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As assistant Lockport fire chief retires, Brady has options

LOCKPORT – An assistant fire chief in the City of Lockport is retiring Thursday, giving Fire Chief Patrick K. Brady the option of seeking that position, which pays more than he is currently earning as chief.

The situation created by the retirement of Assistant Chief Patrick F. Costello means it’s decision time for the Common Council on whether to raise Brady’s salary as chief above the $53,500 a year that was placed in this year’s budget in hopes of saving money.

Brady’s predecessor as chief, Thomas J. Passuite, retired in December with a salary of more than $88,000 a year. Brady was being paid $67,230 a year as a captain when the Fire Board decided to promote him two grades to chief, a move which took effect March 12.

At the time, Corporation Counsel John J. Ottaviano said it would be illegal to raise the chief’s salary before Brady’s 12-week probationary period was up. He took the job anyway, saying at the time, “There has been no promise of a raise, only the promise of a review.”

The 12 weeks are up June 4.

Brady met with the Council and Mayor Anne E. McCaffrey behind closed doors Wednesday. Afterward, McCaffrey said she isn’t ready to announce a decision on Brady’s pay.

The Fire Board will meet May 21 to interview the top three candidates on the civil service list for assistant chief: Brady, Capt. Thomas E. Lupo and Capt. Louis A. Farina. Base pay for an assistant chief is $74,060 a year.

Costello, who like Brady and Lupo was a candidate for chief, was the senior man in the Fire Department, in his 41st year of service.

His retirement and replacement will create a domino effect that eventually should lead to the hiring of a new firefighter – or perhaps two, since Passuite’s slot on the 34-man roster hasn’t been filled yet, McCaffrey said.

The mayor noted that the city applied earlier this year for a federal grant that would pay for hiring one new fireman to fill a vacancy, not to enlarge the force. However, McCaffrey said, the city can’t fill a vacancy before it finds out about the grant.

“I would expect us to fill those positions in the coming months,” the mayor said. Brady said he expects the department will be allowed to bring its roster back to full strength.

“They have consistently said we’re budgeted for 34, and we’re going to have 34,” Brady said.

On another topic at Wednesday’s Council work session, McCaffrey said that when Main Street is repaved this summer, the stamped concrete crosswalks that look like red brick will be removed. “They’re not holding up to the extent the original planners hoped,” McCaffrey said.

The crosswalks were installed in 2004. The city was dissatisfied with them and withheld a $70,000 payment to the contractor, Man O’ Trees. That led to a lawsuit that wasn’t settled until 2013, when the city paid the Buffalo company $15,000, which Man O’ Trees shuttled on to a subcontractor that claimed it wasn’t paid for its work on the $3.3 million Main Street makeover.

The pavement on Main Street between Cottage and Transit streets will be milled off next month, after repairs to underground infrastructure are complete.