NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. (WKBW) — The City of Niagara Falls is now searching for a new police superintendent and fire chief.
It comes after the resignation of Fire Chief Thomas Colangelo in mid-November and notice by Police Superintendent Bryan DalPorto that he will resign effective January 1st.
The resignations will allow both men to return to rank and file union jobs within their departments.
According to Niagara Falls City Administrator Nick Melson, the move will enable Colangelo and DalPorto to make more money and earn better retirement benefits.
"If you want to get good people, you have to pay for good people," added Melson.
Neither Superintendent DalPorto nor Fire Chief Colangelo were going to get a pay raise in 2019 as their $110,000 salaries were not increased in the city's newly adopted budget.
However, the resignations have opened a debate about increasing the position salaries to attract and keep qualified people in the demanding 24/7 jobs.
City Administrator Melson believes the two positions should command salaries in the $150,000 - $160,000 range.
"We have elementary school principals here in the city who are in line to make more than the police superintendent," added Melson.
Niagara Falls has a population of close to 49,000 people, according to the U.S. Census Bureau for 2017.
Binghamton, N.Y. has a similar population with 45,000 people. Binghamton police and fire chiefs make nearly $4,000/year more than their counterparts in Niagara Falls.
The big question is how would Niagara Falls pay for any salary increases, especially as it has struggled financially, in part, due to lack of casino funds from the Seneca Nation of Indians in its dispute with New York State over payments to host communities.
The Seneca's believe they have fulfilled the requirements of a gaming compact with NYS regarding the payments. The issue is now before an arbitrator.
While NYS Governor Andrew Cuomo promised Niagara Falls it would get its $12 million share of casino money in 2019, Niagara Falls Councilman Bill Kennedy believes the money should be used for infrastructure improvements and not for salaries.
"We can't keep putting band aids on the problem," Kennedy told 7 Eyewitness News Reporter Ed Reilly.
The councilman said growing the city and increasing revenues are a better way to increase the police/fire chiefs salaries.
"We have to live within our means," added Kennedy.
Ed Reilly has more in the attached report
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