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Lockport public works chief hired to direct Falls water operations

LOCKPORT – Norman D. Allen will be leaving as Lockport’s director of engineering and public works to become director of infrastructure and operations for the Niagara Falls Water Board.

Allen’s contract, for three years with a three-year renewal option, was unanimously approved Thursday by the Water Board. Allen said Friday that he was recruited for the post and at first turned it down but that the board came back with an improved offer.

He said he intends to work in Lockport until late May. Paul J. Drof, executive director of the Falls Water Board, said Allen’s scheduled starting date in the Falls is May 26.

Allen said the opportunity for advancement and eventually to secure a professional engineer’s license was one of the main attractions of the Niagara Falls post. The qualifications for the Lockport job did not require the license.

Allen said he has passed the first phase of the exam for that license, which classifies him as an “engineering intern.” He said he can’t take the second and final phase until he has logged time working under the supervision of professional engineers, and Lockport doesn’t employ any.

Allen said, “They contacted me about three months ago, and I turned it down. A couple of weeks ago they called back with an improved offer.”

Allen’s starting pay in Niagara Falls will be $84,000 a year, which he said is only about $1,000 more than his Lockport pay. But he said “the opportunity for advancement” was key in his decision.

Not only does it speed up his chances to earn an engineering license, but Drof said he and Water Board Engineering Director Richard Roll are thinking of retiring in the next few years.

Drof said the operations post became vacant with the departure of Michael E. Kessler, who became water resources director in the Town of Tonawanda. Kessler gave notice in December, and the Water Board advertised the post and contacted candidates on its own. “We looked at people in surrounding municipalities and districts who had a good reputation,” Drof said.

He added that the Water Board, which is legally a state agency, doesn’t have to adhere to Niagara Falls’ residency requirement.

Allen said he won’t move to the Falls. “I just built a new home in the city (of Lockport) and I love it, and I’m staying,” he said.

Lockport Mayor Anne E. McCaffrey said, “We’re going to miss Norm. He’s done a very good job for the city. At the same time, it gives us an opportunity to put more of a focus on the streets.”

Allen started in Lockport as assistant city engineer in 2005. He became engineering director in January 2007 and added public works and water distribution operations after the 2011 firing of Highways and Parks Superintendent Michael E. Hoffman and the 2012 retirement of Utilities Director Paula M. Sattelberg.

The mayor said she will recommend that the city hire a streets chief and privatize as much of the engineering work as possible. The city still employs an assistant engineering director, Rolando Moreno.