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Aided by grant, Lockport police beef up patrols

LOCKPORT – Police Chief Lawrence M. Eggert says he intends to use a $30,000 federal grant to pay for extra patrols in the wake of a summer of gunfire and other violence in parts of the city.

The Common Council voted to accept the Operation IMPACT grant, along with an additional $50,000 grant to pay for police equipment.

Eggert said Wednesday that the $30,000 will pay for 72 four-hour blocks of overtime. “We’re going to put a few more police on the street and see if we can put a dent in this shooting situation, and we had a stabbing the other day,” Eggert said.

There have been incidents this summer of guns being fired at houses, most recently one at Grand and Church streets July 22. There were six incidents in May and June, four of which ended with arrests.

Mayor Anne E. McCaffrey said the Police Department has set up a confidential tip line, 439-6707, for those with information about crimes to come forward anonymously.

The $50,000 grant will be used primarily to buy new video cameras for patrol cars, Council President Joseph C. Kibler said.

Eggert said the incident-recording cameras now in use are seven or eight years old and are proving unreliable. “They’re out of the cars for repairs more than they’re in the cars,” the chief said.

The old cameras will be cannibalized for parts in hopes that one or two more functioning cameras can be cobbled together, Eggert said.

Other uses for the grant include the remodeling of some areas of Police Headquarters and the purchase of what Eggert called “a new generation rifle. … It’s basically an M16 with a different mechanism.” It will replace an older long gun in the Police Department arsenal.

Also Wednesday, the Council ratified McCaffrey’s appointment of 27-year city employee Lena D. Villella as acting assessor for six months, at an annual salary rate of $64,000. That amounts to about a $13,000 raise for Villella, who was real property appraiser.

Corporation Counsel John J. Ottaviano said that state law requires the city to have an assessor and that Villella is entitled to be paid accordingly. She replaces Harry E. Williams, an employee of Girasole-Penale Appraisal. That company’s 15-month, $53,100 contract for assessment services expired June 30.

Ottaviano said Villella, who was acting assessor for a few months in 2004, has state certification and could be considered for a permanent appointment. McCaffrey said Friday, when she disclosed the appointment, that the city is considering sharing an assessor with some other municipality.

Also, the Council voted to write off 26 loans from one fund to another within the city budget for which state auditors were unable to find explanatory documentation. Some of the loans date back as far as 1995, said City Treasurer Michael E. White. He said the move will have no impact on the city’s fund balance. The loans totaled about $3 million and involved an assortment of internal transactions among the general, water, sewer, capital reserve, trust and debt service funds. The four most recent interfund loans, involving the refuse and small cities grant funds, are documented and will stay on the balance sheet.

White said the research into the old transactions has led to improvements in the city’s accounting system. “Accounting protocol requires that this sort of restatement be processed methodically, leaving a valid audit trail in our accounting records,” he said.