by Susan Mikula Campbell
It wasn't your everyday reorganization meeting Monday night at the Town of Niagara's Calvin K. Richards Senior/Youth Activity Center.
There was the usual swearing-in of elected officials and appointments of liaisons and committee chairmen, but the town started the year as it means to go on in 2012 - with celebration. "Tonight, as we begin the celebration of the 200-year anniversary of the Town of Niagara, we should all remember how fortunate we are to live in such a great town in a great county, in a beautiful state and all within the greatest country in the world," said Supervisor Steve Richards. "This is a time to reflect, and remember the people who built this great town 200 years ago, who carved it out of the wilderness and all the hardships they endured along the way, all based on the same principles that built this great country - faith in God, belief in family and belief in your fellow man. It seems lately we forget what made the United States of America the greatest country in the world. It was never the government, it's the people who have made this country so great."
There were ice cream sundaes, speeches, music and gifts of special bicentennial mugs to town employees and committee members who were being honored at this first bicentennial event. Also, since it all started in 1812, a special performance by several members of the cast of "The Spirits of 1812" from the Lewiston Council on the Arts' Marble Orchard Players (including this writer), gave a taste of what life was like for early residents in those turbulent times.
Both Richards and Town Clerk/Bicentennial Committee Chairman Sylvia Virtuoso, emphasized that this event (chaired by Suzanne Fulle, Zoning Board chairman) was just the beginning of a full year of celebrations for the Town of Niagara. Events will be listed on the town's Web page.
Coming in March, for instance, is tribute to the town's eldest citizens, town businesses more than 50 years old and the volunteers who built the cannon display to be installed at the Military Road Six Corners. The highlight of the year, however, will be the weekend of June 30 to July 1 with events planned for the whole family to enjoy.
Virtuoso said her committee has been working for more than 18 months making plans to make the year special.
"We would like to thank Supervisor Richards and the Town Board for planning ahead and, over a few years, putting funds aside just for this milestone, as well as their support to the committee on all our ideas," she said. "I'm sure there have been a few times that this particular thought has gone through Steve's head 'OMG, why did I ask her to be chairman?' but in the end, Steve, I hope you will be proud of how the town presents itself on its 200th birthday."
Virtuoso said the reason the committee chose to kick off the celebration Monday with a tribute to elected officials, town employees and town committee members was "for the simple fact that you are the people who work and make the decisions that allow the residents the quality of life they deserve and enjoy. If it were not for everyone here tonight and all those who served before us, the town could not be in existence. It is your dedication that makes turning 200 possible."
In the business portion of the evening, Richard named Councilman Charles Teixeira as board liaison to the Police Department, Councilman Robert Clark as liaison to the Town Court and Councilman Marc Carpenter as liaison to the Highway Department. Carpenter also will serve as deputy supervisor.
The reorganization confirmed the budgeted salaries of elected officials as $35,960 for supervisor, $12,038 for councilmen, $44,135 for town clerk, $51,174 for highway superintendent and $24,647 for town justice. Also confirmed were salaries for town employees and various committee appointments.
The Niagara-Wheatfield Tribune and the Niagara Gazette were named official newspapers for the town.
Town Board regular meetings will continue at 7 p.m. on the third Tuesday of the month, preceded by work sessions on the two Thursdays before the regular meeting.