Supervisor faults a lack of cooperation with the Town Board
By Terry Duffy
Come Wednesday, Nov. 11, Dennis Brochey will officially be calling it quits as Town of Lewiston supervisor.
Brochey, 64, decided this year not to seek a second term following his current two-year stint at Town Hall. A political newcomer, he previously served as a Village of Lewiston trustee prior to his run for supervisor. He cited family interests as the primary reason for his not wishing to seek re-election.
However, when one reads into a very, very lengthy explanation to Lewiston residents, contained in this week's Sentinel, one senses frustration is the overriding factor.
Brochey comes from a background based on values and family.
Originally from North Tonawanda, his family moved to northern Niagara County in the 1960s. "I lived in Youngstown since 1964, and lived in the Village of Lewiston since 1980," said Brochey. "Before that, I lived in North Tonawanda."
Brochey attended elementary schools in NT and is a graduate of Lewiston-Porter, where he excelled in cross country and track. He went on to attend Roberts Wesleyan College for a time on an athletic scholarship.
He was a long-time businessman in the village, having run Brochey's Automotive on Center and North Eighth streets. "It was a family-run business since 1972. I took over in 1990; my dad passed away in 1986 and my mother sold it to me in 1990. I was there until 2013 ... 23 years," said Brochey.
Of his entry in politics, Brochey attributed his interest at the onset to others.
"Other politicians, Mayor Collesano, Ernie Krell, they were all trying to get me as a trustee. ... I told my wife about it. (She) insisted I don't do it ... but she was away in Las Vegas. ... I made the decision and told her after," said Brochey. "I was a top voter for village trustee over four candidates for two open spots.
"I enjoyed doing it; there was no political flack. ... I ran as a Democrat back then. ... They were all Republican, but they thought I was going to be a plus, with fresh ideas. They asked me to run. After two-three months, I said 'Yeah.' "
A man of convictions, Brochey, in his letter, faulted a complete lack of cooperation with the Lewiston Town Board as his chief reason for leaving.
"I'm not influenced by the Dems (or anyone else)," said Brochey. "If anything ... I kept thinking (if) we're going to work together ... (but) we're not. ... I was upset; my ideas, if they would have listened to me ... (things would have been different)."
Brochey and his wife, Cathy, recently purchased a home in the Las Vegas suburbs. He said they wished to relocate there to be closer to their children and grandchildren.
However, he expressed a sincere love for Lewiston - its residents, his associates - particularly the employees at Town Hall.
"I am really going to miss a lot of great people. ... The village government was a breeze. ... I'm going to miss the mayor, the trustees; I'm going to miss every employee at Town Hall. ... My team, they were with me 100 percent. ... My hat's off to them. ... I'm going to miss all the seniors.
"I'm going to miss a lot of people here. ... Through (the) good things, (the) bad things, I realized a lot of who my friends were, who weren't."
Of his ever returning, Brochey added, "I'm not going to rule it out."
Brochey explains time as town supervisor
Editorial by Dennis Brochey
The people of the Town of Lewiston elected me, virtually a political newcomer, to be their town supervisor nearly two years ago. I was honored and made a promise to myself to work hard not for just the Democrats and Republicans who voted for me, but for all Lewiston residents whether they were voters or not.
I came in at a not-so-good time for Lewiston Town Hall. FBI investigations, environmental issues and finance problems were serious items that I inherited. Many people that I talked to while I was campaigning nicknamed the former board as "the good ole boys." I was determined to clean up what I could and bring back trust in our town government to the people. I was determined to start a process of more accountability of our wasteful spending and look for ways to put Lewiston in better financial shape.
I spent the first few months analyzing our past town budgets and realizing we didn't have the necessary revenue without dipping into our reserves to have a balanced budget. I tried in vain to get the board to agree to stop wasting and giving away funds that we drastically need.
In the spring of 2014, I talked to representatives from the N.Y.S. Parks Commission (State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation) about getting out of Joe Davis State Park and our financial struggle that we're looking at. They were very understanding and agreed to take over the maintenance of the park from us just as we have been doing. All they wanted was notice as soon as possible so that they could proceed with their own budgeting. This was going to save us close to $250,000. I presented this to the board and to a person I'll just call the Republican Majority Leader. The "RML" said we have "too much invested and we are not getting out." No other comments or support of my idea was brought out by the other board members, which at the time included Council members Winkley, Bax, Conrad and Marra.
