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2012: Tribune Year in Review

by jmaloni
Fri, Dec 28th 2012 07:00 am
The Town of Niagara celebrated its 200th birthday all year with numerous special events, including a concert with `Elvis` last summer. (photo by Marc Carpenter)
The Town of Niagara celebrated its 200th birthday all year with numerous special events, including a concert with "Elvis" last summer. (photo by Marc Carpenter)
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Local leaders reflect on 2012, look forward to 2013

by Susan Mikula Campbell

Local government and education leaders in the Niagara-Wheatfield Tribune circulation area were contacted to find out their opinions on happenings, both good and bad, in their areas for 2012 and what is ahead for 2013.

Included were Wheatfield Supervisor Bob Cliffe, Town of Niagara Supervisor Steve Richards, Niagara County Legislature Chairman Bill Ross and Niagara-Wheatfield Board of Education President Steven Sabo.

Wheatfield Supervisor Bob Cliffe

What were the most positive things that happened in your town this year?

"Financially, the town had a very good year. We had another year that will add to our fund balances, while reducing taxes and taking another large reduction in long term debt.

"The recycling program had a major change for the better, which will show as reduced taxes for many years to come.

"We accomplished two major maintenance programs this year with the David Drive ditch project, and the North Tonawanda outfalls project.

"We received notification of approximately $1.1 million for the River Road bike path. Recreation programs, especially the baseball and cheerleading programs have been extremely successful.

"The SPCA, located in Wheatfield, has taken great strides forward in improving services, upgrading adoptions and lessening euthanasia."

What were the biggest problems?

"The challenges facing Niagara-Wheatfield students and staff are a great concern to all Wheatfield residents.

"(The) national economy has hurt many Wheatfield homeowners and residents. I'm trusting that this will continue on a slow path of improvement."

What's in store for 2013?

"We are looking for some major improvements with Wheatfield parks. There will be upgrades starting at Fairmount Park, work on some new ball fields at Mario Park, and River Road Park may get started this coming year.

"We are working with the SPCA and the Town of Niagara to hopefully develop a "Paw Park" at the SPCA campus.

"We look for continuing improvement in our youth activity and sports programs, and additional programs for seniors.

"I'm anticipating major improvements in ditch cleaning as Art Kroening (highway superintendent) begins his five-year plan to clean all major ditches."

"I am looking forward to an improving economy nationally and in Western New York, as I firmly believe that with good jobs comes good lives. Toward this end, we'll see the Air and Space Museum move into the Niagara Falls International Airport building. I'm also hoping to see The Summit mall become vibrant again, as well as seeing continuing development of the Niagara Falls Boulevard corridor."

Do you have a New Year's resolution for 2013?

"Wheatfield remains the best place in Western New York to raise your family. We'll keep working very hard to keep it that way."

Town of Niagara Supervisor Steve Richards

What were the most positive things that happened in your town this year?

"The most positive thing for me in 2012 was to have the opportunity to be the town supervisor during our 200th anniversary year celebration. I was amazed by the hard work and dedication of the town's bicentennial committee and the countless volunteers. Without their help, none of the celebrations would have taken place. I must congratulate our Town Clerk Sylvia Virtuoso, who made it a year to remember.

"The dedication of our cannon at Six Corners was another great event, and a special thanks goes out to all the local companies who donated their time and materials to make all of it possible without any cost to the taxpayers. Special thanks also to Gary Strenkoski and his parade committee for a great parade, in fact, two great parades.

"I think the residents of the next 200 years will be very proud of the work done in the first 200 years of the Town of Niagara.

"This year, I'm also proud of a tax cut of almost 10 percent to our residents, and I have to praise councilmen Dan Sklarski and Charles Teixeira for their support in accomplishing it."

What were the biggest problems?

"The biggest problem faced by me this year was dissension on the Town Board. It amazes me how much one individual can disrupt the whole town by making false accusations. I can only hope that the individual concentrates on doing some good for the town and stops his personal attacks against me and my family."

What's in store for 2013?

"I'm looking forward to 2013 to be a very good year. We have some major projects coming forward that will include a couple more stores and restaurants that people have been requesting.

