County, city leaders open to restarting police dispatch talks

Mayor Michelle Roman says she intends to reopen negotiations with Hickory Club, the Lockport police officers union, for consolidated police dispatch. 

At the end of last year, negotiations reached a standstill, and as a result, so did the possibility of Lockport Police Department joining the county's dispatch frequency. 

"We’re going to reopen talks with the union because of the new sheriff. We might be able to work something out with them," Roman told the Union-Sun & Journal last week.

Recent repairs that Police Chief Steven Abbott made to LPD's dispatching system brought it back from potential total failure to 100% functionality and that also fosters a more hospitable climate for consolidation talks, Roman said.

"It’s not pressured emergency negotiating anymore. It’s, let’s do this and make sure it’s done right," she said, adding that her main concern in negotiations is the safety of city residents. 

Roman's renewal of negotiations comes after 5th Ward Alderman Rick Abbott reiterated his belief, during a Common Council meeting last week, that the city needs to join the county dispatch system. 

"We have a very old and antiquated system that needs to be upgraded for the welfare of the city of Lockport and its residents. It is actually depriving services to the people of Lockport and we need to upgrade the communication," Abbott said. "We owe it to the taxpayers to increase or to ante up our negotiations with (Hickory Club) and I think we need to have that as one of the first priorities for the city of Lockport."

This past October, the Niagara County Legislature approved a resolution offering the city a separate frequency on the county dispatch system at no additional cost, but the funding for that was not included in the 2020 county budget. The resolution made the offer contingent on an agreement between the city and Hickory Club, and no agreement was reached before the 2020 county budget was adopted. 

County Manager Richard Updegrove said although the money is not in this year's budget the county is always interested in exploring opportunities to share services. 

"Relative to dispatch ... it is not in the county 2020 budget, but we do not want to close any doors and in the spirit of cooperation the county administration would be open to meeting with the city, the Lockport police union and the county sheriff ... to explore a workable solution," Updegrove said. 

Acting Sheriff Michael Filicetti said shared or solo dispatching is Lockport's call and his office is open to accommodating dispatch consolidation.  

Hickory Club President Kevin Lucinski did not respond to a request for comment Monday.

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