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Lackawanna lawmakers consider changing minimum education requirement for police applicants

Lawmakers looking to increase diversity among Lackawanna police officers are studying a proposal to change the minimum education requirement for applicants to a high school diploma. The current standard is 60 hours of college credit.

The proposal mirrors one recently enacted in Buffalo.

“Obviously, our police force lacks diversity,” City Council Member Joseph L. Jerge of the 3rd Ward said at Tuesday night’s Council session.

“At the very least, we’re opening it up. You have to pass the test, pass the physical and go to the academy, but this would help the force be more in line with our ethnic makeup.”

Several Council members, including Jeffrey P. DePasquale of the 4th Ward and Council President Keith E. Lewis, expressed concern over the fact that an 18-year-old could wear a badge.

The lawmakers suggested adding a minimum age requirement of 21 and retaining 60 college credit hours as a standard for promotion.

If the proposal passes in Lackawanna, it will not be in time for the next police test scheduled for November. In Buffalo, more than 2,200 police applicants showed up in June to take the first test since the education requirement was downgraded.

In other action, concerns by neighbors over fumes and noise that might be created by a proposed bus garage off the Hamburg Turnpike led city administrators to renegotiate the garage’s location.

“We did have the meeting down at Gates for the bus depot,” Lewis told a resident. “Mr. Heinle has negotiated another site for the depot. Negotiations are underway.”

The 4,500-square-foot structure would have been built on 3.93 acres at the end of Albright Court, said Fred K. Heinle, director of development.

“It’s zoned as neighborhood commercial, but assessment records show it as commercial residential,” Jerge pointed out. “I don’t think a bus terminal would be overly beneficial.”

Finally, Lewis submitted two requests regarding the city’s runaway costs incurred hiring consulting engineers. Lewis said it make better sense to simply hire a permanent city engineer.

“From 2013 to 2015, we have paid consulting engineers $333,000,” said Lewis, reading from a report prepared by Anthony DeSantis, commissioner of public works. “For 2015 to 2016, we paid $355,000.”

Lewis asked, “Wouldn’t it be better to hire an engineer instead of paying $700,000? How can we make this clear to the mayor over projects that have stalled?”

At issue was the stalled crosswalk project on Ridge Road in front of the Lackawanna Public Library. The $125,000 project was initiated by Council Member Annette Iafallo of the 2nd Ward.

“Have the drawings been prepared?” Iafallo asked. “Is it ready to go out to bid? I have previously requested this information in a communication at the meeting July 18 and verbally in August at the meeting.

The answer to each of her questions was no.


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