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Poor Paul Dyster. When it comes to the important position of city engineer, he just can't seem to catch a break.

Shortly after he took office, Dyster fired then-city engineer Bob Curtis, who had been appointed by Vince Anello. The firing was unfortunate, because the Main Street courthouse construction project was in full swing, and the contractor on the job -- Ciminelli Construction -- was issuing change orders right and left, driving the cost of the project up to astronomical heights.

With no city engineer in place to provide oversight, the $22 million project quickly mushroomed into a $50 million boondoggle that taxpayers here will be paying for 50 years from now.

Dyster then conducted one of his famous nationwide searches for the best engineer that money could buy. Ali Marzban came to the city from Iran via Texas and California and stayed until the Niagara Falls Reporter discovered he was unlicensed to practice engineering anywhere in the United States.

The mayor tried to save face by saying that Marzban was fired for mysterious reasons he couldn't go into and not because he was completely unqualified for the job, but the damage had already been done. Marzban illegally signed off on the disastrous Lewiston Road project.

The road was closed in August 2009, and Marzban told the gullible stenographers at the Niagara Gazette it would cost $7.7 million and take 24 months to complete. Twenty-two months later, the project is around 25 percent complete and more than $1.4 million over budget. A spokesman for the contractor said that an additional $8 or $9 million would be needed to complete the project.

Then, last week, Dyster ousted his most recent engineer hire, Tom Radomski, for not adhering to the city's strict residency requirement. Oddly, he took no action against the other six or seven high-ranking members of his administration who likewise don't live in the city, but he wasted no time in telling the City Council he needed an extra $50,000 in emergency funds to hire an outside engineer who doesn't live in the city either.

LiRo Engineering is expected to get the work.

Best known for doing $100,000 worth of engineering on the vendor booths along Old Falls Street that will never be built, LiRo was also overseeing the courthouse project -- and collecting $168,000 a year -- as costs spiraled out of control.

Perhaps coincidentally, LiRo principal David Jaros is a strong supporter of Dyster.

And unfortunately for him, our damaged mayor will need all the support he can get heading into the fall elections.

Niagara Falls Reporter www.niagarafallsreporter.com May 31, 2011