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North Tonawanda residents get wrong water bills

North Tonawanda residents have received incorrect water bills due to a printing error, city officials announced this afternoon.

The quarterly bills that were mailed were duplicates of residents' June bills. Residents will have additional time to pay the bills, the city said.

4:18 p.m.: The city's vendor, who has agreed to cover all the costs of the second printing and mailing, is American Business Solutions.

3:59 p.m.: The city issued the following statement about the situation this afternoon:

"The water bills that were recently mailed to all residents are incorrect as the result of a printing error on the part of the City’s vendor. The bills are a duplicate of the June bill.

The City contracts with a vendor to print and mail the City Water bills. The vendor has acknowledged that the error was on their end and was through no fault of the City. The vendor has also assured the City that taxpayers will not incur any additional cost as the result having to reprint and re-mail the third quarter water bills. Residents can expect a replacement bill by the end of the week. The due date will be extended to September 20, 2010. The City apologizes for this inconvenience to our residents.

Residents with questions can contact the Water department at 695-8531."

--Aaron Besecker

Beach at Wilson Tuscarora State Park reopens

The beach in Wilson Tuscarora State Park in Wilson has reopened to swimmers, state parks officials announced this afternoon.

The state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation temporarily closed the beach on Sunday after heavy rains, which are typically followed by increased bacteria levels in the water.

Results of water sampling were "satisfactory" to reopen the water to swimmers, officials said in a press release today.

Beach at Wilson Tuscarora State Park temporarily closed

State parks officials have announced the temporary closure of the beach at Wilson Tuscarora State Park to swimmers. For more details, visit this post at Buffalo News Live.

Audio and images: Lockport developer's proposal for NCCC culinary institute

One of three renderings Lockport developer David L. Ulrich sent to Niagara County Community College President James P. Klyczek for a proposal to locate the proposed culinary arts institute on Canal Street in Lockport.

With no deal yet in place for a proposed hospitality and tourism center in Niagara Falls, Lockport developer David L. Ulrich has thrown a Lockport site into the ring.

Click here to read the story from this morning's paper about the Ulrich's initial pitch to Niagara Community College for the Canal Street block.

6:48 p.m.: Read Ulrich's letter to the college.

Attached to the letter were three pages of renderings. Check out a rendering of the institute, along with a rendering of a site overview and parking.

Here's the site plan rendering.

5:32 p.m.: I spoke with NCCC President James P. Klyczek about Ulrich's proposal after Wednesday's board of trustees meeting. He said the Rainbow Centre mall site in Niagara Falls remains his "preferred" choice for a location. Take a listen to some of our conversation:

I also talked with Bonnie R. Gifford, chair of the college's board of trustees, who says she was impressed by Ulrich's proposal. Here's a clip from our chat:

--Aaron Besecker

Rejection of proposed job merger draws union criticism from NT mayor

   A city union has rejected a proposal to combine superintendent jobs for two utilities in North Tonawanda and Lockport into one position, a move North Tonawanda Mayor Robert G. Ortt says could have saved the city about $60,000.

   The proposal would have combined the utilities director job in Lockport with the water and wastewater superintendent post in North Tonawanda.

   City officials have been negotiating an intermunicipal agreement with the City of Lockport, and needed a sign-off from the local unit of the Office and Professional Employees International Union, which represents the city's department heads.

   The new combined job would not be included in the North Tonawanda department head union initially, but would become one in 18 months under a verbal agreement with the union, said Ortt, who announced the results of the union vote during his 2011 budget presentation in Common Council Chambers on Tuesday evening.

   Ortt called the union's move "a turf battle" and "a power play."

   "So this is a union, a public employees union, protecting their own at the cost to the rest of the taxpayers," Ortt said. "It's outrageous."

Listen to a portion of Ortt's reaction here:

   The proposal called for the cities to share a director for its water and sewer departments, both of which already are combined under one superintendent in each city.

