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Council votes on state grant for businesses

The Common Council voted last week to apply for a $200,000 state grant to aid small downtown businesses.

R. Charles Bell, the city director of planning and development, said that after deducting administrative costs, the city's development agency will have $170,000 available for businesses in the downtown district that have five or fewer employees.

There will be a $10,000 limit on individual grants, with no matching funds required from the city or the businesses.

"These are grants, but we would encourage using them jointly with the county's funding program," Bell said.

The Niagara County Industrial Development Agency has a microenterprise assistance program that offers a 12-session course on business management and provides low-interest loans to small or start-up companies.

Bell said the city's program will have an education component, too, but there will be only three courses: strategic planning, cash flow and marketing.

Those courses will be conducted by the Niagara County Community College Small Business Development Center, whose director, Lynn Oswald, will be one of the five people reviewing applicants.

The others will be Bell; city housing rehabilitation coordinator Kevin McDonough; Lockport Main Street Program Manager Heather Peck and accountant Scott Cain, a member of the Greater Lockport Development Corp. board, which will vote on all the grants.

Alderman Jack L. Smith Jr., D-2nd Ward, who is running for mayor, voted against the grant application but did not explain his vote.

In other matters, the Council agreed to a package of salary upgrades at the Highways and Parks Department. However, Mayor Michael W. Tucker said the net effect, because of retirements, is a savings of about $45,000.

According to figures released by Alderman Andrew D. Chapman, Norman D. Allen, director of engineering and public works, is to see a raise from $78,883 a year, the salary set when he received public works duties in January, to $82,433.

However, Highways and Parks will be functioning with two supervisors, down from the five it had before a round of retirement incentives last fall. Two foremen retired then, and a third, Dennis Brockman, called it a career Friday.

Meanwhile, Lockport Community Television Executive Director Thomas Riley said the cable station's failure to televise last week's Council meeting was caused by technical difficulties.

He said LCTV had received several calls complaining about the blackout.

"The conspiracy theories abound. We had nothing to do with it," Tucker said.

Riley said someone unplugged the audio wires in the LCTV control area in a corner of the Council Chambers, and when they were plugged back in, the mixing board shorted out.

The lengthy meeting featured heavy criticism of the Council and Tucker over garbage and recycling issue, especially by mayoral hopefuls Michael J. Pillot and Phyllis J. Green.

Tucker said Council President Richelle J. Pasceri "gave some really good answers, I thought, and they didn't get on, either."

Riley said people fiddling with the LCTV gear is not new. He said a new lock will be installed, the mixer replaced, and the Aug. 17 meeting will air live as usual.