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Cliffe speaks on state of Wheatfield

by jmaloni
Thu, Jan 5th 2012 09:30 am

Town of Wheatfield officials were sworn in at the Wheatfield Community Center on Jan. 2.

Supervisor Robert Cliffe made the following remarks:

"Before I look forward to 2012, I wish to reflect on a momentous 2011. And before I speak about anything I may have done in 2011, let me say that I am talking about 'we.' "

"I have no personal authority. I and the Town Board members do have the opportunity of determining that which goes on in Wheatfield. But we couldn't do any of this without your continuing support. We, all of us, had this momentous 2011 together:

"Most important, we have a second balanced budget. With extra sales tax coming from the change in population, we are in very good shape financially. There were several other significant events:

"First, very early on we had to negotiate a contract with our fire companies. We have five great emergency services and, when I laid the cards open on the table, we and they came to a simple contract at the right number. My thanks goes out to each and every Wheatfield first responder, auxiliary member and fire policeman: nobody does it better.

"Not long after we had to address another contract, this with the North Tonawanda Library. For years, Wheatfield had thrown them a bone here and there, but they had determined it was time for Wheatfield residents to pay our fair share, 'or else.' We all knew what the 'else' meant.

"The library board was insistent that we immediately make up for years of neglect, but we could not give them what they wanted, ($45K to 150K in three years). In the end, after reviewing every possible resolution, we made an offer, which worked toward Wheatfield paying our fair share, but at a pace, which we felt doable. We signed a five-year contract with an increase of about a dollar a year per resident.

"Our next challenge was an election where we were once again being challenged from within the party! The primary was very difficult and led to a long and difficult summer of hard work for many of us. We all met this challenge, and, in the end, won every race by working together. Kathryn Palka-Lance was a fresh face amongst us; she worked very hard and easily won a whole new district race in the legislature.

"After the election it was time to work with our employee union and come up with a new contract. Other towns are having tough battles with their unions; the county was miles apart from their unions. Yet in four meetings we were able to agree on a contract with our Teamsters, a contract which recognizes that times have changed, but also recognizes that our employees and their families deserve a fair quality of life.

"Last, we knew that by now we needed a new contract for refuse collection. We had allowed for $1,150,000 in the coming budget. However, during discussions we found that, by making changes in recycling we could achieve a huge savings. Therefore, we accepted an offer from Modern, which will save some $180,000 or more, per year! Yes, we'll have to ask for cooperation from residents. But this is a huge saving for every resident; in short time we are sure that all will be pleased.

"That brings us to 2012: where do we go from here?

"At this point I can fairly state that we are in the black and have a fair fund balance. Rather than cutting back further, we are looking for ideas for programs, which will improve the life of our residents, while still keeping an eye on the bottom line.

"For one, I'm pleased to say that we have hired Debbie Reed to direct youth programs in the coming year. With the help of Molly Gurman, we really expect to see our Youth Center filled with happy and safe kids each day. Debbie and Molly will also work together to start a computer program to teach seniors how to enjoy computers, and possibly more!

"Tomorrow night, we open bids for the completion of the Southern Drainage project: connecting to the North Ton outfalls. This will be a difference maker for residents around Willow Lake and that whole area off Krueger Road. North Tonawanda will also be connecting a line along the back yards of Witmer Road, which will may reduce some lingering ponding for Wheatfield residents as well.

"We also expect to complete work on the David Drive ditch. Yes, you've heard it before. I feel that the board and Art's crews must commit to getting this done this summer.

"In 2011, our code enforcement officers laid the groundwork for a better Wheatfield. This coming year will start showing the results of their efforts to clean up junkyards and dilapidated homes. Code enforcement requires teamwork; the call from a concerned resident, the effort of our building department, the work of our town prosecutor and good decisions from our court. I'm looking for major improvements with this success of this 'team.'

"Two years ago, we received a grant to upgrade Fairmount Park, adding handicapped bathrooms and several pathways to help visitors get around. We soon have to complete design and get work started. A security exit for the Parkside development will be part of this, an exit-only road built through the park. I hope to dedicate this road in memory of Spec. Alan Dikcis, a soldier who grew up a block away on Errick Road, a soldier who gave his life in Afghanistan in the cause of freedom.

Perhaps this is the year we'll find the right use of the Town Center property? We are also looking to get working on River Road Park!

"We have yet to determine whether to have the YMCA run another summer camp at the Youth Center, or to run a similar program ourselves. A lot more to come on this.

"In our budget we added back fireworks at Oppenheim Park again this year.

"We are going review to see if it is possible to have some limited busing for seniors where this is a need.

"And we have plenty of money in the budget for Art to replace a number of the worst streets in town.

"Once again, I will be asking the board to support a four-year, two-term limit for the supervisor position. Give residents the opportunity to decide if this change is good for all of us.

"At first glance, compared to 2011, 2012 looks easy! Maybe we should hold one meeting and call it a good year?

"However, I'm sure there will be new challenges. I look forward to working with Kenny and Larry, Gil and Art to meet each challenge and, with God always present with us, we'll make the right decisions for the people.

"I have far too many people to thank. I can't mention them all; the food will get cold. But I do thank Francine, Bob O and Ed Mongold for making my job easy. For Kathy, doing such a good job being the face of the Town. To our department heads who have been so cooperative as we climbed out of the abyss. And especially to Jim Heuer who does so much for the good people of Wheatfield. Jim is the primary reason we have so many here today!

And most import, I thank my wife, Andy."

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