Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

December 11, 2013

Attorney expected to be retained

BY JOE OLENICK joe.olenick@lockportjournal.com
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — Although official action is at least a month away, it looks as if the environmental attorney who has been working to fight Chemical Waste Management’s bid to expand its Porter landfill will be retained by Niagara County.

The Niagara County Legislature’s Administration Committee met with Allegany attorney Gary Abraham on Tuesday evening. Abraham has been the lawyer retained by the county and the Town of Lewiston in their legal battle with CWM since 2004.

A resolution calling for the extension of Abraham’s retainer was referred in October by county lawmakers to the committee. Members of the Republican-led majority said then the referral was needed to give them an opportunity to meet with Abraham and discuss his ongoing work.

After speaking with Abraham, the committee went into a 45-minute closed-door executive session to talk costs and legal strategy.

Following Tuesday’s meeting, Legislator Clyde Burmaster, R-Ransomville said he believes the county and town can work together in a united front. One of the items being addressed is the lack of a formal agreement between Lewiston and Niagara County. Lawmakers will receive six-months updates as well.

“We had a good meeting,” Burmaster said. “There are some improvements that can be made on the resolution. But we will put the money in. We’ll pursue this as soon as we can put the proper wording together. There’s been a solid relationship between us and I’m sure we will continue seamlessly.”

Work on amending the resolution will begin immediately. Legislature Chairman Bill Ross, C-Wheatfield, said he hopes for an agreement to be in place within a month.

Lewiston has already agreed to pay its $50,000 share, ensuring Abraham will keep working over the next few months. CWM’s application for the landfill expansion is nearing completion, Abraham said.

In other county news, committee members will consider a change to the health plan of non-union county workers and retirees.

A resolution the committee saw Tuesday would cut the premium health plan by Jan. 1, 2015 for workers and retirees. It would also eliminate Medicare Part B premium reimbursement for non-union retirees who retire on or after Jan. 1, 2015.

If approved, the bill would require all non-union employees to contribute 10 percent of the monthly cost for healthcare, effective July 1, 2014. That’s with the exception of assistant district attorneys, who would start contributing Jan. 1, 2014. The director of real property tax service, the economic development commissioner and election commissioners will all begin contributing by Jan. 1, 2015.

The Medicare reimbursement would be replaced by Niagara County Medicare Advantage or a future comparable plan. Lawmakers tabled the healthcare changes, as they just received the resolution Tuesday and didn’t have time to thoroughly look through it.

Also Tuesday, the administration committee tabled a resolution for providing space for the state Workers’ Compensation Board Office.

The office’s last Niagara County location closed last month, meaning residents would have to go to Erie or Genesse counties for hearings. Traveling to Buffalo or Batavia could be a difficulty for some, said Minority Caucus Leader Dennis Virtuoso, D-Niagara Falls.

The resolution would call for opening a new location, at no charge to the county, somewhere in Niagara by requesting the state Workers’ Compensation Board to keep the Lockport location open or open an additional location within the county.

That additional location could be the council chambers at Lockport City Hall, the Legislature’s chambers at the county court house or in Niagara Falls. Committee members decided to hold off until more information was provided on the amount of people who would attend, as well as some technical issues.

Contact reporter Joe Olenick at 439-9222, ext. 6241 or follow him on Twitter @joeolenick.