With $57.2 million available under the U.S. bailout, Niagara Falls has plenty of pandemic stimulus money to spend and plenty of ways to spend it.
In recent days, Mayor Robert M. Restaino announced that police, firefighters and business owners will be among the recipients of federal funds.
As part of a $4.6 million policing program, the City will set up two police sub-stations, one near downtown and the other in LaSalle.
Neither will be open to the public, but both will be used as staging areas for officers, Restaino explained at a news conference last week.
The locations will be the Doris W. Jones Family Resource Building, 3001 Ninth St., and the city’s water treatment plant, 5815 Buffalo Ave.
At a special meeting on April 22, the city council approved the purchase of 10 new police patrol cars for approximately $342,000, plus another car reserved for the division of warrants for an additional $32,570. .
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The 2021 Dodge Durangos are a step up for the impoverished city, which has usually bought used cars for its police in recent years — when it bought any vehicles at all.
“Now officers can be confident that the cars they work in are safe and working properly,” Police Commissioner John Faso said in a news release.
This was the second major police vehicle purchase of the month. On April 6, the Council spent more than $432,000 in US bailout money for 12 more police vehicles. They included six Dodge Chargers for detectives, three Chevrolet Tahoe SUVs for patrol, a $39,000 Ford Interceptor for the traffic division, a $42,000 Tahoe for the deputy chief, and a $41,000 Jeep Cherokee for leader.
Town of Tonawanda’s FM Communications will receive $112,250 to outfit the 10 Patrol Durangos, while the City of Niagara’s Empire Emergency Apparatus will receive approximately $91,000 to outfit the Warrants vehicle, Chargers, Tahoes and Cherokees .
In December, the city also spent $766,000 on 90 new Tasers and 90 new body cameras for police officers. The new cameras are supposed to provide higher quality video and sound than the body cameras the department has used since 2015.
Axon, the same company that makes the new bodycams and Tasers, also sold the city a virtual reality training package. Officers will wear virtual reality headsets that provide them with images of a given situation so that instructors, using a Samsung Galaxy tablet, can see how they react. The new system will go live in the coming weeks.
On April 22, the Council also approved Restaino’s plan to allocate $3 million to the city’s development agency, NFC Development Corp., to be used in grants to minority-owned businesses and women.
The city has a deadline of August 31, 2024 to spend the $3 million. The deadline for applications has therefore been set for April 2024.
NFC will offer grants of $50,000 to existing minority or women-owned businesses, and up to $25,000 for eligible startups, according to a memo from Restaino to the Council.
The fire department hasn’t been ignored either, thanks to a $4.8 million pandemic cash package that’s supposed to include five new fire trucks, Restaino said in December.
The city has already purchased seven new thermal imaging cameras, providing sharper images and temperature readings that firefighters can use when entering burning buildings.
“These new thermal imaging cameras are a game changer for firefighters in Niagara Falls,” said Fire Chief Joseph Pedulla. “They will literally serve as the eyes of firefighters before they even enter a burning building.”
The cameras, costing about $4,200 each, came from Dival Fire & EMS Supplies of Buffalo, as did 90 new sets of hoses and fittings for air packs used by firefighters. These cost over $152,000.
Council also approved $28,230 for new windows in the 72nd Street and Bollier Avenue fire stations, and another $15,947 for heating and air conditioning upgrades in those buildings. The contractors are Wonder Windows of Buffalo and Irr Supply Centers of North Tonawanda.
“Over the years, the state of our fire stations has taken precedence over other more pressing needs, such as new, safer equipment,” said Pedulla, who called living conditions at some of the stations of “substandard” firefighters.
In addition, merchants will soon be able to ask the City for $700 to buy a security kit, including surveillance cameras. Applicants must agree to provide the police with any images they need for a criminal investigation, and they must pay installation or subscription fees themselves.