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More N. Tonawanda police sought

Police union representatives have asked the Common Council to hire four officers -- about $400,000 for the first year -- to help make up for moving the dispatch center from the Police Department to the Niagara County Sheriff's Office next month.

After listening to the request at a Tuesday evening workshop session, Council members asked for more cost-saving creativity.

"I'm sure there's some solutions to these problems," Council President Richard Andres said after the meeting. "We just have to put our heads together and figure out what they're going to be."

The mayor's budget plan, approved earlier this year, included moving the dispatch department, a change expected to save the city about $448,000 a year in employee costs and in the shared cost of upgrading equipment.

Controversy about the plan included police concern about being short-staffed at the station. Now, a dispatcher and an officer look out for those in custody who may threaten suicide or be combative. When the dispatchers leave, the police union representatives worry, the officer manning the station could be left alone.

"We have an obligation to safeguard anyone that's in our cells," said Capt. Thomas Krantz, past president of union. He and Range Officer Steve Endres, president of the Police Benevolent Association, discussed hiring the additional officers.

Once the dispatchers leave, overtime costs for the rest of the year could be as much as $200,000, they said.

"I just hope that you'll look at these numbers and take them seriously," Endres said to the Council. Later, he added, "We truly won't know the impact until after the dispatchers are gone."

Next, Police Chief Randy Szukala will meet with the mayor to offer alternatives, such as hiring a civilian employee.

"To me, this is a public sector union trying to get more employees," said Mayor Robert Ortt. "I wish the economy was different, but it's not. I'm confident there's a way to address the prisoner issue."