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Residents speak their minds on debate over vacant homes

by Olivia
Thu, Jun 16th 2011 12:10 pm

by Tiffany Hyman

Monday's Town Board meeting in Wheatfield started as a peaceful prayer session with a pledge of allegiance led by two fifth-graders from Errick Road Elementary.

Nikita Verma and Alexis Mountain also presented the board with a well-put together poster board and speech on famous people in American history. Nikita led the presentation with a speech on Rosa Parks and discussed her attributions and accomplishments. Alyssa's speech covered the history and achievements of Susan B. Anthony.

"I was blown away by these girls," said an astounded Supervisor Bob Cliffe, who had invited them to the meeting after visiting their school to read to kindergarteners. "I have a soft spot for the young and the elderly."

The mood quickly changed. Cliffe asked for public input and many homeowners presented the board with their concerns over vacant homes.

•A husband and wife from Townline Road were upset over upkeep on a home two doors down that has been vacant since a fire in January 2009. The residents said they had been cutting the lawn in the backyard, but the front has not been cut for some time and therefore, is causing their home to look bad. They referred to the front yard as a "jungle." Not only is the front lawn an unpleasant sight, but unsafe as well. Fox have been found in the neighbor's shed and now in their shed.

Board members explained to the residents of Townline Road the lawn must be 12 inches long for the town to cut the lawn and bill the homeowners.

•Two residents from Reynolds Road expressed their concern over a home that had been vacated for five years. One of the residents asked the board to pass a motion of condemnation. He explained the home had at least five feet of water in the basement, the breaker had been turned off by National Grid and there were skunks in the yard with potential rabies. Both residents asked the board to consider the possibility of their grandchildren going into the open basement and drowning.

Cliffe introduced a motion, passed by the board, that granted Wheatfield building inspector, Joe Caturia, to enter the vacant home and access damage. Caturia was concerned he did not have permission to enter, and it would be considered trespassing.

"Joe, we have your back," said Cliffe, assuring Caturia he had the right to enter the home because it was a threat to public safety.

The motion for possible demolition will be discussed at the next board meeting on June 27.

•A resident complained about mold in vacated homes on Sy Road and Luther Street. Caturia told the residents Wheatfield keeps a record of homes that are not kept up to par.

•Caturia also presented the board with a motion to pass the approval for purchasing a vehicle. He explained the vehicle would be four-wheel drive and ideal for the winter weather conditions.

"My guys have to drive far for training in the winter," he said.

Cliffe and the board granted Caturia permission to spend $19,331 on a vehicle.

The building inspector also said the Summit Park Mall has received bids to be boarded up and secured. The maintenance man confirmed and hopes for approval as early as next week. Sears, Bon-Ton and Save-A-Lot are separately owned and will remain opened.

•Tim Walck from Wendel Duchscherer requested a motion to pass a lead agency status for the town in the state environmental quality review process, for re-subdividing Shawnee Estates as a planned unit development. The project involves the rezoning of 97.6 acres of land on Shawnee Road. Councilman Larry Helwig passed the motion and Councilman Art Gerbec seconded it.

Walck also presented a motion to authorize Wendel Duchscherer Architects and Engineers to provide services to replace the roof on the water/sewer department, held from the June 9 meeting. The major concern was if there was asbestos in the roof. The total cost to replace the roof is $31,500.

"The roof has to get done," said Cliffe.

The motion was granted and approved.

•Town attorney Bob O'Toole presented a list of motions. One was authorizing the repair of a driveway on Eagle Chase Drive that divided the board.

"It's clear to me the driveway got nicked by town plows over the winter," said O'Toole.

Councilman Gil Doucet disagreed. He said he went to the home, and it was clear the plows did not cause the damage. The board agreed to put the issue off until the next meeting.

•Ed Sturgeon of the Recreation Department discussed upcoming events. On Saturday, June 18, a senior versus kids fishing derby will be held from 10 a.m. until noon in Fairmont Park.

Sturgeon also reported the girls varsity travel softball team won the championship for ages 12 and under. Next year, Wheatfield will have four varsity softball teams, making it the town with the most varsity teams around the county.

•The next board meeting will be at 7:30 p.m. Monday, June 27.


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