by Susan Mikula Campbell
Town of Niagara Deputy Supervisor Sylvia Virtuoso calls Assemblyman John Ceretto's proposal for another off-ramp to connect I-190 and Military Road around the Factory Outlet Mall area "magnificent."
"That would be a great, great asset to the whole town," Virtuoso said at Tuesday's Town Board meeting.
She noted that local businesses and residents have indicated their support for the idea to alleviate congestion on Military Road, especially with the construction of the new addition to Fashion Outlets of Niagara.
"One of my top priorities is the safety of our residents, and our current infrastructure falls short of adequately accomplishing that goal," Virtuoso said.
Ceretto has called on the state Department of Transportation to conduct a traffic study to evaluate the feasibility of constructing the I-190 off-ramp.
"I am formally requesting that the DOT issue a report on the feasibility of constructing a highway off-ramp that will funnel traffic safely and efficiently to and from our shopping center," Ceretto said. "This project is paramount to Niagara's growth as a Western New York center of commerce and tourism."
The new shopping center, featuring heavy volume stores such as Sam's Club, serves as a popular focal point for commerce and sales in Niagara. Ceretto pointed to the need to improve the flow of traffic in the area so that people could more easily come and shop at the mall, especially Canadians who would come across the border to take advantage of lower sales taxes.
State Sen. George Maziarz, also a supporter, said recently, "This project will help to improve the flow of traffic, and mitigate congestion as well as having many positive economic spillover benefits that will provide an important boost to the local economy."
Niagara Falls Mayor Paul A. Dyster has pointed out that "freeing up frequently congested intersections near the shopping center will provide a greater incentive for those who live in the city to spend their money locally."
Virtuoso noted that an interior road linking Fashion Outlets with the Walmart complex already is in the works and also is expected to help relieve some of the congestion on Military Road and Fashion Outlets Boulevard.
In other matters at Tuesday's Town Board meeting:
•The board approved the establishment of a Fashion Outlet Expansion Sewer Improvement Area (sanitary pump station project), which Town Attorney Michael Risman explained is needed to make sure state standards are met. The board approved a bond issue of $737,000 for the capital improvement project. This will not affect taxpapers, but will be charged back to the mall, Risman said.
"It's going to benefit the county as a whole, without question," said Councilman Danny Sklarski of the mall expansion.
•The board approved a motion by Councilman Rob Clark for a new Town of Niagara Code of Ethics, something Clark said was "long overdue." He credited Virtuoso with doing the work to put the new code together.
When FBI officials visited the town as part of the investigation into former Supervisor Steve Richards, they requested a copy of the town's Code of Ethics. Virtuoso said the code dated back to 1973 and was only a few sentences long. "They told us it was outdated and advised that it be updated," she said.
The new extensive code follows the state-recommended code and includes everything from when and when not disclosure, recusal and abstention of vote is required to use of municipal resources and handling nepotism issues. The new code, which goes immediately into effect, ends with "Any municipal officer or employee who violates this code may be censured, fined, suspended or removed from office or employment in the manner provided."
Virtuoso said she intends to make the new code part of a new employee handbook.
•Clark credited Virtuoso's work since she was appointed two months ago as deputy supervisor after Richard's retirement to handle town business along with her town clerk duties, with bringing a new sense of peace and cooperation to the board. She also keeps board members informed of town issues and happenings with daily emails.
"I'm glad to see everyone is moving forward and not getting stuck in the past," he said. "Everyone's goal is the same and that's for the betterment of the town."
"Well, I can't say I did it myself," Virtuoso said, citing the cooperation of board members and the assistance of Risman and a "great team" of town workers.