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Town of Lewiston: Board reviews 'new look' eyed for Reservoir Park

by jmaloni
Sat, Aug 28th 2010 01:00 pm

by Terry Duffy

Members of the Lewiston Town Board listened intently Monday to a presentation by New York Power Authority representatives on the new look planned for Reservoir State Park.

No action was taken however on the granting of any town permits that were being pursued by NYPA with respect to sewer and road work for the project eyed on Old Military Road or for other work.

NYPA rep Michelle Stottler opened the Town Board session with a brief overview of improvements and maintenance planned for Reservoir State Park as part of NYPA's relicensing benefits pact to communities from its 2007 signed agreement with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. She explained that Reservoir State Park, located in both the Town of Lewiston and the Town of Niagara, actually comprises two parks.

It includes the "North" area, contained within Town of Lewiston boundaries, that consists of lands from Military Road out to the Niagara Power Project Reservoir. Among the enhancements planned by NYPA:

  • Construction of a winter pavilion "warming house" and an ice skating rink, to be built in an area bordering Old Military Road adjacent to the sledding hill;
  • Improvements and continuing maintenance for the soccer fields nearby;
  • Improvements and repaving of the nature trail with new signage, and tree planting plus improvements in the lawn areas.

Also eyed is sewer installation on Old Military Road to accommodate the new construction and park uses. Stottler said that residents of Edna Drive off of Old Military Road have been approached by NYPA regarding easements of sections of their properties to enable construction. NYPA likewise approached the town for permit-granting to enable the sewer and related roadwork.

Enhancements eyed for the "South" area, located in the Town of Niagara and comprising lands from Military Road to adjacent to the I-190, include:

  • Improvements to the baseball/softball diamonds;
  • Construction of a gazebo and restrooms to service the area, with restrooms to be maintained by the Town of Niagara;
  • Updates to playgrounds and construction of new basketball courts;
  • Lighting of the ball diamonds and parking areas, both to be maintained by NYPA.
  • Returning some parking areas to grass lands and existing septic services to be upgraded to sewers. Storm water considerations in the "South" park would be addressed by NYPA as part of the construction.

"Bids have been out and are now under review," said Stottler, telling board members that NYPA hopes to break ground in October with completion eyed for March of 2011. Not offering a price tag, she said the biggest improvements planned are the winter pavilion, ice rink and the sewer work, with funding to come from NYPA.

Lewiston Board members listened but took no action on granting permits. However, comments did come, particularly from Town Supervisor Steve Reiter. "It troubles me that all this money is going to be spent on this park," said Reiter, telling the NYPA reps of neglected conditions at Joseph Davis Park, and describing grass in some areas growing to "chin high," that the town contended with during the state's recent budget crises. "I know you people are the wrong people to being this up to, but. ..."

Reiter also voiced frustration on delays with the long-planned $2 million bike path project envisioned to run from above the escarpment near Power Authority property to the village, and the bureaucratic problems in getting permits from NYPA to allow it to proceed. "Think where we (would be) at ... if I had to approach the residents of Lewiston to gain permits," said Reiter.

Robert Daly, senior licensing specialist for NYPA, responded that Reservoir State Park, unlike Joe Davis or other state parks, sits within the boundaries of the Power Authority lands and that NYPA is responsible for its maintenance. As for the bike path, he indicated it was not a NYPA issue, but pledged NYPA cooperation on working with the town to get it finally under way.

Discussion closed on the matter with Reiter saying the town would be further analyzing the plan and the NYPA proposals, particularly with respect to the sewer and road projects.

In other news:

  • Councilman Ernie Palmer reported on a host of personnel changes the Lewiston Police Department is contending with. Two former members left the department to take positions with the New York Power Authority and another resigned in past months. To address the matter, the board approved the hiring of Jeffery Eckert, who formerly was with the New York State Parks Police as a full-time officer effective Sept. 6, and the hiring of Kevin Morris, currently a part-time officer with LPD, to full-time status effective Sept. 8.

In addition, the board approved the hiring consideration of Allan Gansworth to the LPD upon completion of Phase 2 training at the Niagara County police academy and the sending of Anthony Sicarella as a recruit to the academy for a potential part-time position with LPD. Palmer also informed that LPD was considering adding on a fifth officer and is studying the issue as its budget is being prepared.

Palmer said that LPD has been contending with a host of staffing issues from its dealing with increased patrol activity in Lewiston over past months, namely from the numerous festivals held in the village and events at Artpark. He indicated the department was studying adding yet another part-time officer to its current budget, in addition to the planned staffing listed above.

In response, Reiter announced the town would be holding a meeting with numerous stakeholder groups in the village and town to discuss the many festivals and events held in Lewiston each summer and the financial impacts, namely LPD's having to contend with increased activity from crowds and traffic concerns, its staffing and overtime issues, and overall cost considerations to the town. Reiter made it a point at Monday's meeting to note a reduction of $36,000 in police funding received from the Village of Lewiston following LPD's move from offices in the Red Brick Municipal Building to the Lew-Port campus on Creek Road. He said LPD operations funding and other financial matters of concern to the town from the numerous events in the village needed to get addressed.

To take place Thursday, Sept. 30 at 9 a.m. in the board meeting room at Town Hall, those expected at the session include representatives from the LPD, town fire companies, the Village of Lewiston Board of Trustees and mayor, Artpark officials, the Niagara River Region Chamber of Commerce, the Lewiston Council on the Arts, the Historical Association of Lewiston and Lewiston Kiwanis Club officials. The meeting is open to the public.

  • The board discussed, but took no action on a matter of creating a town prosecutor position to facilitate its legal concerns in court. Reiter reported the issue arose due to a proceeding Town Building and Zoning Inspector Tim Masters had been involved with concerning an unnamed problem property in the town. Masters said the matter was on hold in the court towards being dismissed.

On questioning from the board, Town Attorney Mike Dowd reported that no such position currently exists in the town and if desired, one would need to be approved by Niagara County District Attorney Marc Violanti's office. "We don't have a prosecutor for handling traffic infractions," said Dowd, adding that such matters are typically handled in the court by police officers. "We are perhaps one of the few towns in the county that doesn't have one."

Dowd, who serves as town prosecutor for the Town of Porter, said he could consider availing his services to Lewiston on a case-by-case basis if desired by the town and authorized by the County DA's office. The issue was expected to be revisited at the board's next meeting.

  • Molly Chamberlain of the Lewiston Dog Owners Group reported her group will be holding a grand opening of the new town/village Dog Park on the Village of Lewiston Plateau (adjacent to the Portage Road entrance) on Saturday, Sept. 18. She closed by thanking Reiter and the Town Board for all their help. "You've made a lot of people happy," said Chamberlain, telling members of one local resident and how the woman said that just having access to a facility such as this has already made a world of difference in the woman's pet. "Thank you, again," added Chamberlain.
  • The board set a public hearing for Monday, Sept. 13, at 5:45 p.m. to consider adjustments to the town's drainage budget to allow for purchases of excess piping for sales to residents. The matter arose due to the popularity of the town program.

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