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Chella puts plan to retire on hold

Police Superintendent John R. Chella, who planned to retire last week, has pulled his retirement papers in the wake of a pension discrepancy with the state.

Chella confirmed Tuesday night that his retirement plans have been put on hold, saying that the state asked for clarification of the salary amount he submitted to calculate his retirement pension.

"To protect my options, I pulled my papers today, and I'll wait and see what the determination is and make a decision," he said.

The issue came as a surprise to Chella, who has spent nearly 40 years in the department and in recent weeks was the subject of tributes by city and law enforcement officials.

"It was totally unexpected," he said Tuesday. "I've been having a farewell tour the last three weeks. Up until last week, I thought Friday was going to be my last day, so this is kind of devastating for me right now."

Chella will submit his clarification to the state on the salary amount, and if he is overruled, he said he would decide whether he needed to keep working and evaluate all his options.

"Being reappointed might be one of them," he said.

City officials said that if Chella returned to the force, they would prefer he remain in the role of police superintendent, which he has held for the past eight years.

Chella is credited with expanding the role of community policing, using computer data to focus resources and presiding over the move to a new public safety complex.

"We're going to find a replacement, but in a lot of ways he's irreplaceable," Mayor Paul A. Dyster said earlier this month. "He's likely leaving behind a legacy in the Niagara Falls Police Department that is going to be of lasting impact."

Before Tuesday night's City Council meeting, a resolution honoring Chella for his service was removed from the agenda.

"He has also been credited with working hard to improve relations between police and the community, and with making significant investments into proactive, intelligence-based policing," the resolution stated.

In other matters, the Council voted to:

Approve $25,500 worth of engineering work by LiRo Engineers of Buffalo for the demolition of a glass-enclosed walkway along Old Falls Street. The city has a verbal agreement with James "Harry" Williams to develop the former TeleTech building adjacent to the walkway.

Request the city engineer to "take whatever steps are necessary," including hiring a traffic control engineer, to install a traffic light in front of the Como Restaurant on Pine Avenue.