By Lauren Zaepfel
The Wheatfield Town Board and residents discussed Monday how to deal with the ongoing concern of the dehydration station set to be constructed off Liberty Drive, as well as National Fuel's compressor station planned for Pendleton.
"There's problems with these things," Wheatfield Councilman Larry Helwig said, as he urged residents to do their research and look up videos online of similar stations "causing problems all over the country.
He added, "The one that's on Knottingwood Drive off of Shawnee Road isn't a dehydration (station), it isn't a compressor station - it's just a little (meter) pit that comes out of the ground that Adams Fire had to go over in the middle of the night at about 2 a.m. three years ago and evacuate everyone because of - I called it an explosion."
Helwig compared the sound emitted from the meter pit to a "jet engine" and added, "It didn't ignite, but if that would have ignited, that would have taken out most of those houses."
He encouraged residents to attend the meeting set for Dec. 9 at the Community Center. The call for the gathering was brought on by residents and National Fuel was not to be present.
"They (National Fuel representatives) have not hosted any meetings here, nor do we think we're going to get a meeting on this project," Helwig said.
A flyer was posted around town in an effort to inform Wheatfield residents and encourage them to attend and contribute their input.
The flier read, "The glycol dehydrator will remove water vapor from the fracked gas coming from the Marcellus well in Pennsylvania. This water vapor may also contain certain amounts of benzene, toluene, ethyl benzene, xylene, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, and sulfur dioxide. These vapors are considered carcinogenic and contribute to air pollution and smog. There will be noise pollution and a risk of explosions."
"Unfortunately, we don't have a say or a voting power of where that (dehydration) station's going to be put," Helwig said. "Pendleton doesn't have a say and Wheatfield doesn't have a say. That decision is made in Washington, D.C., by FERC, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission."
"We'll probably have some control when it comes to the Planning Board because they will have to come to the Planning Board to do the site plan, but we'll be somewhat limited as to what we can do," Cliffe said.
Helwig said FERC will take public comments up until Dec. 19. This will give Wheatfield residents a few days to get their thoughts together. "Hopefully, we're going to have people petitioning FERC and giving them some really good, scientific reasons of why we don't want this," he said.
Helwig also stated that, on March 17, 2016, National Fuel Gas has to submit its final application for the stations. Then the public will be able to comment on the final application.
"We don't have a whole lot of say in what's going to happen here - about where the compressor station is going," Cliffe said. "We do have the opportunity as a board to give comment. You also have the opportunity to give comment."
•The board approved the motion to pay Wendel $295,000 to undergo the preliminary design work for the Niagara River Waterfront Multi-use Trail project.
The original proposal was estimated to cost $346,000. Wendel revised it, bringing the cost down to keep it below the $300,000 mark.
Wendel project engineer Jim Zuber said the company "went back to the drawing board" to figure out how it could stay within the funding that was available," after previously presenting the higher amount to the board.
Wendel created a revised proposal that essentially only covers the preliminary design of the trail, as of now.
"The point of getting that preliminary design done, is that it comes with a more accurate estimate to help the town better determine what parts of that trail they might want to separate out, how they want to phase construction and have a defined plan to proceed with looking for other funding options with the actual construction of that trail," Zuber said. "That would not include final design for any part of bidding for either part."
Wheatfield was given aid towards its payment for the trail. Helwig explained approximately $1.12 million was given, which the town will have to match at 20 percent. An additional $70,000 was given from the county.
"So we could use the county money to cover that 20 percent match then, right?" Helwig asked Zuber.
"Yes, that's part of the point of keeping this at $300,000 - 20 percent of that is 60,000, which is less than the $70,000 grant," Zuber explained.
"Hopefully we can keep leveraging multiple grants that offset our 20 percent, or whatever it's going to be, in future grants so that our cost is negligible," Helwig said.
Zuber agreed and said it is important to have a plan laid out, so that concrete goals can be set and met.
Cliffe further explained to residents, as he did at the Nov. 16 meeting, "This board is just simply not willing to put that on the backs of Wheatfield if outside agencies, if there are grants available to pay for that - we will do our part. This is not a Wheatfield trail. This is a trail for all of Western New York. It's for everybody to use as a continuing part of the Greenway Trail."
He added, "Our county gave us $70,000, we asked for $600,000. I don't know if the county is going to consider us each year to $70,000 a year. That would be nice, but there's no commitment on their part (for that)."
•During the public input portion of the meeting, residents raised some issues on developments planned for the town.
Gerald J. McCormick expressed his strong opposition to the ALDI store planned to be built at the location of former go-kart track on Niagara Falls Boulevard, close to his property.
McCormick said he was concerned about how the store would affect nearby residents, as well as how it would affect traffic in the area. He said if the plan moves forward, he would continue to "make life miserable" for the board members on this issue.
Cliffe said Tuesday "the Town Board did not know that ALDI's was seeking this property and will have nothing to do with the site review or approval process. This will be a Planning Board process."
He also said, from what he has gathered from the Planning Board, he believes the members will "do all they can to make the site as palatable as possible." Cliffe also explained that the grocery store will be quieter than an active racetrack, and that lighting is set to only be on the parking lot area of the building.
A berm is also being considered with evergreens along the top of it to help block the view of the store for residents. "Traffic may be an issue," Cliffe said. "I anticipate the Planning Board requiring a proper traffic study with possible changes in the way they show traffic flow now."
•The Town Board was also addressed by Samuel Cirrito, who owns property on Plaza Drive located behind the Summit Mall (see related cover story). Cirrito expressed his concerns about the idea being pitched for the new sports dome. He is worried the dome will be unattractive and negatively affect his tenants whose windows will view the large, white structure he described as a "monstrosity."
"Help me out; help the rest of us guys on Plaza Drive out," Cirrito requested. "I don't want that in my backyard."
"The (Town) Board has nothing to do with it at this point" Cliffe said. He explained this will be dealt with through the Zoning and Planning boards.
"Compared to the size of the mall, this structure will not seem way out of place," Cliffe said Tuesday. "It will be taller, but it will sit right in what is now the parking lot and a fair way away from Plaza Drive. It still has to pass the ZBA (Zoning Board of Appeals) regarding height."
He added, "I sincerely believe that a vibrant Summit Mall is in the interest of virtually every Wheatfield resident, including those who live along Plaza Drive. A dead Summit Mall cannot be good for anyone."