Niagara Gazette —
LOCKPORT — Although he's given more State of the City addresses than any other chief executive in Lockport's history, Mayor Michael W. Tucker acknowledged Tuesday's version was a first for him.
Speaking before the Lockport Rotary Club, Tucker mentioned the throng of protesters gathering outside the Lockport Town & Country Club. The group was speaking out primarily against the laying off of seven city firefighters, which made up almost half of the total positions cut from the 2014 budget.
"This is the first year I brought an entourage with me," Tucker joked.
Over 30 protesters picketed outside the club, some swarming near the entrance on East Avenue, with others set up across the street near Davison Road. Almost all were carrying signs and heckling Tucker and other city officials as they arrived.
Kevin Pratt, Lockport Professional Firefighters Association president, said the picketing city firefighters were joined by firefighters from Niagara Falls, Tonawanda, North Tonawanda, Batavia and Buffalo. Representatives from the Niagara Orleans Labor Council were also present.
While talks with the city have not broken off, the fire union declared an impasse, which Tucker said he wasn't aware of. Pratt said Tucker isn't willing to go back to the negotiating table.
"The door's open, he doesn't want to talk," Pratt said.
Tucker said sometimes difficult financial decisions have to be made. But the city is willing to negotiate with the LPFA, he said.
"We're willing to talk," Tucker said.
With the layoffs, there are 38 city firefighters. As a result, three out of the fire department's four platoons are staffed at the bare, contractual staffing minimum, leading to more overtime, Pratt said. If a firefighter is absent for any reason, a firefighter from another platoon must be called in and paid overtime for the entire shift.