by Susan Mikula Campbell
A report on the town's improving financial condition, the use of the youth center by the YMCA this summer and an influx of funds from Time Warner highlighted the Wheatfield Town Board meeting on Monday.
Supervisor Bob Cliffe gave the town's finances a better report card than when he took office in January 2010. The overall deficit was reduced from $663,908 to $95,797.
"Our finances at this time last year were pretty bleak," he said. "It's run much more like a business now."
Changes have included giving the Town Board more control over purchases, reducing long-term debt, cutting some services, such as mosquito spraying, and reducing the number of cell phones used by town employees.
"I am very happy to say we're well on the road to recovery," Cliffe reported.
Robert Walker, vice president of operations for the YMCA Buffalo Niagara, gave a presentation on a proposal to operate a summer day camp at the town's youth center on the Town Hall campus. The youth center was closed during summer months last year as a cost-saving measure, with the recreation program focusing on activities in town parks. The same was expected this summer.
The board went into executive session to hammer out contract details and emerged to approve the program.
Walker said Wheatfield residents will be given preference both in program participation and hiring. An open house will be held May 14, where families can sign up their children for the weekly themed programs that will run 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, June 27 to Sept. 2.
After the executive session, Cliffe reported the YMCA program will start full-day "camps." If there are sufficient numbers, there will be a younger camp for 3- to 5-year-olds, and another for 6- to 12-year-olds. A camp for teenagers is likely to be added next year if all goes well.
The YMCA will pay for all utilities and will have exclusive use of the building and grounds in the times they are there. The town will be able to use the field next to the center in the evenings and weekends. The YMCA will pay an additional charge, which starts at $200 per week for the first 30 campers, and goes up depending upon the number of children signed up for that week. The town gets an extra $25 per week for every 10 campers.
"We liked the sliding scale as, if there are more campers, there will be more wear and tear on the building and grounds," Cliffe said.
The Y will be responsible for basic, daily cleaning and any damage that occurs on their watch. The town will handle other concerns, such as reconditioning of the floor every few weeks and changing light bulbs in the gym.
"The town cannot afford to run a full program for the summer. This looks to be a win-win for Wheatfield residents, and taxpayers," Cliffe said.
Town Attorney Robert O'Toole reported the "extremely good news" that the town will receive a $32,987.44 reimbursement from Time Warner for franchise fees owed to Wheatfield, but paid to other towns in error over the past few years.
The reimbursement has been a pet project of Councilman Larry Helwig during the past four years since a Town Line Road resident asked him why his franchise fee went to the Town of Pendleton. Helwig estimates the total amount owed Wheatfield is probably closer to $50,000 if funds were added from when Adelphia ran the company prior to its bankruptcy deal.
Helwig also has been seeing that the town look into reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for legal costs related to the successful removal of many town homes and businesses from the revised federal flood plain maps. FEMA had promised that any successful removals from the map would earn a reimbursement, but apparently has no budget to pay them, according to Helwig.
"That's my next goal in life," he said. "Get money from FEMA."
In other matters:
•The town will hold its annual Easter party starting at 10 a.m. this Saturday, April 16, at the community center.
•The board agreed to keep the price for mulch (available at the Town Highway Garage) the same as last year, $25 for four yards delivered or $10 for four yards if the resident picks it up.
•Arlene Mante, head of the seniors program, reported the AARP will present a driving course for seniors that provide an insurance discount on May 3 and 17 at the Community Center. Price is $12 for Wheatfield Seniors members and $14 for non-members.
•A proposal for an annual fee of $50 for a permit to operate a junkyard in the town failed when no one made a motion. Councilman Kenneth Retzlaff said he personally felt the fee should be higher. Further discussion on the matter is expected.
•The board authorized the use of soccer fields on town property by Niagara Northtowns Soccer Club for a fee of $60 per field per week.
•The next Wheatfield Town Board meeting is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Monday, April 25.