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City police to dispatch firefighters

The Lockport Police Department will begin dispatching fire calls March 29, Mayor Michael W. Tucker told the Common Council on Wednesday.

The move, which the firefighters' union agreed to permit when it signed a new contract with the city in December, is expected to save the city substantial overtime costs by making one more firefighter per shift available to go to fire and rescue calls instead of manning the microphone.

However, it won't happen right away, because for the first 30 days of the changeover, a firefighter will be assigned to sit at the police desk and make sure the police officer on dispatching duty does the job correctly.

Some technical work still needs to be done, such as the installation of a switch at the police desk to ring the fire bell and open and close the firehouse doors, and the placement of a unit at the police desk that will run the printer in the firehouse that shows the address of the call.

The union contract said if the city didn't move dispatching within six months of ratification, not only would the Fire Department keep the work, but the minimum staffing level per shift would rise from nine to 10, penalizing the city with more overtime.

The Fire Department has four platoons, two of which work on any given day. The contractual rules are that if there aren't enough people available on a platoon to make the minimum because of vacations or sick days, firefighters from other platoons are called in and paid time-and-a-half for the whole shift.

In another matter, the Council agreed to donate the old wooden bleachers from Dolan Park to Lockport Little League, which will move them to its Lincoln Avenue baseball complex.

Alderman Joseph C. Kibler, R-at Large, said Dolan Park has new aluminum bleachers paid for by a state grant. If the city got rid of the old bleachers, it would have to cut them up, landfill the wood and dispose of the steel frame as scrap.

"The frame is good, they just have to replace the wood," Tucker said.

e-mail: tprohaska@buffnews.com

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