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Town of Wheatfield Board takes further action to defend local biosolids law

Fri, Jul 22nd 2016 10:45 am

By Lauren Zaepfel

Tribune Editor

The Wheatfield Town Board announced at Monday night's meeting it has written a letter to Agriculture and Markets, stating it will, stand by the town's local biosolids law, which prohibits the use of material derived from human waste on town land.

The letter was written after the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets requested the town take no further action to impose its law, deeming it "unreasonably" restrictive.

After meeting with the town's legal representatives, Supervisor Robert B. Cliffe said the letter was written "basically telling (Ag. and Markets) we disagree. We are going to vigorously defend our law. We think it's the right law for the Town of Wheatfield and the Wheatfield residents."

In its letter, the town wrote, "While we are rightly proud of our strong agricultural heritage and remain committed to respecting and protecting the lawful rights of its many operating farms, the town clearly has the right - and responsibility - to ensure that no solid waste disposal activities within the town threaten the environment or the health and safety of the town's residents."

The town further argued Ag. and Markets has "largely ignored the mounting scientific evidence concerning the inadequacy of the federal and state governments' outdated biosolids regulations and completely failed to address the scientific evidence of the unfavorable local soil conditions within the town."

The town later added the state's "lack of concern" about the potential environmental and public health and safety associated with the use of biosolids on town land was both "disturbing and striking."

"The Town Board members simply are unwilling and unable to place the health and safety of our residents at risk while the state agencies wait for 'conclusive' proof of harm,' " the town concluded.

While addressing residents at Monday's meeting, Cliffe said, "We still have your back and we're going to continue to fight."

In other news:

•The board heard from Matt Montalbo, accountant at Drescher and Malecki, who presented key points regarding the town's recent audit.

Montalbo reviewed trends seen through revenues and expenditures of the town's major funds over the past five years, beginning with general and highway funds.

"There isn't much movement in the revenue side," Montalbo said. "It's really a pretty stable line."

From 2011-13, the board reserved general and highway funds that were able to help balance unexpected expenditures in 2014-15, including the costs of projects on Craig Drive and Errick Road and legal fees to defend the town's biosolids law.

In addition, Montalbo said the town's current fund balance is over $900,000, the highest it has been over the past five years.

After Monday's meeting, Cliffe said, "Because we (have) a substantial fund balance we also use it to reduce taxes going forward. Primarily, you shouldn't do that. It's an unbalanced budget. ... But because we have a fund balance that's actually high, we are using it up in both ways - we're reducing and we do everything we can to create fund balance over the course of the year, additional fund balance. The last couple of years we've been fighting a losing battle because we keep having these major issues."

During the meeting, Montalbo also said the town's water and sewer revenues have slightly fallen below their expenditures. "When you look at the water and the sewer funds in the upcoming budget year, you kind of have to analyze ... what level you're comfortable with and kind of sustain through those tough years."

He added, "It's just a caution within the water and sewer funds to analyze those closely. ... The general and the highway I think are in pretty stable condition. Those are your four major funds. The other special districts - your garbage, fire districts and lighting - are all in stable balances and in a healthy condition."

•The board will continue to move forward on installing a fence around the Niagara Sanitation Landfill on Nash Road. Last winter, the Department of Environmental Conservation announced the site's contaminants may be hazardous to public health. Earlier this year, State Sen. Robert G. Ortt helped obtain a grant of $75,000 for the fence, which will be used to keep people from entering the site.

"We have the award of the grant," Cliffe said. "What (grant writer Bernie Rotella) is working on (getting) is the actual contract. We do not have the contract yet. So we can proceed to bid, but we can't proceed to spend money."

Currently, design plans and land survey work have been completed by Wendel, the town's engineer firm. To install the fence, tree removal and wetland accommodations would be required. The company has estimated the cost of the fence to be $152,000.

"If Wendel's estimate ... is accurate, then we need another $77,000 from somewhere," Cliffe said. "Sen. (Robert G. Ortt) said if we needed, he could get us more. I don't know how much that's going to be."

As for a timeline of when the fence will be installed, Cliffe said, "My best hope would be November of this year. That's probably the earliest."

He added, "What we're trying to do is to get this fence done, but ... it's a complicated process. You're talking about putting a fence where you're digging holes in areas that you know are toxic waste."

•The board will also seek a $200,000 grant through the State and Municipal Facilities Program to complete the Town of Wheatfield's project for the purchase and installation of generators at multiple sewer lift stations on Niagara Falls Boulevard and Townline Road.

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