By Jessica Bagley
The Tonawanda News
Tonawanda News — Flags were flying high at Tuesday’s city council meeting with more than 30 representatives from American Legion Post 264 and Vietnam Veterans Chapter 77 taking part in a protest in objection to the city charging police overtime fees at events.
The demonstration marks the third time the two organizations have met with the city regarding the issue — and Tuesday, the third time was the charm.
“We are all in agreement that for the Legion, the fee is going to go away,” Council President Carleton Zeisz said.
His decision was met with applause from the audience. Among attendees was Erie County Legislator Kevin Hardwick, who came to support the groups.
The overtime policy still has to be rewritten and the council hasn’t decided which groups will have to pay for police overtime and who won’t. But it’s likely that city residents and groups won’t be responsible for covering the fee.
City of Tonawanda Treasurer Joseph M. Hogenkamp said three other organizers were charged for overtime this year — Ride for Roswell, Mueller Mile and Canal Fest.
Those three organizations aren’t considered residents of the city, and their fate has yet to be decided.
During the meeting, however, all council members voiced their support for the waiving of the fee for city groups.
“You have to consider everything they do,” Councilman Richard Slisz said. “And the Legion is the mainstay of the community.”
The vets’ 4th Annual Labor Day Car Show at Niawanda Park raised $5,000 this year, all of which went back to area groups, including Little League, softball, the food pantry and veterans’ services.
According to Hogenkamp, the city charged the two organizations $353 in overtime for one patrol officer and one lieutenant to direct traffic and patrol the event.
Martin Salmon, of the American Legion Post, said North Tonawanda told him they would host car shows free of charge, and according to City Treasurer Scott Kiedrowski, NT doesn’t have the same policy as the city — making it a cheaper option for any organizer before the policy change.
“During my tenure here, I don’t remember charging a charitable organization for an event,” Kiedrowski said.
But the veterans like the atmosphere of Niawanda Park for the late-summer event and would like to keep it there.
“The City of Tonawanda venue is the best place for it,” Salmon said.
The council also approved a The Environmental Service Group Inc. to complete Phase I work on the Niagara River Bank Stabilization Project.
“We did our background checks, and went over the bids, and are recommending them for the award,” City Engineer Jason LaMonaco said.
The project will stabilize the 700 feet of the city’s shoreline from the area behind City Hall to the boat launch.
A quarter-million dollars of the funding for the project will come from the Niagara Greenway Commission, with another $250,000 from a grant obtained by former State Sen. Antoine Thompson.
Most of the construction will be done this fall, with vegetation work, including tree and vine planting, to be completed next year.Contact reporter Jessica Bagley at 693-1000, ext. 4150.