by Susan Mikula Campbell
The Wheatfield Town Board got with the holiday spirit on Monday, canceling its Dec. 23 meeting and rescheduling it for 7:30 p.m. Jan. 3, 2011, immediately after the 7 p.m. reorganization meeting.
The Town Board has been on a two-meeting-a-month schedule, usually the second and fourth Mondays. The second meeting in January will be Jan. 24.
Otherwise, it was a relatively quiet meeting with few in attendance due to snow and cold.
Items discussed included:
•Highway Superintendent Art Kroening noted that usually at this time of year temperatures don't get really cold, so he had eliminated a purchase of Magic Ice Be Gone from his budget. The additive for road salt, made with beer brine, reduces the amount of salt needed to treat roads. Kroening said his crews are finding they need twice as much salt without it. He asked for approval of $4,995 to make this season's first purchase of the additive, which costs $8.88 to treat a ton of salt. Salt costs $43.49 per ton and the town uses 3,000 to 4,000 tons of salt during the winter months.
•The town is planning a meeting for Feb. 3 to bring residents of David Drive up to date on plans for cleaning and reshaping the drainage ditch there. Town Engineer Tim Walck is planning to get needed access permits during the winter, so work can begin with the 2011 construction season. Also hoped for during the new construction season is work to tie in the existing Wilrose Court ditch to North Tonawanda's culverts. Design work, permits and a wetlands report need to be completed, Walck said.
•Councilman Larry Helwig reported that he plans to work with the citizen's group Wheatfield United to find out more about other areas that have sued the Federal Emergency Management Agency for refund of legal costs accumulated while fighting FEMA's revised flood plain maps. Technically, if a municipality wins in its effort to have properties removed from the maps, it is due a reimbursement.
Supervisor Robert Cliffe said the town spent $86,000 in the last three years on legal costs. About 900 Wheatfield homes were added to the flood plain maps and about 600 removed. Most recently, 150 homes in Bergholz, some of which had been listed in the flood plain for years, were removed from the maps. The problem is that FEMA reportedly doesn't have funds for the reimbursements.
"If they sent me a check for $60,000 tomorrow, I'd be really happy," said Cliffe, who is seeking ways to cut costs to reduce the town's budget deficit.
•Councilman Art Gerbec reported that the town's Fire Advisory Board wants to know if volunteer firefighters could join the town's insurance program if they paid the full cost. Town Attorney Bob O'Toole said the state does allow this now, but warned that the town has a high deductible. He said he would provide an outline of the town's insurance plan for the firefighters to review.
•Councilman Ken Retzlaff reported he met recently with the vendors who participated in the town's first farmers market held this fall to discuss how the market can be improved in 2011. Among the proposals was having the market open on more dates.
•Cliffe proposed that the town establish a list of pre-approved vendors for when outside help is needed for things ranging from grass cutting to heating system repairs. This will ensure that the vendors have proper insurance before they are on site and avoid possible liability issues, he said.
•The board set two public hearings for the Jan. 24 meeting. One at 7 p.m. will be on a proposed amendment to Town Code relating to site plan review, making it clear that site plans are required by the Planning Board. The other at 7:15 p.m. would be an amendment to Town Code dealing with zoning in A-R districts. This is part of an effort by the town's Agricultural Focus Group to make farming more profitable by expanding allowable activities, O'Toole said.
•The board held an executive session to discuss two litigation matters and a personnel issue.