"The town is expected to assume ownership of the former U.S. Army Reserve Center on Porter Road, and many developers both local and national have expressed a keen interest in it. The redevelopment of the property should bring some much-needed jobs to our town. I am also looking forward to the implementation of my five-year road plan to repave most of the town roads. I'm hoping to complete the roads before I retire in 2020."

Do you have a New Year's resolution for 2013?

"My personal New Year's resolution for 2013 is to work hard to overcome the antics of one immature individual on the Town Board and to keep the town moving forward. We don't need to go back to the days of 'government with a heart' and the bickering Town Board."

Niagara County Legislature Chairman Bill Ross

What were the most positive things that happened in Niagara County this year?

"The most positive event for the Niagara County Legislature in 2012 was the grand opening of the Niagara County Community College's Niagara Falls Culinary Institute on Sept. 28. The Niagara County Legislature is the main sponsor of NCCC. The Culinary Institute opened as the new home to the college's hospitality and tourism programs which will eventually hold up to 1,000 students and faculty.

What were the biggest problems?

"The Niagara County Legislature complied with the 2011 New York state 2 percent property tax law in 2012 and will again in 2013 be under to 2 percent tax cap. It was not easy to meet the 2 percent property tax limit because of the A.E.S. coal burning energy plant in the Town of Somerset. The plant is back on line producing energy, but the new agreement will eventually reduce the A.E.S. county property tax dollars from $5 million to $1.4 million.

"The greatest problem facing all of the counties in New York state is the scores of unfunded mandates that hang around county necks like an anchor on a drowning man.

"The state government in Albany should remove many mandates from the backs of local property taxpayers. The list of possible mandates is long and should include Medicaid, youth detention, child welfare, probation, indigent defense, preschool, ever increasing pension contributions and public assistance.

"I am not calling these mandates unworthy of public support, but the cost is too high, especially in Western New York where the loss of manufacturing jobs has eroded the tax base and left fewer county property taxpayers to carry the cost. The New York State Legislature can reduce property (taxes) by following an easy to read map of mandate relief."

What's in store for 2013?

2013 will be a difficult fiscal year for almost all counties in New York state. Niagara County government hopes for a continued growth in sales tax, more economic development in residential and commercial construction, new companies locating in Niagara County to grow the tax base and county government looking for more consolidation and shared services."

Do you have a New Year's resolution for 2013?

"My resolution is to become a government leader (who) will put the 'bi' before the word partisan, be more flexible and open to compromise, maintain (decorum) in all county government meetings and be open to the county public at all times."

Niagara-Wheatfield Board of Education President Steven Sabo

What were the most positive things that happened in the Niagara-Wheatfield School District this year?

"There are many positive things which happened in Niagara-Wheatfield this year.

"First and foremost, the district welcomed the arrival of James Knowles as interim superintendent. In just his first four months here, he has been able to unite the faculty and foster a positive working environment for all of the hard-working members of the Niagara-Wheatfield faculty and staff. He also created a stronger and more effective learning environment for the many students of the N-W school district. He has healed a district torn apart by a leadership team that didn't fit the district. I am proud to say that the district is back on track to returning to the fantastic learning institution built by Dr. Howard during her tenure here.

"There have also been so many success stories both academically and extra curricularly. We have had many students achieve academic awards for their high grades and many students recognized at the national level for their musical talent."

What were the biggest problems faced in N-W this year?

"The two biggest problems which N-W faced this past year were the fiscal nightmare created by the previous administration and the district, and negativism, which that same administration created in the schools. I am proud to say that through the volunteer efforts of community members on the audit committee, we have established controls to make sure the fiscal disaster that the former administration created never happens again."

What's in store for 2013?

"Niagara-Wheatfield will continue to produce some of the best students in Niagara County while working with a bare bones administrative staff and a fantastic group of educators and support staff. Unfortunately, we are going into this budget year with no more help from the state on the horizon and no fund balance."

What's your New Year's resolution for 2013?

"I don't believe in them. I have always felt that if something is worth doing, it needs to be done right away. Why wait for an arbitrary date to start doing what must be done."


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