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Purchase of Buffalo's new public safety building finalized for $1

Mike Desmond
The new sign on the former Dillon Courthouse in Niagara Square displays the building as the City of Buffalo's future Police and Fire Headquarters.

The City of Buffalo’s flag is now flying atop the old federal court house in Niagara Square, and the sign outside has been changed. It now welcomes visitors to the city’s new public safety building, home to police and fire headquarters – all at the price of a dollar.

The court house in Niagara Square has long been named for murdered Internal Revenue Service Agent Michael Dillon, and it will stay as part of the building’s official title. Once the Jackson Federal Court House across the street opened, the federal General Services Administration deemed the Dillon court house to be surplus. Mayor Byron Brown’s administration jumped on the chance to purchase it and create a public safety building to house the headquarters of Buffalo’s Police and Fire Departments. GSA Regional Administrator Denise Pease said re-use isn’t unusual.

Credit Mike Desmond / WBFO News
Denise Pease, Regional GSA Administrator, displays the one dollar bill used by the city to purchase the former federal courthourse

“One of the things that we evaluate – the federal government, the General Services Administration – when we have an asset that can be better used by a state or local government or even a non-profit, we look to dispose of that building in a way that benefits the residents of that particular area. In this case, we are becoming an economic catalyst for the residents of Buffalo.”

With the passing of an actual dollar bill, the city officially took control of the building on Tuesday morning. A police color guard raised the city’s flag high above the structure. Brown said having both the police and fire departments working together will offer efficiency and savings – a better value for the taxpayer’s dollar.

“There are efficiencies that can be realized by having both under one roof. There is sharing of information that we can achieve through having both under one roof. And, there is money that can be saved for residents and taxpayers of this community. So, it will be a more efficient operation. It will be a twenty-first century, art high-tech state of the art operation.”

Planning to revamp the building - including interior design and office placement - is already well underway. Buffalo Public Works Commissioner Steven Stepniak said the project is on a fast track.

“[The] architect firm is going to be on board the next couple of weeks. We have $3.3 million to do all the electronic upgrades. Obviously, we're bringing this to state of the art electronics. We have the surveillance cameras and things like that to bring in. All that will be done. There will be some small modifications that we have to do to the building for proper ingress and egress. We'll have all that done by September 2017.”

When the new building goes into full use in September, it will house 200 police department staff and 25 fire department staff. While the city will hold on to the current fire headquarters, the current police headquarters will be sold for development.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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