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Wheatfield controls finances in 2011; Town of Niagara set to party in 2012

by jmaloni
Fri, Dec 30th 2011 05:45 am

As another year ticks down this weekend, it's time to reflect on 2011 and look ahead to 2012.

The Niagara-Wheatfield Tribune asked Wheatfield Supervisor Bob Cliffe, Town of Niagara Supervisor Steve Richards and County Legislature Chairman Bill Ross to do the same, checking off the high points and low points in the towns and county for 2011 and telling us what to expect in 2012.

Town of Niagara - Supervisor Steve Richards

What were the high points for the year in Town of Niagara?

Richards: "The high point of 2011 for the Town of Niagara was our victory over National Grid and its 10-year battle to avoid paying town sewer taxes on its property in the town. This victory saved the town taxpayers over $200,000 and made case history. Under the legal representation of our Town Attorney Michael Risman, the town successfully defended its position at the New York Supreme Court, New York State Appellate Court and the New State Court of Appeals Court. National Grid chose to challenge our town as the smallest town in Niagara County on its sewer tax, thinking we wouldn't have the resources to defend ourselves or the willpower to take on National Grid."

What were the low points or problems?

Richards: "The low point of 2011 was the rejection of the bids for phase three of the Community Center that came in much more then the engineer's estimates."

What are your predictions for what will be happening in Town of Niagara in 2012?

Richards: "My prediction for 2012 is to expect a great year for the town. It's our 200-year anniversary, and many great things are planned for the year starting with our 2012 reorganizational meeting Jan. 9 at 6 p.m. at the Community Center. It's not every day you turn 200 years old, and under the leadership of Sylvia Virtuoso and the Bicentennial Committee, it's going to be an exciting year."

Do you have any resolutions for what you as supervisor want to do for the town or intend to see happen in the town for 2012?

Richards: "For myself, I hope in 2012 to see the Community Center project re-bid, the town taking ownership of the former U.S. Army Base on Porter Road and the continued support of the wonderful residents of the Town of Niagara."

Wheatfield - Supervisor Bob Cliffe

What were the high points for the year in Wheatfield?

Cliffe: "Perhaps the high point for Wheatfield in 2011 was the financial condition coming back under control. It took two years to complete the task; I'm happy to state that Wheatfield is back in the black and looking forward to good things to come.

"We are under way with two major drainage projects: the completion of the Southern Drainage project with the connection to the North Tonawanda outfalls, and the David Drive ditch rehab. We opened the first summer camp at the Youth Center, and negotiated a long-term contract with the North Tonawanda Library. We just completed a substantially less cost, three-year refuse contract with emphasis on recycling. Toss in negotiations with our union workers and you'll see that our Town Board has had a very busy, very successful year. Our sports programs took a nice step forward as two of our girls softball and one of our boys baseball teams took their league championship, and the Wheatfield Cheerleaders had some great success.

"Regarding economic development, the town had several successes. We have a new renal clinic at the Woodlands and two new dental offices along Niagara Falls Boulevard, as well as a new group of physicians in the Summit Medical complex. The further development of the Niagara Falls Airport is bringing long-term improvement to our whole region, and Pyrotek opened a whole new facility with dozens of new manufacturing jobs.

"We're also off to a great start for 2012 with the addition to Wheatfield Pediatrics and new facilities for Wheatfield Dentistry. Edwards High Vacuum has chosen Wheatfield as the new home for their North American operations, perhaps 100 manufacturing jobs, and Shipman Printing will be growing into larger facilities in the Shawnee area. More to come!"

What were the low points?

Cliffe:"All-in-all Wheatfield had a very good year, not much for low points. Perhaps the two, which come to mind, are two instances of (flooded) roads: Eagle Chase flood was caused by flotsam jamming the large drain pipe, and Wilrose Court having its annual flood. Eagle Chase will be alleviated by the residents doing some house cleaning before the winter snows, and Wilrose Court flooding will be greatly reduced when the town completes the southern drainage project this year."

What are your predictions for what will be happening in Town of Wheatfield in 2012?

Cliffe: "With 2012 being a presidential election year, I believe we can finally count on improvements in our national economy, which will, hopefully, improve the job picture for Wheatfield residents. Manufacturing seems to be doing well here in Western New York; hopefully this will lead to improvements in the financial sector. Wheatfield is primarily a residential community: a better economy is important to all of us.

"2012 is the 200th anniversary of the beginning of the War of 1812. There was certainly a great deal of history in the surrounding areas, but the only war activity I'm aware of in Wheatfield was the likely burning of several homes along River Road. If anyone knows of any other such events, please bring them to our attention.

"During 2012, we anticipate new programs for both seniors and youngsters at our Youth Center, computer classes to help seniors take advantage of computers and the Internet, and new and exciting youth programs. Our Town Center Focus Group will be presenting possible development ideas for the land behind the Town Hall. We also will start some improvements at Fairmount Park and hope to start work on our parkland on the Niagara River. We have several terrific volunteers working on these and other projects. We can use your ideas as well."

