Texting, funding, boo times occupy town meetingby jmaloni
by Susan Mikula Campbell
The 2013 budget, public hearings, Halloween hours and even a warning were part of the Town of Niagara's Town Board meeting on Tuesday.
The warning came from Councilman Danny Sklarksi, who focused on two issues he called "totally unacceptable."
One issue was a $28,000 bill the town paid for an emergency demolition of a house on Petroleum Street.
Sklarski said now that he is the board liaison for the building inspector, he wants to see procedure for emergency demolitions changed.
"We have to have a procedure in place, especially, when we're dealing with taxpayer's money," Sklarski said.
He said the town might not be able to get the funds back from the county, since the county sold the abandoned property in question to a next door neighbor for $1,500 after the house was demolished.
Councilman Robert Clark faced off with Sklarski on the issue, saying the house has been on the list of deteriorating vacant residences in the town for some time, and that he called the building inspector asking that it be knocked down immediately after a neighbor called him to point out that the foundation had deteriorated on three sides.
Clark said it was a public safety issue; "It wasn't because it was in my neighborhood. ... In my opinion, we did what was right."
Sklarski also took aim at councilmen using their cell phones to text during meetings, saying as elected officials, full attention should be put on the public that pays their salaries.
"I've seen it at too many meetings, at the county level, at the state level. I think common sense should prevail," he said, noting that he saw a fellow councilman texting at their last meeting.
Clark responded that sometimes, such as issues with his kids, he needed to answer his cell phone. "I also have other responsibilities. If I need to answer it, I'm going to answer it."
•The board approved a special meeting at 4 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 2, for Supervisor Steve Richards to present his tentative budget for 2013.
Richards said that budget preparation would be a more difficult task than usual this time.
"I've been predicting for the last three years that 2013 would be the hard year," he said.
Loss of population in the town has a direct effect on the town's share of sales tax, which is based on population, not where the money is collected from, he said. Otherwise, the town would receive a much bigger share due to its Military Road business corridor.
Also affecting the budget are state mandates. At one time, the net cost for the state mandate for pension was 3 percent of salary; now it's up to 23 percent, with an average salary of about $40,000, he said.
•Several public hearings were set for 7 p.m. Oct. 16, which will be followed by the next regular Town Board meeting.
One will be to give the town the ability to override the state tax levy limit of 2 percent if necessary. Richards said this was a routine resolution passed by other municipalities as well, so that it would be in place "just in case" when budget deliberations reach the finish line in November.
A public hearing on an amendment to town code for curbs, driveways and sidewalks also will be held.
"I have noticed for a long time that there are many of our town residents now opting to have concrete driveways installed, with more of our residents even pouring concrete aprons too. Some of the concrete driveways extend into the town's right-of-way and up to the road's edge," said Councilman Marc Carpenter. "In order to have concrete aprons be legal, we need to amend our local town code."
Carpenter said the code amendment, if approved at the October meeting, will spell out what is required when pouring concrete in town right-of-ways and clarify the town's right to do repairs in the right-of-way areas without being held liable for concrete replacement.
"The residents will need to sign a 'no cost' permit that will have them acknowledge that they will hold the town harmless in case the town digs out the concrete in the right-of-ways," he said.
Public hearings also are scheduled at the October meeting on rezoning requests of three Porter Road residences from B-1 to R-1. Richards explained that when the town adopted its master plan, the houses became part of the commercial district. This can prevent these residents from selling their homes because banks won't finance a residential home in a business district, he said.
•The board approved the purchase of the town's Young Street property by the Olmstead Center for the Visually Impaired. The group is planning to build a senior citizen assisted living center. Richards said the town had hoped to interest the group in the former Military Road School, but government funding requires a new building because it is more "green" and energy efficient.
•Getting a jump on fall activities, the board approved 4 to 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 31, for Halloween trick-or-treat hours.
•The board also made several appointments.
Sue Fulle was appointed to represent the town on the Oakwood Cemetery board of directors. Now part of the city of Niagara Falls, the cemetery was once the original town cemetery.
Daniel Wirth was appointed to fill the unexpired term of Terry Eisenman on the Planning Board.
Kathleen Knotts was appointed to fill the unexpired term of Richard Musolino on the Planning Board.