   While at first the new combined post would not be a position in the North Tonawanda union, an agreement had been reached for the job to become a union post in North Tonawanda 18 months after the job was combined.

   The union needed to sign off on the deal for contractual reasons.

   The result of Tuesday's union vote was 5-4. One department head was absent from the meeting and, therefore, did not cast a vote.

   Acting Wastewater Superintendent and Public Works Superintendent Gary J. Franklin said the majority of the union members believes combining the two jobs, while maintaining current staffing levels, creates a position with more responsibility than one person can handle. Such a deal is not in North Tonawanda's "best interests," he said.

   "It is not a turf situation. It is not we want control of the situation," Franklin said today. "It's not that at all. The fact of the matter is we're being asked to endorse something that we don't think is going to work the way it's put together right now."

   Franklin, the president of the local department head unit, and City Engineer Dale W. Marshall, who is the acting water superintendent for the city, have taken on those additional roles since former Superintendent Paul J. Drof left to take the top job with the Niagara Falls Water Board in April. Neither has received an increase in compensation for the extra duties.

   Earlier this year, the union endorsed a proposal to combine the utilities superintendent jobs in Niagara Falls and North Tonawanda, though that was rejected by North Tonawanda city officials.

   Ortt said he believes the union's taken two different positions on a proposed job merger, supporting one where they retain a union member.

   Franklin countered, saying the proposed merger with the Falls would put a person familiar with the North Tonawanda system -- Drof -- in charge. The proposed agreement with Lockport would result in having Paula Sattelberg, that city's current utilities director, in the post, and she is unfamiliar with the North Tonawanda system, said Franklin, who called Sattelberg "well qualified" for the combined job.

   Under the proposed job merger, the new director would split time between the two cities, Franklin said.

   City officials spent a significant amount of time working with union leaders on the deal, and the city had spent "weeks and weeks waiting" for the union's decision, Ortt said.

Here's more of Ortt's reaction:

   The mayor also vowed to hold city department heads accountable for the result of their votes.

   Ortt was visibly frustrated at the news of the union's decision, which he said he learned from Franklin before Tuesday's Council workshop.

   "This is exactly what's wrong with this city, with the county, with the state, with the country I would even say," Ortt said. "I'm furious."

   The cities of Lockport, North Tonawanda and Niagara Falls have undertaken a study on whether they can merge water and sewer systems. One of the alternatives proposed as a result of the study, Ortt said, would include Lockport having its drinking water treated and distributed from North Tonawanda facilities, along with the elimination of the Lockport plant and work force.

Here's the full audio of the discussion among city leaders (7 min 35 sec):

--Aaron Besecker

NT mayor proposes 7.8 percent tax increase

North Tonawanda Mayor Robert G. Ortt has proposed a 7.8 percent property tax increase under his budget plan for next year.

10:44 a.m. Aug. 11: Click here to read my story from last night's meeting.

5:17 p.m. Aug. 10: Ortt, members of the Common Council, City Accountant David R. Jakubaszek and other city officials are scheduled to discuss the spending plan during a workshop in City Hall tonight. The budget discussion is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. in the city clerk-treasurer's office.

The meeting is open to the public.

Here's a pdf file of Ortt's official budget message.

--Aaron Besecker

'Ghost Cars' story in USA Today includes NT woman

A North Tonawanda woman who was pulled over for speeding by an unmarked police car was quoted in a recent USA Today story.

In a piece about the increased use of "ghost cars" by police departments across the country, Reanna Darone told the newspaper she was pulled over by an officer in an unmarked Ford Fusion.

Read the story here. (An earlier version of the story in which Darone was included is no longer on USA Today's website.)

Advisory board-sponsored talk on radiological contamination at NU

A Washington State University professor who has studied radiological contamination will speak tonight at Niagara University in a session sponsored by the Lake Ontario Ordnance Works Restoration Advisory Board.

Read more at the Buffalo News Live blog.