An agreement is near for the Seneca Nation of Indians to pay for as many as two Niagara Falls police officers to patrol its Falls casino full-time.
"We have an agreement in the works," Seneca President Todd Gates said. "They would have to take it to the (City) Council to get it approved. We have worked out a law enforcement agreement with them. It took a lot of work."
Mayor Paul A. Dyster confirmed talks between the two sides but denied a deal has been made.
"Those discussions have not been concluded," Dyster said. "It strikes me that this is an issue that would be best settled in the broader context of the dispute between the Seneca Nation of Indians, the city and the state."
The Senecas have stopped paying a share of slot machine revenues to the state, which passed some of the money on to the cities of Niagara Falls, Buffalo and Salamanca. The Senecas say their compact with the state called for payments to stop in 2016. The state disagrees, and the sides have agreed to arbitration.
"The Seneca Nation does not view this as a compact issue. The compact exists between the Seneca Nation and New York State. This is a discussion between the Nation and the city," a Seneca spokesman responded.
If there is a side deal between the Senecas and Niagara Falls, it would be the first time the Senecas have made any direct payments to the city, other than hiring extra police for special events at the casino.
Police Superintendent E. Bryan DalPorto said the cost of each officer's salary and benefits would be about $120,000 a year, he said.
"That hasn't been finalized yet," DalPorto said of an agreement. "It's in the process and it's bouncing back and forth. Edits and revisions are being made to suit their needs as well as the Police Department's, and to coincide with the (police officers') collective bargaining agreement."
The department would hire new officers for the regular roster to take the places of those assigned to the casino, he said.
"The mayor wasn't willing to sit down and talk, but the Council was," Gates said.
"Not exactly," DalPorto said. "I met with the corporation counsel, working out the details, but myself and the corporation counsel also have been in consultation with the mayor. The mayor hasn't been in there directly, talking about what we're going to do, but he's been under advisement. He knows what's going on, and has given us his blessing to look at what can be done."
"We want to be reimbursed for police and fire protection that we provide. I have asked our administration to go and do it," Councilman Kenneth M. Tompkins said. "I know there's been a lot of people involved in this."
"Law enforcement is very critical to us. We want our patrons safe," Gates said.
"We are partners in this with the casino. They are here in the city. They're not going anywhere. We need money. We need to work together with each other to make it right," Tompkins said.