LOCKPORT - The Niagara County Legislature rehired a Washington lobbying firm Tuesday, with its tasks to include efforts to save the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station from closure.
On a party-line vote, the Republican-controlled Legislature voted, 10-3, to hire Capitol Public Strategies for the next four months at $5,000 a month. Half the funds will come from the county treasury and half from the county Industrial Development Agency.
Robert Bulman, a partner in the firm, said it is about to be absorbed by Park Strategies, a Washington firm whose Buffalo office includes former Erie County Executive Joel A. Giambra, a Republican.
Legislature Chairman William L. Ross, C-Wheatfield, said Hyjek & Fix, the Washington lobbying firm long employed by the Niagara Military Affairs Council, had to drop the local air base booster organization as a client after it was hired to represent all five bases in New York.
"Not only is Niagara competing in New York, but you're also competing across the country," said Kraig Siracuse, managing director of Park Strategies' Washington office.
"One of the hardest things for NIMAC to do was to come up with the money for the lobbying efforts and miscellaneous expenses," said Ross, a member of the group's board of directors.
Bulman said since it was hired in February, Capitol Public Strategies has met with officials of the British, Indian and Chinese governments in an effort to stir up interest in shipping import cargo through Niagara Falls International Airport.
The Legislature's three Niagara Falls Democrats voted against hiring the lobbying firm.
"It's a little too early to say what kind of job they're doing, but I don't see any cargo," said Minority Leader Dennis F. Virtuoso. "They're definitely not going to save the air base. That's going to be done by our federal officials. We know that."
He said the money should have been spent to keep open three senior citizen nutrition sites to be shut at the end of the year.
Siracuse, a 16-year U.S. Senate staffer for Sen. Alfonse M. D'Amato and the Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, said he worked on the effort to prevent the Niagara Falls Air Base from being closed in 1995.
In other matters, the Legislature voted unanimously to ask State Sen. George D. Maziarz and Assemblyman John D. Ceretto to introduce bills to get Seneca Niagara Casino money flowing again to Niagara Falls.
The city is awaiting $58 million the Senecas are refusing to pay in a dispute with the state over the notion of legalizing nonreservation casinos.
"The State of New York is the egregious party, and we shouldn't be held hostage," said Legislator Jason A. Zona, D-Niagara Falls.
The Legislature also passed resolutions calling for the defeat of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver's bill to provide college aid to illegal immigrants and the rumored plan for a State Legislature pay raise.