Town Board hears on village issues and extends biosolids moratorium
By Terry Duffy
With not one or two, but three meetings held over the course of three hours, Supervisor Steve Broderick and the Lewiston Town Board were busy this past Monday.
The evening included an opening joint Village of Lewiston trustees-Town Board meeting, one that saw discussion lasting over an hour on a host of issues, from Lewiston Police Department consolidation and village representation to village waterfront and Academy Park improvements; Center Street streetlight replacements; fire company physicals; and the future of the Lewiston Family Ice Rink (see related story).
Perhaps the biggest thorn from that first session was the LPD and Village Board input. Mayor Terry Collesano and trustees vented on their being slighted in past town decisions.
"We don't have a say anymore," he said.
"We're very concerned about this," Collesano explained, as both he and Eydt said the Village Board hears about LPD personnel and acquisitions "second-hand."
Collesano proceeded to recall a series of events that occurred from a "general agreement" dating back to 1992 between the village and town, which led to creation of a joint consolidated police force in 1995. Its management organization called for a police chief, two commissioners that consisted of the village mayor and town supervisor, and one commissioner possessing a law enforcement background.
Collesano and village trustees said the agreement remained intact throughout the years with adjustments made on overall department operations, village funding, etc. Trustees favored the agreement.
Problems started, they said, roughly in 2012 under the Steve Reiter administration, when changes were made to the commission and its representation - with no village input to come and continued stalled contact contract negotiations.
Once the third commissioner (Al Soluri) was removed in March 2012, Collesano and village trustees told Broderick and the Town Board, in nutshell, they felt they were slighted.
"I remember this ... conversation. Steve was pushing he wanted to do away with the commission," Eydt said. "It was agreed upon at that time ... the mayor and he would take over. But ... most of it has fallen upon the supervisors, and there hasn't been any transparency as far as information from this building to our building. That's where there's a lot of trepidation."
"We get no notification (of what's going on)," Eydt continued. "We're just writing a check."
Collesano and trustees said the village, in past years, had been paying $264,000 annually toward LPD's estimated $1.3 million operations budget. Under a recent agreement, that figure was changed to roughly $23,000 per month. Trustees said they're open to paying more for services, but they wanted more representation on police matters.
As discussions closed, Broderick, joined by Councilwoman Beth Ceretto and Councilman Al Bax, indicated a willingness to address the issue with the village, and soon.
"We'll set it for March, and I'll meet with you and go over this," said Broderick, who added he wanted to fully review the contract and all the past history.
Moving on that evening, the Town Board proceeded to its regular session with a public hearing on extending a year-old-plus moratorium/local law covering prohibition on the use of biosolids on town lands. The moratorium, which went on to be approved later that evening, saw limited public discussion - save for resident Paulette Glasgow, who proceeded to chastise the board on its hesitancy to actually approve and finalize a local law.
"Tonight, you are holding the fourth public meeting to impose a moratoria so that you can review amendments to the town code in regard to solid waste and recycling," Glasgow said. "The review would address how you are going to dispose of that solid waste by amending or adopting appropriate legislation to achieve that purpose. And once that moratoria is imposed, you do nothing to either address or resolve the issue until it is time to impose another moratoria."
Telling the board it's risking the intended local law being lost in a court ruling, Glasgow continued, "My suggestion is that you stop the delaying and instruct your attorneys to draft the appropriate amendments to the town code addressing this issue, and resolve (it) once and for all."
As noted, the moratorium went on to be approved, 4-0, but with little follow-up board/attorney discussion on the matter.
Other newsmakers from Monday's regular session:
•In response from resident Mary Ann Broda, Town Engineer Bob Lannon of CRA updated the board on the status of the French Landing subdivision now under construction on Lower River Road.
In her earlier remarks, Broda told the board, "I learned last week of a major modification with regard to the retention ponds."
She told the board the original intent was for two ponds, but it was then decided to modify the plan to create "one large lake" - apparently done without Planning Board or Town Board approval.
In response, Lannon told the board the revised plan was supported by the Department of Environmental Conservation and did not require other approvals.
"It's supported by DEC regs. There's a small impact on change. ... Functionally, it will remain the same (with a depth of 13 feet)" he said.
•Lannon also updated the board on the status of new River Walk phase four plans. He said that the plans, which include the long-discussed fire access issue, are still in the design process by the new subdivision ownership, and the matter will be going before the town Planning Board for pre-plat consideration March 16. Lannon said that 22 new homes are being considered.
•Town Building Inspector Tim Masters apprised the board on a growing problem in the town: zombie properties.
Masters said the abandoned-owner properties, which are owned by banks that pay the taxes, have become a nuisance in Lewiston, with the town forced to maintain them at significant expense.
"It's a longstanding problem," he said.
Masters explained that banks foreclose on the properties and the town assumes all continued maintenance. He said, currently, Lewiston has 25 zombie homes among the 35 to 37 properties it manages. Found in all town areas, they include residential and commercials properties - all in varying states of disrepair.