I then tried to keep the Modern Disposal's tipping fees from Artpark. This would have given us over $100,000. Again, the "RML" fought me over this and, as some may have read about, discussions escalated at board meetings. I lost that idea, but won my idea of having Artpark to at least pay for our town Police Department's fair cost of $41,000. I was also, in a separate negotiation with Artpark, to open up the gate at the Robert Moses Parkway to help speed up traffic leaving their concerts for a cost of $13,500. This would then give us $54,500 for our police costs. The "RML" agreed to the $41,000 that Artpark would pay, but then turned around and included opening the gate into that $41,000. Partial victory for me, but still had a $13,500 loss to it. The board did not side with me on this one either. I cast the lone "nay" vote.
In the spring of 2014, I worked on a plan that would save the town approximately $125,000 per year for the next five to six years and move our town Water Department into the 21st century.
The money was to come from the New York State Power Authority's hydropower allotment that we get yearly instead of using our own revenue. The best part was that the Power Authority was very much interested in hearing more. They asked me to let the council know about this sound idea and get approval before they take the next step.
I presented this along with some other ideas after many weeks of preparation. Well, you guessed it: The "RML" threw that plan aside without even reviewing it. He said, at that time, to let the attorneys handle it. Again, the same board members sat quietly without any support or even looking it over.
Not giving up and after the attorneys failed doing anything about it, I tried again to resubmit this idea to the board several months later. The "RML" asked what this was and, as I briefly explained to him, he tossed it aside and again told me to let the attorneys handle this. The town is now using its own revenue to purchase new, second-rate water meter heads instead of the newer design that possibly could have used NYPA hydropower allotment money to pay for them. Again, I received no support from the new board, which now at this time included Winkley, Bax, Conrad and Ceretto.
At this point, I could see that this wasn't about my sound ideas, but because I was a lone Democrat. Never a discussion or question on what it was that I was proposing.
Three times in 2014 I tried to abolish the unneeded position of the internal claims auditor. This was a $43,000-a-year position that no other town or village government has anywhere in Western New York and perhaps beyond. This one escalated in a private session with the "RML" pounding his fist on my office table and asking me if I wanted a vote on it right then and there. My reply to him was "You pound your fist on the table and these bobble-heads agree to whatever you want, so what's the sense?"
Ironically, the internal claims auditor retired as of last August 2014 and no motion was ever made for a replacement. The town has since been operating efficiently without a replacement. Savings of $43,000 a year plus benefits.
The three mentioned items could have saved the town over $400,000 in 2014.
I believe that, if they would have listened to me last year, our Moody rating may have not been lowered this year and cost us an additional $160,000 during the duration of our town bonds because of this new rating.
Now fast forward to 2015. The "RML" takes my idea from last year and makes a motion to come up with an escape plan to get out of Joseph Davis State Park. Motion seconded and passed by all. We are now out of Joe Davis State Park, saving $250,000.
Another council member takes my other idea from last year and now makes a motion to keep Artpark's tipping fee money to use for our own debt. Motion seconded and passed by all members. We can actually look at this as additional revenue of $109,000 to help our budget.
We now have savings of over $400,000 in our 2015 and future budgets that I have been fighting for since I came into office.
Four months ago, I came up with an idea on how we could solve the leaking roof problems at both our Lewiston Senior Center and our Waste Water Treatment Plant. Both roofs have been leaking for years. NYPA allotment money cannot be used for a leaky roof problem, but can be used for energy-saving updates. I wrote a brief letter to the New York Power Authority in White Plains on my plan to help reduce energy costs for these buildings by adding more insulation to the roofs. To do this, the roofs would have to be resealed afterward. I also submitted to them that I would like to replace the three ancient air conditioning systems with more energy-efficient units. They were so impressed with my plan that they flew in from White Plains to speak to me about all the details. I received thumbs up on this from NYPA right then and there.
Now my big concern was is this plan going to be shut down by the present board again? I presented this plan to Town Finance Director Martha Blazick and explained to her that I need her to present this as her idea and not mention that it was my idea. She shared "her" idea to the town's attorney and it was presented to the board. This was passed 5-0 with Marti getting the credit. Marti later said to me that this was "ingenious." I let NYPA know the board, without hesitation, gave approval and both roofs are now being reinsulated, resealed and new efficiency air conditioning units installed. This is a combined project cost of $510,000 with the town paying the least of this improvement.
