The Tonawanda City Council on Tuesday passed a resolution that requires its approval for all travel requests by city employees, except for those in the police and fire departments.
The new requirement, passed by a 4-1 vote, is a departure from the traditional arrangement in which those requests were handled by the mayor’s office.
“The [city] charter says the mayor approves all day-to-day operations with the budget, so, basically, [the Council] is moving into territory that’s not their authority,” said Council President Carleton R. Zeisz, who cast the lone no vote.
Third Ward Council Member Richard A. Slisz, who sponsored the resolution, said the City Council, as a body that plays a role in the city budget process, should have some authority in reviewing and approving travel requests by city employees.
“I’ve been on the Council for three years. I have never heard once who traveled, what they did and how much it cost us,” Slisz said. “My resolution basically states, 'We want to know who … is traveling where, why and when, and what was the cost?’
“We have $5,000 in the budget that the mayor controls for outside travel, but we spent $10,000 to $15,000 a year for the last two years,” Slisz added.
Mayor Ronald J. Pilozzi disputed those figures, but acknowledged that he did not have the exact totals on hand with him at Tuesday night’s meeting.
In other action, lawmakers tried to assure residents and laborers in the city’s Department of Public Works that there were no imminent plans for the city to subcontract with a private waste-hauling firm to retrieve and dispose of household waste and recyclables. Zeisz said it was negotiated in the city laborers’ current contract that the city may reopen the contract to discuss the possibility of subcontracting those services, but no agreement has been made to pursue subcontracting.
Several members of the union and a few residents attended Tuesday’s meeting to voice opposition to such a plan. They argued there was no guarantee that waste disposal costs would be reduced if such operations were privatized, and charged that outside workers for a private firm would not have the same vested interests as city workers who also live in the city.