by Terry Duffy
There was a fair amount of discussion, but not really all that much substance, at two meetings of the Lewiston Town Board this past week.
On Thursday, Supervisor Steve Reiter and attending board members Ron Winkley, Mike Marra and Ernie Palmer met for what could best be called a "casual discussion" on the still-in-the-works 2014 town budget with Finance Director Michael Johnson.
No actual figures were presented as key elements involved what the town was going to do with its one major financial problem - that being the water department account, which has doubled. "We're looking at ways to reduce," said Reiter, noting that options available to the town at this point include utilizing New York Power Authority revenue credit lines to offset the increase; eliminating a water department position totaling $95,000 in salary and benefits; re-evaluating water department costs such as badger meter equipment purchases; exploring the use of sales taxes; considering monies from town refuse and fire protection accounts; and further working with various town departments in an effort to trim the hike.
Reiter said the water department fund balance account currently stands at a healthy $200,000, up significantly from the $44,000 when he first came into office, and that it could be yet another option to use. The "town needs to fine-tune water costs - otherwise we're in decent shape," said Reiter, adding that the town is working toward staying within the state's 2 percent tax cap.
Well, to an extent.
Johnson did say the town is dealing with other cost increases beyond its control, such as workmen's compensation; uncertain health insurance increases due to the still unrealized impact of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare); teamsters and CSEA health contracts; and Lewiston Police retirement costs. Another is a 3 percent salary increase under consideration for the town's non-union employees, minus those elected.
All those still need to be addressed as the town moves toward crafting and finalizing its budget for 2014.
Other items briefly discussed Thursday concerned ongoing town business with engineering consultant CRA Associates. Reiter presented a motion, approved by the board, for CRA to continue its work toward finalizing dedication approvals for the Legacy Drive eminent domain sought by the town.
And board members approved a Reiter motion for CRA rep. Bob Lannon to appear before the Town Board's Monday, Oct. 28, session to update the town on the State Environmental Quality Review on the boat launch project under consideration at Joseph Davis State Park. Reiter indicated the state was seeking "extra items that could drive up costs" and wanted more information.
Thursday's meeting ended with attending members convening to an executive session to discuss personnel matters, including those involving the Lewiston town clerk's office and Lewiston Police. Town Clerk Carol Brandon said she expected to have updated 2014 budget numbers available by Monday.
Moving on to Monday's Town Board regular session, water woes and Lewiston Senior Center improvements occupied much of that discussion.
The meeting opened with complaints from residents, two of them drainage-related. Swan Road resident Linda Tarnowski wanted to know why a drainage pipe problem on her property was yet to be addressed, and River Walk Drive resident Claire Knowles had questions on where the town was at on its long-discussed drainage work and pump installations to address standing water issues affecting residents of the River Walk neighborhood. Reiter conveyed to both women that he was on top of it, telling Tarnowski he would be meeting with the appropriate town departments to "get it fixed," and responding to Knowles "you're next our list."
Then Saunders Settlement Road resident Debbie Gleton appeared and apprised Reiter and attending board members of an ongoing problem concerning a survey line issue with a neighbor. Saying she wanted "a response" by the town, the woman said the "neighbors are threatening and bullying" her.
"I feel something bad will happen," Gleton said, telling the board that it's been going on for five years, there's been surveys done, and there's "continued harassment." Reiter responded by directing Town Attorney Mark Davis to meet with the resident in the Town Hall foyer during the board session in an attempt to gain more information and help resolve the matter.
At the session itself, board members discussed improvements for the Lewiston Senior Center. Underway is a driveway-sealing project, and still to come is a major project involving a possible roof replacement for the Lower River Road facility. Palmer suggested a study be done to determine whether it's worth spending upward of $200,000 to replace the roof, questioning other matters, including structural design flaws with the current flat roof and building, plus the issue of replacing the center's air conditioning. Town Councilman Al Bax proposed a committee be formed, possibly with the Senior Center advisory board to examine the issue further.
•The town approved a "Dog Control and Harboring Agreement" with the Town of Porter. Covering a period of Sept. 30, 2013, to Sept. 30, 2014, the agreement calls for Porter to utilize the services of the Lewiston dog control officer "for the purpose of locating, securing and transporting stray dogs to the Village Vet (located in Lewiston) for harboring."
In turn, Porter would compensate Lewiston $100 for each stray captured during regular business hours, and $150 for any stray captured at any other time. In addition, Porter would pay all costs charged to the Town of Lewiston by the Village Vet pursuant to the town's current contract with the veterinary hospital for harboring and care services of stray dogs captured by the Lewiston DCO. No cost figure was included.
•The board approved setting a public hearing for 5:45 p.m. Oct. 28 to review town engineer and building inspector updates covering construction projects and the town code.