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North Tonawanda Fire Chief will retire

NORTH TONAWANDA — The Common Council named a new city fire chief Tuesday, following the retirement of Chief John C. Lapham. Assistant Fire Chief Joseph Sikora was appointed his successor and will take over on Friday.

Sikora, with nearly 26 years of service in the North Tonawanda Fire Department, has served as assistant chief of Platoon 3 for the past 12 years and said he has held every rank in the department. He was offered the role as chief 10 years ago, but said he turned it down to spend more with his two sons, who were 10 and 7 at the time. His eldest son Travis, 20, is attending the University at Buffalo and son Cody, 17, is a senior at North Tonawanda High School.

“It wasn’t the right time. I am extremely thankful I got the second opportunity,” said Sikora. “We’ve got a great department with a great bunch of guys.”

Lapham, 57, is retiring with 25 years of service, including five years chief. He told The Buffalo News that he had accomplished 98 percent of the goals he set for himself when he took over as chief.

“I had three pages of goals — plans for the department,” said Lapham.

He said his one goal yet to be accomplished is to build a new central substation — a second location on the other side of the city.

“Our building was built in the ’70s, early ’70s, and its getting a little tired. Our training room downstairs isn’t handicapped accessible,” said Lapham. “The rigs are getting so big we can barely get them into the shop for repairs anymore.”

Another goal he was pleased with was getting the county emergency radio communication project up and running, which included building a new tower at fire headquarters on Zimmerman Street.

He said the department also received a recruitment retention grant for volunteers, which allowed it to secure $72,000 to get new volunteers into the organization. Lapham noted that North Tonawanda is a hybrid department, one of only a few in the state that operate this way, with a combination of paid and volunteer firefighters.

“I’m proud of the job I’ve done. It’s been a learning process, but I always said, ‘Never be afraid to make a decision,’ The guys have been fabulous and that’s what I will miss,” said Lapham.

The city also announced Tuesday that terrace parking permits, which allow residents to park on right-of-way between the street and the sidewalk, are no longer in effect. Homeowners are allowed to use terrace parking only with a permit, during the winter parking ban, from November 1 through April 1.

Mayor Arthur G. Pappas addressed at least one complaint of how the terrace parking law unduly penalizes those who live on curbed streets, since non-curbed streets are not subject to the same parking restrictions.

He said officials have looked at terrace parking for years and cannot find one law that would be effective for every part of the city.

Pappas said a lot of areas have multiple dwellings, with multiple cars which cause parking problems and they have had to come up with a law to deal with it as best as they can.