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Poor showing at mandated training puts funds at risk

Niagara County's future homeland security funding could be jeopardized if every municipality in the county doesn't take part in a mandated training program.

Emergency Services Director James C. Volkosh told the County Legislature Tuesday that there was less than 100 percent attendance at a four-hour kickoff meeting earlier in the day.

He said directives from President Bush require every state, county and locality to comply with the National Incident Management System.

Volkosh said it was set up in the wake of the botched response to Hurricane Katrina last August.

The county has received nearly $4.5 million in federal homeland security funding in the past three years, and has a three-year, $5.1 million emergency response plan for which it hopes to receive money from Washington.

Volkosh said the county has to show Albany by late August that all municipalities have had their elected officials and key employees go through the response training courses, the first two of which are available in online versions that take a couple of hours to complete.

However, some municipalities didn't attend Tuesday's meeting, and Legislature Chairman William L. Ross said he would be calling them to urge participation in a three-day conference on the mandate March 7-9.

Ross would not identify the municipalities who did not show, but The Buffalo News learned the City of Lockport was one of them.

Mayor Michael W. Tucker said Tuesday night he intended to attend the meeting, but other matters came up and he couldn't get away.

"I didn't delegate it because I was planning to go myself," Tucker said. "I do want to sit in on that. . . . I'll be at the next one."

"I can't believe we're being held hostage," said Legislator Clyde L. Burmaster, R-Ransomville. "We could lose funding for something as simple as this?"

County Manager Gregory D. Lewis said the localities could pay a price, because their applications for federal money for projects unrelated to homeland security could be held up or rejected if they do not comply.

"It's the hammer they're putting down on the federal level to make everyone compliant," he said.

On another topic, a proposal to advertise the county golf course for sale, sponsored by Legislator John Syracuse, R-Newfane, was referred to the Public Works Committee. Lewis said he has asked the Legislature twice to sell the Davison Road course but found no support.

"At this point I'm neutral until I see if there's support," Lewis said.

Also sent to committee was a request from Legislator Harry J. Apolito, D-Lockport, that the county forgive property taxes on the City of Lockport's water supply line from the Niagara River.

The Legislature filled a vacancy on the county Board of Ethics, choosing Thomas W. O'Shea of Lockport, a Democrat who heads the city Fire Board, to replace Rev. James Massie, an Episcopal priest from Olcott, who resigned.

Also, Dr. Thomas Hughes of Lockport was appointed to an open seat on the county Board of Health.


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