By Mike Pidanick
North Tonawanda officially has a new city attorney.
Luke Brown, formerly the assistant city attorney who had been serving in the top spot in an interim role, was officially sworn in as city attorney by Mayor Arthur G. Pappas during Tuesday's Common Council meeting.
"In the time that Luke has been here, he's done an outstanding job, which has been recognized by every department here at City Hall and our city," Pappas said. "Not only do we have a well-qualified person, but ... for consistency's sake, and because of all the changes, I think this is a very good move."
Brown, a 2000 graduate of North Tonawanda High School, earned a bachelor's degree from Canisius College in 2004 and then received his law degree at the University at Buffalo in 2007. He replaces Katherine Alexander, who became a City Court judge in December. Brown had been serving as assistant city attorney since last February.
"I have been here over a year now and I have learned a lot," Brown said. "I promise you that I will keep working hard for each and every one of you. I will be working hard for the city's best interest."
In other news
•The council also accepted the resignation of Alderwoman-at-Large Cathy Schwandt, who had been on the board for 18 years.
Schwandt is leaving her position to pursue a full-time opportunity with the New York Power Authority.
In a press release, she said "It has been an honor and a privilege to work for the wonderful people of North Tonawanda for nearly 18 years." She added, "I have met so many amazing people who care so deeply about this city. While our community has had its share of challenges over the years, and will continue to do so in the future, I am so thankful for the time I have had on the Common Council."
During Tuesday's meeting, Alderman-at-Large Robert Pecoraro, said, "It's been a pleasure working with you and really learning from the master; you've been with the council for so long."
As she usually does, Schwandt started her closing remarks by thanking the audience for attending and participating. She then shared her appreciation for her fellow board members.
Schwandt's resignation will be effective Feb. 1.
As the Tribune was going to press on Wednesday, Alderman Phillip R. "Russ" Rizzo announced he would retire from public service next month. Rizzo released the following statement: "Serving my neighbors in North Tonawanda has been the greatest privilege of my life. I have always strived to deliver effective representation for the first ward and principled leadership for our city as council president.
"In particular, I'm proud that on my watch, we alleviated flooding issues on Witmer Road, gave our auxiliary police the tools they needed, and continued our progress in redeveloping North Tonawanda's downtown into an upscale destination.
"As many of you know, I have had my fair share of challenges this year, but was recently given a clean bill of health by my doctor. While I have loved working to make NT a stronger community, this gave me the opportunity to reflect, and I came to the realization that I had accomplished all the goals I set when I first decided to run for office.
"That realization, and a belief that our city would be well served by bringing in some fresh ideas, is why I have decided to make Feb. 2 my last day in office. I wish Mayor Pappas and my colleagues on the Council success in all things, and I leave with nothing but love for this great city and her people."
•Several residents - including some from nearby towns, such as Wheatfield and Wilson - used the public portion of the meeting to discuss concerns with bids for the whitewater treatment plant storm project involving biodegradable waste being used as fertilizer.
Board members heard the statements and reiterated that no decisions will be made without proper discussions.
"As it stands now, it almost doesn't exist other than it was an idea that was proposed," Pappas said. "That's as far as it's going to go until this council discusses it and the public has their opportunity. We want to be very sure that what we're doing in this town is very safe for our citizens."