SALAMANCA — A former Salamanca police officer has been re-hired as a new officer to perform traffic stops in the city for commercial vehicles.
The Common Council Wednesday authorized creating a Civil Service Police Officer position and further reinstated Kori Kowalski to the part-time position.
Kowalski, who works for the town of Hamburg in commercial vehicle enforcement, would perform traffic stops of tractor-trailers in the city.
“We’re worried about safety components when it comes to commercial vehicles,” he explained in a presentation for the council. “Based on my experience with the town of Hamburg, what I’m seeing is a lot of serious critical safety issues in regards to breaks.”
In addition to the usual trucks with 53-foot trailers, Kowalski said commercial vehicles include anything 10,000 pounds or heavier, which would include box trucks, landscape trucks and similar work vehicles.
Working with the state Department of Transportation, Kowalski said he’s started going into smaller communities that might not have the opportunity to perform stops. He said he has been working in Ellicottville as well.
“I’d like to offer this opportunity to the city of Salamanca to come down, facilitate a relationship with DOT, work inside the city and make the streets safer when it comes to commercial vehicle traffic,” he said.
Kowalski, a certified drug recognition expert, said there are also cases of commercial vehicle operators who are impaired by methamphetamine and marijuana in their systems. He said if there is a commercial vehicle accident in the city, he can perform inspections to see if the accident was from a mechanical or driver error.
In addition to safety inspections, Kowalski said stops would also look into illegal trafficking, including drugs, weapons and cash, happening on Route 219 and Interstate 86. He said 30% of any bulk cash confiscated during an inspection would go to the city.
“When it comes to patrol, a lot of officers may not be aware or are just intimated by a huge commercial vehicle,” he said. “It’s not uncommon to have tractor-trailers with $1 million plus in cash from Cartell. A lot of times they’re using the 219 to get down to (Washington, D.C.)”
For the routine traffic stops, Kowalski said they would need a vacant lot somewhere in the city for trucks to pull into for inspections.
“I haven’t looked geographically yet at what you have, but I’m sure you have some space in order to facilitate that,” he added.
IN OTHER BUSINESS, the council authorized submitting a New York State and Municipal Facilities Program grant application for $50,000 for upgrades to the city fire station.
The fire department is house in the city municipal building constructed in 1974. Although other areas of the building have seen upgrades since then, the fire station has not.
Fire Chief Tom Sturdevant said a renovation project has been discussed before and plans have been put in place to update much of the existing space, including the seven overhead doors and openers for the fire truck and ambulance bay. He said the cost to repair or replace them would be about $35,000.
Additionally, a bathroom, shower and locker room area for female firefighters is now needed with the recent hire of a female firefighter to the department, Sturdevant said. The plan is to renovate the restroom area for the public utilities office adjacent to the fire station to accommodate a female firefighter, expected to cost $8,000 to $10,000.
The final $5,000 of the grant would be engineering costs to do a study on the space.
The council also approved the appointments of Courtney James and Harley Kettle, both of Salamanca, as city firefighters with one-year probation effective Sept. 27.
Baylee Klusek, of Salamanca, was appointed a part-time recreation attendant at the Salamanca Youth Center effective Sept. 8.
ALSO OF NOTE, the council authorized the Salamanca VFW Post 5296 to sell beer in Jefferson Street Park during the annual Falling Leaves Festival Oct. 1-3.
Also concerning the festival, the council authorized closing Jefferson Street from South Main Street to Park Avenue and the east lane of Park Avenue for Oct. 1-3.
On Oct. 2, Main Street will be closed for Sycamore Avenue to the Broad and Clinton streets intersection for a car show. On Oct. 3, sections of Main, Atlantic, Church and Broad streets will be closed for the Grande Parade beginning at 11:30 a.m. until after the parade.