of the three departments will undergo a similar process and that several employees have already assumed new responsibilities.

"The department has already been operating like this under the standpoint of there having been some retirements," Zeisz said.

Since the three departments will merge into Public Works, the Council also approved annual salary increases for Public Works Superintendent Neal Meyers and acting Assistant Superintendent Robert Peters to $68,364 and $55,032, respectively, to reflect their additional duties.

The consolidation is expected to save about $92,000 in the short term. If the proposed law is ultimately approved, about 55 employees will be employed by the Public Works Department.

The Council will schedule a public hearing on the measure, after which the Council takes final action.

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