LOCKPORT – Although no final decision was made, the Common Council seemed pleased Wednesday with a proposal from the Police Department to take charge of the Youth and Recreation Department.
“We talked about it earlier. We think it’s a good idea,” Council President Joseph C. Kibler said.
The plan put forward by community policing aide Mark Sanders and Capt. Douglas E. Haak, who also is chairman of the Youth Board, calls for the Police Department to take over all administrative functions of the youth programs, including payroll, grant applications and state compliance forms.
Haak said, “There is no angle. We’re not looking to make money. We’re not looking to increase overtime. We’re looking to be a team player and help out the City of Lockport.”
Sanders, who also is pastor of Refuge Temple, an African-American church in Lockport, said a side effect of the move would be to bring city kids into closer and more positive contact with the police.
“The kids we deal with, sometimes it’s the kids of the parents we deal with as police,” Sanders said.
The Youth and Recreation Department was reduced to one full-time employee after the Council abolished the job of Director Melissa I. Junke June 4. She was under investigation for misuse of city credit cards, but she is threatening to sue the city, claiming she was slandered by city officials during the probe.
That left the department with one full-time employee. Sanders said the city would still need someone to handle actual youth programs, but he said he could spend some of his time at the Altro Park youth headquarters, and the police could set up a neighborhood watch office there, too.
“We’re not going to put some kind of police state there,” Haak said.
The city is hoping that not-for-profit organizations could take up the slack in youth programs. Sanders said, “Even the foundations are interested to know what we’re going to do with Youth and Rec.”
“Greater collaboration with not-for-profits and community groups is a good thing for our Youth and Rec,” Mayor Anne E. McCaffrey said.
“There’s a bunch of kids 13 to 16 with nothing to do. I worry about them,” Alderwoman Kathryn J. “Kitty” Fogle said.
Sanders concurred, “A lot of these kids have never been around a man before. … We might be able to make a difference in this generation.”
On another topic, McCaffrey predicted the new parking lot on the site of the former parking ramp at Main and Pine streets would be finished by the end of next week. A final coat of blacktop and new sidewalks on both streets are all that are needed, she said.
Alderman John Lombardi III complained that the project has taken too long. Empire Dismantlement won a $1.17 million contract to tear down the old ramp and build the split-level surface lot, with 27 spaces accessible from the Pine Street entrance and 17 spaces available on the Main Street side.
Lombardi said he disapproves of the guardrails, drainage intakes and the relocation of the city’s Historic Walk of Fame.
McCaffrey said the city may have set itself up for delays when the Council altered the layout of the proposed lot late last year, after the contract was signed. “We didn’t give them eight months,” Lombardi griped.