by Susan Mikula Campbell
The Town of Niagara's plans for a final phase of construction at Veterans Memorial Park were put on indefinite hold Tuesday as the Town Board rejected a second round of bids on the project.
The board also decided to delay paying town attorney's fees that included calls related to a recent investigation that brought FBI and state Comptroller's Office representatives to Town Hall.
Plans for the park on Lockport Road across from Town Hall included a community center, outdoor amphitheater, more parking areas and roadways and infrastructure. This is the second time the bids have come in higher than expected and were rejected, despite reconfiguration of the project.
"As everyone is aware, this has been a passion of not only of the supervisor, but of Town Board members and residents," said Councilman Danny Sklarski. "Unfortunately the costs associated with this project puts us in too much of a financial bind to go forward at this time."
He added the key words were "at this time," and said he expected either this board or a future board will revisit the project.
The town had planned to pay for the project with outside funding, such as funding from the state Power Authority, so it would not be a burden on local taxpayers.
The issue of the lawyer's fees and the FBI investigation arose when Councilman Robert Clark said he thought it would be a conflict of interest for the town's attorney to be involved in a legal matter with a town employee or official that could turn out to be a criminal matter.
In March, interviews by the FBI and Comptroller's Office were held with several town officials on an investigation for which details are not being released, nor has it been identified by any of the parties involved as a criminal investigation.
Councilman Charles Teixeira said the town attorney should be present as a third party when any employee is questioned by another agency on any matters involving town business, and only if that employee is being charged with something should he be required to have his own lawyer.
Deputy Supervisor Marc Carpenter said about five or six calls listed on attorney Michael Risman's bill were related to the investigation and Risman has agreed to have the bill held until he can meet with the board to discuss those calls.
Supervisor Steve Richards, who was not at Tuesday's meeting, has said in the past that he was one of the people the FBI spoke with. Carpenter said he also was called to see if he had witnessed anything about the matter under investigation, and reported he didn't.
In other matters:
•The board agreed to pay Niagara Lock and Key $2,178.45 for approximately 12 new locks and keys for the current recreation/senior building at Veterans Park. Town Clerk Sylvia Virtuoso said new keys already have been purchased for the Town Hall and the Highway Department building. The new keys cannot be copied and a log is kept both by the business and the town as to who has the keys, which provides better security, she explained.
•Virtuoso also said that the cannon purchased to celebrate the town's bicentennial this year should be moved to the Porter- Packard-Military roads corner May 30 and 31. A small dedication ceremony will be held at 5 p.m. June 1.
•The board approved the purchase of a new compact hydraulic excavator for the Highway Department at a cost of $50,620 from Bobcat of Buffalo. Approximately $40,000 will be bonded and the rest will come from the department's budget.
•Highway Superintendent Robert Herman reported that the town is applying for a grant from the state's Small Cities Community Block Grant funds for $600,000 toward the repair of roads and drainage systems in the town. Residents will be invited to bring their road repair and drainage concerns to a public hearing in June, Herman said.