by Terry Duffy
Lewiston Town Board members met in low-key, pre-holiday fashion and addressed mostly year-end procedural items at its Dec. 12 work session, en route to the board's upcoming final audit/regular meeting next week.
Notables included discussion prior to Town Board approval of fire district contracts covering a three-year period; plus approval of town building department items, namely new registration requirements covering general contractors working in the town, and another covering new service sewer connections.
Also, discussion was held on a recent meeting Supervisor Steve Reiter had with frustrated residents of what now is known as The Circle Drive and the name change saga.
Town concerns on the state's 2 percent tax cap imposed earlier this year by Gov. Andrew Cuomo came back into conversation as the board discussed the three-year fire district contract, presented by Councilman Ron Winkley.
The measure provides for zero percent tax increases in years one and two but has uncertainties in year three, according to Winkley. He told of potential cost increases of as much as $12,000 in year three, an increase that, if it happens, would go beyond the 2 percent cap. The news didn't sit too well with Reiter. "I'm a little concerned on this," said Reiter, as he recalled the fire company protests at Town Hall in prior town administrations over budget issues and said he rather not face that. He also said he understood their operational costs, but that companies have to understand the town's situation with regards to the 2 percent cap.
"Look, they're taxpayers, too," said Winkley. He said that in recent meetings he's had with representatives of the town's volunteer fire companies - Lewiston No's 1 and 2, Upper Mountain and Sanborn companies - that all are fully aware of the implications of rising operational costs and the impact on the tax cap. Town Attorney Mike Dowd suggested the town could pursue one-year contracts as an option, but following further discussion the board opted to see what happens in the future and go with the three-year plan as presented. It passed unanimously.
Also approved were regulations covering contractors working in the town. Town Building/Zoning Inspector Tim Masters, who prepared the document with Deputy Supervisor Gary Catlin, told the board the measure would establish requirements for contractors to have insurance, register their business and obtain permits in the town to do work. Masters said other municipalities in the area have similar provisions and that it helps prevent liability problems, both for the town and for property owners. Currently, Lewiston has no such structure in place. "There are loopholes that need to be tightened. This will ensure that contractors are insured to do the required work," said Masters. "This will help people in the town."
"This will likely have a yearly fee," said Catlin in response to a question posed by Councilman Al Bax. "Contractor's insurance is usually a yearly thing." Dowd commented the measure will enable the town to better protect property owners.
Similarly, requirements covering new sewer connections intended to help property owners passed. The change approved that night calls for new design standards to be put in place for contractors installing lines to prevent sewer backups into basements. "In the past there's been problems of sewers backing into basements (during snow melts or heavy precipitation times)," Reiter said, adding it has caused messy backups, instances of sump pumps running nonstop or both. The new design includes requiring placement of a clay plug away from the house, versus one of stone construction used previously, to prevent backups into a basement. The new measure for contractors is expected to take effect on Jan. 15, 2012.
In other news:
•The board heard on Reiter's recent meeting with The Circle Drive residents. Reiter informed that residents, following an earlier street name change by the town, done on the request of a resident, had organized and floated a petition that showed their opinions had changed. "Eleven now want it restored to The Circle," said Reiter, telling the board that six of 10 residents had changed their minds. Reiter said the town doesn't anticipate any changes, but did comment the issue had become "a minor nightmare."
•The board approved for Reiter to oversee the town's interests on a Military Road water line replacement project being handled by the State Department of Transportation as part of the State Power Authority ongoing renovations at Reservoir State Park. "If there's a problem with that line, Lewiston, Youngstown and Porter will all have problems. "It's significant, we need to protect that line during construction," said Reiter. Board members concurred and authorized Reiter to meet with DOT and NYPA engineers on the project.
The board meets Thursday, Dec. 29, for its final audit and regular meeting of the year. The session gets under way at 6 p.m.