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Lockport mayor says she intends to appoint full-time assessor

LOCKPORT – Mayor Anne E. McCaffrey said last week that she intends to appoint a full-time city assessor, even though she vetoed a Common Council resolution that placed the position back in the budget.

The Council overrode that veto Feb. 3, but the assessor’s job is a mayoral appointment, and the Council had no means of compelling McCaffrey to fill the spot.

“I will be interviewing individuals,” McCaffrey said. “My goal is to have someone in place in May.”

She added, “The Council members made it clear to me they want a full-time assessor up there.”

Mary Pat Holz, the city’s civil service secretary, said six people have applied for the job, and there is no firm deadline, so applications can still be submitted.

Lena D. Villella, the city’s real property appraiser, confirmed that she is among the six, but she declined further comment.

The Council majority made it clear that it wanted Villella to have the job. She has worked for the city for 29 years, most of them in the Assessor’s Office. She has been acting assessor twice.

In 2015, the city signed a contract to share the services of Niagara Falls City Assessor James R. Bird for a fee of $30,000 a year. The contract was ratified at the last Council meeting in 2015, but only one of those aldermen continued into the new year, and the new Council promptly repealed the contract with the Falls. The Niagara Falls City Council never voted on it.

But in anticipation of the shared service arrangement, the 2016 budget contained no salary for an assessor. The new Council set the pay at $68,000, which would be a $19,000 raise for Villella.

Holz declined to release the names of the other five applicants for the post, saying she hadn’t checked to see if they meet the qualifications.

Anyone whom McCaffrey appoints will have the job only provisionally until the new assessor passes a civil service examination.

The city’s tentative tax roll is due June 1, and the city needs someone to sign it. There was an incident several years ago when the assessor job was vacant as of June 1, and then-City Clerk Richard P. Mullaney ended up signing the tax roll.

“If we don’t have somebody, we’ll have to look into it,” McCaffrey said.

Meanwhile, there has been even more interest in the post of deputy city treasurer. Holz said 11 people applied for that job, which opened when Steven C. Goerss retired in late February.

The position is a mayoral appointment, but McCaffrey said she and Treasurer Sue A. Mawhiney will interview candidates jointly. Among the contenders for the $51,000-a-year job, Holz said, are two current city employees, senior account clerk Barbara A. Parker and Deputy City Clerk Shirley M. Browning.

Holz said that only one person has applied for a vacant staff accountant job but that some of the deputy treasurer candidates might be asked to consider that post instead.