Local government leaders responded to a Niagara-Wheatfield Tribune survey this month on the good and the bad of 2013 and what's ahead for 2014.
•Bob Cliffe, Supervisor, Wheatfield
What do you consider the best news in your town this year?
"The people of Wheatfield like the small town atmosphere, which we work to maintain on their behalf. We do it so well that people want to live here, so we remain among the fastest-growing towns in Western New York. Growth isn't the goal. Rather, good growth is the result of good government and good neighbors."
What do you consider the bad news in the town for 2013?
"I'm not sure that Wheatfield had bad news. As always, we lost several good friends and family members this year. These good folks will always be in our hearts as we share their dreams with our children and grandchildren."
What is ahead for 2014?
"In this past year, we received our first grant to get started with the Greenway Trail as it leads through Wheatfield. In 2014, we hope to complete the design and get started with building this trail starting at the Niagara Falls end, and going to Liberty Drive, building on the old railroad right-of-way. We also hope to get started with our park on River Road as a part of the Greenway Trail.
"Also in 2014, we expect to start the improvements at Fairmount Park where we will be building handicapped accessible restrooms as well as access walkways, which will allow disabled persons to be able to see their kids and friends play ball and otherwise enjoy Fairmount Park.
"We are also working on an addition to Mario Park, which will add to our fast-growing youth activities. We have a very good 'house' baseball program, a terrific girl's softball program with the Nitros, as well as a bunch of kids playing youth soccer. Add to that our championship Wheatfield Cheerleaders and a terrific summer camp for youth and we know we are heading in the right direction.
"And this year, the Western New York Firefighter's Association will be having their annual convention this July at the Town Hall and Youth Center.
"This is all made possible by getting the town back into good financial condition, keeping taxes down by keeping track of the nickels and dimes. This remains my primary goal for 2014 and beyond."
•Steve Richards, Supervisor, Town of Niagara
What was the best news in your town this year?
"The best news for us was the investment of Macerich in the Fashion Outlets mall. We are very proud to host the Fashion Outlets of Niagara. With the addition being built and the added investment of the new tenants, this will probably be the largest investment ever in our town. The creation of an estimated 600 new full- and part-time jobs could be an economic driver for the entire western end of the county. Something I'm very proud of on a personal level is that I was able to work out an agreement with Macerich and local unions to have the new construction built by union workers."
"For me the worst news this past year was the inability of Town Board to work together for the good of our town. We are going back to the days of what became to be known as 'the bickering Town Board.' So many people have contacted me asking, 'Oh my, are we going back to the old days when the only thing they did was argue and fight?' The board members' New Year's resolution should be to forget personal and petty disputes and focus on doing what they were elected to do."
What's ahead in 2014?
"I'm looking forward to the County Legislature reaching an agreement to give the town a greater share of the sales tax as the host community for the Fashion Outlets of Niagara, which is the greatest source of sales tax revenue for the entire county. Also, I look forward to finishing the town park and the continuation of my five-year road project, which should have practically all roads in the town paved in the next three to four years. I've been blessed to have a great town workforce."
•Bill Ross, Niagara County Legislature chairman and Wheatfield legislator
Best news for Niagara County?
"The Niagara County property tax levy will be 0 percent for the 2014 calendar year. The average projected Niagara County tax on a property assessed at $100,000 will decrease by $12, which is calculated on full valuation."
Any bad news?
"The bad news is that the New York state mandates passed to county governments, which include Medicaid, pensions, TANF/Safety Not Probation, Indigent Defense and Early Intervention among the nine mandates, use the major percentage of the annual counties property tax levy."
What's ahead for 2014?
"I see a busy year for the Niagara County Center for Economic Development. The NCCED will be involved in many areas of development namely, Brownfield grants, which include cleanup work and site reuse planning, hotel development in Niagara Falls for a total investment of over $89 million, the Empower Niagara low-cost power for small to medium-size companies that has already created 254 new jobs and retained another 524 positions, an ongoing Canadian marketing campaign, marketing shovel-ready development sites around the county, continued development of air services at the Niagara Falls International Airport, continuous campaigning on the retention of the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station, and the new NCCED website that promotes Niagara County as a great place for business.
"Economic development is a priority for creating and retaining jobs in Niagara County."