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Fire Department panel to be announced soon

The membership of a task force to investigate the future of the Lockport Fire Department could be announced as soon as Wednesday's Common Council meeting, according to Alderman Andrew D. Chapman.

Chapman, R-4th Ward, suggested the idea of a task force last week. He said he envisions a panel of seven or eight people, including city officials and residents.

Chapman asked any citizen interested in serving to call him at 433-2006. "I would love to have a fireman or two," he said.

Mayor Michael W. Tucker said he continues to support the current paid department.

Tucker said the notion of a combination department, akin to that used for decades in North Tonawanda, was studied a couple of years ago.

"The savings wasn't really all that great," Tucker said.

"Everything's on the table, everything from a combined [professional plus volunteer] department to a full volunteer, to no change whatsoever," Chapman said.

He has talked to officials in the City of Batavia, which recently considered dropping its paid Fire Department in favor of an all-volunteer force and now is studying a possible merger with the surrounding Town of Batavia.

Fire Board Peter P. Robinson said he expects at least one member of his panel to serve on Chapman's task force.

"We hope our input will lend a positive effect to helping to save the city some money," Robinson said.

"I'm very happy with some of the interest," Chapman said Friday. "My intention is [to choose] people who don't bring a lot of preconceived notions to the table."

He said the city needs to see what the impact of moving away from a fully professional fire force would be on response times as well as fire insurance rates for residents.

"We can't say we want to change it if we have no clue," Chapman said. He said the current force of 49 active firefighters "is not sustainable."

Fire Chief Thomas J. Passuite did not return a call seeking comment.

e-mail: tprohaska@buffnews.com

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