By Jill Terreri
There doesn't seem to be a neighborhood issue Council President Rich Fontana won't take on. Even if it means staking out a problem neighborhood store at 3 a.m.
A man had applied to the city to open a shop that sold tobacco in Lovejoy, which requires approval from the Common Council. Michael Montanez told lawmakers that the product he would be selling - known as e-liquid cigarettes - would help people reduce their dependence on nicotine.
But Fontana said the results of his "investigation" indicated that customers at the building where the store is located would be hooked on something much more potent.
Fontana had heard complaints about narcotics activities at 1190 Lovejoy St. and wanted to see for himself. At 3 a.m., he took his wife's car - to disguise himself - and was flagged down as he drove by.
"They say, what can we get you?" he said.
A person in a chair was selling drugs from the front of the store, he said. The alleged dealer then asked Fontana if he was a cop.
The episode was relayed during a Council committee meeting earlier this week, when Montanez sought approval to open the store.
"I want you to be successful," Fontana told Montanez, who did not appear to be at the store when Fontana staked it out. "You cannot have drug dealers offering the Council president drugs at 3 in the morning."
Montanez said he would put in motion detection and a surveillance system, but Fontana asked why people were in the store at that hour, and refuted an earlier explanation he had been given.
"They were not painting," Fontana said. "It was complete and utter illegal activity."
Montanez distanced himself from what was going on at the store, but Fontana said he must be able to control it, even in the middle of the night.
The store will have an uphill battle getting Council approval, but Fontana said he's willing to hear from the store owner and the landlord before he makes a decision.
Buffalo Police are also working on the issue, Fontana said.
taggedCity of Buffalo | Common Council | Rich Fontana