Crime-fighting technology and entrepreneurial assistance included in Niagara Falls pandemic stimulus plans | local news

With $57.2 million available from the US bailout, Niagara Falls has plenty of pandemic stimulus money to spend and plenty of ways to spend it.

In recent days, Mayor Robert M. Restaño has announced that police, firefighters and business owners will be among the recipients of the federal funds.

As part of a $4.6 million policing package, the city will set up two police substations, one near downtown and one in LaSalle.

Neither of them will be open to the public, but both will be used as staging areas for officers, Restino explained at a press conference last week.

The locations will be Doris W. Jones Family Resource Building, 3001 Ninth St. , and a city 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 about $342,000, plus another vehicle for the Warranty Department for an additional $32,570.

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The 2021 Dodge Durangos is a step forward for the poor city, which has usually been buying used cars for its police in recent years — when it’s ever bought cars.

“Now, officers can rest easy that the cars they are working in are safe and operating properly,” Police Superintendent John Faso said in a press release.

This is the second major purchase of a police car during the month. On April 6, the board spent more than $432,000 in US bailout money on 12 more police cars. It included six Dodge chargers for detectives, three Chevrolet Tahoe SUVs for patrol use, a $39,000 Ford Interceptor for the Traffic Department, a $42,000 Tahoe for the Vice President, and a $41,000 Jeep Cherokee for the President.

$112,250 will be paid to FM Communications in Tonawanda to equip the 10 Durangos, while about $91,000 will be paid to Empire Emergency in Niagara to equip the Warrants, Chargers, Tahoes and Cherokee.

In December, the city also spent $766,000 on 90 new handguns and 90 new body cameras for police officers. The new cameras are supposed to provide better video and audio quality than the body cameras the department has been using since 2015.

Axon, the same company that makes the new body cameras and thunderbolts, has also sold the city a virtual reality training package. Officers will wear virtual reality headsets that will feed them images of a specific situation so that trainers, using a Samsung Galaxy tablet, can see their reaction. The new system will be used in the next few weeks.

The council also on April 22 approved Restino’s plan to allocate $3 million to the city’s development agency, NFC Development Corp. , for use in grants to minority and women-owned businesses.

The city has a deadline of August 31, 2024, to spend $3 million, so the application deadline has been set for April 2024.

NFC will provide grants of $50,000 to businesses owned by minorities or women, and up to $25,000 to eligible startups, according to a note from Restino to the board.

The fire department wasn’t being ignored either, thanks to a $4.8 million pandemic cash package, which is supposed to include five new fire trucks, Restino said in December.

The city has already purchased seven new thermal imaging cameras that provide clearer images and temperature readings for use by firefighters when entering burning buildings.

“These new thermal imaging cameras are a game changer for the Niagara Falls firefighters. They will literally act as the eyes of the firefighters before they enter a burning building,” said Fire Chief Joseph Pedolla.

The cameras, which cost 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. Those cost more than $152,000.

The board also approved $28,230 for new windows in 72nd Street and Bollier Avenue fire stations, plus another $15,947 for upgraded heating and air conditioning in those buildings. The contractors are Wonder Windows for Buffalo and Irr Supply centers in North Tonawanda.

“Over the years, the condition of our fire stations has fallen behind other, more pressing needs — such as new, safer equipment,” said Pedola, who described living conditions at some fire stations as “substandard.”

Additionally, business owners will soon be able to apply to the city for $700 to purchase a security kit, including surveillance cameras. Applicants must agree to provide police with any footage they need to investigate a crime, and must pay for any installation or subscription themselves.

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