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Thursday, November 20, 2014
“Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus.”

The title of an article printed in the New York Sun Thursday, September 21, 1897. I recommend that at the very least everyone in this community and in particular elected officials take the time to read this famous letter from Virginia O’Hanlon to the editor of the New York Sun.

I have been and I acknowledge outspoken regarding the happenings in our communityspecifically as they pertain to our elected officials.

Will the residents of this community have hope for the future or will they continue to feel despair?

Will our elder statesman, president of the Common Council, wear his traditional red suit and play Santa Claus? Will he carry a bag of gifts representing (hope) or will he be better in the costume of Ebenezer Scrooge and carry coal representing (despair)?

I read that our police chief and his staff were reconsidering one of the drastic cuts affecting children and that’s good. In the same article I read that the president of the common Council said he thinks “the city should go through with its original plan etc.”

It is not my intention to speak disparagingly of an individual that I have known for many years. And I know of many great things that he has done for this community. It is however my intention to ask that all the elected officials have a reality check with regards to the needs of as well as the economic state of affairs of a majority of the people living in this community.

I have mentioned on numerous occasions that to criticize is one thing but the better thing is to offer constructive suggestions. When constructive comments are made we are told that you listen but there doesn’t seem to be much evidence that you do.

I have decided therefore to become somewhat redundant and to offer once again constructive comments coupled with suggestions for the betterment of the community in which we all live.

First I encourage each and every one of you to attempt to emulate many of the happenings in the Town of Lockport. One such example is the town is embracing federal and state money’s to rebuild its portion of Lincoln Avenue. The city on the other hand, after initially embracing the project, caved to pressure from highly influential individuals and abandoned the city portion of Lincoln Avenue being rebuilt at no cost to the city. The city as we all know will now be confronted with a worn road, parts of which have sidewalks and parts that do not, parts that have trees and good drainage, parts that do not.

I suggest every effort be made in application to the state and the federal government for consideration of the project to be continued where it ends at Beattie Avenue and continue through to the Lockport Expressway.

While we’re on the subject of streets and roads I have suggested in the past and I continue to suggest that the maintenance of state roads and county roads be returned to the state and the county.

I have mentioned on numerous occasions that the Lockport city operated sewer and water departments be turned over to Niagara County and its water district. This has greater meaning since I heard at the recent budget hearing that a grant application for in access of $500,000 was being made so that a protective grate at the intake pipe could be replaced.

The city presently pays property taxes to communities that the pipelines from the Niagara River to the city filtration plant run through. If we join up with the county, this cost, I believe, will go away.

The age-old turf wars between the city, the towns and the county regarding items that are for the good of the whole must be set aside and we must do what’s best for our community not what’s politically or personally desired.

I have mentioned on numerous occasions that the emergency dispatch services should be centralized with the county. I hear that it is still being looked into and may or may not come to fruition in 2015. Why not?

I believe that the clouded judgment of many individuals on the Common Council and in the administration as well as the board of fire commissioners made the wrong decision regarding the ambulance services for the city.

Recently I read that in the initial preparation of the 2015 budget that $600,000 had been placed erroneously on the revenue side of the ledger. That number could be $1,200,000 conservatively if the fee schedule adopted was similar to fee schedules of the privatized companies. In addition the personnel were shared between responding to fires as well as responding to emergency medical treatment component of that department. I don’t believe many people in this community were aware of that. I believe an independent body should evaluate bringing this valued essential service back to the fire department of the city.

I have on numerous occasions suggested that the present building housing city operations should be turned over to the state court system and those city operations should move to Harrison place. A much better location and would be better suited for the operations of all city departments. Once again I believe that an independent body should evaluate the merits and/or demerits of such a move.

The recent recommendation to remove the bulk of the city treasurer’s responsibilities to a chief financial officer causes me to ponder as to why we will even need a treasurer when all he will be doing is collecting fees and taxes. I assume it is your intention to eventually dissolve that office and to integrate all functions into your recommended financial manager’s job. Why not take a page out of the Town of Lockport’s book as well as the Lockport City School District and contract out collection of taxes and fees with a bank?

There have been numerous proposals for projects in our community that have for the most part been dismissed out of hand. One such example would be the request on the part of the parties that purchased the former St. Clare’s manner on Locust Street to turn that into upscale condominiums. Pressure from highly influential individuals buried that proposal. We cannot afford to continue to reject viable positive proposals being made to you folks for this community.

Another constructive comment is to move the fireworks display to the Town of Lockport. The Day Road Park has proven in the past to be a better location. In addition there would be a significant cost savings without jeopardizing the celebration. It’s time we permit our wealthier cousin, the Town of Lockport, to help the city. They have offered in the past but regrettably have been rejected. We can no longer afford such arrogance.

I leave you with an offer that I have made to numerous public officials elected and appointed etc., to establish a viable shared services organization for the entire county and all of the jurisdictions contained within.

I have personally presented such a plan to the outgoing New York State Sen. and staff, the former county manager as well as the current county manager, several town supervisors, BOCES administration and more. I spent five years in a college administration position followed by 25 years in the development and management of a successful shared service organization.

You need help and you have to put aside the go it alone and/or my way or the highway philosophy.

It’s never too late to start doing the right thing. It’s never too late to do what’s best for the whole community not just special interest.

Tony Sammarco is a Lockport resident.

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