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LOCKPORT - Wage freezes. Overtime bans. Fewer summer concerts. Doing away with dog control.
Those were some of the ideas bandied around Friday as the Common Council continued to work its way through the first draft of the 2013 city budget.
Much of the discussion so far has been behind closed doors, as the budget proceeds hand-in-hand with strategizing about the soon-to-start contract talks with all five city unions. All of their contracts expire Dec. 31.
With the city's fund balance dwindling and the threat of layoffs looming, lawmakers are looking for ideas.
During Friday's discussion, which will continue with three or four meetings this coming week, the lawmakers remained good-humored, but there was no doubt that Lockport's elected officials soon will be sitting on a bed of brass tacks.
Council President Joseph C. Kibler finished the discussion on a couple of department budgets by telling Budget Director Richard P. Mullaney, "Take the raises out."
Mullaney said that if the current contracts expire without being replaced, the members still are entitled to annual step raises.
Alderwoman Anne E. McCaffrey was perturbed when she found that the city's two vehicle mechanics have run up $17,200 in overtime in the first eight months of the year. The city had budgeted $15,000 for the whole year. "Are they nearing retirement?" McCaffrey asked. (Possibly. One was hired in 1980, the other in 1983.)
"We need to say, 'There's no overtime in certain departments,'?" McCaffrey said.
She also suggested reducing the number of shows in the Labatt Canal Concert Series from nine to six. By contract with the promoter, the city pays $8,800 per concert for stage rental, plus police and fire overtime.
That idea and the notion of charging admission for free shows were set aside - for now.
Alderman John Lombardi III suggested buying a new truck for Dog Control Officer Joanie Black.
"It's not safe. She's driving junk," Lombardi said.
McCaffrey shot back, "If we get to the end of the budget and there's $15,000 left lying around, I say go for it. I doubt there will be."
Alderwoman Kathryn J. Fogle said Black should hit the road, and not in a new truck. "I just feel she's a waste of money," Fogle said. "She took 52 dogs last year. . If you've got a [stray] dog between 9 and 5, fine. After that, forget it."
"That's blatantly false," Mullaney said. Other lawmakers also sprang to Black's defense, but Fogle said police should take over dog control. "I think they should pick up the scary dogs," she said.
"We're obligated to have some source of dog control for vicious animals," McCaffrey said.
She also called for renegotiating the contract for dog housing with the SPCA of Niagara, which is supposed to be paid $22,500 next year, because the SPCA received only 35 to 40 city dogs last year. "Someone said they laugh at us for paying that much when no one else does," Lombardi said.

email: tprohaska@buffnews.com