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Lockport voters to have say on mayoral succession

LOCKPORT – City voters will have their say Nov. 8 on new rules for mayoral succession when a vacancy occurs in the middle of a term, as it did two years ago.

The measure, approved by the Common Council on Wednesday, continues to have the Council president automatically become mayor when there’s a vacancy, but there would now be an election the following November to fill the unexpired term.

Under current provisions of the City Charter, the new mayor serves the entire time left on the old mayor’s term before having to face the voters.

That’s what happened when Michael W. Tucker resigned as mayor Feb. 21, 2014, with more than 22 months left on his four-year term. Anne E. McCaffrey, who was Council president at the time, automatically became mayor, but she didn’t have to face the voters in November 2014. She won in 2015 when she ran for a full four-year term.

If the vacancy occurs after Sept. 20, the new mayor won’t have to run that year, because Sept. 20 is the deadline in state election law for placing an unexpected vacancy on the November ballot.

In another new provision, the new mayor would return to the former Council seat after the election, if the person either loses the election or doesn’t run. However, that can happen only if there’s still time left on the Council term. The new mayor would be allowed to appoint an acting alderman to keep the Council seat warm while serving as mayor.

That suggestion was made by Alderman Joseph P. Oates, R-1st Ward, who wondered what would happen if the incoming mayor happened to have a day job that pays more than the mayor’s salary. “If I was in that spot, I’d never take the mayor’s job,” Oates said.

On another topic Wednesday, the Council sought more information on three instances when bills for public works projects had been received after the projects were declared complete.

In one of the incidents, Industrial Power & Lighting, the company that tore down the old city parking ramp, was paid extra money by Tucker without Council permission. The resolution to reopen the account says Industrial Power & Lighting had a $71,000 contract plus a 15 percent contingency. However, Tucker allegedly approved a change order for $21,190 in additional costs, which is more than the 15 percent, without having the Council approve the spending.

Other bills, for portable radios for the Streets and Water departments and for engineering work on new blowers at the wastewater-treatment plant, were sent in belatedly by the contractors. The cost of making these payments totals $33,694.

Also Wednesday, the Council voted, 5-1, to buy a new 1-ton dump truck and a new pickup on a bid contract worked out by Chautauqua County at a total cost of $81,621. Alderman Richard E. Abbott, D-5th Ward, voted against buying the trucks. “We’re taking the amount we from the mild winter to buy trucks,” Abbott said. “We have three (union) contracts we have to settle and we don’t know what the expense is going to be.”

McCaffrey also announced the job of deputy city treasurer is open and applicants are being sought. The longtime incumbent, Steven C. Goerss, retired in late February, Treasurer Sue A. Mawhiney said. The position is subject to a civil service examination.