At the meeting, they later asked me what happened to my idea that was going to improve our Water Department and move into the 21st century. The official went on to say that NYPA never shut that idea down. As I glanced over at one of our town attorneys, I said, "I really can't explain what happened there."
Many times people have asked me how I like my new job. My response has always been the same, "I love the job, but I hate the two meetings a month." This is when projects I have been working on for weeks usually get tossed aside without clear explanation.
Please never think that I didn't stop trying for the people of Lewiston or that I was weak. At times, I was frustrated and ready to throw in my hat from the lack of cooperation with a completely all- Republican board, but refused to give into their party games.
In my opinion, my team has always been those who work directly here at Town Hall with me, and not the Town Council.
Code Enforcement Officer Tim Masters and Assessor Linda Johnson were there and very outspoken and supportive when I met with the Niagara Bridge Commission to help secure an extra $50,000 toward our 2015 budget. This will increase to an extra $64,000 for the 2016 budget and remain there for years to come.
Town Clerk Donna Garfinkel and Deputy Clerk Darlene Norwich came to my office late last year. They had a plan to consolidate the tax receiver department with the clerk's department. After some talk with them and ironing out the pros and cons, it was determined that it could be done and possibly save the town as much as $40,000 a year. This was approved by a referendum and we are now operating without the tax receiver position.
Another plus came in the form of a $54,800 check presented by my friends, legislators Bill Ross and Clyde Burmaster. Hopefully, this contribution will continue and perhaps increase year after year.
There were many other smaller savings that were discovered while I served as your town supervisor and I think it's safe to say the savings and extra revenue exceeds the $600,000 mark. That does not mean that we are out of the woods yet. As much as I hate to say it, and because of cost increases in nearly every area of the town expenses and possible loses of some revenue, there will eventually be a return of a town tax. The amount has yet to be determined.
I worked hard for the people of Lewiston and if I had the right people working with me, I could have done a lot more. That's why I cannot endorse those who are presently serving the people of Lewiston and I will stand behind my deputy supervisor, Marc Briglio, for town supervisor. Mark has been my appointed supervisor for several months. He's sat with me in my office going over and understanding issues more than all four present council members combined. He's intelligent and has outstanding leadership skills.
I'm also standing behind Dave Trane for highway superintendent because of his many work years of experience with the state's Department of Transportation. We need someone with this kind of experience in this field, plus his budgetary skills and ability to get along well with others will be incredible assets to what is needed in the Highway Department. He has strong union skills and great endorsements from other unions, including CSEA.
My other two picks are for council members who are open-minded and business-smart. Francine DelMonte is one with great leadership skills and political experience. The other is local businessman Rob Morreale. They both understand what smart budgeting is all about and will follow what I started in putting Lewiston finances in order. All four of my picks are what Lewiston needs to move on into a new chapter of new and fresh ideas.
Yes, they are all Democrats, but people who know me know that I don't pick people based on political parties.
My wife, Cathy, has been a Republican her whole life. She is officially a Nevada resident and called me to tell me that she is now a registered voter there. What surprised me was that she switched parties and is now a Democrat. Knowing her as well as I do, and knowing that she also votes for the person and not the party, I asked her why bother switching? Her reply was that she was disappointed and embarrassed of the behavior of the Lewiston Republican Town Board.
To prove my stance, quite possibly the best finance director Lewiston has ever had was handpicked by me. Republican Marti Blazick edged out 11 others, including a few that were Democrats. For me to pick anyone else beside her was picking second-best and that's not what I wanted for Lewiston.
My term as Lewiston town supervisor is coming to an end shortly for me. My wife, Cathy (who I haven't seen in nearly two months), and I purchased a home on the far west side of Las Vegas with a beautiful mountain view on one side and the sights of the Las Vegas strip in the far distance on the other.
We have Cathy's 91-year-old mother, who has Alzheimer's disease and needs our care. But above all, our biggest reasons for leaving the area that we both love so much are our two grandchildren, who are at a loving age that we don't want to miss.
I will miss Lewiston and the great many people I have met since being in office. Please help me continue what I started and vote for those who I strongly believe will work for you rather than themselves: Briglio, Trane, DelMonte and Morreale.