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By Frank Parlato Jr.

It's now too late in the Niagara Falls summer tourist season to construct the proposed storefront/outside booths on Old Falls Street, even though about $150,000 of taxpayer money was set aside for LiRo Engineering of Buffalo to study and draw design plans for about 10 booths.

They won't be built this year, if ever.

It's not clear how much LiRo will bill the city for its design work, but it is certain these simple vending booths -- meant for locals to sell goods to passing tourists on their way to the Niagara Falls State Park -- could have been built for less than what will be spent to study and design them.

Several LiRo engineers, of course, are Dyster campaign contributors, including Leonard De Prima and David Jaros of Buffalo, and Rocco Trotta of New York City.

According to Freedom of Information records obtained from the city controller's office, LiRo not only has gotten design work for vending booths, but a lot of work from the Dyster administration.

LiRo was paid $30,000 of taxpayer money to design an outdoor basketball court on 10th Street. Design a basketball court, you ask? What's there to design? There is a rectangle shape, 94 feet by 50 feet, some pavement, some lines, two poles, two hoops with 10-foot rim heights. It's been designed before. If you were frugal, you could build an outdoor basketball court for $30,000.

Before that, LiRo got more than $350,000 to monitor the courthouse construction after Dyster fired city engineer Bob Curtis on day one of his administration.

Curtis would have done the courthouse monitoring and more for his $68,000 annual salary.

Dyster declined to hire another engineer until the courthouse was complete. That may have been a coincidence.

Curtis was a major critic of the developers of the courthouse and warned the public that they needed close monitoring or they would cheat the public with massive change orders. The developers of the courthouse were substantial supporters of Dyster during and after his mayoral campaign in 2007.

It wound up that Dyster campaign contributors built the courthouse, while Dyster campaign contributors monitored the courthouse construction.

More than 200 change orders emerged, as the price of the courthouse escalated, and so did campaign contributions from both the builder and LiRo.

Gary Coscia of Largo Capital of Amherst, and Ciminelli Construction of Buffalo, the developers of the courthouse, donated generously to Dyster before and after the 2007 election. Coscia recently dropped another $1,000 into Dyster's coffers. LiRo executives donated to Dyster's campaign for years. Rocco Trotta, chairman of LiRo, recently dropped $1,000 into Dyster's coffers. Why would Trotta, who lives in New York City, take $1,000 from his pocket and give it to the mayor of Niagara Falls?

"Naturally, every politician solicits campaign donations. Your hope is that the people who donate won't expect special favors from you, but (will donate) to get good government," Dyster told the Reporter in January.

A guy from New York doesn't expect any favors? He just wants good government in Niagara Falls? That's what Dyster says.

Who would vote for a liar like that?

State Sen. George Maziarz said that the Dyster administration built a $22 million courthouse for $50 million, and has suggested a forensic audit, if not an investigation, as to how the fox -- Dyster -- watched the henhouse/courthouse.

The most intriguing part of the investigation may well be how cheap the "For Sale" sign on Dyster's forehead is.

Meanwhile, wealthy interests from Buffalo -- who are lining up in droves to give Dyster $1,000 at a clip to make sure the gravy train doesn't end -- have gotten fantastic returns on their investments.

This past winter, pimping for LiRo, Dyster rushed approval for funding for the Old Falls Street booth design plan through the Council with the promise that it would be up and running this tourist season. He told the Council -- coming before them in person -- they needed to hurry to approve the money for LiRo to do the study and design, in order to get it operational for the 2011 tourist season.

In the spring he went back again and told the Council that in order to design it first-class, he needed more money for LiRo, and got a boost by $100,000 for additional design work.

Of course, nothing got done.

One hundred thousand bucks for a stack of worthless drawings. A thousand bucks for Dyster from LiRo's chairman.

This is the Dyster administration in microcosm.

Niagara Falls Reporter www.niagarafallsreporter.com Aug. 30, 2011