by Susan Mikula Campbell
The Wheatfield Town Board on Monday agreed to resume its payments to the SPCA of Niagara.
The January and February payments of $1,354.31 each had been withheld in view of protests over mismanagement and excessive euthanasia of animals at the facility.
"The SPCA has given the town assurance that they have been and will continue to perform their duties under contract with the town. Having received these assurances, coupled with the apparent changes in leadership at the SPCA, I believe we should start making payments under our contract," said Wheatfield Supervisor Bob Cliffe. "To continue to withhold payments may have a negative impact on the dogs and cats, which we are trying to help."
Cliffe also thanked former town animal control officer Craig Schulz for pitching in to help during the crisis.
Prior to the meeting the board held a public hearing on the town's policy regarding placement of streetlights. Currently, the town provides a streetlight at major intersections and one at each cul de sac. If residents or a developer want more lighting, a lighting district can be created with the cost paid by the residents.
"Do we need to take a look at more lighting to be safer?" Cliffe asked.
Residents speaking at the hearing were divided.
Residents against changing the rules cited increased cost to taxpayers and noted some people moved to Wheatfield from the city because of its rural atmosphere. People who live on dark roads should use common sense and not ride bikes or walk along roads at night or cross in the middle of the street, they said.
"Lights all around make it like a city," one resident said. "People that really want it in their area, they should be the ones that pay for it."
Residents in favor of more lighting cited areas such as Ferchen Street ("Cars go down there 60 mph."), Moyer Road ("There's been at least three break-ins in the last five or six weeks.") and areas off Schultz Road where new developments are resulting in more walkers, runners and people pushing baby carriages.
Cliffe said the board will make a decision soon on whether to take further action on lighting. Currently, the budget provides $110,000 for the town-wide lighting district, he said. Councilman Larry Helwig noted the total lighting cost in the town is $164,400.
Cliffe said he has received calls about streets that are very dark because they go some distance without streetlights, such as Ferchen Street and Schultz Road.
•The board set two public hearings prior to its March 26 meeting regarding possible changes to the town's sign law (7 p.m.) and its fence law (7:15 p.m.). Cliffe said the sign law, especially, might need adjustment due to changes in technology for electronic signs. Public opinion is needed, he said.
•Recreation Director Ed Sturgeon reported that the next senior citizen dance will be from 4 to 8 p.m. March 17 at the Community Center. He noted that new handicapped access doors have been installed at both the front entrance and the handicapped entrance at the center.
•Helwig reported that farmers in the Doe's Hill area near Liberty Drive, Ferchen Street and Witmer Road have been complaining that people have been driving all-terrain vehicles in their posted fields and causing harm to winter crops. Sturgeon added that ATVs also have done significant damage at Mario Park, located along Jagow Road. Helwig encouraged neighbors in these areas who see ATVs trespassing to call the Niagara County Sheriff's Office.
•The board approved a motion to purchase security equipment for Town Hall at a cost of $9,230 from Eastern States Sentinel Alarm Services. Cliffe said the cameras would provide extra security for employees, the public and for property and will include coverage of the parking lot.
•Asked about the state project to continue to widen Niagara Falls Boulevard and provide turning lanes, Cliffe reported that every time he has asked state officials about the project, he has found the date moved further back. Cliffe said with federal funding being cut back in New York, he has a feeling that for the road project to proceed a stronger economy is needed.
•With the town moving to an official 35 mph speed limit on town roads, some areas may need an even lower limit. Cliffe invited residents to join a committee to help the Town Board make decisions on which areas to include.
•Cliffe also congratulated the Starpoint School District for its club hockey championship and the Niagara-Wheatfield team for its Federation championship.
•The next meeting of the Town Board will be at 7:30 p.m. March 12.