by Susan Mikula Campbell
About 80 percent of the roads in the Town of Niagara will be repaved in a five-year plan proposed by Supervisor Steve Richards at Tuesday's Town Board meeting.
The plan also would bring improvements to town parks and upgrades at the town's Highway Department building.
Richards indicated the plan would not be a burden to taxpayers, and added that he intends to be around to see the project to fruition.
Shoppers paying sales tax in the town's growing business districts, not residents, would help pay for the project, Richards said. He noted that new businesses are in the works and to expect some press releases by about the middle of September.
"It's a great idea. I wholeheartedly support it," said Councilman Danny Sklarski. "This benefits not only the taxpayers, but businesses."
The road repair project would be the biggest in the town since 1980, Richards said. He and the town engineer and highway superintendent will meet to analyze all town roads, prioritize repairs by road condition and develop a master plan that "takes the politics out of road repairs," he said. A bond anticipation note would be sought to start to pay for the project, and everything should be in place to begin work in the spring of 2013.
Richards pointed out that the town's recent audit showed that the town's pay-as-you-go philosophy has given it one of the lowest long-term debt loads in the county. As of Dec. 31, 2011, long-term debt was $1.135 million and short-term debt was $650,000.
Richards plans road repaving and upgrades to outlying parks in each of the five years between 2013 and 2017. In addition, in 2014, grants would be sought for energy efficiency upgrades to the town garage. In 2015, the town garage roof would be replaced.
Also, the community center project in Veterans Memorial Park on Lockport Road, delayed this year after bids came in higher than expected, will be revived under Richards' plan. Currently, there is $2.5 million in the town's community center fund. Richards expects that amount to be $4.1 million by 2016.
"We will embark on our planned expansion of our community center by paying half of the project with cash and the remaining payments will be paid by proceeds from our settlement with NYPA (New York Power Authority), at no cost to our taxpayers," he said.
Richards said he and the board will continue to try to keep the town budgets as low as possible. Residents will only see property taxes increase in the future due to increased costs such as employee benefits, wages and unfunded state mandates, he said.
Richards said he plans on seeing these projects through and, health permitting, beyond.
In his 17th year and fifth term in office, he is the town's longest-serving supervisor.
"Over the last several months, I have received many letters, phone calls and personal notes asking me to stay and see my dream through," he said. "This year's bicentennial celebration gave me new energy and recharged me to move this town forward to a brighter tomorrow."
In other matters:
•Two resolutions narrowly passed by a 3-2 vote, with Councilman Charles Teixeira and Robert Clark voting against them.
The first was a resolution to donate the use of the community center in Veterans Memorial Park for a Sept. 29 benefit to be held for Vincent Parker, a youth injured in an automobile accident.
Teixeira and Clark said they were afraid that donating the use of the facility would set a precedent, which could cause problems in the future. Teixeira said he didn't think that would be fair to taxpayers. He said that because the event was a good cause, he was willing to personally donate $25 toward the $100 rental fee.
The second resolution that met opposition was allowing Joe Cecconi's Chrysler Complex to park cars on a lot the company is purchasing in front of the former Rosa's store.
Clark said a special use permit should be required. Teixeira wanted to know if the lot would be secured. Councilman Marc Carpenter's suggestion was approved, providing that instead of tabling the resolution, a three-month limit be put on the resolution so a representative of the business could come in and discuss the matter with the board.
•The board accepted the resignation of Terry Eisemann from its Planning Board. Eisemann has moved out of town. Richards said anyone interested in filling the vacant seat should send a resume to the town clerk.
The board also appointed Kimberly Meisenburg as secretary to the Planning Board.
•The board approved the request of Ronald J. Hogan, project manager of Geo-Marine Inc. to use Haseley Drive while construction of the new fire training tower at the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station is under way.
•The board approved the court settlement of the tax case for 2740 Service Road (Expressway Village). Town Attorney Michael Risman said the facility went from 120 to 95 pads, so the fair market assessment was reduced from $2.7 million to $2.1 million.
•The board approved the highest bid of $900 from Firth Jewelers for unclaimed jewelry recovered by the police department.
•The board approved the request of Helmel Engineering Products Inc. to construct an addition to be used for storage space at the existing building at 6520 Lockport Road.
•The board approved the requests of Richard Kindzia for four special use permits to operate a detail shop, an auto mechanic shop, a boat wrapping shop and to sell used cars at 8821 Porter Road.