by Susan Mikula Campbell
Neighbors of the Bergholz Volunteer Fire Department returned to the Wheatfield Town Board on Monday to continue their quest to tone down or eliminate the fire siren.
Town Supervisor Robert Cliffe reported that the fire department had acted on its own to install a restrictor plate on the siren last week and that Wheatfield Building Inspector Joe Caturia had taken metered decibel readings in Bergholz to test the siren's loudness on Sunday afternoon.
Caturia said the siren is considered a steady noise, since it lasts more than a minute, going up for about 10 seconds, then down for about 10 seconds through 10 cycles.
From the street on the east side of the firehall, the average was 83.6 decibels, with a maximum peak of 99.9 decibels. From the Holy Ghost School property, the average was 86.41 decibels, with a peak of 100.7 decibels.
Local ordinance requires that, during the day, steady noise not be above 65 decibels within three feet of the complainant's structure. However, he said, the Town Board does not have control over the siren's loudness as emergency response is exempted under the town's noise ordinance.
Cliffe noted he is willing to help set up a meeting between fire department officials and residents who are opposed to the siren. However, he said members of the town's Fire Advisory Board, including Bergholz Fire Chief Keith Potter, who was at Monday's meeting, have assured him that at this time, the siren is necessary.
Bergholz resident Dan Lehman, who at the Sept. 10 meeting presented a petition signed by 214 neighbors objecting to the siren, wanted to know why the siren has to be 10 to 12 cycles instead of three or four, when it is the secondary means of alerting fire department members to a call. Pagers are the primary method. With today's technology, there ought to be a way to let the neighbors live in peace, he said.
Paul DePlato, also a Bergholz resident, said he and his family have never had a problem with the siren and they appreciate the time the volunteers put in to protect the community. "Every time the siren goes off, we thank God for that fire department," he said.
•Skunk problems also were brought to the board at the last meeting. Cliffe said it's not legal for an unlicensed town employee to trap and move or euthanize a nuisance animal such as a skunk or raccoon. Cliffe offers a more detailed explanation on the "supervisor's blog" on the town website, and advises residents to check the Department of Environmental Conservation website at http://www.dec.ny.gov/animals for more advice.
•Cliffe also announced the schedule for the town's preparation of its 2013 budget. He plans to present the tentative budget to the town clerk and the board this Friday, Sept. 28.
The tentative budget includes many of the "wish list items" from the town's department heads.
"It's a starting point," he said, adding that he expects this budget to include a "substantial decrease" in the overall tax for homeowners, in large part due to recycling funds, even before the board has an opportunity to review the budget.
Due to the Columbus Day holiday, the board will next meet at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 10, for a budget workshop session and a board meeting to pay bills and deal with urgent motions. The preliminary budget should go to the town clerk on Nov. 1. The public hearing on the preliminary budget will be at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 7. The budget could be adopted that day, but if not, since there is no meeting on Veterans Day, the board could wait to adopt the budget on Nov. 15. The board must adopt the budget by Nov. 20.
In other matters:
•The board formally approved the agreement with the YMCA for the use of the Wheatfield Youth Center during daytime hours of the school year. Payment to the town will be $800 per month.
•The board authorized the supervisor to send a letter of support on the Canterbury II project. The site plan was approved two years ago for the subsidized senior rental facility near Townline Road. The new construction is an addition to existing senior apartments.
•Recreation Director Ed Sturgeon reported that 158 people attended the German-themed senior dance last Saturday at the Wheatfield Community Center, the largest turnout in two years.
•Assessor Brigette Grawe said senior STAR renewal reminders should be going out to residents in a couple of weeks.
•Highway Superintendent Art Kroening reported that town crews are picking up brush, but asked residents to be patient as fall brush piles are, as usual, larger than normal.
•The board authorized the highway superintendent to post a job opening for a laborer position.
•Town Clerk Kathy Harrington noted the farmers market is continuing from 4 to 7 p.m. Wednesdays in the Town Hall parking lot. Next up as part of the market's entertainment will be an Octoberfest on Oct. 3 with the Bergholz German Band performing at 5 p.m.