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Constitutional rights, speed limit occupy Wheatfield

by jmaloni
Thu, Sep 29th 2011 01:35 pm

by Susan Mikula Campbell

Discussion on requiring businesses and apartment buildings to have key boxes, and a possible 35 mph town speed limit occupied the Wheatfield Town Board on Monday.

Marc Kasprzak, head of the town's Fire Advisory Board, gave a presentation on the Knox Box key system and a proposal to amend the town code to require installation of the system in all commercial, retail, industrial and residential dwellings with four or more units.

The boxes would contain a master key for every locked door in the building and keys to the alarm panel and elevators, as well as emergency contact information and a map of the structure's layout for the fire department's use in case of emergency.

Kasprzak said the cost of the boxes, which start at $255, would be far less than replacing the door if the fire department has to bash it in to gain entry. The boxes can be wired with tamper alarms, he said.

The key to the Knox Box is kept secure, either with the fire chief or locked on the fire truck.

State building code has required the boxes since 2010, Kasprzak said. Amherst has used the system for several years and the Starpoint School District has one box for its whole facility.

David W. Lazarz and some other Wheatfield residents in the audience objected to the plan.

Lazarz said the boxes should be a matter of choice, not law, and pointed out it could be a first step to requiring boxes for homes or for giving keys to police and other agencies. "It's still private property."

Lazarz said he considered requiring the boxes a violation of the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Town Attorney Robert O'Toole said keys in the boxes could be used for emergency purposes only. "There's no search or seizure issue, because they don't have that right," O'Toole said.

"You can't just give up your rights," Lazarz insisted. "It's time we legalize freedom again in this country."

At a motion from Councilman Larry Helwig, the matter was tabled for further discussion.

Supervisor Bob Cliffe suggested that the town request approval from the State Department of Transportation for a townwide speed limit of 35 mph unless otherwise posted. The speed limit would affect only town roads (Niagara Falls Boulevard, for instance, is a state road) and signs indicating the townwide limit would be posted at roads entering the town.

This would address the problem brought up at the last Town Board meeting that people leaving Town Hall on court nights (some of them already ticketed for speeding) are speeding down Church and Maple roads when they leave court. No speed limit is posted on Church Road, so people can drive at the 55 mph state limit.

Cliffe said if a townwide speed limit of 35 mph is not considered low enough, such as around a park, application can be made to the state for posted lower limits in those areas.

In other matters:

•Cliffe announced he planned to have his tentative 2012 budget to the town clerk by the end of this week. He will do a brief presentation on the budget at the board's next meeting on Monday, Oct. 10, after a 7 p.m. public hearing on whether residents on Lakeside Court prefer the name of their road to be switched back to Lakeside Drive.

•Cliffe presented Paul Cozad, chairman of the town's firearms committee, with a proclamation honoring his years of service as Town Board members and the audience applauded.

Cozad, who has chaired the committee since 1993, announced his retirement, but said he planned to continue as a member of the committee.

Augie Tolli was approved as the new committee chairman.

The committee's next muzzleloader safety class is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Oct. 13 at the Wheatfield Community Center. Call the town clerk's office at 694-6441 to sign up.

•Cliffe addressed an issue mentioned on anonymous flyers distributed in the town before the recent primary election that erroneously charged that he got his health insurance through the town. Cliffe said that after 15 years working for the town (previously he was a town justice), he is eligible to have 75 percent of his insurance paid, but he does not use this eligibility, instead getting his insurance through his employer, Helmel Engineering Products, as he has always done.

Cliffe also said that although he has promoted the idea of a term limit for the supervisor's position since he took office, he doesn't want it to become a political issue in the upcoming election. "It makes more sense to wait until next year," he said.

•The town's annual Halloween party, with costume judging, games, hay rides and treats, will be held from 6 to 9 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 29, at the Wheatfield Community Center.

Trick-or-treat hours in Wheatfield will be 4 to 7 p.m. Monday, Oct. 31.

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