by Terry Duffy
It's been one of those weeks for Supervisor Dennis Brochey and the Lewiston Town Board.
It began with Monday's work session, one that was minus members Ron Winkley and Al Bax, and went on seemingly forever. That session opened at 6:30 p.m., ran for more than two hours, and was for the most part unproductive, with very limited action taken on a number of presented agenda items. It was followed by an executive session that went equally long into the evening, ending at close to 11:30 p.m.
Then came the unexpected news of Town Board member Mike Marra's resignation, effective Friday.
Marra released the following statement on Wednesday:
"After 10 years as an elected official, I have decided to step down as a Town of Lewiston councilman as of Friday, July 25.
"I would like to take this opportunity to express my sincere gratitude to the people of Lewiston for the opportunity to serve the town and village over the last decade. It truly has been an honor.
"During my time as a village trustee and town councilman, I have had the privilege to serve with so many great people on both of those boards and want to thank all of them for their efforts on Lewiston's behalf. Further, I have got to know volunteer members on committees and boards who quietly work so hard for the community we love. They deserve a tremendous amount of gratitude for their time.
"This decision will afford me the opportunity to pursue some other interests; both professionally and personally," Marra said.
"Finally, I wish the very best to my friends on the town and village boards. I am confident that they, as I always tried to do, will continue to work for a better Lewiston."
For the town, it represents the second departure of a Republican Town Board member this year, following the swearing-in of Democrat Town Supervisor Dennis Brochey in January. GOP member Ernest Palmer resigned in early February, citing conflicts in his busy life, including family, and said that he wanted to move on to other ventures. "I have other interests," Palmer said at the time, noting his involvement as a musician on a local band and also the fact that he's a new grandfather.
"The meetings, the other things, they just kept getting in the way," he added.
Commenting on Marra's departure, Brochey said, "I'm sad to see Mike go. We had our differences, but he did serve the town and village of Lewiston with a big heart."
The Marra departure also creates a new void for the current Town Board GOP majority that now needs to be filled. No replacement for Marra has yet been named, but it's expected an application/review/appointment process will again commence, similar to the procedure earlier this year that saw the naming of new Town Board member Bill Conrad, who replaced Palmer.
The sudden resignation however, did catch the attention of the Niagara County Democratic Party. In a release this week, County Democratic Chairman Nick Forster called the resignation of Marra a "disgrace, an insult to Lewiston residents in an attempt to circumvent the election process."
Forster noted Marra's sudden departure follows the resignation of Palmer, who resigned following his failed bid in the election for town supervisor last November. Marra won re-election at the same time.
"This is a part of a pattern in Lewiston and other towns in the county where elected Republicans resign from positions they were elected to and people are then appointed to fill those positions without elections," Forster said. "It's a political fix, plain and simple, making sure their hand-picked candidates have the advantages of incumbency and other would-be candidates are at a disadvantage."
Forster said the decision of Republican State Sen. George Maziarz to withdraw from his senate race is part of the same pattern. " After circulating petitions and holding fundraisers, George has this sudden epiphany that now is the time to retire. These moves are all calculated and aimed at limiting choices for voters."
Commenting on the GOP majority's expected appointment of a successor to fill Marra's seat until an election, Forster continued, "They probably already have someone picked. Supervisor Dennis Brochey needs help from the Town Board in dealing with the problems he inherited.
"Marra supported squandering town money on Joseph Davis State Park, paying for plans for a recreation center voters rejected and he refuses to join Brochey in getting Artpark to reimburse the town for police services. Marra has tried to downplay the town's financial problems and now he is taking a hike," Forster said in closing.
Moving on to news from Monday's work session:
•Brochey reported on the rescinding of the CWM siting board citizens advisory committee, appointed at the January Town Board reorganization meeting and the naming of new members. Following Town Board approval on both moves, the following members were named: Robert DiFrancesco, Dr. Mark Gallo, Edward P. Jesella, Joseph Leone and Amy Witryol. All are Lewiston residents and will work on behalf of the town's interests on the CWM expansion proposal now before the state Department of Environmental Conservation, which Lewiston opposes.
•Brochey announced his intent to have Lewiston join with the Town of Marilla in the sharing in the cost of hiring an environmental attorney, yet unnamed, to combat the Quasar Energy Group and its intent to begin equate injections into the soils of farms in the town that won earlier DEC approval.
Following discussions with Town Attorney Mark Davis, who gave his approval on such an arrangement, the Town Board gave its nod for Davis to begin drafting a six-month moratorium intended to block any action by Quasar, with language to be presented for board review at its July 28 session.
•Artpark matters again resurfaced as the board members deliberated a question posed by Lewiston Police Department Chief Chris Salada, on just who should be responsible for handling the cost of replacing A-frame metal traffic enforcement signs used at Artpark concerts and other events and estimated to be more than $2,400.
The signs are now complete and ready for pick-up, said Salada, who asked board members just how the bill should be paid. Brochey reported the Village of Lewiston had indicated it was the town's responsibility for payment.
Following some discussion, the board approved an arrangement to use monies from a Town Highway account and then submit a bill to Artpark and Company, requesting payment.
Soon afterward, the board entered its lengthy executive session, addressing a number of agenda items it had deemed to be inappropriate for discussion at the earlier work session.
More on the board to come on Monday.