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Common Council Report

More cameras, mystery audits, landscaping legalities, chicken coops, and running backs

■ Buffalo residents will soon see 52 new surveillance cameras on the streets that city officials hope will combat crime. The city first began installing cameras in 2007 under Brown’s administration, backed by the Common Council. But councilmembers want more input as to where they’re being installed. The cameras are being concentrated in business areas, but feels they’re needed in residential areas as well. After a shooting Monday evening at Herkimer Street, between West Ferry Street and Auburn Avenue, Niagara Councilmember David Rivera is even more concerned about safety in his district. “I still believe strongly for the need in residential areas,” Rivera says. “We want to prevent guns, gangs and drugs.”

The cameras – which could cost between $2.2 million and $3.7 million depending on the model purchased – are being paid for through state and federal grants. Each camera costs almost $50,000. The city uses three criteria to determine where the cameras will go: homeland security risks, protecting economic and business development and areas with high crime.

■ The Comptroller’s Office is staying tight-lipped about several audits they’re conducting, including one alleging city employees received multiple salaries. The Council wants more information, but the Audit Department won’t offer parameters, who they’re investigating or how much money is in question. South District Councilmember Michael Kearns insists the Council isn’t trying to control the audits, but they just want to be able to pass along information to constituents. Tony Farina, executive assistant to the comptroller, estimates results will be released by late July to early August.

■ Some councilmembers want to eliminate the warning period for homeowners to cut their grass before being fined. Current procedure states that after a citation by an officer, the homeowner has a grace period to cut the grass before being issued a fine. However, some councilmembers believe that by eliminating the grace period and just issuing the fine first, absentee landlords will get the message and cut their lawns to avoid paying out a second time. “Landlords don’t understand yelling, but they will understand a fine,” says Lovejoy District Councilmember Richard Fontana. Masten District Councilmember Demone Smith agreed, saying, “If we delay the process, the grass gets higher.”

■ During a committee meeting last week, parameters of an amendment to city law that would allow backyard chickens were debated. The parley has been going on since April, when West Side residents Monique Watts and Blair Woods had their chickens taken away by animal control officers and were informed that the animals were illegal in the city. Since then, with help from what she calls a “chicken task force,” Watts has taken up the cause to get her chickens back, which provide her with fresh eggs and garden fertilizer. Stipulations of the amendment include a $25 license fee, a limit of no more than five hens per household and a requirement that they must be kept in a fenced-in yard.

■ Thurman Thomas paid a quick visit to the Common Council chambers Tuesday to receive a plaque recognizing his Thurman Thomas Sports program, which provides coaching for young athletes.

ellen przepasniak

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