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LOCKPORT – The Niagara County Legislature has passed a set of resolutions urging the state to allow direct payment of welfare recipients’ housing allowances to landlords if the clients don’t use the money for rent.

Legislator Owen T. Steed, a Democrat who represents Niagara Falls, cast the only votes against the resolutions at last week’s meeting.

“The slumlords are going to get this money now, and do what with it?” Steed asked.

He and Minority Leader Dennis F. Virtuoso, D-Niagara Falls, who voted for the resolutions, said it would be better for the state to require advance inspection of housing to be rented to welfare clients, as the federal government does for subsidized housing.

The measures, originally introduced by Virtuoso at the request of a group of landlords, were tabled in the Republican-controlled Community Services Committee last week.

Legislator Cheree J. Copelin, R-Niagara Falls, said she checked with State Sen. George D. Maziarz, R-Newfane, to make sure it would be all right to pass the measures.

“Maziarz has assured me that legislation will be pursued in the Senate,” Copelin said.

But she also said current law already has a process that gives landlords a chance to obtain direct payments.

Copelin said if a welfare client fails for two months to spend his housing allowance on rent, the landlord is allowed to make a written request to Social Services for direct payment.

Legislator Paul B. Wojtaszek, R-North Tonawanda, suggested that landlord groups should compile “a list of habitual offenders.”

In other matters last week, the Legislature approved the selection of Dawn M. Timm, county environmental science coordinator, as interim head of the Refuse Disposal District.

Timm is to be paid a stipend of $8,500 this year and next, in monthly installments, to govern the district’s day-to-day operations. That’s on top of her regular salary of $68,028.

Timm succeeds Richard P. Pope, who resigned Jan. 2 after being suspended with pay for two months because of alleged violations of the county’s policies on employee residency and private use of county vehicles.

Pope also had a policy clash with County Manager Jeffrey M. Glatz, who has recommended shutting down the district’s only active landfill.

The Legislature also voted to create an additional $47,070-a-year conflict defender post to add more manpower to the mandate to supply attorneys to represent poor defendants. Steed and Virtuoso voted no. Legislator Jason A. Zona, D-Niagara Falls, was absent.

The Legislature approved the allocation of 150 kilowatts of discount electricity through the county’s Empower Niagara program to Marketing Imprints of North Tonawanda.

The company plans to purchase the former Gardei Printing plant at 525 Wheatfield St., North Tonawanda, and expand into it by April 2014, adding five new jobs to the 15 people it already employs.

Marketing Imprints will invest $945,000 into the acquisition, equipping and renovating the vacant building. The sale of the electricity will bring the county $46,580.

The lawmakers also approved a new email policy, under which all of the county’s incoming and outgoing emails will be electronically stored for six years.

The Legislature also accepted a $400,000 state grant to cover some costs of shifting North Tonawanda police dispatching to the county Sheriff’s Office, and a $300,000 state grant to help pay for lobbying efforts to protect the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station from closure.

Also, J. Les Myers of Lockport was appointed deputy fire coordinator for the Technical Rescue Team.

email: tprohaska@buffnews.com