by Susan Mikula Campbell
The 28.6 percent jump in population for Wheatfield in the latest census means a financial bonus for the town.
Supervisor Bob Cliffe said Monday that an unofficial tally shows the town's share of sales tax in the county will go from 6.4 percent to 8.1 percent, which "should help us quite a bit" in budget planning.
"The effort the town put forth to make sure all our addresses were inventoried properly really paid off," said Councilman Larry Helwig.
Cliffe said a town can expect to grow when it offers things to residents such as a safe environment, a good school system and a robust parks and recreation program, while still keeping control of taxes.
"If you offer these factors, people are going to want to live here," he said, telling the residents who attended the Town Board meeting, "Congratulations for living in Wheatfield."
In other matters:
•The board approved its contract with the town's five fire companies for a three-year period, beginning Jan. 1, 2012, and running to Dec. 31, 2014. The rates will be $193,640 in 2012; $199,450 in 2013; and $205,430 in 2014.
Cliffe and Councilman Ed Gerbec negotiated a mutually beneficial contract, according to Robert O'Toole, town attorney.
Cliffe said the fire companies' representatives were very responsible and very fair, considering current economic conditions. Contract increases in the past three years have been 9 percent each year. The new contract will provide increases of 9 percent each year.
"Nobody has better fire and emergency service than Wheatfield does," Cliffe commented.
•The Oz amusement park project might still have life in Wheatfield. Councilman Kenneth Retzlaff reported that at the last Wheatfield Comprehensive Planning Board meeting it was learned the owner still has two people working in the area.
"It's not really a dead project," Retzlaff said. "They're still proposing to do the job."
•Retzlaff also noted that the state Department of Environmental Conservation has issued a permit for clay mining on the Papke property on Errick Road. O'Toole said the project cannot go forward without a special permit from the town as required under the town zoning law. A number of conditions have to be met for a permit, including that it must be shown the project would benefit townwide drainage.
O'Toole said he believes it would be very difficult to show that the conditions could be met and that he had sent the owner a letter advising that "a permit from the DEC does not give him a permit to begin digging."
•Helwig reported that the YMCA is considering a contract with the town to run a summer day camp at the town's teen center and gym. The center has been closed for the past two summers for budget savings. O'Toole said the YMCA will give a full report on its plans, including special consideration to be given to Wheatfield residents, at the board's next regular meeting at 7 p.m. Monday, April 11.
•James Heuer, vice chairman of the town's picnic committee, reported that this year's Wheatfield Town Picnic at Fairmount Park will be on Sunday, Aug. 21. The committee decided to move the date back to Sunday after trying a Saturday last year, because most people members talked with seemed to prefer Sunday, he said.
Anyone interested in joining the picnic committee is invited to the group's next meeting at 7 p.m. Wednesday, April 27, in the Wheatfield Community Center, Heuer said.
Cliffe commented that the contributions of the business community to the picnic are very much appreciated. The town does not provide the committee with funds for the event.
•The town approved the public improvement permit for the Brookfield subdivision, phase one, consisting of 10 single-family homes fronting Ward Road, south of Brent Drive. Town Engineer Tim Walck said the developer plans 84 homes to be built in five phases.
Gerbec asked for assurance that there would be no problems for the town due to drainage.
•No board member volunteered to make a motion or second, so the agenda item to authorize payment on a claim by a resident for $216.95 didn't make it to a vote.
The resident, who lives on a cul-de-sac, said a town snowplow damaged her invisible dog fence while plowing. The invisible fence was located in the town's right of way, but the town in the past has paid for mailboxes struck by plows, councilmen were told.
"Why does the dog have to go that close to the road?" Gerbec asked.
Helwig suggested that town residents who have items near the road that could be damaged by a plow ask the Highway Department for special reflector posts.
Having lawns get scraped by plows in the winter is unavoidable, he said. "I do it myself (at his home) with my own snow blower."
•The board adopted a policy that the Town of Wheatfield will not be affiliated with any social networking sites, and that no one shall use the town's name as a sponsor or promoter of any groups or networks on such sites.
O'Toole said there has been some discussion on the matter, and it was decided that there was no way to properly police these social networking sites.
•The board amended the town's personnel policy regarding health insurance. The major change, according to O'Toole was to clarify that if somebody was making a co-payment before retiring with full health coverage, they do have to continue the co-payment after retirement.
•The board agreed to create an additional part-time electrical inspector position and hired Wheatfield resident Al Nelson.
Helwig explained that the current inspector cannot work as many hours as needed and was budgeted for the position, so the new hire will not increase the budget.
•The board agreed to hire Don MacSwan to correct errors made by a previous clerk in the town's zoning map. He was hired at his normal consulting rate and is not to exceed 80 hours of time.
•Highway Supervisor Art Kroening reported that the town was pretty much up to date in repair of potholes, although the county was a little behind on repairs on county roads. He received a complaint about Niagara Road, which is a county road, he said, adding, "If it's really bad, we'll hit it."
Cliffe warned that another town had done that in the past and had received a complaint from the county workers' union.
•The board scheduled a public hearing for 7:15 p.m. May 9 at Town Hall on a rezoning request from Lixin Zhao, owner of the Driftwood Motel, 2754 Niagara Falls Blvd., to rezone the rear portion of his property from R-3 to C-1. Making the zoning for the entire property the same will give the owner more options for the future, said Walck.