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Buffalo to resume Citizen Academy

Have you ever wondered how water is pumped into homes? Or what happens to waste flushed down the toilet?

Maybe you've been curious about how police officers perform neighborhood patrols, or what role Buffalo's fireboat plays in this high-tech age.

Some citizens will soon have a chance to take a behind-the-scenes peek at city government. They will be encouraged to participate in police ride-alongs, answer complaint calls in City Hall, grill top development officials and take part in neighborhood "clean sweeps."

The city is accepting applications for the Citizen Participation Academy, a free 10-week program that promises to offer unusual glimpses of government in action.

A few dozen residents will meet one night a week to talk with key department heads, tour city facilities and even pitch in to help solve problems.

This is the first academy the city has held since 2009. Mayor Byron W. Brown introduced the concept in 2006, not long after he took office. The more than 120 participants in four previous classes have included block club leaders, business owners and regular people.

"We want folks to understand government," Citizens Services Director Oswaldo Mestre Jr. said. "This is their government."

For the first time, the roster will include the Board of Education, said Whitney Kemp, Buffalo's citizen participation coordinator.

One of the most popular programs in previous academies has been "infrastructure day" when participants tour the Colonel Ward Pumping Station and the city's sewer treatment plant.

"The reviews have been that it is very fascinating, because these are two things that citizens don't normally think about when they're thinking about where your tax dollars go to," Kemp said.

People interested in applying for the Citizen Participation Academy can call the 311 non-emergency line or visit www.city-buffalo/cpa. The deadline for submitting applications is Tuesday.

e-mail: bmeyer@buffnews.com

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