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Lockport hires Hartman as temporary assessor as critics blast plan

LOCKPORT – The Common Council voted Wednesday to hire Michael S. Hartman as temporary city assessor, while critics, including Democratic mayoral hopeful Roger L. Sherrie, called for appointing Lena D. Villella, who held the temporary assessor post last year.

Mayor Anne E. McCaffrey said “an employee” – she didn’t use Villella’s name – was offered the option of continuing as temporary assessor past Jan. 1, but turned it down. Villella has said she wants to be the permanent assessor.

The city then explored shared services, the mayor said, and came up with Hartman, who is assessor and code enforcement officer for the towns of Royalton and Hartland. He will work through Sept. 1, a term of 17½ weeks, for which he will be paid $10,000, which works out to $571.43 per week, with no benefits.

That would be an annual rate of $29,714, which McCaffrey said is “pretty consistent” with some of the recent short-term assessors who have cost the city between $20,000 and $50,000 a year. The city has run through five assessors in the last decade.

In addition, Hartman will be paid $150 for every small-claims court assessment review he has to attend after he signs the tax roll. McCaffrey and City Clerk Richelle J. Pasceri said Hartman will work eight to 15 hours a week on his Lockport job, sometimes in the office, sometimes in the field. After Sept. 1, the city will re-examine the position, McCaffrey said.

“Last year we spent $53,000 on assessment services,” McCaffrey said, pointing to Villella’s pay for six months as temporary assessor, plus the $21,000 the city paid the Girasole Appraisal firm in the first half of the year.

Most of Villella’s salary during the period, however, was what she would have been paid anyway for her regular job as real property appraiser. Her extra pay for being assessor for six months was about $7,000.

Alderwoman Anita Mullane, D-2nd Ward, abstained on the otherwise unanimous vote to hire Hartman because Villella is her sister. She said she would have voted no, and even consulted an attorney who said she would have been within her rights to vote.

Sherrie, one of two Democrats competing for the nomination to run against Republican McCaffrey this fall, came to the meeting to denounce the Hartman hiring as “a Band-Aid solution for a problem you created.”

He said he doubts Hartman can handle the work in the city, with its 8,200 parcels of land and a volume of exemptions and permits that “far exceeds what Mr. Hartman has probably ever seen in Royalton and Hartland. It just can’t be done one day a week.”

Villella, a Democrat, attended the meeting but did not speak.

email: tprohaska@buffnews.com