Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

August 22, 2013

Bed tax staying at 4 percent for three more years

Staff reports
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — The city’s 4 percent bed tax will stay in effect for another three years after the Common Council approved its extension Wednesday.

Bed tax is a 4 percent surcharge on all hotel/motel room rentals within city limits. The tax is collected by the city treasurer’s office and proceeds are committed to tourism/economic development only.

The lion’s share of the roughly $85,000-a-year collection is pledged to the Niagara Tourism & Convention Corporation, which is under contract with Niagara County to promote “Niagara USA” — falls, lake, river and canal regions — as a touring destination.

City administrators declined to pursue the state’s OK to raise the local bed tax to 5 percent this year, even as multiple tourism/economic development interests — including the Lockport Locks Heritage District Committee — have put out feelers for public funding of their ventures.

The city can approach the state any time for the OK to raise the rate; changes are not tied to the local law OK’ing the bed tax for three-year periods, according to Council President Anne McCaffrey. The Council reapproved the tax as is because it was set to expire Dec. 1 and the city wouldn’t be able to get the state’s OK — basically by a change in state tax law — before then, she said.

In other business, the Council OK’d an agreement with the state whereby the Department of Transportation will pay the city $1,000 for two right-of-way land parcels on the north side of Lincoln Avenue, 15-by-18 feet and 15-by-80 feet. D.O.T. is acquiring land for the reconstruction of Lincoln Avenue between Beattie and Akron roads.

According to 4th Ward Alderman Patrick Schrader, the project calls for addition of sidewalk on both sides of Lincoln; on the north, or city, side, sidewalk will be added between Nixon Place and Davison Road. Construction is set to begin next spring, Schrader said.

Also, the Council approved the Lockport Monday Night Cruise Optimist Club’s use of streets around Ida Fritz Park on Sept. 9. The club is adding a Cruise Night beyond Labor Day, which traditionally has been the last cruise day of the season, in the event next Monday’s cruise-in, featuring Elvis impersonator Terry Buchwald, is rained out. If so, Buchwald would perform on the 9th as a rain date, according to Schrader.

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Separate of the Council meeting, Police Chief Lawrence Eggert addressed the Council and the public on the topic of the LPD-marked Corvette that’s been seen around the city. A few complaints have surfaced since Eggert started driving the sports car to public events.

The Corvette was given to L.P.D. by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency as the city’s “cut” of proceeds from drug assets seized by a Buffalo-based D.E.A. task force. L.P.D. gets a cut because it contributes an officer to the task force.

Since a Lockport officer joined in 2010, the department has netted seven vehicles, quantities of gold and silver and several hundred thousand dollars’ cash. Federal rules require the department hang onto property for two years before selling it, Eggert said, so he got the OK to drive it in the meantime.

The black Corvette bears the L.P.D. insignia, the logo of its Gang Resistance Education And Training (G.R.E.A.T.) program for middle-school students and, on its rear bumper, the phrase “courtesy of your local drug dealer.”

Eggert said he thinks the Corvette sends a message about L.P.D.’s hands-on role in combatting regional drug trafficking.

“In two years, we’ll sell it and raise enough money to buy a new patrol car,” so city taxpayers don’t have to, he added.