By Michael Regan
The Tonawanda News
The North Tonawanda City Council gave its backing Tuesday to a proposal that would move the city closer to merging its 911 police dispatch service with Niagara County.
The council voted to approve a resolution to empower Mayor Rob Ortt and City Attorney Shawn Nickerson to enter into negotiations with the county, a measure that seems likely lead to an eventual consolidation.
Ortt already has met on several occasions this year with the county manager, legislators, the chief of police and a member of the dispatch crew about moving NT police dispatch service to the Niagara County Sheriff’s Office, while the union the represents the dispatchers continues to look for a platform to add its voice to the mix.
The dispatch issue took on new urgency when it was announced by Ortt last week that he and the county are seeking to gain a state grant that could add $400,000 in funding to a possible consolidation, as the March 21 deadline for it looms.
The vote was necessary, Ortt said, to formalize the process in seeking the grant.
“This is not a done deal because no agreement has been reached,” Ortt said. “The purpose of this resolution is to aid in the grant application. The negotiations are ongoing, but hopefully an agreement will be in place.”
CSEA Local 832 President Bill Davignon has stated that the current terms of the union contract would prohibit the merger, though he and the six dispatchers who would be affected are open to negotiations. But he and other labor representatives are set to meet with the mayor on Thursday.
“We filed a grievance simultaneously because we have no contracting out language in our contract,” Davignon said. “But if this move is best for our dispatchers, we just look forward to negotiating a smooth transfer.”
In other council news:
• The common council agreed to accept a $1.75 million in funding from two state grants. Described as a differed loan, the city will accept the money from Restore New York Communities Initiative and the state Dormitory Authority grants.
The measure was approved by the council after a representative of Kissling Interests, the company that created the Remington Lofts, asked the council last week to accept the grant money on the company’s behalf, in an effort to avoid losing 36.5 percent of the total amount in federal taxes. Unlike the privately-owned real estate development company, the city cannot be taxed on the grant money.
• The city approved a 20-year agreement with the Babe Ruth Little League for use of Ramsey Field on Walck Road. The two sides had been without an agreement for several years.