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Niagara Legislature asks lower speeds near Starpoint school

LOCKPORT – The Niagara County Legislature voted Tuesday to ask the state Department of Transportation to reduce the speed limit on Mapleton Road in front of Starpoint Central School in Pendleton.

Pendleton Supervisor Joel M. Maerten, who addressed the Legislature in support of the resolutions sponsored by Legislator Anthony J. Nemi, said the Town Board will vote on the same requests Monday.

The resolutions ask the DOT to reduce the speed limit to 40 mph in front of the school and from 55 mph to 45 mph on the rest of the county-owned portions of the road. The town-owned portions already are at 45 mph.

There is also a request to change the pavement markings to expand the no-passing zone near the school. Nemi said the county alone controls the markings, and he asked the Public Works Department to study that change.

Maerten said a serious accident occurred near the school last month when a car tried to pass a construction vehicle.

Nemi, I-Lockport, said, “The Pendleton and Starpoint communities have been very concerned about the traffic conditions on Mapleton Road. … Fifteen percent of the vehicles passing the school are going above the speed limit.” Nemi said a Sheriff’s Office traffic study yielded that result.

Also Tuesday, the Legislature gave a standing ovation to Pamela J. Gatto, director of eligibility at the Social Services Department, who is retiring after 37 years in the department, including 16 in her current job.

“I’m overwhelmed,” Gatto said. “I loved every bit of my time with the county. I’d do it all over again, exactly as it’s been done.”

Also Tuesday, the Legislature approved a $5.5 million settlement in a lawsuit filed by an injured construction worker. Michael J. Lombardo, 54, of Somerset, was working on a window-replacement project at Niagara County Community College in May 2008, when an unsecured stack of heavy windows tipped over and crushed his lower right leg as he was standing in the back of a flatbed truck that was hauling the windows.

Lombardo, who worked for TGR Enterprises of West Seneca, last year won a $7.25 million verdict in a State Supreme Court nonjury trial. The award was being appealed by the county when the sides settled.

The county will pay Lombardo $2 million up front, plus $300,000 a year for the next five years. The other $2 million will come from TGR’s insurers. The county is suing two other insurance companies for $5 million, claiming they improperly backed out of covering the county’s losses right before the trial.

The lawmakers also approved a temporary pay raise for acting District Attorney Theodore A. Brenner, who took over after the March 21 resignation of DA Michael J. Violante. Brenner was being paid $115,484 as a deputy DA, and his pay will be boosted to $183,400 for the rest of the year, retroactive to April 1.

State law requires counties to pay their DAs the same salary as that received by their county judges, who are state employees with salaries set by the state. As of April 1, the State Legislature raised the county judges’ pay from $152,500 to $183,400. Brenner actually will receive 10 days’ worth of retroactive pay at the lower of those two rates because of the short time he served as acting DA before April 1. Brenner will go back to his deputy DA salary Jan. 1, when a new district attorney takes over.

The NCCC budget of just under $50 million also was approved, including tuition of $4,080 for a full-time, full-year student, which is a $120 increase from last year. The county’s property taxpayers will contribute $8.87 million of the college budget, a figure unchanged for the 10th consecutive year.