by Susan Mikula Campbell
A contentious three-hour meeting of the Town of Niagara Town Board dragged on Tuesday with disagreements on bills, business plans and hiring, plus two executive sessions.
Tops in the good news department was the approval of funding for fireworks and entertainment for the town's annual Fourth of July bash set for July 1.
A resolution to pay a $19,763 bill to Clark Patterson Lee for engineering work related to the upcoming expansion of Fashion Outlets of Niagara Falls was tabled by a 3-2 vote.
"This is just silly, and it's going to jeopardize a $100 million project," said Supervisor Steve Richards.
Councilman Charles Teixeira said he wanted the building inspector to see a copy of the bill before it was approved. Councilman Rob Clark objected that the bill "just has names on it and doesn't say what they did."
Richards pointed out that the board, during the same meeting, had approved bills structured the same way. He also noted that the bill would not go to taxpayers, but be paid out of an account set up for the town by the mall expansion developer Macerich Co., a Santa Monica, Calif., company that owns regional and community shopping centers across the country.
In other matters:
•The board defeated by a 3-2 vote a request by Patrick Gabriel, owner of the new Parks Furniture next to Sam's Club on Porter Road, to allow a change in the plans for an upgrade of the driveway entrance.
Plans are in the works to move Sam's, owned by Walmart, to the new Walmart area off Military Road.
The change will mean the entrance for traffic won't be as much of an issue any more and Gabriel wants to use some of the money set aside by Walmart for the entry to enhance the outside of his building (the old Walmart). The change, approved by the town's Planning Board, was defeated by the board. While Richards said the move sent the wrong signal to the business community, Teixeira said Walmart should have taken care of the entrance issue two years ago.
•The board approved $8,800 for fireworks by Skylighters, a stage, sound system and entertainment for the Fourth of July event to be held the evening of Monday, July 1, in Veterans Park on Lockport Road. Headliner will be Western New York singer, entertainer and "Love Doctor" Lance Diamond, with Rip and the Band Dogs as opening act.
•After much discussion and questioning, the board decided to officially "create" a part-time fire code inspector position instead of making the move to "appoint" one. The board had previously reduced the building inspector job to a single part-time position. Richards said that even when that office was staffed with three full-time positions, the fire inspections weren't being done, both costing the town money in fees and possibly endangering residents.
Councilman Danny Sklarski noted that the fire inspector would be an outside contractor paid a percentage of the fees he or she collects.
•The board approved the hiring of Lee Wallace to supervise the town's Recreation Department, for an amount not to exceed $1,750 a month between June 16 and Dec. 31. He headed the department prior to the hiring of Sue Kotlarz, whose resignation was accepted with regret at Tuesday's meeting. Wallace is retired as athletic director at Niagara County Community College.
•The board also approved the hiring of Travis Maggard as a part-time police officer and the rehiring of John Marcyan as a part-time police officer. The board also accepted the resignation of part-time police officer Edward Finley, who has accepted a full-time job with the Niagara County Sheriff's Office.
•Eric Hinterberger of Petroleum Street brought photos to convince the board that something needs to be done about the corner property at Petroleum and Lockport Road.
"That is a pigsty. It's an eyesore to the Town of Niagara and it's at the end of my street," he said, adding that the problem has existed for at least two years and "it's only getting worse.
He also noted that the owner of the old Party Time bar is parking unlicensed cars on the volleyball court behind the building, and he is concerned that the property will be turned into a junkyard.
•The board approved the tax assessment settlement between the town and Otto Redanz Funeral Home on Military Road. Town Attorney Michael Risman explained the settlement involved reducing the funeral home's assessed value from $356,000 to $309,000, based on sale prices of other funeral homes in Western New York. It also included reducing the assessed value of an adjacent vacant residence and lot from $70,000 to $35,000. Redanz is waiving a tax refund from the town and the new assessments will start next year, he said.
•The board approved a resolution directing the town attorney and councilmen Danny Sklarski and Marc Carpenter to develop an employee handbook for all current employees and new hires that will include all town policies and procedures affecting them.
•The board approved advertising for bids starting June 20 for reconstruction of dugouts in the town park's baseball fields.