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City of Lockport plans Code Blue shelter system for next winter

LOCKPORT – The city, along with several churches and charities, has set up a system to provide shelter for the homeless on the coldest nights of next winter.

Mayor Anne E. McCaffrey announced the Code Blue plan last week, saying that about two months of discussions meant that the work wasn’t done in time to be used this season, unless there should be a sudden cold snap before spring becomes a definite reality.

The Common Council voted last week to authorize the mayor to declare a Code Blue alert when the temperature is forecast to drop below 15 degrees overnight. McCaffrey said she will then call Maj. José Santiago, who heads the Lockport chapter of the Salvation Army.

The Salvation Army is to host the warming center at its Cottage Street headquarters after 2016, when its current building expansion project is to be completed.

The Dale Association agreed to host the shelter in its building at 33 Ontario St. until the Salvation Army construction project is done.

Santiago said the Red Cross has donated about 50 cots for the warming center.

McCaffrey said Lockport CARES, a faith-based homeless shelter on Genesee Street, has a typical clientele of about six. However, the mayor said, she was inspired to get involved in a Code Blue program after an elderly woman visited her office and asked where she could go on a cold night if her power went out. The new warming shelter was the eventual answer.

The mayor said Grace Episcopal Church has offered to provide foster care for pets whose owners are in such situations.

In another matter last week, Rolando Moreno, the city’s assistant director of engineering, announced that the state Department of Transportation will be making repairs to the Big Bridge over the Erie Canal on Main Street this year.

Moreno said the work between Saxton and Church streets will involve repairs to the bridge joints. “This is preventive maintenance,” he said. “There’s not a structural problem with the bridge.”

The project will take four to five weeks. The city has asked the DOT to delay the work until after the annual Sunrise Optimist Club Outdoor Arts and Crafts Show, held in the last weekend of June, and a planned weeklong observance of the city’s 150th birthday in early July.

“They haven’t agreed yet. I sent them an email, but I haven’t got a response,” Moreno said.

The work will create a hassle for drivers, as Main Street will be reduced to one lane. Moreno said the south side will be blocked first, followed by the north side, which will mean the City Hall parking lot will be closed, since it’s on the north side.

Main Street has been partly obstructed for almost 11 months, since a water main break last April.

In other matters, the Council agreed to commit $17,500 a year through 2017 to the Lockport Main Street business promotion program. It also approved an application for a county economic development grant to pay for a drinking fountain in John Henry Park.

The Council also approved an agreement with the Civil Service Employees Association to pay Chief Building Inspector Jason C. Dool a $4,000 stipend to take over building maintenance duties. The city also extended the $40,000-a-year contract of accounting consultant Mary E. Smith on a month-to-month basis, if the CSEA goes along.

email: tprohaska@buffnews.com