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Common Council wants state to relieve Buffalo of Skyway duties

Buffalo’s Skyway may be marked with a state route number, and state troopers patrol there, but closing the Skyway falls on the city, taking as many as seven city police officers from other duties during bad weather.

The Common Council will send a letter to the state Department of Transportation today asking the state to take over all maintenance and costs associated with the elevated expressway that connects downtown to the outer harbor.

“I think what we have here is a potential case of big brother bullying little brother a little bit,” said South Council Member Christopher P. Scanlon.

The city, in addition to dispatching police officers to close the Skyway on bad weather days, must also replace expired light bulbs and broken light poles.

The Council adopted Scanlon’s resolution Tuesday. To avoid tying up officers when closing the Skyway, the Council asked the state to install “traffic arms” instead. The resolution also indirectly supports removing the Skyway altogether, saying its removal “would only further the unprecedented development currently taking place on the outer harbor.”

The state DOT did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

In other business:

• The Council took the first step toward regulating e-cigarette stores within city limits.

While people looking to open restaurants and corner stores must go through a rigorous process before City Hall allows them to open, including background checks and neighborhood notification, there is no such process in place for e-cigarette stores.

The resolution, sponsored by Scanlon, asks the city’s Permits and Inspections Department to establish rules requiring that the stores be reviewed by city inspectors and the Council and that neighbors be notified before they can open.

• An audit showing that the city’s management of sexual offenders who live in the community was lacking was sent to the Council’s police oversight committee.

State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli found that the city did not follow its own policy regarding compliance with the state’s Sex Offender Registration Act.

The audit found that the department does not always take action when the state notifies it of problems, such as when a sex offender needs a new photograph taken.

The audit also found that the Police Department did not notify the state of its findings in seven cases where it investigated sex offenders who had not sent an annual address verification form.

In a response to auditors, the Police Department said it would update its policies and procedures and will make sure they are being followed.

• Slipholders at Erie Basin Marina expressed their concerns about increasing rental rates to the Council, and urged lawmakers not to renew a contract with Smith Boys, which took over operation of the marina this year. The city was due to renew the contract today but has put off any decision on whether to renew the contract until Nov. 25. In a letter to Council members, Public Works Commissioner Steven J. Stepniak wrote, “There are no circumstances currently in place that warrant serious consideration of terminating the contract.”

• The city accepted a statue of hockey player Tim Horton for its collection of public art, which will be placed at the northeast corner of Main and Scott streets.