Do you have any resolutions for what you as supervisor want to do for the town or intend to see happen in the town for 2012?

Cliffe:"As a residential community, perhaps the most important thing I can ask of all Wheatfield residents is to be good neighbors. Good neighbors appreciate diversity, are tolerant of different lifestyles and work together to solve perceived problems in a neighborly fashion. Let's all keep our eyes open for criminals who want to steal from us, and have charity for those in need. The very best advice comes from God, who asks us to treat our neighbors as we would like to be treated."

Niagara County Government - Legislature Chairman Bill Ross

What were the high points for the year in the county?

Ross: "The 2010 Federal Census dictated a redrawing of the Niagara County legislative districts due to shifts or loss of population. The redrawing of lines occurs every 10 years based on the new census numbers.

"Niagara County Legislature redistricting would be more difficult in 2011 because of the reduction of county legislators from 19 to 15, based on a November 2009 referendum.

"Previous redistricting or the redrawing of the lines for legislative districts was always dominated by the political party who enjoyed majority status. A decision was made by the majority caucus to pass a resolution in December 2010 establishing an Independent Redistricting Commission, which would be bi-partisan representing most of the geographical areas of Niagara County. The new Independent Redistricting Commission members were sworn in during the month of January 2011 and completed their work, which included several public hearings, by May. It was a job well done by the Independent Redistricting Commission with very little controversy.

"The federal-mandated narrowbanding project discussions began in 2010 and a contract will be signed at the end of this 2011 calendar year.

"The interoperable communication system will enhance the day-to-day operations of Niagara County's police, fire and EMS agencies and significantly improve communications during natural and man-made disasters. First responders are the backbone of our communities, and it is essential that they have the appropriate tools, such as this state-of-the-art system.

"The new communication system is the largest and most important communication upgrade to take place in Niagara County since the current systems were implemented more than 35 years ago. Niagara County's police officers, firefighters and emergency responders will now all have access to the same radio channels with no blackout areas.

"The Federal Mandated Narrowbanding Communication System has a beginning date of January 2013, and the cost of the $10 million project will be paid for with a combination of Homeland Security funding, grants and Niagara County's capital projects budget money.

"The original discussion price in 2010 was between $22 (million) and $23 million dollars. The Niagara County Community Safety and Security Committee, representatives from the Sheriff's Office, and the county manager should be commended for their work on this project.

"The Niagara Falls International Airport continues to be a success story with the opening of the new terminal. The current airlines, which include: Direct, Spirit and Allegiant airlines, continue to establish new destinations, which is helping to fill all three parking lots at the NFIA. A strong marketing effort is in place to continue the expansion of new airlines and destinations."

High to Low Points

Ross: "The passing of the new 2 percent property tax law was a giant step forward in the control of local property taxes, but it lacked the mandate relief Gov. Cuomo promised.

"The lack of mandate relief for local governments, including the public school districts, means there will not be the promised reduction in property tax. There must be mandate relief if this new law is to work for the local property taxpayer.

"The creation of the 10 economic development councils across New York state this year was to initiate and move along much needed projects in manufacturing, medical, tourism, agriculture and infrastructure, which would create jobs across the state.

"Gov. Cuomo stated these economic development councils would be the new way to distribute funds from the state for projects. The Western New York Economic Development Council consisted of five counties, which included: Erie, Niagara, Allegany, Cattaraugus and Chautauqua.

"The NYSEDC, in a series of meetings from August through November, passed a strategic plan and approved several projects which were submitted to them for approval. The Western New York plan was submitted to Albany, and it was one of the top four winners and was awarded more than $100 million for much needed projects. I was disappointed in the lack of support for the old 22.5-acre (U.S. Army Reserve) site on Porter Road, which is a tremendous site for many different types of manufacturing operations. I was not happy that tourism projects were bypassed in Niagara Falls, Lockport and Olcott."

Low points?

Ross:"No mandate relief in the new state 2 percent property tax law.

"The tragic accident of Deputy Sheriff Alan Gerhardt, while responding to an emergency call, resulted in losing an excellent deputy from our active roster. Deputy Gerhardt is making an outstanding recovery.

"The loss of our Special Deputy K-9 "Rocky" while he was pursuing burglary suspects in the City of Niagara Falls. This tragedy brought and outpouring of sympathy from county residents. Rocky will be difficult to replace.

"It is always disappointing to have an increase in property tax. There is a 1.8 percent increase for the 2012 Niagara County budget."

Do you have any resolutions for what you as Legislature chairman want to do for the county in 2012?

Ross: "I will work through the Niagara County Legislature and the New York Association of Counties toward the mandate relief that was to be part of the new state 2 percent property tax law.

"Mandate relief for the counties of New York state will be the solution to bring real property tax reductions for the local property owners."

Click here to see the accompanying photo gallery

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