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Auto bureau to open next month in City Hall

Hoping to ease the strain of long lines for frustrated drivers, the Tonawanda Common Council authorized Erie County and the state Tuesday to operate a Department of Motor Vehicles satellite office in Tonawanda City Hall.

The office, expected to open in mid-January, will have two full-time staffers and one part-time worker.

After closing three of four auto bureaus because of its budget crisis, the county announced in September that the City of Tonawanda would be among the locations for satellite offices.

Gayle Syposs, the Democratic candidate for mayor at the time, championed the effort, and current Mayor Jack Gallagher soon became involved in negotiations to bring the satellite office to City Hall, where it will occupy the former juvenile aid office on the lower level.

Gallagher said the office would provide another service to those who come to the building to pay their taxes and fees and to obtain licenses. Council members agreed the city would benefit.

"It provides a great service to residents," Councilman James Kossow said. "Instead of driving to Niagara County, [people] can stay right here in Erie County."

Although Councilman Blake Boyle approved the move, he was leery of working with the county because of its refusal to share revenue from its sales tax increases in recent years.

"I'm all for something like this," he said. "We're trying to help the county, but they turn around and deny us shares of the sales tax."

The Council authorized city officials to renegotiate the deal with the county next September. Gallagher said the city might be interested in some form of compensation from the county to cover operating costs it might incur because of the office.

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