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NORTH TONAWANDA – The Common Council plans to take advantage of some donated items, including the Niagara County Sheriff’s Office’s former mobile command unit.

City Fire Chief John C. Lapham outlined a plan to upgrade the Sheriff’s Office’s 1991, 36-foot Alero, which he said was donated to the city for $1 this past December due to the efforts of former Niagara County Legislators Paul B. Wojtaszek and Peter E. Smolinski.

“When I saw the new command post, I was the first person on the list requesting it,” Lapham said of the office’s old unit. He noted that the city had no mobile command unit prior to this and that firefighters were working out of the backs of their vehicles.

Lapham said the command unit would be used as a home base and incident command center in cases of big fires, police emergencies and large-scale events. He said it has not been put into service yet, but he said they plan to use it at the upcoming Canal Fest, July 13 to 20.

“It’s so important to get commanders in one place to make the decisions rather than running around the block to try to reach out to people,” Lapham said.

The city receives money from the state through a Local Emergency Management Participation Grant – a total of $49,000 over the past three years and $16,532 in 2014 – and Lapham wants the city to use a portion of this money, $4,100, to upgrade the command unit.

The fire chief said the command unit already has radios that allow it to be used in both North Tonawanda and the City of Tonawanda, but he told the Council that he wants to add a computer printer, dry erase boards to keep track of incidents, two programmable message boards that can be used outside of the unit to transmit information, 10 or 12 command ID vests and two video displays.

“It’s in decent condition, but we’d like to upgrade it and make it more efficient and useful for the city,” Lapham told the Council.

Lapham said that in the future, he’d like to use state funding to purchase a camera that can be mounted on the command unit.

“You will be able to zoom in without putting a guy in there,” Lapham said.

The new mobile command unit will be set up in a Manhattan Street parking lot, off Goundry Street, a short distance removed from the main strip. It will be available for emergency services and for emergency workers to stop and refuel and relax.

The board also discussed another donation Tuesday.

Wells Fargo Asset Services wrote to the city and offered to donate a house at 437 Kohl St., plus $6,000 to fix it up.

The donation program is part of a service to donate properties to cities and public nonprofits to both stabilize neighborhoods and provide homeownership opportunities to low- to moderate-income families.

email: nfischer@buffnews.com